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How-to

Circular Vest

Dec 24, 2009
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One circle of fabric makes a vest that highlights both sides of a special fabric. Choose a fabric that looks good on both sides.

To create this vest in less than an hour, you use two measurements to draft a circle and then just cut fabric and the armholes and bind the edges. 

For a super-comfy version, choose a thick fabric such as fleece. For a more sweater-like creation, choose a loose knit. Finish the raw edges with strips of ribbed knit; you can shape the knit easily around the curved edges, and it stretches to fit. For a quicker no-sew version, make the vest out of fleece and cut the edges with pinking shears. For a double-sided option, topstitch two layers of fleece together.

Whether you make it in a lightweight fabric or in a cozy knit, this vest is the perfect addition to any wardrobe regardless of the season.

Draft and sew the vest
Start with your measurements to draft the vest pattern, and bind the edges with a coordinating rib knit.

1. Draft the pattern. Measure your bust circumference. Draw a circle with this measurement as the circle’s diameter.

2. Measure for the armholes. Measure across your back from arm to arm to determine how far apart to make the armholes. Determine the armhole depth by measuring from the top of your shoulder to about 3 inches below your armpit.

measure the armholes

3. Draw the armholes. Center the armholes vertically on your pattern and mark them your back width apart (as determined in step 2).

draw the armholes

4. Cut the fabric.
Cut the pattern from your fabric, slashing open the armholes.

cut the fabric

5. Cut and press the binding.
Cut out 3-inch-wide strips of ribbed knit with the ribs running perpendicular to the strip. Fold the ribbed binding in half with wrong sides together. Align the long edges, and press. Fold the
raw edges towards the fold, and press.

cut and press the binding

Fold the binding’s raw edges toward the fold, and press.

6. Bind the edges. Sandwich the wrap’s raw edges in the fold of the binding, and topstitch it in place. Turn under any raw ends.

bind the edges

Sandwich the wrap’s raw edges in the fold of the binding.

7. Make the armhole binding. Cut two strips of pre-pressed binding 21⁄2 inches longer than your armhole. Pin them right sides together with the short ends aligned. Draw a 11⁄4-inch-long line centered on each end. Sew 1⁄16 inch around the line through both layers to form one end of the armhole, and cut as shown above. Repeat for the other armhole.

mark the armhole binding

8. Fold the armhole bindings.
Turn the binding right-side out, as shown at right. Turn under the short end’s raw edges 1⁄2 inch, and press.

fold the armhole bindings

9. Finish the armholes.
Pin the bindings to the armholes, sandwiching the raw edges inside the bidning. Edgestitch the binding in place.

finish the armholes

Pin the binding to the armhole.

circular vest final look

excerpted from Threads magazine
Issue #146, p. 69

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  1. User avater MollieJ August 17th

    Crochet edge stitching will unnecessarily make the process harder.

  2. moincarrollton January 9th

    Has anyone tried doing a crochet edge stitching instead of binding?? Trying to think outside the box!!

  3. User avater Silverbells October 17th

    I'm crazy about this!!! WOW!!!

  4. maydances January 22nd

    I saw a girl today and who was wearing a version of this in a heavy knit fabric with a fringe all around it. The armholes were a lot higher and cut like in a racerback top and they were very nicely finished.. This made the upper part of the circle not exactly a half circle but a bit smaller... as when you wear a round knit shawl, folded not quite in half. The armholes were not right in the center of the circle.... Also, the shawl collar covered her upper arms which made the lower part cling to her back giving it a very feminine, curvaceous look.
    I plan on making one out of muslin before I hit the good boiled wool I have been saving for something special. This is it.... can't wait!!
    Good luck, let me hear more comments, please.

  5. sewingheaven888 November 28th

    Looks lovely. I will be giving that a try soon.

    Thank you.:)

  6. Zepherine March 27th

    Has anyone actually MADE this following these directions? Because when I made the circle's diameter equal to my bust measurement--36 inches--the fabric barely fit around my shoulders. Had I put armhole slits in the place indicated, I'd have had to be a contortionist to put the garment on, or worn it with my arms pinned behind my back.

    I salvaged the project by adding sleeves to the side of the circle.

  7. StunningSun February 19th

    I'm thinking maybe a reversible satin/velvet with a piping? Comments?

  8. User avater JacquieOK November 26th

    has anyone done this with cotton and quilted it?
    I hate binding anything! I hate anything KNIT as well...would love to make this using something else...Dupioni even!

  9. annybanny01 February 9th

    I have just received my first edition (#147-March 2010) and I LUV it! I was so excited just walking in from the mailbox.
    Very intriqued by the "felted wool jersey" article and the jacket on the cover. I have been searching locally for 'felted wool' and it is hard to locate. I am certainly excited to get started with my sewing so keep the ideas coming. Also, I am making the circle vest and cannot wait to wear it. How would one go about buying the pattern for the jacket on cover of #147 magazine? I am pining for it.....

  10. deemail February 8th

    My favorite version of this is about 30+ years old. I remember it only because it was such a simple, yet striking idea, then and now. The singer/actress, Edie Adams, (wife of comedian, Ernie Kovacs) wore a white fur version that had the armholes offset and it could be worn both ways. One way produced a nice turn-down collar and the other way, produced a big enough 'collar' that she could pull it up to use as a hood. The circle was much larger, producing a 3/4 length white fur wrap! It was gorgeous and, of course, 3/4 is such a useful length. Better to be 3/4 length with a full length gown than to have those awkward inches showing under a 'not quite long enough coat,' and it is also a great length with pants. I am enthused all over again. How about quilting two pieces of fabric with batting for warmth before cutting the circle? If I draw the circle on the top layer, I can make the quilting follow the shape!

  11. User avater nannysgirl February 6th

    I just cut this out of muslin and I made some adjustments. Using the guide given for the back measurement, I found it was tight. I went back and added 1 inch to each side. I want to use a very lighweight, open knitted fabric but not sure what to use on the edges. Any ideas?

  12. Rooty_Tooty January 7th

    There is lots of discussion about whether or not to bind. The binding that is suggested is knitted which would be quite flexible. Any stitching around the edge would need to be a stretch stitch or slight zigzag to resist breakage. Also, any trims would probaly need to have some degree of stretch if the fabric is to maintain it's fluidity. Keep in mind that, like the circular skirts of the 50's & early 60's, this vest will be prone to stretching on the bias & losing it's shape but, again, that is part of the charm of this garment.

    Also, I think this could make a very pretty wrap for a strapless gown (think proms, brides, holidays) with beading oe sequins along the edge. There is a lot of potential for embellishment and a wide variety of fabrics that could be used for very different but elegant & femine looks --georgette, voile, velvet, velour, satin, charmeuse...

  13. Rooty_Tooty January 7th

    Leonore -- I love your idea of 3/4 length sleeves! How do you think they were attached? Were the armholes still just slits & the sleeves made of folded squares with the fold at the top of the slit & the seam at the bottom? I suppose you could stitch the sleeve seam to make the sleeves perfetc rectangles for fuller sleeves or you could sew a tapered seam so that you ended up with a narrower edge at the cuff. If you can remeber how this was done or if anyone else has any thoughts on this I'd be interested.

  14. Feltart January 5th

    I love this and want to try it with nuno felted scarves that I have sewn together. Now my question is how do I create a circle pattern, do I need a very large geometric semi circle gadget?. Do I measure the diameter and make points around it and join them thereby creating a circle.

  15. AnieP January 4th

    I too have just the fabric to make this cute vest/jacket. I also that you for the inspiration! AnieP

  16. User avater junahbird January 4th

    I agree with stillsuesew, I would like to make this with the armholes higher as well. I think it may be a little more flattering.

  17. Willuf January 4th

    My daughter treated me to a knitted version a couple of years ago which I love but find it hopeless to wear as it slips off the shoulders all the time. Have tried a tape from armhole to armhole but this shows and is not successful. Any other suggestions how I can overcome this in order to be able to put it to good use? It is a shame to leave it in my wardrobe.

  18. SonjaLuvs2Sew January 3rd

    I DID IT! I used a (what I believe is) double sided Denim that was originally intended as fabric for a sleeping bag. It's been sitting around for years and is NOW my new cape/vest! The next time I make this i will add a couple inches across the back as my very broad shoulders and (slight) extention in my back are usually harder to fit in ALL projects. Other than that, it was GREAT. I trimmed with red fleece that was purchased to make winter scarfs (but my dd crochet's one for me for Christmas). Pics asap!

  19. MarMax January 3rd

    I made the circular vest, too. It was so much fun, and that "ah...ha" when I tried it on was priceless. It worked and looks great out of fleece. Incredible. So much imagination and creativity in this magazine. Am intrigued enough by the article on "Felted Wool Jersey" to get up the courage to try it! 2010 is going to be a great sewing year!

  20. kymsmum December 31st

    I love whoever figured this out. I am on a pension & look after my mother, with Alzheimer. I saw this cape at a local shopping centre. It was made in silk & cost (wait for it) $60.00 Australian. There are a few ways you can wear this item. I will try to remember & will post it up here. I tried to figure this out myself, but did not have the creative juice left in me. Thank you so much. Also a detachable sleeve could be made for this. I can figure that out now, & I will post here as soon as possible.

  21. User avater JomustSew December 31st

    Love this idea!! I'm a fullsome woman and I can still make this because of it's simple design -- I think I'd like to try making it with some fake fur for a fall weather topper

  22. helenj December 30th

    i love this too!!! I would love to see the pics of all your efforts! anyone brave enough ?

  23. Love_it December 30th

    Give us more. What a great and "GREEN" idea. Thank you.

  24. crafrisma December 30th

    I love this circular vest pattern, it's so simple to make. You could use any type of fabric to dress it up or down.

  25. mpiel December 30th

    what a creative mind. I would have never thought of it.
    keep the creative juices flowing and giving us great garments
    to wear. thank for the know-how.

  26. stillsuesew December 29th

    Instead of cutting the armhole slits in the middle, I would cut them a little higher. This way the cape can be worn in either direction. Worn with the slits higher will make for a smaller collar and longer over the hips. Worn with the slits lower will make a shorter version with a bigger collar. Something to play with in a muslin.

  27. Boblynn December 29th

    I think the collar is just asking for machine embroidery or even ribbon embroidery! Great project!

  28. Suesewingsue December 29th

    Thanks! I'm excited! This is pretty close to a $16 pattern that was featured at the November Sewing Expo's Fashion Show that I was too frugal to purchase while unemployed! (A brand that never goes on sale & is sealed so you can't examine and absorb the overall idea before buying...) Theirs has a little more of a flouncey ruffle because it was made of lightweight material, and the sleeve holes are not centered heightwise, so that there's a choice of volume of ruffle, depending on how much fabric is above or below the armholes. I'll have to play with that idea also....

  29. RAGNBONE December 29th

    My mom made me a grey wool cape with slits like this in the late 60's trimmed in black fringe that I LOVED. I'd like to try it again, thanks for the reminder!

  30. rr528 December 29th

    The hip measurement doesn't matter, because the vest would hit above the low hip (unless the wearer is very short) and because the vest doesn't fasten at that point. Also consider that this is a cutaway style, which is also more forgiving hip-wise.

    You could also move the "armholes" lower - which would shorten the overall length (bringing it above the hip) in favor of a longer shoulder drape.

    At any rate, if one is very short or very broad (or both), a muslin mightn't be a bad idea.

  31. nbrowns December 29th

    love this but am truly confused about the armshole binding, how can you turn under the short end raw edges when you have sewed around the 1 1/4 inch line centered on each end?

    Perhaps a clearer graphic would help. Can't wait to try this one, it is ageless.

  32. User avater pandasmom December 28th

    Does this need to be made from a substantial fabric (wool, knit, etc)? What happens if one uses dupioni silk. Perhaps a little extra fabric for more drape, and put the armholes on the bias? Looks intriguing.

    Another thought - what if one cut a slightly oval shape to give a bit more drape at the top and bottom - with armholes on the bias. It would take more fabric, but might give an interesting look?

  33. User avater creativewench December 28th

    I just love this and can't wait to go fabric shopping for double sided wool. I can see this being awesome with jeans and a nice white blouse.

  34. User avater CraftyRose December 28th

    I notice that your model, although very attrractive, has NO hips at all. Does your yardage calculation allow for women whose hips may be, say 50"?

  35. adrisgram December 28th

    Leonore - can you give us more information about your pattern from the 60s? This is a "hafta-do" but I want sleeves!

  36. 79tarheel December 28th

    To Georgia_red: I believe the instructions to turn under the "short ends" means to turn under the short side -- you have basically a rectangle of binding and the "ends" of the strip would be the short side of the rectangle. So you are turning under the raw edge on the ends of the binding...Hope this helps. Good luck!

  37. lukehead December 28th

    Remember, if you want to fringe the edges, the edge is not straight but curved. Can be done but it is not necessarily fast. You have to work to keep the fringe even around the circumference.

  38. lukehead December 28th

    Remember, if you want to fringe the edges, it is not straight edged but curved. Can be done but is not necessarily fast. You have to work to keep the fringe length even on the circumference.

  39. User avater Georgia_Red December 28th

    I have the perfect fabric for this - upholstery fabric that is reversible, so it can be a reversible vest. However, I am confused about the instructions for the binding of the armholes. There are references to the "shorter end" I'm not sure what that means. Can someone help me out - I am an experienced sewer (at least I thought I was...).

  40. weeroo December 28th

    My mother knitted me something like this and I use it all the time as a bed jacket. I have two colorways of a handwoven from Guatemala that I may put together for this with 3/4 sleeves, also a loose throw like fabric for another bed jacket, they are easy to throw on and off with hot flashes!

  41. Leonore December 28th

    This is a great idea for a vest. In the early 60's I made a circle cape that was like this but had sleeves attached to the armseye slits. It was either a 54 or 60 in circle and the armseye slits was deeper. I believe the sleeves were 3/4 in length. All I remember is that the circle was cut to the width of the wool fabric. Mine was a heather wool on one side and a plaid wool on the other. I might still have the pattern! At any rate, I'm going to make the cape again for a toasty cover-up. Thanks for the memory jog and inspiration!

  42. User avater grmacary December 28th

    This is the sweetest thing!! I have a loose knit fabric I have been saving for a long time for just the right garment, and THIS IS IT! Thank you so much for the idea and all the information!

  43. abiddy December 28th

    This is a great look and I'm excited to try it out this week. I already have some ideas to vary the look. Like by adding a toggle or button closure, maybe a frayed edge. Thank you for the idea and simple instructions!

  44. beckyc4u December 28th

    The yardage required will depend on your size. If your bust is 36 inches, then you need a 36 inch circle, so 1 yard of fabric. If your bust measures 40 inches, then you will need 40 inches of fabric, etc. I would get an extra inch or so to be sure that you get the entire circle to fit on it, in case the ends are cut incorrectly, etc.
    I hope this helps those of you who needed yardage requirements. I'm looking forward to trying this. It's really cute. I might try something with a bit of bling for New Years...

  45. rr528 December 28th

    For those asking for yardage, simply buy a length of fabric equal to your bust measurement, plus a few inches. It's a circle, so the length equals the width.

    For example, if your bust measures 38 inches, buy...say...1-1/8 yards (36 inches plus 4-1/2 inches). And make sure the fabric is at least that wide.

  46. User avater CarolfromJnO December 28th

    This is the most awesome thing I've seen in awhile. Thinking about it with fleece too!
    Thanks!

  47. srtd64 December 28th

    pls post yardage if you recieve it...I like this also...I wil serge the edges.

  48. User avater mannebanana December 28th

    This could work as a light weight jacket if you added a frog or other closure

  49. User avater HUNGRYmama December 28th

    I love this! :D

  50. learner56 December 28th

    I love this simple classic look. How much fabric should I purchase?

  51. User avater seweasycreations December 28th

    I love this and will make it for sure. It's so simple but so cute. Thanks for the instructions.

  52. rr528 December 28th

    Love this idea! Make it out of double-faced wool and you have two looks.

    Not sure I'd bother with the binding around the circumference, though. With boiled wool or fleece (for example), there's no need for it - and the binding keeps the fabric from draping softly around the shoulders. Just stitch 3/8" from the edge and call it done. I'm more inclined to make this out of a woven fabric and simply fray the edges.

    I do see the wisdom of binding the armholes, of course.

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