Hero (vest) worship

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As the cold winter weather finally sets in here Down Under I’ve been eyeing off all the quilted vests appearing in shops. I have many winter coats but they were all bought in my previous pre-baby life and few are really casual wear so the idea of a vest was tempting. As is usual for me, I looked at a few RTW options, gasped at the price tag and thought, “I could make that”.

I spent some time tossing up between the Make It Perfect women’s Hero Vest and the Waffle Patterns Dropje vest. I’ve not sewn anything from either company before but ended up settling for the former because 1) it has a full lining and 2) Toni is Australian and I like to support local designers where possible. I was also seriously inspired by Kirsty’s Liberty quilted Hero Vest.

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The pattern says it can be made in any stretch or woven fabric so I took that challenge and ran with it. The outer is a fairly loose-weave, very stretchy knit of unknown content (well, unknown to me because I always forget to photograph the fabric labels in the shop) from Spotlight. The lining is a batik-style cotton flannel in the vest body and some black cotton-elastane I had lying round for the hood.

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I’ve quilted it with a double thickness of bamboo batting, chosen because it’s a natural fibre that can be machine washed (ain’t no hand-washing going on in my household…). It’s only about 4mm thick which is why I doubled it but I was a bit worried about my machine handling the thickness of all those layers. I used a walking foot for almost the entire construction and had no troubles – and even managed near-straightness thanks to judicious measuring and wash tape.

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The instructions were clear enough for me though I  did mess up the armhole binding because I didn’t read them properly and assumed the seam allowances were the same as everywhere else (they’re not) – easily fixed by trimming the seam down. I followed the very detailed tutorial on Make It Perfect’s website to insert the zipper.

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I especially like the pockets, which are a kind of reverse patch pocket in that you attach the pocket piece inside the outer instead of outside it. It does mean, however, that the pattern as drafted has the raw wrong side of the outer fabric against your hand in the pocket which probably would be fine unless you’ve decided to quilt it with no backing fabric. I mean, who would do that? This was easily remedied by creating a pocket lining piece and attaching it with the pocket binding then at the same time as the regular pocket piece (as above).

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Naturally, I couldn’t sew up the pattern as is. When do I ever do that? Instead, I had to go and puzzle out how to add fur trimming to the hood – but I’m so glad I did because I just love it. I’ve kept the regular hood as drafted and added the strip of fur 2.5 inches from the edge on the outside, wrapping around an inch on the lining (I work in inches for straight lines because I mostly use a quilting ruler to draft them and it only has imperial measurements). This means there’s some reinforcement inside the hood because I didn’t trim off the extra outer fabric bit that’s hidden.

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This is a case of me saying, “I could make that” and the finished product actually ending up as it was pictured in my head – and I’m so pleased! It really is deliciously warm and I think it will get quite a workout this winter and early spring.

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Dedicated readers (and you must be dedicated if you’ve made it this far) may remember I started the year with a sewing plan that did not include quilted, fur-trimmed vests. About a month ago I finally sorted through my wardrobe and thought about what I’m actually wearing these days. Much to my horror, I came to the conclusion that I had enough (dare I say too many) dresses and that it was going to be much more practical through winter to wear pants and layered tops when not at work since my usual uniform of dresses with tights isn’t so great for being down on the floor with a baby. As such I reassessed those sewing plans and chased up patterns and ideas that will better suit what I’m actually wearing rather than what I think I’ll wear. So while a quilted, fur-trimmed vest might be an impulsive fashion-driven make, I’m pretty sure it will actually get worn a lot. I hope.

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