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Quick Christmas Vest
By Mary B. Asper, Green Mountain Designs


Sooo…it’s right down to the wire; Christmas is around the corner, and you have NOTHING to wear to the December guild meeting. Or…there’s that last-minute gift for Aunt Bertha you forgot; she ALWAYS gets something handmade from you. What’s a girl to do??

Here’s one idea. Try decorating a ready-made or made-by-you blank vest with Christmas (or other!) appliqués and tidbits. Here are some ideas and techniques to get you going.

First – the vest. The best look for this project is a moderately short, pointed vest with a "V" style neckline. The edge of the vest back should fit just below the small of your back. If the vest buttons, make sure there’s plenty of room and the buttonhole doesn’t "gap.

Many Sewing/Craft stores (especially the Super Stores) carry blank denim clothing, and may well have blank denim vests. Western stores are also a good place to look. Department stores may have them. Another interesting look would be to try you local thrift or Salvation Army store for a mans’ wool vest.

If all else fails, there are many basic vest patterns available commercially; find one you like and make it up, out of denim, wool or some other fairly heavy solid fabric. If the pattern you have chosen is for a lined vest, leave the lining for AFTER you have finished the embellishments!

Choosing a faced pattern rather than a lined pattern, if possible, will save you lots of time.

Next – the embellishments. You can refer to my Patchwork Christmas Vest pattern for some ideas. I used lots of little Christmas buttons (stockings, stars, trees, etc.); some lace; some neat glass beads, chained sequins, metallic thread – lots of little "stuff" to decorate my vest. I used fabric in green and red Christmas plaids; those famous Hoffman rich poinsettia prints; a few red and green tone-on-tone little calicoes. You just need scraps and little bits of fabric – and make sure it’s FUN!

If you would rather do a Harvest vest – floral vest – Teacher vest – Mother vest – My Best Friend vest – (any theme you choose!) just collect appropriate fabrics and "stuff" for that theme and follow along!

There are many sources of appliqué designs that will save you from drawing. One, obviously is books and patterns you already have (like Patchwork Christmas Vest!). Perhaps you’ve thought of children’s coloring books, too – that’s a great source. What about cookie cutters? Gift wrap? Whatever you choose, simply trace the design to a fusible web product like Heat N’ Bond. If the direction of the object matters, you will need to trace it backwards (or up side down) for it to come out right when you adhere it to the vest. Trace to the paper side of the web and rough cut around the design.

Pull out your stash of fabric goodies and start pairing appliqués with fabrics. When you have decided exactly what color that snowman should be, adhere his tracing to the chosen fabric, following the fusible web manufacturers’ instructions. Cut out your appliqué designs.

Now it’s time to plan where your embellishments will go. It may be helpful to look at a pattern design someone has already planned – there are many available. You need to think about creating a "whole picture", not just placing stuff any old which way. Try to draw the eye up, toward the face, by placing your light or bright appliqué designs closer to the shoulder line of the vest. Think about balance, also – a really large appliqué on the bottom of the vest needs to be balanced by more going on – "visual complexity" – on the top. Try not to make target spots in the front or the back – set your designs off-center so they don’t attract attention!

Once you’re happy with the placement of your appliqués, adhere them to the vest following the fusible web manufacturers’ instructions and machine appliqué them in place. Use a good quality machine embroidery thread, 40 weight, in a color that matches your appliqué. Your stitch should just cover the raw edge of the appliqué, biting into the fabric a little less than ¼ inch. The stitch shouldn’t be ropy or bunch up, but lay flat and cover and edge of the appliqué nicely. I suggest doing a couple test pieces before working on your vest. It saves time to do all the appliqués of one color before changing thread and moving on to the next color.

Once the appliqués are complete, you can start to play! Think about the little stuff and tidbits you can use to embellish your appliqués. I used a piece of cotton lace at the top of my stocking, Once I did a wall quilt with appliquéd squares and rectangles for packages, and I used narrow satin ribbon for the bows! My Patchwork Christmas Vest has a tree decorated with all the little buttons I collected. Be sure to break the shanks off the button backs and glue them on – otherwise you’ll have shanks in the back when you sit! I did one entire side of my vest in random stitching with sequins, braids, metallic threads and other goodies. You could even meander stitch around the appliqués on your blank vest with different threads or very narrow braids.

When you’re done playing – if you ever are! – it’s time to line the vest if your pattern calls for it. If not, you’re done! Wrap it or wear it and enjoy it. When it comes time to launder, just turn the vest inside out; launder on gentle; hang to dry (NEVER put it in the dryer!) and press if needed.


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