Waistcoats are so under-worn, and often reserved for formal occasions, but why?? A simple and savvy waistcoat can be used to brighten up a casual outfit and kids look ridiculously cute in them. This pattern is quick, simple, easy to make, and you don’t need much fabric, so good for using up leftover small pieces you have around.
What you’ll need
- 3 different types of fabric (see below)
- Your sewing machine and basic sewing kit
- 3 buttons
- light – medium weight interface for strengthening front panel
The pattern uses 3 different fabrics, one for the front panels, one for the back panel, and the third for the lining. A fat quarter of each will be enough, or you might be able to use some scraps you have lying around, or up-cycle an old garment. A mans shirt works well. Any type of woven is good for the fabric. I used quite a lightweight cotton which needed interfacing to give it some structure. You may get away with not interfacing if opting for a more heavyweight fabric. It’s really versatile though and would work well with cotton, corduroy, linen, denim, even leather for that cowboy look! Go ahead and experiment. Texture and pattern works especially well on waistcoats. For the backing panel use a fabric in a matching or heavier weight material than the front. To line use a basic polyester lining or lightweight cotton.
Prepare and assemble the pattern
Have your downloaded the free PDF pattern yet? If not, you can download the free waistcoat pattern here, or by clicking the image at the top of this post. All 3 sizes are included in the pattern and on separate pages. Each size spans four A4 sheets, so you’ll need to identify what pages you need to print, and then if you don’t want to print out the whole document, print those pages only.
Once printed you’ll need to stick your pattern pieces together. The pattern features a horizontal and vertical dashed line on each page which you match up on each sheet to align the pattern pieces. Cut alongside this line so that you can match up exactly with the corresponding pattern piece.
Cut alongside the dashed line to match up pattern pieces
When the lines are matched, used Sellotape to paste the pieces together. Repeat until all the pattern pieces are joined together and then cut out.
Sellotape together at line
n.b a 1/2 inch seam allowance has been added to each pattern piece.
You should be left with two pieces which look like this:
Completed pattern pieces
Check what size?
The garment comes in 3 sizes. To check the right size measure the childs chest measurement and check the sizing guide below:
Prepare and cut out the fabric
If using new fabric, I always recommended washing fabric before sewing with it. Honestly, I am sometimes naughty and do miss this step out, but it’s a good habit to get in to as new fabric can often shrink a little, and you wouldn’t want this to happen after working so hard on your hand crafted item. C’mon – I’m sure you have other laundry to do. I know I do!
Once it’s out the machine and dry give it a good press with the iron so that all the creases and crinkles disappear. This is essential to accurate pattern cutting. Make sure that you are using the correct setting on your iron for the fabric, and carry out a test patch. Some people like to iron with a press cloth between the iron and the fabric to prevent scalding.
I haven’t included a layout guide for the pattern pieces as it’s quite straight forward.
- Cut out 2 front panels in main fabric, making sure that you have a mirror image of each piece for the left and right hand side. Do the same for the lining fabric
- Cut out 1 back panel in the backing fabric, and again for the lining. This is cut on the fold.
- Cut out the interface pieces
Back pieces in lining and backing fabric
Front panels in main fabric
Front panels in lining
Right that’s it, we’re ready to start!
Attach interfacing to strengthen front panels
If you are using a light – medium weight fabric interfacing makes a massive difference to the structure and finish to the waistcoat. It strengthens it around the button area and gives it shape. Use a fusible interfacing to match your fabric, usually a medium-weight interfacing. I quickly cut out a shape to cover 2/3 of the front panel pieces, and then ironed it on, under a damp cloth, pressing with the iron for 8 seconds.
Interface cut to size and ironed on
Sew the front panels
Match up a front panel lining piece and a front panel main piece and place them right sides together. Using the 0.5 inch seam allowance and a straight stitch, sew the diagonal seam running from the top of the shoulder down the middle of the body. Turn right side out and press the seam.
Sew front panel diagonal
Place wrong sides together again and sew around the arm hole seam.
Tip! – Marking the seam curve can help sew a good curve if you’re a beginner, and sewing a little slower helps also.
Sew arm seam
Once the seam is finished it’s time to clip the curve, to ease the fabric around the inward curve and help give it a flat, pucker-free finish. You can use pinking shears if you have them, or small sharp scissors. If using scissors snip every 1/2 inch along the seam, 3/4 of the way up to the stitching. You can now turn right side out and press this seam too.
Clip arm seam
We have one more seam to sew on this panel and that’s the down the front of the waistcoat, (the seam that will eventually have the buttons/button holes attached). Sew this section, turn right side out and press again.
Sew front panel edge
Repeat this stage for the other front panel.
Both front panels sewn and pressed
Sew the back panel
We are going to sew all 3 curved edges on the back panel. Take the back panel lining and backing fabric and place right sides together. Sew along the neckline and both armholes in 3 separate stages as shown.
Back panel sewn at neck and armholes
Clip once again like we did with the front panels. Turn right side out and press the seams.
Clip all the curved seams
Attach the front and back panel
Now this part sounds tricky but it’s easy to do. We are going to attach the front and back panels by joining and sewing at the shoulder seam. Sandwich one of the front panel pieces in-between the back panel piece. The back panel piece is turned inside out and the front panel piece is the right way round. The shoulders should neatly fit inside each other so that the front panel just sits snugly inside the back panel at the shoulder. If it does not, you can re-sew the top part of the shoulder seam of the front panel ever so slightly, just to narrow the curve and give a better fit. Align the two shoulder seams and pin together once happy. Sew along the shoulder seam.
!Tip - Make sure you get the panel the right way round. It should be that the armholes are on the same side and the right side of the front panel fabric is touching the right side of the main backing fabric. (I made mistakes here a couple of times…oops)
Front panel inside layers of back panel. Pin at shoulder.
Repeat this step for the other front panel piece, joining at the opposite shoulder. You’ve now got one piece. Hurrah! Turn it right way round and press at the shoulder seams.
Sew up the sides
Now we join the back and front panels of the waistcoat at the sides. To do this unfold and pin the right sides together, making sure to match up the point where the front/back fabric meets the lining under the arms. Sew this seam on each side.
Preparing to sew the side seams
Sew up the bottom edge
The last step of machine stitching is to sew up along the bottom edge of the waistcoat. We will leave a small gap large enough for you to fit your hand through for turning at the end.
Turn the garment inside out, and line up and pin along the bottom edge. It won’t sit flat but do your best to work with it and accurately align the bottom edge.
Sew up the bottom edge, leaving a hand-sized gap
Sew from one end to the other, leaving a gap in the centre of the back panel for turning at the end. Pay attention when sewing the corner angles, as you want them to be really crisp and sharp. Either stop sewing and pivot on your needle at a corner, or sew all the way along to the fabric edge, stop and do the same for the other seam, crossing over the stitching at the corner. Clip the seam allowance away from the corners before turning out.
Give the garment another press to make sure you’re happy with it before hand stitching closed.
Hand stitch closed
I use an invisible hidden stitch to sew the last piece of the waistcoat seam closed. If you are not used to hand stitching here is a link to a post on Fern and Freckle, an invisible seam and hidden stitch tutorial.
Make sure the seam allowance is tucked in to the waistcoat (it should do this naturally) and you have a nice straight bottom edge. Hand sew the opening closed. This is my favourite part. I find hand stitching very relaxing. Unless my toddler is jumping on me whilst I have a needle in my hand … which is quite a lot actually!
Sew and attach the buttons
You’ll want to measure the size of the buttons you are using, and work out how large you need to make the button holes. My button holes needed to be 3/4 of an inch. I used a ruler and tailors pencil to mark 3 x 3/4 inch lines, equally spaced on right panel of the waistcoat.
Measure and marking button placement
I then used my machine to sew the button holes. I don’t think my measuring was spot on, but I can live with that. I leave enough cotton on the button holes to hand sew in the thread ends tidily, so I know the button holes won’t unravel.
We have button holes!
Sew on the buttons
I particularly like the cute anchor buttons on this waistcoat. Choosing the right coordinating buttons can really set a garment of perfectly. To hand sew buttons I make sure I stitch them on at least six times, and then to finish, with the thread under the button, but above the top layer of fabric, wrap the cotton 6 times around the middle of the stitches you have just made. This makes a nice little protective edging for the stitches and makes for a strong button that hopefully isn’t going anywhere.
And here we have the finished result. A versatile addition to any child’s wardrobe, and an excellent way of showing of bold and striking prints. I think I’ll be making a few of these!
The finished garment!
Show me your creations!
The best part of creating patterns is sharing them with others and seeing how they creatively interpret your designs. I’d love to see what you have made and share your work on my Pinterest page, so please post me a link to a photo of your finished garments. You score brownie points for cute children wearing them
Variations on the waistcoat pattern
You could try to:
- Add some pockets
- Add a collar / lapel
- Add a tie at the back
- Top stitch or add piping to edges
This is my first sewing tutorial and released pattern! It’s incredibly exciting for me to put this together for you all, and I would love any feedback, good or bad, and ideas on how I can improve both the downloadable pattern and instructions. I’ve already got a few more toddler patterns in the pipeline, so hopefully I can incorporate any ideas in to future releases. My aim is to add to the bunch of amazing free sewing patterns for boys available online and to come up with some fun and quirky designs in clothes that children love to wear.