I grew up with a mother and grandmother who sewed all kinds of garments, and taught me the rudiments of making my own clothes. Attention to detail ran a distant second to speed in my work. It always had to get done for a deadline and a basted hem worked just fine.
In college I stopped sewing as much. Button fly Levis became my uniform along with chambray shirts, and the army/navy surplus store supplied my clothing needs. Once I was working, it was a thrill to shop for clothes that someone else had made. I loved being free of the dorky homemade look my own efforts produced.
Over the years I noticed that patterns became much more expensive, as did nice fabric. I grew up used to fine woolens and fully lined jackets and skirts. To reproduce such garments became cost prohibitive, so I wasn’t tempted to even try to make my clothes. In fact, some of my first quilts used old fabric from my clothing sewing days.
All this is by way of saying it’s been a long time since I sewed any clothing other than Halloween costumes.
Fast forward to my growing collection of silk fabrics, capped by bits of hand dyed kimono silk I bought from Laura Murray. I’ve made quilts with neck ties and intended to make one with all that silk, but when I saw this pattern by Barb Callahan at a quilt show I decided to make myself a flowing vest instead.
Because I had been away from this kind of sewing for so long (I don’t count my theatrical costume making stint as I simply followed orders) I bought some pattern tracing material to make a trial vest before cutting into my pretties. The result seemed large so I took fullness off the back and side seams.
Once I thought I had the right fit, it was time to cut the silk. Now, because I had many different weights of silk I decided to interface the lightest with a product called French Fuse, a fusible nylon tricot. I found the tricot was difficult to sew on which caused a few difficulties, but nothing I couldn’t force my machine through. The real problem I faced was the huge amount of fabric the vest needed – about 2.5 yards for the exterior and 2 yards for the lining. The largest piece of fabric I had was about 3/4 of a yard so I got creative in patching the segments, which of course created more seams to sew through.
The pattern calls for a process known as bagging out to sew the exterior and lining together. That worked pretty well, except for the armpits. I chanted Tim Gunn’s “make it work” mantra as I forced my fabric into a semblance of submission. I also changed the way of sewing the shoulder seams together, opting for a tabbed tuck method I sort of made up.
So, here’s front and back views of my vest in all its harlequin glory.
You’re wondering about the lining fabric? It’s a silk Bill Blass scarf I bought at a women’s organization fund raising sale It’s also faced with French Fuse.
The finished product makes quite a statement and is very full, even though I removed about 8 inches from the original pattern. I plan to wear it to gatherings of art quilters, though it would make a great garment for shoplifting. I could hide a lot of merchandise in those folds.