Introduction: Bicycle Safety Vest

About: Love to sew, quilt, cross-stitch, and scrapbook. Etsy shop owner and Amazon book seller

My husband loves to ride his bicycle and various other equipment, such as the ElliptiGO pictured above. Although he has many bicycle shirts and jackets, the pockets are typically on the back which is very inconvenient. I designed a vest with inner pockets to securely hold his (two) cell phones, as well as outer pockets to hold tissues, etc. The vest also features an adjustable waistband (so the vest can be worn over a jacket), and reflective tape for safety.

I modified McCall's pattern #2420 for a fisherman-style vest. I have made 12 different vests over the past year using different fabrics, including denim, twill, and broadcloth. For the bicycle vest I use a polyester/cotton blend broadcloth because it is lightweight and easy to wash and dry. I made the orange vest about a year ago, and recently made a second one in red. I made a few modifications for the newer vest, so my instructions include photos from both versions. My husband preferred magnet closures for the pockets, rather than the flaps that were part of the original pattern. In fact, I removed the flaps from the orange vest I made last year. I also made the second vest about 2” longer and retrofit an adjustable waistband (I had used a piece of elastic in the original vest).




Equipment & Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter
  • Self-healing cutting board
  • Quilting ruler
  • Straight pins
  • Fabric marking pen
  • Knitting needle (or similarly sharp object for sharpening corners)
  • Bodkin
  • Seam ripper

Step 1: Prep Fabric

  • Wash and dry fabric (I generally wash in cold and tumble dry medium heat)
  • Press fabric if necessary (the 65% polyester/35% cotton broadcloth requires minimal ironing)

Step 2: Modify Pattern

As mentioned, I used McCall’s Pattern #2420 for my vests, A pattern could be downloaded from the Internet, or you could make one using a vest you own as a template. I also used the pattern pieces for the lower pocket and facings. This requires about 3 yards of fabric, if you are using 60” fabric—probably 4 yards if 45” fabric is used.

The pattern came in 3 sizes (M-L-XL) and I made the mistake of cutting out the size L. In the future, I will trace multi-size patterns onto Pellon Tru-Grid fabric so I have the option of making a different size. Also, the Pellon Tru-Grid fabric is much more durable. The original pattern has taken a beating from so many uses!

For the bicycle safety vest, I also modified the length of the vest. The pattern included a 27" inch version (Style A) and a 23" Version (Style B) I had used the Style B pattern for the orange vest; however, it was a bit short. I folded and pinned the pattern piece for Style A, and cut a new pattern from tracing material to make a 33" length which was just right!

Step 3: Cut Out Pattern Pieces


  • Fold fabric in half lengthwise and square off the raw edge, using the rotary cutter.
  • Using rotary cutter, cut off 9” of fabric
  • From this piece, cut off the selvedges (the finished edges that run lengthwise)
  • Measure 11.5” and cut (you will have two pieces, each will become pocket)
  • Measure 8” and cut (this will become pocket lining)
  • Measure 7” and cut (for inner pockets)
  • From interfacing cut 2 pieces 7”W x 8” H (to reinforce outer pockets)
  • From interfacing, cut 2 pieces 5”W x 8”H (to reinforce inner pockets)

Vest Body:

  • Using pattern pieces, cut front and back of vest, plus a second front and back for the lining
  • Cut out a second 7” x 8” pocket from the area between the vest front and back (see picture)
  • From interfacing, cut facing pieces (to reinforce vest where snaps will be attached in a later step)

Step 4: Make Pockets

Outer Pockets

  • Using using pattern piece for lower pocket as a guide, mark fold lines with fabric pen.
  • Fold along lines and press, as pictured.
  • Machine stitch to hold folds in place.
  • The pocket should now be 8” x 9”, the same size as the lining.
  • Iron interfacing to wrong side of all pocket linings.
  • With right sides together, stitch around pocket (1/2 inch seam allowance), leaving about 1.5 inch opening at pocket bottom for turning.
  • Turn the pocket inside out and use knitting needle to sharpen corners. Press.
  • Repeat for remaining pocket.

Inner Pockets

  • Iron interfacing to wrong side of inner pocket linings (there is about a 1 inch margin on each side of the interfacing due to the style of the pocket).
  • With right sides together, stitch around pocket leaving about 2 inches at pocket bottom for turning.
  • Turn the pocket inside out and use knitting needle to sharpen corners. Press.
  • Fold in edge of each pocket 1/2 inch and press.
  • The finished pocket should be 5" wide (i.e., the width of the interfacing).
  • Repeat for remaining pocket.

Step 5: (Optional) Insert Hidden Magnetic Snaps

The pattern had flaps for the pockets; however my husband requested that I leave the flaps off so he would have easier access to the pockets. To make the pockets more secure, I inserted 15 mm magnets.

  • I used magnets that were encased in plastic; however, I cut them out of the plastic. I discovered that it was nearly impossible to attach the magnets using my sewing machine, because the magnets kept clinging to my sewing machine plate. I even tried placing a piece of cardboard between the fabric and plate, but the magnets were too strong. Also, if you iron the plastic, it melts.
  • Using the same hole that I left for turning the pocket, I inserted a magnet and stitched it in place by hand.
  • The corresponding magnets will be placed in Step 9.

Step 6: Make Vest Shell

Attach pockets

  • Pin large pockets to the right side of the vest. I use my quilting ruler to measure 2.5 inches from bottom and 5 inches from center.
  • Starting at top, stitch around edge of pocket (about 1/4 “ from edge of pocket) Reverse stitch at top of both pockets to reinforce.

With right sides together, stitch shoulder seams

Step 7: Make Vest Lining

Apply interfacing to wrong side of fabric at front opening and back neck.

Attach inner pockets

  • Using quilting ruler as a guide, pin pocket 8.5" above bottom and 5" from side.
  • Using zipper foot, fold flap in and stitch close to edge (this gives the pocket a bit of expandability to hold cell phone)
  • After both sides are attached, stitch bottom securely.
  • Repeat for second inner pocket.

With right sides together, stitch front and back pieces together at shoulder.

Step 8: Make Buttonholes for Adjustable Waistband

Before assembling the vest, I added two buttonholes to the lining, which will be used for the adjustable waistband.

  • Placement is about 3/4 inch from bottom, at the edge of the interfacing.
  • After making the buttonhole, use a seam ripper to VERY carefully open the buttonhole. (Yes, I have accidentally ripped through the stitching during this step.)

Fortunately, my sewing machine creates buttonholes, but you could also use a grommet to make an opening.

Step 9: Assemble Vest

I found a great tutorial by Sarah Kirsten to make a fully lined vest. I used Method One: Open Shoulders. Following is a summary of the steps, but refer to the tutorial for full instructions (and better pictures, since the lining fabric is different from the shell fabric).

  • With right sides together, stitch around the vest opening and neck and armholes, but not the sides.
  • Turn the vest inside out through the shoulders.
  • Next stitch the side seams, taking care to match seams where lining and shell meet.
  • Press the vest as each step is completed.
  • Turn the vest inside out and stitch up the bottom, leaving an opening for turning.
  • Turn vest right side out and press.
  • Now is the time to add the corresponding 15 mm magnets between the shell and lining: For the top pockets, accessibility was limited, so I created a little pocket out of leftover fabric and stitched to the inside of the vest.
  • Close up the bottom opening using a slip stitch.
  • Top stitch around the vest opening, neck, and arm holes.

Step 10: Insert Adjustable Waistband

  • Stitch about 5/8 of an inch from the bottom to create the casing for the adjustable waistband.
  • Use a bodkin to feed the elastic cord through the buttonhole, along the bottom, out through the buttonhole.
  • Place a cord-stop on each end of the elastic cord.
  • Leave at least 6 inches excess on each side for adjustments, and then trim and knot the ends..

Step 11: Attach Magnetic Snaps

  • Using quilting ruler, place the magnets equidistant from top to bottom of vest opening.
  • Trace the magnets with fabric pen.
  • Using same color thread, attach magnets taking care to stitch such that stitches only go through the top layer.
  • Repeat for inner magnets.

Step 12: Finishing

  • Pin reflective tape in place as desired.
  • Stich in place by hand.
  • D-rings can be be added for decoration and function.
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