If you’re just getting into making your own clothes, picking out your first project is incredibly exciting, but we’d all be lying if we said it wasn’t intimidating in equal measure.
It’s important to start simple in order to build confidence and technical ability before moving on to the harder stuff, and a vest is the perfect garment to get you going!
Here, I’ll be guiding you through two awesome methods for making your own vests, one of which requires absolutely zero sewing, enabling you to find your feet mastering the basics of manipulating and cutting fabric before threading your needle.
Let’s get to it!
The T-Shirt Method
For this first method, you’ll simply be transforming an old t-shirt into a new vest! All you’ll need is a flat working surface, a pen, and a good pair of scissors.
Step 1 — Select Your Shirt
Think about how you want your vest to fit. For a looser, more flowy garment, you’ll need to pick a large or extra-large t-shirt.
For something a little more form-fitting, an extra-small to medium will be just the ticket.
Step 2 — Ironing Your Shirt
Dedicate a few minutes to ironing your shirt, as this will ensure any cuts you make are even.
Step 3 — Preparing Your Shirt
Pull your shirt of choice inside out, place it on your work surface, then fold it in half vertically so the sleeves lay on top of one another.
Once everything is perfectly aligned, smooth out any remaining wrinkles in the fabric with your hand and readjust if the fold goes askew.
Step 4 — Marking The Neck
Next on the agenda is to mark the cutting lines on your shirt using an erasable fabric pen. If you want to alter the neck, think carefully about the shape you’re after.
A rounded guide will have a classic vest look, but if you’re hoping to make something more akin to a cardigan vest, you may prefer a V-neck, which can be achieved by using a ruler while drawing your guide.
As the shirt is folded, you don’t have to worry about symmetry, as you’ll be cutting both halves along the same path.
Step 5 — Marking The Sleeves
Unless you want racer-style thin shoulders, you can simply use the seam of your shirt sleeves as a cutting guide, but if you do want thin shoulders, or perhaps a deeper armhole, you’ll need to mark your guide with the fabric pen.
Step 6 — Cutting Your Vest
Next up, simply follow your cutting guides with your fabric scissors.
Step 7 — Try Your Vest On
Try on your new vest to see if the cuts achieved what you were going for. If not, re-fold the shirt, draw on more guides and break out the scissors again.
Step 8 (Optional) — Cut Down The Middle
Should you be thinking about sewing buttons onto your new vest, you’ll need to use a ruler and fabric pen to mark a straight line dead center down the front of the garment.
Follow this line with your scissors, and move on to the next step.
Step 9 (Optional) — Adding Buttons
If you’re handy with a sewing machine, feel free to sew some buttonholes along one side of your vest, but remember that you’ll need to flick your sewing machine’s buttonhole lever in place after each one.
Once complete, hand stitch some buttons on the other side of your vest, and voilà; you’re finished!
BUT, this is a perfect opportunity to practice some hemming. So, if you’re feeling up to it, try to hem the cut edges of your new vest.
The From Scratch Method
Ready to actually sew a vest together from scratch? Excellent, here’s how it’s done!
Step 1 — Picking A Pattern
To make things as easy as possible on yourself, pick out a vest pattern you’re interested in making. Be sure to choose your desired size when purchasing your pattern.
You’ll find the best selections in craft stores or online.
Step 2 — Cutting The Pattern Paper
Sewing patterns are made out of paper, so you’ll need to cut the constituent pieces out and put them to the side.
Step 3 — Choosing Your Fabric
This is the fun part! Pick out the fabric you think will be most fetching for your vest.
Step 4 — Preparing Your Fabric
Iron the fabric if necessary then fold it in half — You’ll likely need about 1 yard. Once folded, pin it to secure it in place.
Step 5 — Cutting The Back Of Your Vest
Unless you chose the most basic of patterns, you should have a minimum of two cutouts, the back and the front.
Lay the back template on your folded fabric then cut around it. The resulting piece of fabric should open up to form the entire back of your vest.
Step 6 — Cutting The Front
Simply repeat the process for the front panels of the vest.
Step 7 — Pinning The Panels
Lay out your back panel with the pattern facing up, then lay your front panels on top with the patterns facing down and pin them to the back panel.
Step 8 — Sewing Your Vest
Head over to your sewing machine and stitch the shoulders and sides of your vest so the panels are held together.
The seam should be roughly ½”. Secure your stitches with some forward and back stitching.
Step 9 — Finishing Touches
You can now sew buttonholes and buttons, and if you’re up for the challenge, hem the raw edges of your vest — Embellish as you please!
Vests are the perfect introduction to the wonderful world of tailoring and sewing.
Once you’ve mastered the above methods, you’re free to move on to more complicated garments and try your hand at a number of different sewing skills.
Don’t be disheartened if you make a few mistakes.
Even at this entry-level stage, all mistakes are welcome events, as you’ll learn a lot early on, rather than making errors later when the stakes are higher and the projects are more difficult.