A Simple Vest Pattern

We got saucy in class last week and decided to make something real out of our armscye princess line sample.  (Samples are boring.  We all know this.  Students don’t like to do them and teachers don’t like to grade them, but they’re an important part of the learning process.) Here’s how we made the sample into something real.

We started with a hasty white-board sketch of what we were trying to make, as well as a discussion of some technical stuff, like notches, facings (dashed blue lines), the shape of the block neckline (dashed red), the buttonhole extension, and the piece names.

We started with a hasty white-board sketch of what we were trying to make, as well as a discussion of some technical stuff, like notches, facings (dashed blue lines), the shape of the block neckline (dashed red), the buttonhole extension, and the piece names.

Then we made a list of all the pieces we were going to need, how many of them needed to be cut, and if there's anything special to be added to them.  I really recommend doing this kind of piece inventory any time you start a pattern.  It will make your life better.

Then we made a list of all the pieces we were going to need, how many of them needed to be cut, and if there’s anything special to be added to them. I really recommend doing this kind of piece inventory any time you start a pattern. It will make your life better.

First we added an extension to the center front for our buttonholes.  This extension should generally be the same size as your button, so you have to decide on a button size up front.  We decided on 1/2" buttons.

First we added an extension to the center front for our buttonholes. This extension should generally be the same size as your button, so you have to decide on a button size up front. We decided on 1/2″ buttons.

Then we marked a deep, curved V neckline.  We don't want the neckline to take too much out of the buttonhole extension.

We looked at our picture on the whiteboard, and decided that the neckline appeared to be 1/2″ away from the neck at the shoulder, and crossed the center front at about the bust point level.  We marked guides for these locations. then we marked a deep, curved V neckline. We don’t want the neckline to take too much out of the buttonhole extension.

Based on the idea of 1/2" buttons, we used the magic button hole spacer* to mark button hole locations.

Based on the idea of 1/2″ buttons, we used the magic button hole spacer* to mark button hole locations.  Make the lines longer than you need – we’re going to set up a grid.

*Yes, this is a thing.  If you don’t have this thing, you can do math.  Measure the distance between where you want your top and bottom buttons.  Divide that number by the number of buttons – 1.  (For example, if your design has five buttons, and the top and bottom ones are 4″ apart, you have 4 / (5 – 1), so your buttonholes are 1″ apart.  If your design has a band (neck band, waist band, etc), there is usually a button centered on it.  For a design like this, I like to put my first button about a buttons-width away from the top.  It’s slightly more here, and I’m ok with that.  How close or far apart your buttons are is mostly a question of taste, but you can’t ever space them less than a buttons-width apart.  (Because if they’re in a single line they will overlap each other, and I don’t think that’s ever been a look.)  Generally, larger buttons are farther apart and smaller buttons are closer together.

With normal, flat buttons, your button hole is 1/8" longer than your button. That 1/8" is in the buttonhole extension - our colored paper.  The rest of the buttonhole, which is the width of the button, is drawn in the body of the garment - our white paper.  I've drawn guides for this: 1/8" from the center front edge on the colored paper, and 1/2" away from the center front edge on the white paper.

With normal, flat buttons, your button hole is 1/8″ longer than your button. That 1/8″ is in the buttonhole extension – our colored paper. The rest of the buttonhole, which is the width of the button, is drawn in the body of the garment – our white paper. I’ve drawn guides for this: 1/8″ from the center front edge on the colored paper, and 1/2″ away from the center front edge on the white paper.

These are the exact same as the guides that I will baste in if I’m sewing a bound button hole, and they’re not a bad idea with any other type of buttonhole either.

Erase the guides that are past or between buttonholes.  This long bar marks the buttonhole.

Erase the guides that are past or between buttonholes. This long bar marks the buttonhole.

We mark the buttons, too.  This is the method your book recommends, but I've seen others that mark the center of the button only.  The circle represents the button, and it is centered on the center front line of the body.

We mark the buttons, too. This is the method your book recommends, but I’ve seen others that mark the center of the button only. The circle represents the button, and it is centered on the center front line of the body.

Mischief managed in front.

Whenever you change a piece on one side of a seam, you have to change the piece on the other side.  We changed the front side of the shoulder seam when we altered the neckline.  Right now, that front shoulder is 1/2″ shorter than the back shoulder.  That’s kind of a problem.

Make a guide mark 1/2" from the neck on the back shoulder, just like we did with the front shoulder.  Use a curve to redraw the back neckline smoothly to this point.

Make a guide mark 1/2″ from the neck on the back shoulder, just like we did with the front shoulder. Use a curve to redraw the back neckline smoothly to this point.

Watch point: Don’t go all Joy of Curve on this!  You don’t want to dip way into the back body then come up to the center back neckline.  This is a corner that must be square,  It won’t be going into a seam, but the piece is cut on the fold so the same rules apply.

The adjusted back neckline should look something like this.

The adjusted back neckline should look something like this.

At this point, the draft part is done.  Add a clean sheet of tracing paper and trace the front pieces.  (Notice how I'm moving notches before I even add the seam allowances?  I do that when I know I'm tired and likely to forget them!)

At this point, the draft part is done. Add a clean sheet of tracing paper and trace the front pieces. (Notice how I’m moving notches before I even add the seam allowances? I do that when I know I’m tired and likely to forget them!)

The next thing we want to do is make a front facing piece, which will look like this.  Because it doesn't go over the bust, we can make it as one piece, but Oh noes! Our draft pieces are already attached to the colored paper!  We're going to have to get fancy.  Ready?

The next thing we want to do is make a front facing piece, which will look like this. Because it doesn’t go over the bust, we can make it as one piece, but Oh noes! Our draft pieces are already attached to the colored paper! We’re going to have to get fancy. Ready?

Place a new clean sheet of tracing paper over your work.

Place a new clean sheet of tracing paper over your work.

We need to "borrow" the top and bottom of the side front piece.  To make sure we line everything up, we're going to trace the corners at the top and bottom of the center front princess line.

We need to “borrow” the top and bottom of the side front piece. To make sure we line everything up, we’re going to trace the corners at the top and bottom of the center front princess line.

Use short, light little dashes for this.  These are guides.

Use short, light little dashes for this. These are guides.

Move the tracing paper so that the upper princess line guide fits the top of the side front piece.

Move the tracing paper so that the upper princess line guide fits the top of the side front piece.

Trace off the armscye and upper portion of the side line.  You need an inch of the side.

Trace off the armscye and upper portion of the side line. You need an inch of the side.

Move your tracing paper again, this time so that the bottom corner of the princess line fits the bottom of the side front.  Trace off the waist (bottom) and an inch (or so) of the side line.

Move your tracing paper again, this time so that the bottom corner of the princess line fits the bottom of the side front. Trace off the waist (bottom) and an inch (or so) of the side line.

I’m using little bitty dashes for this because it’s much easier to make an accurate short line than an accurate long line.

Right now, this is what is on the tracing paper.

Right now, this is what is on the tracing paper.

Move your tracing paper again, so that your princess  corners fit the center front piece.  At this point, you can attach this sheet of tracing paper to the one below it so that it doesn't move anymore.  (We're done moving this piece.  I promise!)

Move your tracing paper again, so that your princess corners fit the center front piece. At this point, you can attach this sheet of tracing paper to the one below it so that it doesn’t move anymore. (We’re done moving this piece. I promise!)

Use a curve and your guidelines from the side front piece to draw in a smooth armscye.

Use a curve and your guidelines from the side front piece to draw in a smooth armscye.

Continue tracing around the center front piece (shoulder, neckline, front, waist, etc).

Continue tracing around the center front piece (shoulder, neckline, front, waist, etc).

Now we’re going to give ourselves a couple of guidelines.

For the waist, we want a guide 1" above the bottom, from the side seam in towards the princess line.

For the waist, we want a guide 1″ above the bottom, from the side seam in towards the princess line.

For the armscye, you will also need a 1" guideline.  Transfer this away from the armscye curve exactly the same as you would mark a seam allowance - first little guides 1" from the line, then we'll connect them with a curve.

For the armscye, you will also need a 1″ guideline. Transfer this away from the armscye curve exactly the same as you would mark a seam allowance – first little guides 1″ from the line, then we’ll connect them with a curve.

Our last guide runs along the princess line.

Our last guide runs along the princess line.

I've put a sheet of white paper behind my tracing paper so we can just focus on the facing.  Use a curve to connect the waist guide and the princess line guide in a smooth arc.  No corners, no angles!

I’ve put a sheet of white paper behind my tracing paper so we can just focus on the facing. Use a curve to connect the waist guide and the princess line guide in a smooth arc. No corners, no angles!

The question of why we don’t want corners and angles came up in class.  We’re going to finish this edge with the serger so that it doesn’t fray.  While it’s possible to do inside corners with a serger, it’s a lot easier not to.  Smooth curves are always easy to sew up.  Corners, not so much.  Here’s my top rule of patterning: if it’s hard to cut, it’s going to be hard to sew.  Let’s make our lives easier instead of harder.

Connect the armscye guide and the princess line guide with a curve.  This curve must stay above the bust point.

Connect the armscye guide and the princess line guide with a curve. This curve must stay above the bust point.

Right now, the front facing piece looks like this - lots of stray guidelines.  This is why I'm obsessive about working cleanly - it's hard to know what's important if there's lines everywhere.

Right now, the front facing piece looks like this – lots of stray guidelines. This is why I’m obsessive about working cleanly – it’s hard to know what’s important if there’s lines everywhere.  No good!

Better!

Better!

If I move the white paper down a layer, you can see how the pieces are related.  We closed the princess line at the top, then at the bottom, to create the facing.  This is like that pivot transfer thing that I said we weren't going to do, because it doesn't leave a record of how you manipulated the piece.  ;)

If I move the white paper down a layer, you can see how the pieces are related. We closed the princess line at the top, then at the bottom, to create the facing. This is like that pivot transfer thing that I said we weren’t going to do, because it doesn’t leave a record of how you manipulated the piece. ;)

I've started working the pattern on the center front piece, and I've decided that if this were full scale, the neckline would be long enough to want a notch on both the outside and the facing piece.

I’ve started working the pattern on the center front piece, and I’ve decided that if this were full scale, the neckline would be long enough to want a notch on both the outside and the facing piece.

I'm also going to add a notch on the facing piece, telling me where to expect the princess seam to meet the facing.  This will hapen at the sewing line for the center front piece.

I’m also going to add a notch on the facing piece, telling me where to expect the princess seam to meet the facing. This will happen at the sewing line for the center front piece.

And then I am going to have a total head-desk moment.  I just realized that the guideline from the book says that all faced edges get a 1/4″ seam allowance, and I used a 1/2″ reflexively.  Seam allowances tend to be industry specific, and for better or for worse, the list of industries I’ve worked in does not include RTW.  I redid all the offending seam allowances, but I’m not going to have time to redo the demo to get the correct photography.  Sorry, guys!

We're going to start the back facings the same way - with our little dashed guides at the princess line corners.

We’re going to start the back facings on a new sheet of tracing paper in the same way – with our little dashed guides at the princess line corners.

Move the sheet of tracing paper until the upper princess corner fits the upper side back, then mark guides for the armscye and an inch of the side line.

Move the sheet of tracing paper until the upper princess corner fits the upper side back, then mark guides for the armscye and an inch of the side line.

Move the tracing paper again so that the lower princess corner fits the bottom of the side back.  Mark out the waist and an inch of the side seam.

Move the tracing paper again so that the lower princess corner fits the bottom of the side back. Mark out the waist and an inch of the side seam.

At this point, you should have this on your tracing paper.

At this point, you should have this on your tracing paper.

Match the princess corners back up the the center back piece and attach the tracing paper to sheet underneath it.

Match the princess corners back up the the center back piece and attach the tracing paper to sheet underneath it.

We'll start with the lower back facing, because it's really easy.  Connect all your guides to form the center, bottom, and side of the piece.  Now, starting at the center back, mark 1" above the bottom line.  Continue along the piece, 1" from the bottom edge.

We’ll start with the lower back facing, because it’s really easy. Connect all your guides to form the center, bottom, and side of the piece. Now, starting at the center back, mark 1″ above the bottom line. Continue along the piece, 1″ from the bottom edge.

It should look like this.

It should look like this.

Just like in front, we're going to want a notch where the princess line will meet the facing.

Just like in front, we’re going to want a notch where the princess line will meet the facing.

This piece can be cut on the fold.

This piece can be cut on the fold.

The upper back facing starts the same way.  Use rulers and curves to create the outline.

The upper back facing starts the same way. Use rulers and curves to create the outline.

Just line in front, we're going to mark the armscye curve out 1", then use a curve to draw it in.

Just line in front, we’re going to mark the armscye curve out 1″, then use a curve to draw it in.

We're going to want to connect the new curve to the center back, around mid-armhole level.  The back HBL (horizontal balance line) is a pretty good spot.

We’re going to want to connect the new curve to the center back, around mid-armhole level. The back HBL (horizontal balance line) is a pretty good spot.

Also like the front, we don't want any angles - just smooth curves that are easy to run through a serger.  See how we're lining things up?

Also like the front, we don’t want any angles – just smooth curves that are easy to run through a serger. See how we’re lining things up?

Once we draw the lines in, and erase any stray guides,  the upper back facing is done.

Once we draw the lines in, and erase any stray guides, the upper back facing is done.

 

The back vest pattern, with the seam allowances done by the book's guidelines.

The back vest pattern, with the seam allowances done by the book’s guidelines.

Well, mostly.  I’d bet that in many RTW shops, that princess line should be a 1/4″ seam as well because of the curve at the top.  I have clothes made like that.  I also have clothes with princess lines at a 1/2″ seam allowance.  I suppose it depends on who you work for.

The upper and lower back facings.  I did not forget the seam allowances on the one side of each facing.  It's not going into a seam.  I could have included the standard 3/8" for a serged seam, but there's no need.

The upper and lower back facings. I did not forget the seam allowances on the one side of each facing. It’s not going into a seam. I could have included the standard 3/8″ for a serged seam, but there’s no need.

Take a closer look at the lower back facing.  Why are there words in red?  It's common to interface facings - it just makes a nicer garment.  Interfacings to cut are marked in red - and a good thing, too, since my writing is really tiny there!

Take a closer look at the lower back facing. Why are there words in red? It’s common to interface facings – it just makes a nicer garment. Interfacings to cut are marked in red – and a good thing, too, since my writing is really tiny there!

The front vest pattern pieces...

The front vest pattern pieces…

...and the front vest facing piece. *whew*  The end!

…and the front vest facing piece.
*whew* The end!

 

 

 

 

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