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Six Layer Vest
By Pauline Richards, Total Embellishments


six layer vest.jpg (30376 bytes)You've no doubt heard of a seven, layer salad but have you tried making a six- layer vest? I first read about this "slash and bloom" technique, in the September/October, 1996 issue of Sewing Update Newsletter and in their November, 1996 issue of Threads. To date, I've completed two slashed vests using this "slash and bloom" technique and sold one right off my back for $150. at the Puyallup Sewing and Stitchery Expo!

If you think a six-layer vest would be stiff, heavy or difficult to make, you're wrong. These beautiful vests use 100% rayon fabrics and are soft, drapery and have the look and feel of chenille (like your grandmother's bedspread!). The basic technique is simple and straight forward. Start by quilting the layers together, then slash all but the bottom layer with scissors and bloom the fabric by machine-washing and drying the stitched fabric. The resulting appearance will differ each time a layer is changed in order of placement or coloration. For best results, experiment with sample blocks until you create a              combination you like.

While my first vest was a bit time consuming the second vest was a snap. What changed? I did. Read on and I'll share my timesaving tips.

PATTERNS: Simple patterns work best. McCall's 8528, a "Faux ChenilleTM" version designed by Nannette Holmberg, is a lose-fitting dolman jacket and includes detailed instructions for this technique. If you'd like to start with a slightly less ambitious project, a vest is a great first project. Choose a loose fitting, dartless vest pattern. (McCall's is coming out with a Faux Chenille vest pattern in May.)

FABIRCS: Purchase 100% rayon challis prints or solids, or for more texture add crinkled rayons. Small prints appear to be solid colours and large prints with dramatic colours are striking. You can use multiple layers of the same fabric, or combine different fabrics, depending on your test sample results. Note: If your vest requires 1 yard of 60" wide fabric, you will need 6 generous lengths plus 4" (for test swatches) to make one chenille vest. If you'll be working with 45" wide fabric, purchase the amount called for on the pattern envelope for each layer plus 4". Allow an additional 1/2 yard of your favorite fabric for bias binding.

SAMPLE SWATCHES: Note from Pauline: I've never been big on making samples but samples are a must for this project. First, you may "think" you're working with 100% rayon but if some pieces contain polyester or other man-made fibers, you'll find out when washing a swatch not when you finish your garment. While rayon is a man-made fiber, it is created from cellulose and has many of the same properties as cotton. Polyester, nylon or other "wrinkle resistant" fibers will not fluff up, fray and drape, they remain flat and may flatten out any layers positioned under them. However, polyester makes an excellent base layer because the base layer is not slashed!

HOW TO SWATCH: Cut four 4" squares from each of the six fabrics you plan to use. The layers may be a combination of solids, small prints and large prints.

* Create four different stacks, positioning the fabrics differently in each stack.

* Mark a 45-degree angle across the center of each stack (true bias) and pin the layers together. All stitching will be on the true bias.

QUICK TIP: Set your machine for a medium for a medium-length straight stitch. Attach the quilting foot to your machine, set for a 1/2" guide line. Sew directly across the pre-marked line, turn around and sew parallel to the first stitching line, using the quilting guide to keep your rows straight, even and placed 1/2" from the previous row. Note: Remove pins as you approach them. Continue sewing until the entire square is covered with parallel quilting lines.

CUTTING: Carefully cut between all stitched rows, cutting only through the top five fabric layers. Don't cut the base layer!

BLOOMING: Wash and dry the swatches. Agitation increases the "bloom" and softens the fabrics creating the chenille look.

CHOOSING: Evaluate the swatches and select your favorite. Now you're ready to begin your garment.

CUTTING: As you position your pattern pieces on your fabric, plan to cut each piece 1/2" larger than the original pattern piece to allow for shrinkage and fraying during washing. (Garment pieces will be recut to the actual size after quilting, slashing, washing and drying.)

* Cut six of each pattern piece.

* Layer fabrics in the same order as your favorite swatch and pin the layers securely together.

SEWING YOUR GARMENT: Note from Pauline: It's important that parallel stitching lines be fairly straight and sewed consistently 1/2" apart because random 3/8" or 1/4" stitching will show on the finished garment. While stitching lines can be further apart it is my experience that a distance of 1/2" produces the optimum results.

* For garment backs or other areas with a center fold, draw a guideline in a chevron shape (true bias) by marking from the centre out.

* For garment fronts draw a guide line on the true bias creating a chevron shape which meets at the centre front.

* Quilt and slash each garment piece, taking care to never cut the base fabric layer.

* Sew around each piece to minimize fraying.

* Wash, dry, and "fluff" each piece.

* Position pattern on each piece and trim the pieces to size, leaving a 3/8" seam allowance.

* For less bulk when joining two chenille pieces (12 layers of fabric) position wrong sides together, seams out and stitch. Bind the edges with self-fabric or use Ultra Suede TM cut on the cross-grain in place of bias strips.

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