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Tabula Rasa Vests

Maple Leaf Vest - back

I love to wear vests!  I like them because they are comfortable and easy to move in, provide warmth, and add a lot of color, design, and pizzazz to an outfit.  Of course the Tabula Rasa Jacket pattern makes a terrific vest.  You may have seen several of my Tabula Rasa Vests as samples at our trunk shows and expo booths.

Maple Leaf Vest - front
Maple Leaf Vest – front

Today I’m going to take a closer look at two of my favorites.  These are both great transitional season vests and have a lot in common.  Both are unlined and lightweight, have swing sides, and are hemmed with a baby hem.  As you’ll see, what’s different about them (besides the fabric) is the way I finished the armholes.


Ikat Squared Vest - front
Ikat Squared Vest – front

Directions for making a Tabula Rasa Vest are spelled out in our free download, Making a Tabula Rasa Vest.  However, it is a simple alteration for anyone who know how to use binding in a garment or on a quilt.  Simply leave out the jacket sleeves and finish the raw edges of the armhole.  Here are a few pointers for making any Tabula Rasa Vest:

  • Decrease the width at the top edge of the side panel to prevent gaping. (I generally reduce it by about ¼” both front and back.)
  • Bind the top edge of the side panel before inserting it into the body of the vest.
  • Stitch the side panel into place and try the vest on to make sure you are happy with the fit before binding the rest of the armhole.
  • Prepare bias binding 2½” wide and about 4” longer than the measured length of the armhole from front to back.

The directions in the Swing Variations book include two methods for attaching the binding, which is what today’s vest samples illustrate.

On the Maple Leaf Vest, the binding is folded around the raw edge and is visible on the outside of the garment.  This armhole binding is completely machine-stitched, but on other samples I have hand stitched the binding in place on the inside.

On the Ikat Squared Vest, the binding is completely turned under to the inside of the garment.  In this sample I used two rows of topstitching to secure the binding to the armhole.

If you have a bit of selvedge, you can use it to finish the armhole with just a light single layer.  Attach a strip of selvedge to the right side of the armhole, press it open away from the shoulder (pressing the seam allowance toward the body) and topstitch it in place, in the same way as the band on this Maple Leaf Vest is finished.

Rae’s Felted Wool Vest illustrates another very simple finish for the armhole of a vest if you are working with felted wool or other stable materials that don’t ravel.  Attach a single layer strip of the fabric to the armhole with a lapped and top-stitched seam which is described in the Tips for Handwoven and Handcrafted Fabrics booklet.

Felted Wool Vest
Felted Wool Vest










We would love to see photos of your Tabula Rasa Vests!  Please post them on our Facebook page or send them to us at  If you haven’t made one yet, now is the perfect time of year to wear a vest!

Happy Sewing, Carrie

2 thoughts on “Tabula Rasa Vests

  1. How do I purchase the 2015/10/13/tabula-rasa-vests/ pattern with related pocket pattern? I could not get that pattern into the shopping cart.
    thank you
    Jeanne hoin

    1. You can now purchase the digital Pocket Variations pattern on our site and find the vest making instructions in our free downloads.

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