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Space-age clothes for down-to-earth prices

Advanced project - assumes knowledge of embroidery and dressmaking techniques, and experience with a sewing machine.

Why not use recycled plastic bin-liners or plastic shopping bags instead of fabric to make quilted waistcoats? It will work as long as you use heavy-duty plastic (thin plastic will tear) and remember never to iron the waistcoat - if you do the plastic will melt and may give off poisonous fumes.

quilt sandwich To quilt you need to make a three-layer sandwich with wadding as the filling. Use plastic as the top layer, then wadding, then fabric such as old polycotton sheets or shirts. The fabric layers stabilise the work and the plastic is less likely to tear.
stitch samples

Do samples first, using as many embroidery techniques as you can to see whether you can get them to work on a plastic-fronted sandwich.

Two ways to use the sewing machine for your quilting:

Experiment with different patterns. Use ethnic motifs, architecture or geometric shapes to inspire you. Any thread will do whatever method you use, for example tacking thread, glittery thread or rayon.

Measure the dimensions of your sample pieces before and after stitching to see how much shrinkage is caused by the quilting. You will need to allow for this when you make the 'sandwiches' to quilt for your waistcoat. (For example, if your stitched sample is 4 inches square to start with, and after stitching is only 3 inches square, it has shrunk by a quarter in each direction. You need to work on a sandwich at least a quarter bigger in each direction than the pattern piece you will cut from it.)

You will need a paper pattern, and to make one you need a large sheet of paper - brown wrapping paper or lining paper will do. Get someone to measure the distance from the nape of your neck to your waist, and your bust measurement. Draw out the pattern - these are the basic shapes for back (Diagram 1a) and front (Diagram 1b). Remember to add a 1 cm seam allowance.

pattern for back

pattern for front

You can change the shape of your waistcoat by making it longer or curving the front pieces. Alter the neckline by squaring off the curves or adding a collar; squaring off the curves can also be used to alter the armholes.

Make plastic sandwiches big enough to cut each pattern piece from, allowing extra for shrinkage. Do the decorative quilting before you cut out the pattern. Work out where the decoration is to go on paper before transferring it to the fabric.

different styles

When the quilting is done, cut out the pattern pieces. Pin them to the fabric backing to avoid pin marks in the plastic. Join the shoulder seams. In the same sizes as your patterns cut out a back and two fronts in lining fabric and join the shoulder seams ready to line the waistcoat. With right sides together join the quilted pieces to the lining, leaving the side seams open. Turn inside out through the sides, sew up the side seams on the quilted side, and handstitch the lining closed. You can add topstitching around the edges as the waistcoat must NOT be ironed.

stitching the lining

Further ideas for decoration

adapted from an original article by Toni Handley © The Embroiderers' Guild 1994 - 2011. First published in the Young Textile Group Project Book.

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