It’s always a good idea to wear high visibility clothing when biking or running around at night. But traditional reflective vests aren’t always the most stylish of garments. Many cyclists or runners I see are wearing attire that looks fit for a construction site. These construction-like vests get the job done but they seriously lack style.

My local library has a maker space with a really awesome laser cutter; I’ve been learning how to use it and have been experimenting with different materials. Last week I decided to try cutting fabric and this is what I ended up making; a stylish alternative to a traditional safety vest.

You will need:

  • Safety Fabric/ Utility Fabric (Polyester)
  • Iron-On Reflective Tape
  • Iron-On Adhesive Tape or Needle and Thread
  • Knit Elastic
  • Fire
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Laser Cutter
  • Inkscape

Step 1: Designing in Inkscape

You’ll need a vector image of the vest that can be used for laser cutting. I provided a .svg file of the vest I made (Vest.svg) and you can just use that and skip Step 1. But if you want to design your own I’ll show you how I made mine.

You will need Inkscape. It’s a free and open-source vector graphics editor, you can download it here if you don’t have it. You’ll also need a pattern that you’d like to use- I provided the pattern I used in my example.

  1. Download and open VestDesign.svg in Inkscape
  2. If you want to change the size of the page: I wanted the size of my page in Inkscape to be the same size as the cutting area of the laser I was going to be using. I went to File> Document Properties. Under the Page tab, in the Custom Size area, I changed the units to inches, the width:20, and the height:12.
  3. In the file there should be a circle pattern and the outline of the vest.
  4. Click on the vest. Go to Path> Linked Offset. A little box will appear by the upper left corner of the vest outline. Take that box and drag it toward the center to create a margin- this is the area along the outside of the vest where nothing will be cut out. Make it as thin or as thick as you’d like.
  5. Select the smaller vest (It was red but I colored it green) and go to Path >Object to Path.
  6. If you have a design/pattern that is not in vector format (like this circle design I created) and you want to use it, you’ll have to convert it. The circle pattern needs to be converted from a bitmap image into a vector image. Select the pattern go to Path> Trace Bitmap. Under the Mode Tab, select Brightness Cutoff, Threshold: 0.45. Select Update to see what it will look like, and then press OK.
  7. Take the pattern and drag it over the vest. Go to Object> Lower to Bottom.
  8. Delete the original circle pattern (select it and press delete or backspace).
  9. Select the smaller vest (green) go to Edit> Duplicate.
  10. With the green vest still selected, hold down Shift and click on the circle pattern. Both of them should be selected now.
  11. Go to Path> Exclusion
  12. Hold Shift and click the green vest. Go to Path> Intersection
  13. Go to Object> Fill and Stroke. Change: Stroke Paint>Flat Color. Change: Fill> No Fill.
  14. Zoom in to see details. Delete lines and points that you don’t want by clicking or double clicking on the line to reveal a bunch of little squares. Click on each square to select and press delete or backspace to get rid of it. Or click and drag to create a box, that will select multiple points that can be deleted all at once.
  15. You’re done! Just go to File>Save.
What kind of laser cutter do you use?
Full Spectrum H-Series desktop CO2 laser (40w)
Changed the shape for a better fit and used a star shaped punch to cut out the reflective bits! The star punch is from the paper craft section of the craft store. Also added extra reflective strips for more visibility.
This is awesome!!! I love it! I really like how you cut the reflective pieces out into star shapes. I bet it really twinkles when the light hits it just right :)
<p>so creative</p>
<p>That is great! Very practical and stylish :)</p>
<p>Thank you!</p>

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