Monday, October 27, 2014

New Closet Workhorse - Black Textured Burda Vest


Fabric Detective

This is a project that was entirely motivated by a unique piece of fabric.

I received 1.5 yards of this novelty fabric from Marcy Tilton—it was all she had left, but it was 60" wide, so I immediately started thinking about how I could make the most of a smallish, but fabulous, piece.

While this fabric might look like a conventional black fabric in some of the pics, it is a very interesting textile. At a casual glance, I thought it was two fabrics that had been fused together. One layer was furry and the other layer was a lightweight satin fabric with a slight sheen. The furry piece has oval-shaped "holes" where you can see through to the satin side, and there is zigzag stitching around each oval—presumably to keep the two layers together. The furry side is intended to be the "right" side, but I loved the other side even more.

The "right" (furry) side on the left, the "wrong" (textured) side on the right. There was a lot of afternoon light when I took this pic, which is why there is so much reflection.

As I thought about it further, I realized that my assumption had to be wrong. What had created that highly textured surface on the wrong side? Using some scissors and a seam ripper, I deconstructed a small piece of the fabric.

And it turns out that my first assumption was wrong! The base layer of fabric is a lightweight poly satin fabric, and loosely plied yarn is set into the base fabric to form the fur! There is a machine zig-zag around each oval, probably to help anchor the "fur" in place and, I believe, the right side of the fabric was brushed to make the fur more... furry... and to hide the individual yarns. (As a result, the fabric does have a nap.)

  • Left: The "wrong" side of the fabric, showing the holes in the base fabric after the "fur" has been removed from the upper left corner
  • Right: The "right" side of the same piece of fabric


The Challenge

I gave myself the following challenge:

  • Make the best use of the limited yardage, mixing it with other fabrics if needed.
  • Feature both sides of the novelty fabric, though predominantly use the back side, which is my favorite side.
  • For comfort, incorporate some stretch into the garment (the novelty fabric has no stretch).
  • Make something that I wear get loads of wear out of.
Wearing my favorite purchased jacket as it begins to snow in Santa Fe


My favorite garment that I ever purchased is a black wool jacket. This piece (which I bought at a huge discount) uses a novelty fabric that features strips of fringed wool. I wear this jacket all of the time—it's rare for a week to pass without me wearing it at least once, and often more than once. One of these days I will trace off this pattern (which has interesting seamlines) but, until then, I mulled over which aspects of the jacket appeal to me. These features include: the stand-up collar, the length, the presence of pockets, the front 2-way zipper, the color (black goes with almost everything) and, of course, the texture of the fabric.

I am crazy for the texture.

I decided to make something which had many of the same features, to maximize its usefulness in my wardrobe. Because I had a limited amount of fabric, I planned to also include a second fabric, also in black, as I didn't want high contrast. After much dithering (I was trying to decide between a black crepe double-knit and a black stretch taffeta), I decided to go with the taffeta, because the slight sheen of the taffeta echoed the sheen of the satin in the novelty textile. And what about sleeves? Rather than use the contrasting stretch taffeta for the sleeves, I decided to make a vest.


My next decision was which pattern to use.

One day, while working in the SF office, I made a lunchtime visit to Nordstroms in Union Square. I tried on outerwear garments in the Eileen Fisher department, including a vest similar to the one I ended up making. It had: princess seams front and back, and the front featured an off-bust princess seam (meaning there is a dart from the princess seam to the bust point), a zip front, and the stand-up collar that I love. I was inspired to look for a similar pattern, but such a pattern was nowhere to be found in Vogue or Burda envelope patterns. I then found a special Burda issue from Fall/Winter 2013 that had the exact silhouette I was looking for. Unfortunately, the design only went up to a size 44; meaning that I had to trace it off, grade it up, and increase the FBA.

Burda Classics Fall/Winter 2013

I used jacket 0011 to make my vest

This was enough altering to warrant a muslin, but it was worth the effort.

I will add that, as I was later searching Ebay and Etsy, I found the exact same Burda offered as an envelope pattern. It's OOP, but well worth tracking down.

Burda 7582

Cutting it Out

I cut the novelty fabric out carefully, in a single thickness. I cut out the pattern pieces as follows:

  • The center front and center back were cut from the BACK (textured side) of the novelty fabric.
  • The collar and front facings were cut from the FRONT (furry side) of the novelty fabric, so that you see the furry side when I wear the collar folded back.
  • The side fronts, side backs, and back lining were cut from the stretch taffeta.


I've already mentioned how Georgene helped me perfect the fit. At that point I had to do much thread tracing to capture her edits and then to translate them back to the paper pattern (for future use). I also ended up re-cutting the side back pattern pieces, but I had plenty of the stretch taffeta, which I also used for the lining.

Thread tracing on the side front and side back (stretch taffeta)

Thread tracing on the center front and center back (Marcy Tilton novelty fabric)
Trimming the left front to match the right front


I wanted to use a 2-way separating zipper for the front and coordinating one-way zippers for the zipper pockets. I already had two brass zippers in my stash from another planned, but not executed, project. To go with those, I ordered a brass toothed, two-way, separating zipper, in black, cut to 26-1/2", from Zipperstop. I also ordered a brass foxtail slider. (If you do this, make SURE that you ask them to put the slider ON to the zipper. I once forget and I received an envelope with the zipper and the slider, but not together. I had to put them together myself, which is a real PITA.)


The vest came together well, but it took me a few weekends. The jacket pattern is unlined and I wanted a lined vest, so I had to do my own lining. I drafted the zipper pockets and placed then where I liked. I used leftover fabric (which you may recognize) from another project for the pockets. (The reverse side of this fabric is solid black, so the inside of the pockets are black.)

In process, showing the pocket from the inside. You can see both sides of the novelty fabric pretty clearly.

Pocket up close


Did I accomplish my goals? Yes, I think so. I like that you can see the furry side of the fabric at the outside of the collar and when the neckline is folded open. The stretch taffeta provides some "give". Only time will tell if I do get a lot of wear out of this, but I am hopeful!

I love a 2-way zipper!

Thank you to my colleague, Mary Campione, for taking these pics!

The End!
In truth, Mary thought you might want to see this Oska hat (from several years ago) up close.


  1. Ugh I love this vest. And that fabric felt divine! I gotta hit you and Jilly up for fabric shopping tips sometime - you ladies have the best fabric!

  2. Great vest! Also, cool hat:) Texture is the number one thing that attracts me to particular fabrics.

  3. OMG....Masterful! Such a great lesson on how to use a small amount of a fabulous fabric in a creative way. This vest is STUNNING and I'll bet it becomes a favorite as of today. Oh, I love textures and I love vests!

  4. Love this and how you used the wrong side! It's a wonderful piece and I hope you do get a lot if wear out of it!

  5. I am always looking for a good vest pattern and I like the pockets on this one. I still need to make a vest like the red one made by Margy and worn all over Scandinavia. Thank you for sharing your project. Beautiful execution, as always.

  6. Well the vest is pretty special - you should get plenty of wear! Cute hat too.

  7. It's a beauty and entirely you. Great post to see your whole process laid out for this wonderful vest. Even though I got to see part of the action, it's impressive how you wrestled this one down. Sure thing you'll wear it lots!

  8. I love this! Great use of that fabulous fabric. I'll bet this makes the regular rotation- it definitely would if it were in my closet!

  9. Wonderful texture, I like the reverse side best too but great that you found a way to showcase both sides of this amazing fabric. I also think the taffeta contrast adds to the wow factor, which is a great reason to love roll ends. You can have two favourite jackets I'm sure, especially when one is a vest :) The fit is wonderful too. Looks very special.

  10. The FAMOUS vest is revealed! And I am all just WOW. You are so meticulous in your choices, and so open to reveal all your choices, to help us other people who dither, dither.

    Plus, I know I have said it before, but I just love that your tech writing background leads you to doing a TOC. It is really helpful when I go back to older posts for the just one tidbit I need. I do not always comment, but I always read, and I do bookmark certain posts that I know I will read again. - Heather

  11. OMG, I have a similar vest in the queue in silk satin! I just love this on you! And, I so enjoyed your feature in VPM. You are such an inspiration.

  12. Love it! Wonderful photography too!

  13. Another terrific result. I know you'll wear this often. I would!

  14. Such a cool fabric! Such a beautifully fitted and executed garment to show it off! I also love your hat.

  15. What a fun project -- thanks for taking us through your process. I'm sure you'll get lots of wear out of this since it's just wonderful! A basic but with a nice twist.

  16. WOW! I just love everything about your vest- fabulous fabrics and great fit and execution. I know it will get lots of wear.


  17. Great blog post, fabric explanation and I see an interesting bracelet with the jacket?

  18. The fabric is very cool and I love the vest. Thanks for sharing all the details in your process - helpful to see the photos as well as the descriptive prose.

  19. A vest is tops on my list to make next.
    Live all the texture on yours.

  20. Love what you've done with the fascinating fabric, and your choice of using the back of it. If you had lots of this fabric, I doubt if the resulting garment would have been as intriguing.

  21. Really different fabric but you made the right choice to use it. Looks great!

  22. Great idea about how to mix fabrics for such good result. I need a little nudge to go ahead and use the "wrong" side when I want to. Love this vest and such a cute hat!

  23. The vest is great, but I really love the hat. I want one! Where did you get it?

  24. I love what you did with that fabric. I hate that you snatched it out from under me on the Marcy Tilton site. LOL! I tried to buy that piece too, but you got there ahead of me. I have to admit, if I had gotten it, it would still be marinating in stash - so it went to the better seamstress, sigh...

  25. You are so creative! I love the vest and hope that you find it as useful as your jacket.

  26. I love this!!!! What a fantastic work of art you have created here!

  27. Great job! I have a pattern for a vest I got online and just haven't tackled it yet since I'm not sure how to go about it yet with what I have to work with. Reading your post has inspired me to give it another look. The hat is really fun too. Did you make it?

  28. Your vest is absolutely amazing!

  29. LOVE that green hat and love the vest ---can I have your old clothes when you are done with them????

  30. Love it! One day I hope to get to the level of sewing and drafting of patterns that you do.

  31. What a great piece and so you!!!Perfect use of the fabric too. BTW, that bag/basket is wonderful.

  32. Great Vest, Great Tutorial , and Great Photography!

  33. This turned out so nice! I loved seeing the "almost finished" version in person -- that fabric is truly special.

  34. What a great vest. I love MT's novelty fabric.