TUTORIAL and PATTERN: Frontier Vest

by Dana on July 6, 2008

At our house, there’s a whole lot of princess dressing up that goes on every day. I often scratch my head wondering how the girly costumes seem to accumulate. I honestly can’t tell you where all the dresses came from or if I remember buying them. But somehow there’s a big white chest in our front room filled with glittery chiffon and colorful satin. This means that on any given day you might spot Owen in a tutu, dancing right along side his sister (while my husband cringes).

So we’re changing that!
Time for my boy to dress-up like a BOY. And the easiest place to start is on the Frontier.
The kids came home from school at Thanksgiving time with a very simple pilgrim’s vest made of felt. I loved it. And decided it could easily be embellished with fringe and pockets to make a kid’s playtime vest.
I tried to come up with a clever name for the vest but nothing was working…
Wild Wild Vest?
My husband just looked at me and then went back to working on his computer.

Gritty Vest? a la True Grit?
But the vest doesn’t seem gritty at all. There’s a happy little felt star on it!

An Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle Vest?
Way too long. And way too obvious.

The Ralphie?
Less obvious. And you’ll shoot your eye out.
So I went with something simple since I was sick of Will Smith bouncing around in my head (we going straight. to. the wild, wild west….)
Too many pop culture references.
Sorry.

We’ll just call it the:
Of course if you’re making this for a little girl, you can certainly call it the Jessie Cowgirl vest or whatever your country belle is into. But for the boys today, we’re gonna Kid Rock it up and down the block! Because I wanna be a cowboy baaaaaby!
This vest is very simple.
It’s made of felt–which means you don’t have to finish any seams (and can disguise mistakes more easily). But the real beauty of this project is that you can make it as plain or as detailed as you want. In fact you don’t even have to sew it! You can glue the sides together! If you’re like me though, once you start adding things it’s hard to restrain and stop the sewing fun. And little by little the embellishments are everywhere. It’s one of the few times I can go overboard for a boy and feel okay about it.
Ready to head out West?
Let’s get started!

* Start by downloading and printing our 2 page pattern HERE.
- The pattern will fit children ages 2 to 4 years old, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
You can always adjust the pattern by trimming it down all around for smaller kids or extending it out for older kids.
- The pattern prints on 2 standard-size pages (8 1/2 x 11 inches). Match the two pages up at the arrows and tape them together. Do not overlap the pages, just butt them up next to each other.

* Purchase Felt Fabric in whatever colors you like (buy the felt from the bolts, not the little pre-cut squares). For girls you could even try hot pink! A 1/2 yard of fabric can make 2-3 vests.
With your pattern pieces printed, taped, and cut out you’re ready to go.
* For the BACK piece – fold the fabric and place the pattern on the fold, where indicated by the “FOLD” rectangle.
* For the FRONT pieces – fold down the diagonal on the pattern to create a V and cut two pieces. It’s easy to do this by folding the fabric and cutting both pieces at the same time. But remember that the pattern does not have to be “on the fold”.
Okay, SUPER simple sewing (or glueing) here!
With right sides together, sew the front pieces to the back pieces. Sew down the sides and sew across the shoulders, using a 1/4 inch seam allowance.
If you’re going for the simple/minimalist look, then you’re done! You can leave it as-is or cut fringe strips at the bottom of the vest edge.
If you want to embellish, let’s keep going!
Here are some ideas…

* Top stitch the seams with a zigzag stitch
in a contrasting color that pops on the felt. This will also help the seams lay more flat.
* Add a Sheriff’s Star by sewing a felt star to a felt circle. Position the circle on the vest and sew it in place.
* Add edging around the neckline and/or arm holes. This is the same concept as using Bias Tape but it’s suuuuper easy and you don’t need to be precise! Cut a long strip of felt in contrasting color, about 1 inch wide.
Start at the bottom of one front flap and sandwich the edging around the vest. Pin it place and continue doing this all the way around the vest front, the neck, and back down the other front side. When you get to the “v” in the neck, fold/tuck the edging down a bit. Sew everything in place.
* Add Fringe to the bottom. Lay the vest out flat and cut a piece of contrasting felt the same length. Use scissors to cut fringe strips–leaving an inch of un-cut fabric at the top. Fringing can be done before or after sewing.
Overlap the fringe on the vest bottom, pin it down, and sew the fringe in place. For added decor, sew a second top-stitched line about an inch over from the first line.
And you’re done!
Giddy up Cowboy. The Frontier is calling.
Ready for another? Let’s add pockets and fringe around the collar.
For this version I added blue felt into the mix.
* I added edging to the armholes this time as well. I sandwiched the blue felt around the armholes before sewing the whole vest together. I’ve found that with armholes this is an easier method.
* With the vest sewn together, cut strips of various felt colors to create fringe.
- Make sure each strip is long enough to go all the way around the front V and around the back of the vest. Each strip should be about 1-2 inches wide. No rules here. Just do what looks best.
- Pin the first layer in place, spacing it evenly all the way around. Make sure it’s long enough to come down to a V in the front so it’s flush with the edge of the vest.
As you pin and sew around the shoulders, some of the felt will be bunched and gathered up a bit. This won’t matter because it will be cut into fringe and will be cased with felt edging at the end.
With the first layer of fringe in place, pin down the next layer and sew it. Then sew the final fringe layer after that. Finally, cut the fringe strips.
* Sew edging to the bottom of the vest. I did not sandwich the edging this time. I just sewed it right on top so that it looks wider than the other edging.
Use the same felt strip to create edging all the way around the vest and neckline. Sandwich it in place and sew it down.
You’re almost done!
Kids love to gather treasures when playing so let’s add pockets!
Cut two rectangles for pockets, cut two smaller rectangles for fringe and sandwich it at the top with the same felt edging.
Pin them in place and sew them down.
And you’re done!
Time to play.
Or take a break.
Being the Sheriff is hard work.
Home home on the range little partner.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heidi January 23, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I love your site!! I get so many amazing ideas from it. My son who turns 7 today, asked me to make him a homemade gift, so I was searching your site, racking my brain and panicking. I saw these awesome frontier vests and the thought came to me that I could make him a fishing vest. He is a die hard fisherman, so I used your vest pattern and added a whole bunch of pockets. So excited to give it to him this afternoon. THANK YOU for your ideas.

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2 Caitlin July 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm

Heidi- I saw your comment and was wondering if there’s any way I could see a picture of the fishing vest you created. My little girl loves to fish with me and her dad & my mom was thinking of making her a fishing vest for Christmas.

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3 Heidi October 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Caitlin, I would love to post a picture, I’m just not sure how to. Any ideas?? Maybe I could email it to you if I had your email address.

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4 Sandra February 9, 2012 at 8:33 am

I love your blog, I get lots of ideas from you. I’ve done so many projects thanks to your creativeness, and your willingness to share. I have 3 boys and my princess. I would love to know where you got the play rifle, and where I can get one.
Blessing to you.

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5 Françoise Ruban February 10, 2012 at 5:23 am

Since i dicovered your website this week, i am a true fan from Belgium!

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6 Louise Marie June 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm

You are incredibly creative. i am so glad that you used some of that creativity for the boys. Also, i am so glad i found you.

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7 Elizabeth September 16, 2012 at 12:09 am

Thanks for posting the vest pattern. It made the job of making my son’s Woody costume so much easier!!

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8 Angie September 27, 2012 at 10:34 am

Thank you so much for sharing this! My son is so going to Love his Halloween costume!

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9 kindell October 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Thank you so much for this pattern! My son Aythen(2 1/2) wants to be a cowboy for halloween and I just bated how cheap and gawdy looking the store bought ones look. Now he’s going to be the most handsome cowboy this side of the Mississippi!

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10 Beth October 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

I can’t believe that -with your help – I just made a) my first sewing project in over 6 years, b) my first article of “clothing,” and c) my son’s Halloween costume! What a GREAT tutorial, thank you so very much. I made my daughter a tutu made of denim for her “cowgirl” outfit, and we’re good to go :)

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11 Virginia October 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Made two of these for my 3yo son and 2yo daughter…so cute! Great project. Thanks for posting.

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12 Sara November 22, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Modified your pattern to mak ea construction vest! LOVE IT! Thanks so much for the free tutorial!

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13 Angie M February 9, 2013 at 12:43 am

I just finished this vest, It is ADORABLE. I love your tutorials. Thank you so much for taking the time to teach us how to sew really cute things. My son is going to love his birthday gift next week. :)

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14 Mary Alice February 21, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Just made this vest for my boys for Go Texan! day tomorrow. Thank you for the easy pattern and making the instructions simple. You convinced me that I could do this … and I did! Now I will have to do one in pink for my daughter who is jealous:)

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15 Dina February 25, 2013 at 9:43 am

My son’s Pirate birthday party is coming up, used your pattern to make a vest from husband’s jeans as a part of a pirate outfit, I am going to put some patches on. I have to make another one for the youngest brother. Very easy pattern and I don’t even have a sewing machine! Thank you a lot!!

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16 Beth M. June 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Thanks! I used this to make a pirate vest (black with red trim) for my son a while back, and today I used it again to make him a cowboy outfit:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10201315622231891&l=16f64444eb

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17 Hold the Office September 9, 2013 at 12:08 am

I can’t tell you how helpful this tutorial was for me a few years back. You saved the day when my son wanted to be a pirate and I couldn’t find the costume for it. I now have my own blog and did a tutorial for the costume directing my readers to your great pattern. Here is the link if you would like to see it http://holdtheoffice.com/unofficial-jake-and-the-neverland-pirates-costume/.

Thanks so much!
Nicole
HoldtheOffice.com

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18 Dayamonay September 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm

This is awesome! I have been in search of dress up ideas for my son! I am working on a pirate costume, but this is awesome! Thanks for being so kind as to share this!

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19 Ann September 28, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I love this! Both my son and daughter want cowboy/cowgirl costumes this year. These vests will be perfect! Do you remember where you found the hat?

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20 Dawn B. October 19, 2013 at 8:18 pm

I just made this today for my little cowgirl and she LOVES it! Thank you for helping this beginning sewer make her daughters first Halloweeen Costume!

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21 Julie Ketchen October 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

My printer is being difficult and printing the pattern off the edge of the page. However, when I finally got it to print all on two pages, the entire thing seemed rather petite. How long and wide should the pattern be? I am making this for my nephew that is across the country and I don’t have a small child to reference for proper size!!!!
Thanks!

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22 Tiffany October 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I’m such a bad procrastinator. Halloween is in a week, and you’re officially my saving grace… I was looking for a totally different pattern when I saw this and clicked on it. My little (BIG) guy, wants to be a cowboy, and I was literally just staring at a pile of felt this morning wondering if I could somehow make a vest to finish off the look. Now I’ve got some inspiration and know how and can get to work. Thank you!!!

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23 Cynthia December 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Thanks for this tutorial and pattern. My 5 yr old little girl is a cowgirl in her school Christmas program and I was searching for a vest to make for her and then I found this. Thanks so much for sharing your creativity with us so that we can enjoy the fun with our kiddos. I’m going to use an outgrown denim shirt of her daddy’s to make it so it will be a little different looking but it will be the same idea!!

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24 jenny browne January 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

thank-you so much for your waistcoat pattern, have just made 3 for our 1,2,and 3 year old grandchildren for a pirate party, made my job so much easier.

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25 Philippine Blog January 28, 2014 at 2:20 am

Wow, i really love this! thanks for sharing this great info… i will start making this at home, i’m really excited!

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26 Rebecca February 2, 2014 at 11:43 am

This is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much. My son wants a pirate waistcoat for his birthday next week and an adaptation of this will be perfect!

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