I made this blog with the intent to make more knitting related posts, but clearly that hasn’t been happening. I do plan to work on more knitting posts soon so thank you for putting up with my now-I’ll-post-whatever-I-feel-like blog. Anyway, today I wanted to share an exciting sewing project that I worked on back in January!
My mom tried to teach me how to sew a few years back, but actually never finished my training. I embarked on a few “easy” tailoring tasks on some pants and a few shirts, but when it came to actually making clothes…that just never happened. Not until I was ambitious enough to try it on my own (cue nervous laughter).
As the closet costume manager for the ballroom dance team, I take care of copious amounts of sparkly dresses that are worn at competitions. We have costumes that are brought to almost every comp along with a few that don’t live to see the light of day. The dresses that collected dust were the ones that I experimented with.
Long story short, I began to play around with the costume design process which brings me to today, actually getting paid to make costumes from scratch.
My suite-mate wanted to get new vests for her Bollywood dance team, but despite traveling everywhere in India she had no luck. She messaged me over winter break to see if I was interested in making them new vests if she gave me the fabric and embellishments. I was a bit hesitant at first because I never made a vest before, let alone get paid to make four.
Eventually I got on board.
I modeled my vests based off their old vests which looked deceivingly simple to make. I quickly learned how wrong I was after lots of trial and error.
It took a few hours of sewing and seam ripping to settle on a good strategy. Once I finalized my method it became much easier to make multiple vests. I didn’t document the process very much, but below is a general schematic of what I did. As a disclaimer, I am by no means a professional, but just wanted to share my design process:
Each vest is made of six pieces: Two pieces for the back of the vest and two pieces for the left and right front parts of the vest (not really sure what the actual name for the section of the vest is, if there even is one), one using the lining fabric and the other using the main fabric. In my case, I just used the main fabric for both.
After cutting out the pattern on the fabric, I positioned the back pieces so that the right sides are on the inside and sewed along the neck, arm holes, and bottom of the back. I flipped the sewn back pieces inside out and ironed down the edges to keep it flat. You don’t have to do this immediately, but I found the vests easier to work with if they were ironed. It also makes the top-stitching step easier later on. Similarly, I sewed along the neck, arm hole, and bottom of the front parts of the vest with the right sides together and inverted it.
The trickiest part was definitely sewing the left and right front pieces to the back part of the vest. Before sewing the shoulders together, I pinned the back and front shoulders together and began to sew them (starting from the outside edge of the shoulder, beginning of the green line in diagram) such that the sides indicated by the green lines were aligned and sewn. I then continued to sew so that the sides indicated in orange were aligned until I reached the outside edge of the shoulder again.
If you leave part of the seam open at the top of the armhole section (front and back piece), you should be able to do this with some ease. This leaves the section that connects the outside shoulder edge and upper armhole open, but this can be sewn together during the top-stitching part.
I used a similar concept for combining the sides of the vest together. I left about an inch of un-sewn fabric from the bottom of the front and back pieces for this step. I sewed together the sides facing the inside first, starting at the point marked on the diagram and sewing up to the bottom of the arm hole (also making sure that the right sides are together for this step). I continued sewing along the same direction which then closed up the sides that were visible on the vest.
After sewing along those edges, I top-stitched the back of the collar, the neck, and the bottom of the vest as shown in my diagram. This also lets you top-stitch together the remaining parts of the vest that weren’t sewn during the previous steps, including the corners of the vest that were left alone when the sides were sewn together. After finishing the base of the vest, I added embellished borders along the collar.
Despite the material limitations (all the fabric and bands were from India) and supply limitations (I used a flimsy card-stock ruler instead of a real one), I’m pretty satisfied with the way that it turned out! I think I could’ve done an even better job with the craftsmanship (using exact measurements instead of tracing/eyeballing), but overall I was satisfied considering that this was my first time making a vest.
Incorporating the band was a bit tricky mainly because of the rhinestones. Unfortunately I broke a few needles in the past when I worked with rhinestones, so I made sure that I didn’t make the same mistake with this project. Essentially I lined the V of the vest with the band and continued to line the collar up to the midpoint of the vest. I added a small segment to the end of the extended band to for a more “finished” look.
The red vest was made similarly, except for the fact that I had enough of the decorative band to line the whole vest.
The decorative band had sequins instead of rhinestones, so sewing them onto the vest was much less pain-staking and time-consuming. Back home I had a much wider arsenal of threads to choose from, so working with a more limited supply was slightly annoying. The closest thread color I had to red was maroon, so the stitches are visible on the red vest. Luckily I had just enough gold thread to finish the gold vests seamlessly.
I’m pretty pleased with how all of them turned out! In an ideal world I would’ve had more material and supplies to work with, but overall I did the best I could. I had a lot of fun thinking about the construction of the vest and coming up with different ideas on how to decorate the vests with the embellished borders. My craftsmanship is starting to improve, and I think with more projects and practice my work will be one step closer to looking cleaner.
Not too long ago my suite-mate’s dance team had a showcase in April that gave me the chance to see the costumes I made in action. It was incredibly satisfying to see what they looked like on stage and felt very proud of myself. I definitely want to keep sewing in the future and am really glad that I decided to pursue this project. As always, thanks for tuning in and see you next time!