Sewing Vloggers

Friday, September 4, 2020

A Poncho Vest???


Winter sewing has begun. I find it to be a real challenge. I am going to continue the way I worked with my wardrobe this summer. I will make tops and bottoms that coordinate. Entire SWAP (Sewing With A Plan) plans are too large a commitment for me and just do not interest me at this time. However, if I can look in the closet and find a top and bottom and in winter a coordinating vest or jacket that all work together, they don't need to work any harder for me. 

You remember the little cropped poncho I made this summer to go with two other pieces, inspired by Silhouette Patterns? Well, while cruising another pattern website I came across something similar but with straps. It had buttons on the side for a closure and was really quite  cute.  I really thought I could knock off this designer's version and I proceeded. While Peggy Sagers offered her design to the public, this designer was selling hers so I will not mention her name. But you have to respect that many sewists have spent their lives knocking of designs made by others. This was no different so I proceeded. There were also differences so this is not an exact copy either. I guessed my way through the construction.  I have no idea if the other designer made her's this way. 


This was a really, really fun project and a great start to some winter sewing. I had forgotten how much I loved to sew with wool. I had also forgotten how great it is to sew really high quality fabric. I have often mentioned my dear friend Ima who bequeathed me most of her amazing stash before passing a couple years ago. As a degreed textile major as well as FIT grad she knew her fabrics. This piece of vintage Pendleton Black Watch plaid was among her gifts. When deciding what to make this poncho vest with I searched and searched the resources and this gorgeous vintage wool said "look no more". It was perfect and the one yard listed was more like one and a half yards. You'll notice the price is 16.00 per yard. I'd say that puts it back around the 60s or 70s knowing Ima. Today this exact same yardage, if you can find it new like this, runs 40-50 dollars a yard. It is heavenly to stitch with and so very classic. It felt perfect for my poncho project. I love having something I can throw over a top and pants in the winter that isn't the same old cardi or sweater. Pendleton has been making the same classic plaids for decades and actually had a mill and store about 35 minutes from where I live now in New Hampshire in a town called Guild. Alas, the mill closed and all the wools are now made in Oregon, I  believe. 


Here you can see I have the poncho laid out just like I did in the Silouette Patterns design but there are differences. 

*First, having a perfectly even plaid made matching and designing this poncho vest much simpler. All was on grain and lined up beautifully. I lined up the major green bars before any cutting or even design was played with and pinned center front bars to the center back bars. Unlike the original poncho, in this one I used a 38 inch square, not 36. I did not want a really cropped design, but a bit longer. 

In this pic above you can see where I drew in the shape for the armholes in the poncho and in the upper right I drew in the neckline. After doing this I basted it all together and put it on my dress form. I did not like the way it draped at all. I pulled out the basting and got out my big yellow head pins and started playing with the drape. I surprised myself with how fun that was. I pinned in a new shape for the sides and straps and later drew that in. I added a 3/8th inch seam allowance to that as well as the neckline I had cut. I used a dress pattern whose neckline I liked to cut the poncho neckline. 

I also made an executive decision to make the front of the poncho one inch longer than the back. I would add a one inch bias cut strip to the front only. Why? Well, as in all thing C cup and larger...a bosom lifts the front of any garment and when the poncho was properly placed at the shoulder area the front was lifted by the bust and was shorter than the back, lik   e any garment needing an FBA. So, I just made the front of the poncho longer by one inch and all fit fine. 


This was simple construction but took a while. That extra yardage was cut into 1 1/2 inch wide bias strips. I used them as a facing on all edges of the garment. Nothing was actually bound, but actually faced.  One of the wonderful things I learned from Claire Shaeffer is the amazing ability of 100% wool to be shaped. With that in mind I preshaped my strips a bit as I was ready to used them with steam and the iron but once sewn the got well steamed and conformed beautifully to all the edges you see here. There is not a ripple or bad edge any where and it all started with straight bias strips. 


When I first started sewing this fabric I had waves of glory reminding me how wonderful it was to sew with truly great fabric, which this wool was. I decided right then  and there to give this my best techniques. Some curve was first steamed into a strip. It was then basted with silk thread to the garment edge. I did the edges in this order: neckline, armholes, bottom hem edges, and finally side edges. After basting, the strip was stitched with cotton thread which I used throughout construction. The seam edges were graded and then pressed as sewn, pressed open, then pressed toward the facing strip. My  edge stitching foot was put on the machine and the facing strip was understitched. I used a ham and organza press cloth and steam to press the strip into place after the understitching. I then handbasted the strip into place with silk thread in preparation for top stitching.  All top stitching was done one inch from the edge with a triple stitch and the cotton thread. It's hard to see but looks really nice IRL and I like the way it came out. I love the triple stitch for top stitching. 

On the front side of the poncho you can see where I added the bias strip of hem. It is also topstitched with the triple stitch. A lot of these pics have been seriousl lightened/tampered with so you can see the details, etc. I always try to let you know when I use photoshop. The actual fabric is quite dark. The bottom hem bands also have mitered corners. 

To me, the really fun part of this vest/poncho combo is the draping that happens at the side. The weight of the fabric brings the drape down into nice points. Like the linen cropped poncho, I tied the sides together with soutache braid, black in this case. 

The soutache also came from Ima's legacy. Gotta love that price and how about that fiber content?  I tied the ends of the soutache in knots and coated them with Fray bloc. Once dry I stitched them to the back side of the facing in beween their "ridge". I love how that hides the stitching. I love this soutache. Do they even still make this type? I have such a bounty that I haven't ever shopped for it. 

Another side/undearm view. 

This is a very lightened photo to show you the inner bias strip facings and how they are finished. There is little bulk and all is solid and flat. There is no interfacing anywhere in this garment.

In Conclusion:

This was a simple project, one requiring some creative vision as well as the recall of pleasurable sewing skills. I thought of my dear friend often while sewing, how she love and knew quality fabric and sewing and how we shared that love. I hope this simple project honors her and her great skills. I thank her all the time for the legacy I was given and always try to honor that. It was such a delight to sew on this gorgeous fabric, to drape it's simple shape on my form to make it better than what my imagination came up with, to baste it's layers with silk thread and understitch and grade its fine wool. It is the start of winter sewing. I will probably wear it with a dark green or black turtleneck not this blouse I put under it for contrast only. I hope to make some warm non jean pants in the future, trousers, maybe corduroys, woolens, we shall see. I am just getting started................Bunny


  1. Beautiful tribute to your friend Bunny. I love the way you have taken us through your process. The final garment is stunning.

  2. What a beautiful plaid and your project honors that and your friend. I remember making something similar to this in 1969 if you can imagine, the plaid was red, also a Pendelton. I have no idea what happened to it after a cross-country move. Looking forward to the coordinating trousers!

    1. Thanks, Celkalee. I am still mourning the loss of my best pants pattern in a move from NH to NY 14 years ago. Hopefully your poncho will show up in a surprise moment one day.

  3. This is so lovely. Thank you for sharing how you did everything. I agree wool is so wonderful. I have an entire box full of wool mens suit samples that I want to make into a quilt. I’m hoping to start it this winter.

    By the way I like the look of the white blouse with the poncho and think it would look nice with jeans.

    1. I hadn't thought of that as my mind was into deep winter mode but you are right. A great white shirt and jeans would be awesome. Thanks for that Sueann.

  4. Oh, the thought of sewing with lovely wool but, sadly, I live in Austin, TX so wearing wool is limited. I do have a couple pieces of 25 year old tropical weight wool I just might sew up this year. You have inspired me. Thanks for sharing your beautiful wool poncho sewn with your meticulous details - love it! Karen

    1. Thanks, Karen. I have some of those tropical wools as well. They are lovely but so far have eluded my fantasies. Maybe you will inspire.

  5. You’ve made a beautiful, versatile garment. Black Watch tartan is a favourite— I haven’t seen it for years so it’s nice to see it now. I like it styled with the white blouse/shirt you show. What pattern did you use for the blouse — I like the collar very much.

  6. Lovely! I learn so much just reading your blog; thanks so much for sharing!

  7. What a lovely blog to read this morning--filled with great love for a friend, your craft and for life. Thank you, I needed this!
    I am in smokey Northern California, first day of another heat wave:)

  8. What a wonderful tribute to your friend using this wonderful fabric. But as good of quality as the fabric is it can only be as good as the seamstress. Your care with the layout, pressing, and sewing skills just make this a designer quality garment. I bet you will look as good in it as you will feel wearing it. Stay safe. Jean

  9. I have that same fabric that I bought about 30 years ago when I lived in Vermont. Now I live in Las Vegas. I do wear some light weight wools in the winter. Maybe I could make something similar out of my green plaid Pendleton wool. I used to own a lot of Pendleton clothing which I wore to work when I lived in Vermont. I felt so well-dressed and warm back in the 80's. When I brought the clothes to wear to Las Vegas it was totally inappropriate for the heat hear. I did donate the clothes to worthwhile charities. Pendleton wool is heavenly to sew on.
    Kathy C.


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