When choosing a wool suit coat, keep in mind that you won't be able to wash it. Suit coats are dry clean only. I do not take mine to the dry cleaners before I cut them up, that would be expensive. Before I purchase one from the thrift shop I make sure that it doesn't smell like cigarette smoke. I place it in the dryer with a couple of dryer sheets and that usually freshens it up a bit. There are also home dry cleaning kits, they work well also. It is also important to check for small holes from moths. although, they can be covered with the yo-yo's if placed in the right location. Besides the suit coat you will need an old cotton dress for the lining, a sewing machine, matching thread, scissors, measuring tape, straight pins, 12" of 1/2" elastic, buttons and scrap fabric for the yo-yo's.
Step 1: Deconstructing the Coat
I chose a nice plaid wool suit coat. I thought this would make a nice vest. The first step was to cut out the lining and throw it away. Remove the buttons with a seam ripper and add them to your button jar. You don't have a button jar? Well, by all means get you one started...Leave the back center seam intact but take the jacket apart and separate the pieces. Most suit coats will have the bottom of the back open, I sewed this closed all the way down so that I could use it for the back of the vest.
Step 2: Choosing a Pattern for the Vest
You can use a conventional sewing pattern or do what I did and locate a vest that fits well but maybe it's faded or made out of some ugly fabric. Cut it apart at the seams. The vest I chose did not have any darts in the front or back. Since you will be sewing pieces together to make a large enough section to use, it didn't make any sense to add more seams for darts. The wool or tweed is thick and if you sew in darts, you would be stitching through too many thicknesses. The vest I chose for a pattern measured 20" from the back of the neck to the bottom of the back.
Step 3: Cutting Out the Lining
You can trace the old vest pieces onto newspaper and add 1/2" around or do what I did and just cut the lining out first, adding 1/2" for the seam allowances.
Step 4: Sewing the Jacket Pieces Together
Cut out the back of the vest first since it is the largest section. Cut the sleeves up and add strips to make it large enough. Open the seams and machine stitch down. This step is important in order to keep the sections laying flat. If you are going to be using the small pocket, cut it out 1" all around and place this piece on top of the lining front. Keep adding pieces of the jacket to the section you are working on until it is large enough. I did not even attempt to match the plaid, but I did try to cut on the lines in the pattern.
Step 5: Cutting Out the Vest
Place the 2 pieces that you are using for the front sections right sides together and pin the lining front to it. Cut this out exactly the same size as the lining. Cut out the back of the vest the same size as the back lining.
Step 6: Adding Decorations to the Vest
Cut 6 -4" circles and an 8" square out of some scrap fabric pieces. The square is for a hanky to put in the pocket. If you don't use the small pocket then you won't need the square. I serged around the edges of the square, but you could just turn the edge under 1/4" and then turn it under again and machine hem it. The circles are for making "Yo-yo's". I enjoy making these to add a bit of charm to a garment or purse. Take one of the circles and turn under the edge 1/4", with a needle and thread, sew a running stitch all the way around the circle. Gently pull tight and secure with a few stitches. repeat with the other circles and flatten them out. The finished yo-yo will be 2" wide. Decide where you want the yo-yo's on the vest and pin. keep them at least 1/2" away from the edges because that will be the seam allowance. Pin to the vest and stitch them on by hand. Fold the square hanky and place it in the pocket Embellish the vest with ribbon, decorative buttons and bows, etc...use your imagination.
Step 7: Sewing the Shoulder Seams
Stitch the front sections of the vest to the back, right sides together, only at the shoulders, 1/2" seam allowance. Press open the seams and stitch down both sides of the seam. This will keep the seam laying flat. Do the same with the lining.
Step 8: Pinning the Lining to the Vest
Lay down the lining, right side up. Lay the vest over this, right side down. Match up the shoulders, pin. Match up the armholes, pin. Match up the bottom of the back, pin. Match up and pin the neckline, front of vest and bottom of the front.
Step 9: Sewing the Lining to the Vest
With the sewing machine, stitch the bottom of the back of the vest. Then sew around the armholes. Then starting at the bottom of one side, sew up the front center, around the neckline, down the front of the other side and across the bottom front. Use a 1/2" seam allowance. Do not sew the side seams up.
Step 10: Clipping the Curves and Turning Right Side Out
Clip the curves up to, but not into, the stitching. Clip the corners. Open up one side of the vest and turn the vest right side out. Press.
Step 11: Sewing the Side Seams
Match the side seams right sides together at the armhole and at the bottom. Pin the front to the back, right sides together. Machine stitch both side seams together, only the outside, not the lining, with 1/2" seam allowance.
Step 12: Sewing the Elastic to the Back of Vest
This step is optional, it just gathers the back of the vest a little bit. Stitching 2 rows of narrow elastic between the vest and the lining is a good way to add a little feminine touch. Using the center back seam as a guide, measure 3" on each side of it and mark with a pin. You will be sewing 3 rows of stitches with 1" in between each row for the elastic. The bottom row of stitches will be sewn 4" above the bottom of the vest. The next row will be 5" from the bottom and the top row will be 6" from the bottom. Cut 2 pieces of 1/2" elastic each 6" long. place a large safety pin on each one. push the safety pin through each row taking the elastic with it. When the elastic is all but 1" in the row, pin the end between the vest and lining. Continue pushing the pin the rest of the way through the row. Pin the other end of the elastic between the vest and the lining with 1" sticking out of the end of the row. That will leave 4" of the elastic inside the row. Repeat with the other piece of elastic. Machine sew both ends securing the elastic between the vest and the lining.
Step 13: Sewing the Side Seams of the Lining
Open the side seams of the vest and pin the lining to this folding under 1/2". Hand sew the opening shut with small stitches, catching the seam allowance of the vest as you sew it shut so that the seam stays open and lays flat.
Step 14: Buttons and Buttonholes
Depending on the design of the vest, you will either need 3 or 4 buttons. Evenly space pins on the front centers of the vest. For a womans vest the buttons go on the left side and the buttonholes on the right.