Embroidered Patchwork Vest

November 25, 2011

I recently finished this vest which had been an intermittent evening project for several months.  I love vests but it is difficult to find one that fits properly, since I have such a short back.  It took me three paper drafts and two muslin ones to get this pattern just right, but it was worth the trouble and I still finished the pattern in one evening.  It looks like a short bolero but the hem sits precisely on my waist and the whole thing is a perfect fit.  The front is wider than the back (not the other way around, like a man’s vest) and the shoulders are wide enough to fit without slipping, even over my usual drop-shouldered dresses.

The vest is brown 100% linen, lined with teadye cotton muslin and bound with black/indigo batik quilter’s cotton.  The binding is entirely handstitched.  The shoulders and side seams are reinforced with commercial black bias tape, embroidered with french knots.  Bias tape (overlain with woven running stitch in several shades of blue) was also used to bind the white/indigo  calico that I used for the center stripes.  The linen fabric is not a very tight weave so it’s rather unstable and needs the tape for a good fit.  Most of the applique patches are from the “blue tiger” and “cat skull” fabrics that I had printed at Spoonflower, so they are my own designs.  The indigo wave and charcoal bird fabrics are Japanese dobby cloth.  There are a couple of flannel scraps and some vintage 1970s trim (peach/brown/white on black).  On the back is half of a crocheted disk that is positioned to look like the moon rising over the waves.  I picked up a bag of these round crocheted pieces (somebody’s abandoned unfinished table runner or something) at a thrift shop about 20 years ago.  I made the front clasps from 14-gauge copper wire; they will look much nicer once they’ve tarnished.  I thought they might be a bit heavy but they work fine.  Each side is designed to be stitched down at four points for stability.  They are slightly oversized for durability and ease of use.

Umber and indigo – used together, often with black and/or deep grayish-purple, are my personal “shaman’s colors”.  Indigo is paired with dark brown in several traditional and/or ceremonial textiles around the world, such as Japanese clothing, Batak ikat weavings from Sumatra, and old Zuni mantas from New Mexico.  It would be easy to say that this is just because these two colors are common in naturally-dyed fabrics everywhere, but there seems to be a bit more to it than that, since the same pattern (brown with a blue border, or vice versa) seems to turn up over and over in “special” garments that have been lavished with extra work, even though they aren’t brightly colored.  The blue/brown combination also occurs in nature in several creatures that are both common and conspicuous, such as Steller’s jay (western U.S.), the blue tiger butterfly (Asia), and the pipevine swallowtail (U.S.).

Embroidered Patchwork Vest, Front

Embroidered Patchwork Vest, Front


Embroidered Patchwork Vest, Back

Embroidered Patchwork Vest, Back


Copper Clasp

Copper Clasp


5 Responses to “Embroidered Patchwork Vest”

  1. judithornot said

    It’s beautiful! I so admire your attention to detail, Lorena. And you must have a very organized storage space, to find bits of crochet work you bought 20 years ago! 🙂

  2. ironwing said

    Thank you! I AM pretty organized, though not obsessive about it. It helps that I don’t have much stuff. I go through it periodically and throw out or give away what I know I won’t use. I guess it’s time to post some pictures of my workspace.

  3. Debbie said

    Amazing that it took you so long to try the copper clasps – they are beautiful, and I imagine you will; use them in future projects.

    • ironwing said

      I’ve been using several designs of smaller ones for a couple of years as hook & eye closures on skirts and sleeve cuffs, but this project called for the larger ornamental version. I can’t fasten buttons very well anymore, and I hate making buttonholes, so these are a fun alternative.

  4. My work space is known as “The Exploding Table” since all my projects get on top of me.

    I LOVE this vest. I’ve never been fond of brown except when paired with blue, and indigo has such historical connotations. I’ve got a clip art book from Dover of Chinese Indigo Batik Designs.

    I remember commenting on that Spoonflower fabric in your post on that, and these motifs look wonderful as appliqué. The copper clasps are a great idea, and the repurposed crochet looks quite stylish. It almost looks like a waterfall is feeding a white sun. That could be a song lyric:

    Blue waterfall feeds the white sun rising from indigo waves.

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