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Adapting Commercial Patterns to Quilted Wearables
By Mary Asper, Green Mountain Designs


Why not adapt a commercially available pattern to make a quilted wearable?  

The term "quilted wearable" is somewhat a misnomer.  Many -- in fact, most, of my patterns are not actually "quilted", but they do feature quilt-making techniques that have been adapted to clothing.  I think of a quilted garment as one that has been layered with an inner lining and a backing, then had quilting stitches added.  Often  these garments - while attractive - are not as wearable as garments that have been pieced, embellished, or manipulated but not quilted.  Why?  Because the extra layer makes them puffy - and who needs the extra bulk??  Or, the quilting stitches - especially if added by hand - make the garment more delicate,  Also, the time involved in quilting a garment, especially  by hand, makes accomplishing a project somewhat more difficult in these busy days.!

Having said that, I will add that some of my patterns ARE actually quilted - especially the jackets and coats that are intended for cooler weather wear.  In those cases, an inner lining has been added for warmth - the extra bulk is allotted for in the design of the garment - and quilting stitches are necessary to hold the layers together!

The main principle here, then is to decide what kind of wearing the garment will receive - then choose to layer and quilt, or not, according to the intended use of the garment.  We want wearable to BE wearable, do we not? 

 Karen wrote to me asking if I knew where she could find a quilted vest pattern for her husband,  I assume that when she speaks of a quilted vest, she in fact means a pieced vest - one which utilizes quilt-making techniques, but is not in fact layered and quilted.  In my mind, this would be the most wearable application, especially for a man.  Unless the vest is worn as an outer layer for warmth, the layering and quilting is really not necessary.  So ... we will discuss making patchwork and cutting a commercial vest pattern out of the patchwork that has been made!!

First, you must choose a piecing design.  There are so many options!! Some of my favorites are Log Cabin, Four Patch, None Patch, Star Blocks, etc.  You can use your favorite quilt block - or design one yourself!  String or strip piecing is an option, but we will leave this for another discussion.  Let's assume you have chosen or designed a block that you love.  Now, how do you produce patchwork for a vest?

Next, you must consider scale.  A twelve or sixteen inch block obviously is not appropriate for vest - or even for many wearables!  In order for the garment to be attractive, there should be a repeat, and the connected blocks should make a pattern that keeps the eye traveling over the surface of the garment.  I mostly use four or six inch finished blocks (the raw block would be 4 1/2"or 6 1/2").  Any quilt block can be drawn to this size, by maintaining the same proportion as the original block and  doing a little math!!  Using graph paper helps a bunch - and lucky you have a computer quilt design program then it's really easy!!

Once you have determined the block you will use and the appropriate size, figure out how much patchwork you will need to cut out your garment pieces.  This is done by actually measuring the pattern you will use.  For vests, I like to make one piece for the two fronts.  I generally use a plain back, because I like to look at my piecing!  Measure the height and total width of two vest fronts to figure how much patchwork you will need.  To maintain the look of the piecing design,  I will plan to cut out the two fronts side by side.  So... my height will be the same height as a single front, but my width will be the width of two fronts.  If you have a back, or sleeves, figure separate patchwork pieces for these.

The size of your patchwork will tell you how many blocks you need.  For instance, if I am using 4" finished blocks and want a piece of patchwork that is 24 by 36, I need a piece that is 6 blocks high by 9 blocks wide = 54 blocks.  Note that if my measurements are off (like 23 by 35) I will need to make the patchwork actually larger, and there will be some waste - but that can always be used as embellishments or trims later!

Next I plan my color scheme. by drawing ( hand or, hopefully, computer!) a layout of the number of blocks I need and coloring it in the way I want it to look.  This then tells me how many blocks of each color scheme to make.  My Courthouse Squares Jacket for example takes many different blocks of the same piecing technique to accomplish the look I want for the jacket.

 Now I have a plan!!  I will make my blocks according to my layout and color scheme.  When completed, the blocks are sewn in to rows and the rows are sewn together to make my patchwork piece.  From this piece, I cut my vest - or jacket - or bodice - or whatever pattern.  Just like I would from a piece of whole cloth!!  Be careful not to stretch seams, or pull them apart when cutting,  If handled with care, a patchwork piece is simple to use to construct the garment.

From here, simply follow the construction instructions given for your garment,  When complete, you will have a lovely patchwork wearable art piece.

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