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Three-Step Jacket: Make It in 30 Minutes

Turn a fabric rectangle into a versatile garment with a quick-to-sew project.

If you have limited time to sew, it’s especially rewarding to create a garment you can wear right away. Made from just a rectangle of fabric, this three-step jacket can be made in 30 minutes.

This pattern is incredibly flexible. The fabric length determines the finished garment’s total arm span and the fabric width determines the torso length. The measurements are easy to manipulate for different sizes. A shorter, narrower rectangle will produce shorter sleeves and jacket length.

With such a simple design, the possibilities for fabric and embellishments are endless. The jacket shown here is unlined, and made from a chunky, colorful, woven silk and viscose fabric. For an easy embellishment, let the selvage become a trim across the back, neck, and shoulder, down the sleeve, and around the wrist. Hem the other three edges of the fabric. You can use appliqué, trapunto, patchwork, photo-transfer, blue printing, painting, stamping, stenciling, embroidery, or any embellishment technique to adorn this jacket.

The seams are lapped and topstitched together, so it’s also easy to make a reversible jacket by lining the rectangle first. Since this jacket can be made to fit anyone, it makes a perfect gift. Thirty minutes isn’t much of an investment for so many fashionable possibilities.


  • Fabric
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread

Make the jacket in three easy steps

1. Fold the rectangle in half crosswise to establish the center back. On the fabric’s upper edge, measure 2 1/2 inches from both sides of the center back. Mark with pins. This indicates the back-neck edge.

2. Bring the lower corners to their corresponding pins at the back neck. Pin the short edge to the long edge to form the sleeve.

3. Lap the long edge over the short edge. Topstitch or slipstitch the shoulder/arm seam together.

Excerpted from “Thirty-minute jacket,” Threads #100, April/May 2002. Look for this three-step jacket and more quick-to-make projects in Quick Stuff to Sew, Winter 2010.


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  1. lazisusann | | #1

    I love this....but I need help understanding the instructions...

  2. lazisusann | | #2

    Never mind...I got it!

  3. Mimi25 | | #3

    I don't get it, lazisusann, can you help?

  4. itismesu | | #4

    Me too. I'm confused about step 3

  5. Jillco | | #5

    This would be wonderful IF I understood the directions also. Pictures speak a thousand words as they say.

  6. lauralee22 | | #6

    Looks Fantastic, ........But totally confused, with instructions, I shall keep checking back, to see if anyone comes up with a simpler view on, "how-to."

  7. User avater
    Gozermom | | #7

    I also love it but don't quite understand the instructions, especially step 3. Can someone help or provide pictures?

  8. User avater
    thetailor | | #8

    Try using a rectangle of paper, or a rectangle of scrap material and it makes more sense when you compare it to the photo

  9. lazisusann | | #9

    I tried drawing a diagram, but do not know how I could attach it. I will try to explain...
    1. Lay fabric out, RIGHT side up. Mark just as in the above diagram.
    2. Following above diagram, creat a diagonal fold by bringing the bottom corner to the mark (closest to the neck). After you bring the fabric up, pin across the top from neck out, NOT FROM NECK DOWN. A kind of triangle was just formed on each side.
    3.Next, bring the top corner and fold, meeting the closest marking (dot). Sew this down, on top of the first seam.
    4.Turn right side out.
    5.Finish edges.

    I hope this helps. I figured it out finally, but cutting a piece of paper, labeling everything, folding, and turning. I do hope I didn't confuse you even more! I'm much better with step by step diagrams....

  10. thimbler | | #10

    I love pattern-less patterns which use measurements to create wonderful imaginative clothes and artful garments.
    Please continue this feature!!!!!!!!!!
    Plus I love, love, love Kenneth King. Anything he creates or talks/writes about is a winner and tasteful.
    Thanks for everything and Merry Christmas to everyone.

  11. cathycreations | | #11

    I am so glad itwasn't just me.... Thanx for all the comments. Especially lazisusann and thetailor. Trying it on scrap fabric first, might make changes?!?!

  12. Hampton300 | | #12

    I'm still confused. Do you sew from the 2 1/2" point out to the next point? Doesn't that automatically bring the top corner to its nearest dot?

  13. Lulumama | | #13

    I don't understand it either...Could we please have more photos of the interim steps??

  14. lololala | | #14

    I like it. The fabric must be soft.It is like arabian abaia.

    I know another beautiful way but I donot how to illustrat it.

    However I will try latter. think you.

  15. lololala | | #15

    another way with another beutiful result.
    the upper edge of rectangl fabric is :


    the lower edge will be :

    now sew the distand from a to b over the distand from e to f
    then sew the distand from c to d over the distand from g to h
    now but the fabric on your back with the edge b---x---c over the back of your neck and the edge f---x---g will be at the lower of your back but your arms right and left note that the resulting circular dh will be around your wrist and so ae

  16. fitch | | #16

    There are 2 things that make complicated directions easier for me. The first is print the directions and fold the page so only one line is visible at a time. I can do one line at a time, right? The second is make the item in a large doll size. This is especially helpful to figure out the math formulas, her numbers are very different from mine! This jacket reminds me of the bog coat I saw years ago, I think I'll try that one over Christmas break.

  17. jansid | | #17

    Hi This is a great idea and I have the very thing in my stash but am confused by the instructions. Can anyone help?

  18. Jangzer1 | | #18

    Hi :), nice design, looks (and SHOULD be) simple, but sounds really complicated in the directions!!!! PLEASE can we have a new set of directions, preferably with diagrams! :)

  19. BJsews | | #19

    Really, Really confusing. I think a picture with the girls arms out might help so you can see more of the sleeves.

  20. Sarah451 | | #20

    I agree that an "arms outstretched" photo would be helpful as well as better instructions and more intermediary photos or diagrams. Little things are missing from the text like the fact that if you don't enlarge the diagram, you could think that the length is 2 and ONE quarter yards, when it is actually 2 and THREE quarters yards.

  21. Nebo3 | | #21

    Wow, I made this in 15 minutes and it turned out beautiful. I had a scap of fabric with a christmas angel theme on it. I followed the instruction just as they are writen. My little friend at the hospital will lover her new bed coat. Thanks for the 30 minute jacket pattern. Thanks Judith Neukam! MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.

  22. LaurieDiane | | #22

    If you just follow the diagram...and do it ...it makes sense. I made a jacket like this from vogue. I took out the pattern and scratched my head but went along with it and sure enough it made the coolest jacket. the ends become the shoulder seam and the long edge becomes the front opening of the jacket. I think that is how it works. Try it with a piece of paper

  23. whoneedlesthis | | #23

    Thanks for the reminder on this one, Judith. I have used this method to make a sheer shrug for a too-bare wedding dress, by pleating the short ends down to about twelve inches first, you get a soft drape to your jacket.
    Keep up the wonderful work on Threads, I love it!!
    Jean Morgan

  24. Sew_Lady51 | | #24

    Very easy if you visualize how it will drape. Bottom outside corners come up to the dot on respective side of neck (neck opening is the 5 inches space. Top outside corners come to the dot at the 25 inch mark on each side. This that "short" edge brought to the "long" edge makes the shoulder seam, overlap short edge by long edge and stitch. I see it very clearly but I do see how it could be confusing. Yes the full length of fabric is 2 and 3/4 yards. Good luck. It will come clear and be wonderful. Enjoy.

  25. Robyn7623 | | #25

    I know this is probably a rather silly question, but what would be the best way to finish the edges? My first inclination would be to do a double-fold hem (probably wrong terminology, but you know what I mean?) and then make the two 'shoulder' seams. Any other ideas to make this nice & quick & easy? (That is besides using material that doesn't require hemming?)

  26. User avater
    Djonee | | #26

    This would perfect for this cashmere fabric I was eyeing online and what a wonderful way to use every bit of it.I may also try to add a hood to make it sporty.Of course I have try in muslin first ,based on some of these comments.
    What a quick christmas gift.

  27. BethP0201 | | #27

    Can someone please explain what to top stich? Is there any way to get more intermediate illustrations, as someone has asked? I think this would make a nice fleece jacket, because of the no edge finish idea!

  28. User avater
    MissPat | | #28

    I dug out my copy of issue 100 of Threads. The pictures are much better and answer almost every question on this post. The material is a large stripe and there are five views of the coat. Why I didn't make one years ago is beyond me. Also, revisitng issue 100 was a treat. The Travel Wardrobe is perfect for our current baggage restrictions. New Years Resolution=Revisit all my collected issues of Threads.

  29. BethP0201 | | #29

    So, Miss Pat, can you help me visualize what to top stich?
    I'd love to make it but am still confused!

  30. User avater
    stitchhappy | | #30

    Here I come to save the day! Maybe I can simplify the process. Look at the illustration again. The rectangle is your fabric. Note the 5 inch section on the top edge in the center--that's the back of the neck. Turn the lower corner on each respective side up to the end of the 5 inch section (as shown by the red arrows. Pin the corner at that point and then align the short edge along the top edge and pin the two edges together for 25 inches. Repeat on the other side. The edges you pin together become the only two seams in the jacket. They fall along the shoulder and down the arm. You can either lap them to sew or align them with wrong sides together and sew a traditional seam. Enjoy!

  31. newtosewing | | #31

    Thanks to all for the clarification. Now one more question to muddy the waters!! If I then wanted a longer than 25" garment, then does the other 25" measurement change too? In other words, say I wanted the back to hang at 40. Does the top measurement then change to 40 also? I hope my question is clear...

  32. BethP0201 | | #32

    Thanks, Mighty Mouse! (Isn't that who came to save the day in the cartoons?) I am finally understanding it.

  33. lauralee22 | | #33

    Hello, As promised, I am returning to posts, to see if I understand the instructions better...Alas, NOOOOOOOOO, I have tried, but cannot get sleeve openings, I have concluded that I am definately thicker brained, than other people, I shall continue trying, if I get there, I shall up-date, if my age allows, and time does not run out(Ha....Ha)

  34. turby55 | | #34

    Okay ladies, I'm not quite there yet. In the original instructions nothing was said about the 25 inches being marked off along the top edge. Is that determined by the length of the back? If the fabric is 30 inches in the back, will the measure be 30 inches? Or does that measure always remain at 25 inches?

    Could you post a photo of how the back looks? A video would help as well. I know this will turn out to be so simple we'll all feel silly. Thanks for sharing this idea! I hope to get one or two made before Christmas!

    Merry Christmas!

  35. User avater
    ygbelsky | | #35

    I tried this and it came out great. The 25 inch measurements is what you sew together. Left side to left shoulder, right side to right shoulder.

  36. User avater
    ygbelsky | | #36

    Try this... The 25 inch measurements are what you'll se sewing. The right edge to the right shoulder, the left edge to the left shoulder, and you're done.

  37. User avater
    ygbelsky | | #37

    turby55: the 25 in. Is the sleeves to shoulder length. If your making it a differnt length I suggest tapering the ends down to 25 or, if the fabric drapes, perhaps pleatting. Those sides of the rectangle will turn out to be the front of the garment.

  38. User avater
    ygbelsky | | #38

    Ps. Only taper the bottom edge

  39. abcameo | | #39

    I'm pretty much a blithering idiot when it comes to understanding instructions. It seems like the one step missing is always the one element or technique I just don't "get."

    I understand this description after using paper to figure out what's going on. It seems to me one key is to use a soft, drapey fabric so your arms can poke out comfortably and be completely functional from that folded over seam.

    Any advice on how to change the dimensions to make this for an average size 9-year-old? I need a quick gift.

  40. User avater
    thomy | | #40

    I really don't get it. Can someone post some pics of a finished garment? I cannot visualize where the seam is. A better diagram might include an armhole opening label of the finished garment along with dashed lines to indicate where the seam/s go.

  41. User avater
    SewAnxious | | #41

    Hello all,

    I am new at sewing and I followed the instructions and it worked out great. Follow these instructions

    You will need 2 3/4 yard--One cut of 25 inch following the salvage--(cross grain) Note: A is the left edge and F is the right edge (right side face up)

    A-------B------C-----X------d-------e------f (Top)


    Take A (top)bring to B and Pin
    Take A (bottom) bring to C and pin. (sew B to C)
    Take top F and bring to E
    Take Bottom F and bring to D and Pin ( Sew D to E)
    Good luck

  42. abcameo | | #42

    Sew Anxious:
    You did a great job describing this (although it doesn't seem to match the original instructions of taking the bottom points up first.

    But where do the arms come out? Are they poking out at the top of the shoulders - point A to B and point E to F?

    The finished photo doesn't seem to look like that's where the person's arms and wrists would be.

    I feel better that other people seem to be as clueless as I am...

  43. User avater
    stitchhappy | | #43

    Let’s see if I can help with some of the latest questions: Maybe it will help to think about this jacket as a shawl. Instead of crossing the ends over the front, they are wrapped around the arms as sleeves. The ends are sewn to the only available edge—which is at the top of the shoulder. Look at the illustration again. The section between the top corner (where the base of the top arrow is located) and the point where that same arrow touches the top edge of the fabric is the cuff of the sleeve. The remainder of that fabric edge is the arm and the shoulder, the back of the neck, and the opposite shoulder and arm.
    The dimensions can be changed to suit your size. Experiment with 2 yards or more of 45 inch wide fabric (or a beach towel). Leave it just as it came from the store—folded in half lengthwise. Turn up one short edge and pin it to the fold as shown in the illustration. Then wrap the fabric around your body and decide where you want to turn up the other end. If the fabric is too long, either fold the extra inside, or just let the extra hang while you calculate the length. This exercise will help you see how the piece works. I think if you’re trying to do this in your head and having trouble it is because you envision the sleeve section as being folded smoothly like in a flat triangle. That’s not the case; the arm sections form a loop.
    To make it 40 inches long in the back you’ll have to cut the bottom edge in a curve, because your arms are not 40 inches long. You might be able to add a skirt or peplum to the bottom edge.
    To make it work for a child, I would start with fabric that is an arm span plus two arms lengths long and an arm plus shoulder length long.
    Good luck.

  44. User avater
    SewAnxious | | #44


    The sleeves are a and b, that is why you only that is why you sew from B to C and D to E. and the coat is done.....Took me only 32 minutes since my dh was on my shoulder. lol

  45. abcameo | | #45

    First I used paper to get the concept, then I used a large towel, next I tried pinning it with pretty black velvet. I didn't bother to sew anything because mine is not at all attractive--in fact, it looks butt ugly--and that's hard to do with black velvet!!

    Guess I won't be making a pink print version for the little fashionista niece afterall.

  46. User avater
    thomy | | #46

    SewAnxious...thanks for the help. I would love to see some larger pics of the finished garment. Can you post some in the gallery? I like what I can see in your profile pic. Good work.

  47. User avater
    eMMb | | #47

    Love this...just made it up from some fabric I've had for ages and it came out better than the pictures in the demo. It's a Christmas gift I'll be proud to give!

    I think the key is to not make it too complicated...just follow the pictures in the magazine article and it practically makes itself.

  48. jansid | | #48

    Hi, Thanks Sewanxious it is now clear as a bell, Have tried with a piece of paper and it now makes senses. Although I not sure whether I will like it when its actually made up in fabric. Might try a toile in something inexpensive before I use the fabric I had in mind. However thanks for clearing this up for me.

  49. User avater
    SewAnxious | | #49

    Hello all,
    I used Fleeces from a Dept. Store.
    I also made a roll edge after finishing my jacket.
    Looks great!

    Sew Anxious

  50. SewTruTerry | | #50

    this really takes me back. i attended a sewing and quilt expo the same year that issue 100 came out and i signed up for the 30 minute jacket class and then volunteered to do the sewing during the class. wow was i suprised how easy it was and have made lots of them since and have taught it to a lot of students and friends since then. it really is quick and is even faster once you understand the concept. i have made them in as little as 10 minutes. keep up the good work and once you understand it you will be making lots of them. also it never occured to me to sew it up in fleece. i will have to sew one soon. especially because you should be able to sew one with most fabric store remnants.

  51. silpadagirl | | #51

    I can not wait to construct this garment.

  52. glosing | | #52

    Hi all, I thought I understood this and I don't...please help. thanks so much

  53. SewTruTerry | | #53

    Hi all just wanted to let you know that on Christmas eve I sewed up one of the jackets for my dsd. It took me less than 15 minutes as I have done this before and I used my serger. She has worn the jacket to work now at least 3 times and everytime someone ask her where she bought it.

    For all that are having trouble visualising the process take it one step at a time and while having someone read you the instructions you physically do the work and pin it. It will make more sense then. The most inportant part of the process is the length of the jacket from neck line to lower back is less than the length from wrist to wrist.

    Hope this helps.

  54. SewTruTerry | | #54

    Hi all just wanted to let you know that on Christmas eve I sewed up one of the jackets for my dsd. It took me less than 15 minutes as I have done this before and I used my serger. She has worn the jacket to work now at least 3 times and everytime someone ask her where she bought it.

    For all that are having trouble visualising the process take it one step at a time and while having someone read you the instructions you physically do the work and pin it. It will make more sense then. The most inportant part of the process is the length of the jacket from neck line to lower back is less than the length from wrist to wrist.

    Hope this helps.

  55. SewTruTerry | | #55

    Hi all just wanted to let you know that on Christmas eve I sewed up one of the jackets for my dsd. It took me less than 15 minutes as I have done this before and I used my serger. She has worn the jacket to work now at least 3 times and everytime someone ask her where she bought it.

    For all that are having trouble visualising the process take it one step at a time and while having someone read you the instructions you physically do the work and pin it. It will make more sense then. The most inportant part of the process is the length of the jacket from neck line to lower back is less than the length from wrist to wrist.

    Hope this helps.

  56. oldsewandso | | #56

    I am vertically challenged and horizontally gifted. It seems to me that this jacket might not be flattering to someone like me.Has anyone of those dimensions made and worn this? I can't quite figure out how to make a larger butt AND shorter sleeves, either. I think pleating will just add even more bulkiness and accentuate the hips, since the pleats will point from the shoulders to the hips.

    Actually, even if I didn't wear it outside the house, if I used snaps or Velcro, it might make a good convertible throw/shrug combo! I'll have to try that. Thanks.

  57. Reggirl | | #57

    WOW!!! I can't wait to pull some of my fabrics out of storage to make some of these.... How simple & great looking are they?? I have 3 daughters that are tall & on the larger size, when we have winter (at the moment it's Summer in Australia) it can be hard to find nice warm & good looking on younger people in larger sizes. You usually have to go to specialty stores & pay a fortune for a plain jacket/jumper etc. As my oldest is pregnant & will be having her baby in late May (when it's getting cold here) I know what she can have to keep her warm. My other 2 girls are going to love these, so I better make their jackets first or they may steal mine...lol
    Thank you for the great, simple & quick pattern.. it will go a long way here.

  58. quiltlady13 | | #58

    Many, many thanks Judith - the jacket is just a hit !
    Will make 2 more t/night, since a lot of my friends are thrilled and already out to buy fabrics !
    What a superb idea !

  59. User avater
    eatsallinsects | | #59

    WOW! Finally took the time to read ALL the comments and see that I missed the fact of 2 3/4 yards X 25 inches. Back to the drawing board! Did use 1/4 inch graph paper and made 2 little jackets (pinned only) for a doll (wooden drawing articulated figure). Too cute and also made the saecond one in striped fabric so could compare with Issue #100. Is there a gallery for this as yet?
    Edith in Dallas TEXAS USA

  60. neunie | | #60

    Where do I find the instructions? All I see are the images...

  61. neunie | | #61

    Ah, I see the instructions have been posted in the comments :)

  62. Jbandme36 | | #62

    Stitchhappy made the instructions as clear as mud Sorry I still do not get it. I'm sure there has to be a way to do a step by step diagram PLEASE

  63. User avater
    NUSEWER | | #63

    Hello I am new to sewing. I tried to follow the instructions and diagram. I am having a very hard time. Is there another explanation that can be given. I think I have all the measurements right, Im having a hard time with the sleeves. It seems like Im missing something. Any comments would be gratefully appreciated.

  64. User avater
    NUSEWER | | #64

    Hello lazisusann, I tried to follow your instructions and it helped alot. It confirmed what I was trying to follow in the diagram, thank you. I had some more questions if that is ok. When I bring the top corner to the closest dot, how would it form a sleeve or I need to add extra allowances so that I can put my hand through also should I be working with the fabric on the wrong side. When I imagine turing the fabric right side out after I sew it will be on the wrong side. I have been trying very hard, I love the art of sewing its just not that easy to me as others, I tried to understand some other illustrations and WOW it was like reading math equations. I would be so grateful for any assistance that you can offer.

  65. User avater
    NUSEWER | | #65

    See uploaded photo. Hopefully seeing what I have done would make it easy to offer some advice to me.

  66. User avater
    NUSEWER | | #66

    I tried to upload my photo but I was not able;(

  67. User avater
    NUSEWER | | #67

    OK I found another way to put my photo up for all to see. Any assistance will be appreciated :0)

  68. User avater
    canei | | #68

    How can something so simple be so complicated? I don't understand this. I would have thought step-by-step pics would have been helpful.

  69. User avater
    Sometime_Sewer | | #69

    I made some of these years ago out of chiffon as costumes for dancers to wear over leotards. You can also pleat some of the fabric where the shoulders fall. It's a wonderful design.

  70. gran2u | | #70

    I got it finally! The length of the shoulder must be the same as the width of the fabric. You can make your shoulder and sleeve 25 inches only if the fabric width is 25 inches. Your fabric 22 inches? Measure only 22 inches for the shoulder and sleeve. Also, do not pin that top corner in its position because it MUST pivot when you are pinning your short side to your long side. If you add these 2 directions, you will have no trouble.

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