our journey of hope and healing through autism
Like many kiddos with autism, Hannah is helped by incorporating sensory strategies. I wanted to make a weighted vest for Hannah that would be cute, versatile, and that wouldn’t make Hannah instantly identifiable as a special needs kiddo, since we occasionally get to travel incognito. Hannah went a year and a half without wearing pants other than snow pants for sledding, and has a strong sense of what she is and is not willing to wear, so I wanted to appeal to her fashion sense. I’ve received lots of compliments on her vest, and thought it might help someone out if I shared a tutorial on how I made it.
I was inspired by some of the t-shirts refashioned into vests I’d seen on the web, such as:
If you want to ruffle up a different t-shirt, here’s a fun and quick tutorial: http://blissfulsewing.blogspot.ca/2012/08/alice-ruffled-top-sewing-for-girls-t.html#.UT6jm1egy4o
I’m no seamstress, but I can muddle through a DIY of this sort, so I imagine you (or your mom, or aunt, or bff or whoever you can convince to sew for you) can do an even better job than I did. 🙂
I decided to use a vest within a vest design, so I picked a ruffly shirt because
a) it’s cute
b) the ruffles and fluff would hide some of the bulk of the bean bag weights I was planning to put inside, as well as hide some of the stitching I would use to sew pieces together.
Ruffly t-shirt- a two sizes larger would be good to leave room for the bean bags, and so it’s not outgrown right away. (Hannah has recently grown a bunch in the 4-5 months since I made the vest, and I’m now wishing I’d made her vest with a shirt 2 sizes bigger.)
If you live in Canada, Superstore has some cute ones right now.
If not, this one might work: http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=61163&vid=1&pid=383932002s
Lycra- how much you need will depend of what size vest you are making (sorry for not being more exact for you)
Thread that matches with the color of your ruffle t-shirt
Rice, or Flax seeds (for the removable bean bags that go inside the vest)
Throughout the tutorial, I’ll refer to the outer vest (that’s cut from a purchased t-shirt), and the inner vest that you will cut out and sew.
First, I turned the shirt inside out, and cut off the sleeves along the armpit seam.
I left one ruffle from the sleeve on, so turned right side out, it looks like this:
Next, I measured and put a pin in to mark the exact center of the front and carefully cut just the front of the shirt from the bottom to the top to give me this:
Ta-da! It’s a vest! Since it’s made of t-shirt material, the raw edge doesn’t need to be hemmed, and the ruffles hide imperfections in your cutting, etc. If you bought a shirt that only has ruffles at the top, you may want to cut really precisely and reinforce the edge with stitching or something.
I turned the outer vest inside out, to use as a template for the inner vest pieces.
I happened to have some coral lycra on hand already (because I’m just a wee bit obsessed with the color coral and had purchased some for a previous project). You could probably use any durable, washable, stretchy and non-raveling fabric, as long as it is the same color as the t-shirt you are using. The lycra was forgiving to work with, and has held up well, though, so I recommend it.
I didn’t want to let perfection stand in the way of this project actually getting completed, so I do things a little imprecisely.
To make the inner vest:
Fold the lycra in half, and plunk the outer vest down on the lycra, to form a make shift pattern. Cut out around the back of the vest/shirt, for the back of the inner vest. Because the lycra was folded in half before I cut, I now had two back pieces for the inner vest.
Repeat that step- producing another set of pieces like the back one of the vest. You will cut the second set in half, from neck to waist, to produce pieces that are like the front of the vest. The neckline on the front of a shirt is a bit more curved than at the back, so I cut a little off the front shirt pieces to copy the curve of the neckline of the outer vest.
Now you have 6 separate pieces to form the 3 panels of the inside vest- 2 for the back, 2 for the front left, and 2 for the front right.
I don’t have a complete picture of the next step, so hopefully I can explain it okay. Take the 2 back peices, right sides together, and sew along all of the edges except the bottom edge, leaving it open all the way across like this:
Now you are going to turn the piece you’ve sewn right side out. Turn under the raw edge and pin, and sew that puppy closed!
Repeat this set with each set of pieces for the vest fronts.
Next, top stitch on the vest panels to make what will become your pockets for weights. Because my daughter is still small, I decided that 4 bean bags pocket along the back would be sufficient. The back piece looked like:
The front pieces I sewed across once horizontally, so there would end up being two pockets in each side of the front of the inner vest.
Next, attach your inner vest pieces to the outer vest, by sewing the sides of the inner vest pieces onto the side and shoulder seams of the outer vest. It will be a lot of layers of fabric to sew through, but if you go slow, and use a nice new needle in your machine, you should be fine.
Once you have sewn on the inner vest pieces, you can carefully cut through one layer of the inner vest to create openings to put bean bags in.
Using the leftover lycra, make enough beanbags to equal approximately 5% of your child’s weight. Slip them inside the pocket, and you are DONE!!! If your child likes things snug you can add a few snaps along the front to close the vest.
Hannah has been happy to wear the vest, so it’s been great for us. I hope it helps you- or sparks an idea that works for you!
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