Making an Upland Hunting Vest

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My wife needed a new vest for bird hunting this year, and I figured why not make one? I sketched the main portions of the vest pattern off of her old one, then created a whole new set-up with added conveniences for her. The project finished very nicely, and this should be a long lasting and functional vest. 

I’ve drafted a lot of patterns, not all of them successful, but this one has to be the most complete so far. Usually, there are missing pieces, poorly ordered construction steps, or nothing fits right. This pattern isn’t perfect, but most everything is pretty well placed and accounted for.

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The pattern includes the two main vest fronts, one main back, four front pockets, expandable game bag, pack-space, and two water bottle holders. The inside of the vest has a facing to help distribute weight and reduce fabric stretch.

The fabric is a 50% nylon and 50% cotton military surplus. The olive drab green is the leftovers from my recent pants. I found the camouflage patterned fabrics for $3 a yard. It’s military surplus, 60″ wide, and I was pretty excited about the deal. The inside of the game bag is lined with ripstop nylon to keep any mess from soaking through.

Front Pockets:

Drafting the pattern would be a whole post in itself. My drafting skills are not great, and I’d hate to lead anyone astray with bad habits, poor technique, etc. So, I’ll start with the sewing, and the first pocket.

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The vest fronts have four pockets. Two main pockets, and two inner pockets. The picture above, is one of the inner pockets, and has been cut and pressed for a zipper. Once the opening has been made, the zipper is placed on the wrong side and carefully stitched in.

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Here it is stitched to the vest front. The colors don’t match, but I had this zipper on hand. I forgot to allow space for my seam allowance on the left side. The pocket should have been placed 3/4 of an inch further to the right. Fortunately, the industrial walking foot machine was able to sew through all these layers.

With these simple patch pockets in place, it’s time to prepared the main pockets. They are also patch pockets, but have a 2 inch pleat on one end to make room for items. There’s a curve on the openings, which requires a little trickery for a rolled hem.

After stitching down the hem at the pocket opening, the pocket still needs to be sewn to the vest fronts. This left some awkward top-stitching, due to the pre-existing stitch line.

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There’s a two inch pleat on the left side of the pocket, and the inner pockets are covered by the outer pocket.

My wife likes to run the dog while we hunt, so she usually has control over the e-collar. Instead of having the controller dangling and flopping from a lanyard, the vest has an elastic pocket designed to hold everything in a convenient spot.

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The bottom, vertical piece is rigid 3/4 inch webbing. The webbing is sewn first to the middle of the elastic. Then the webbing is sewn to the vest, followed by the ends of the elastic. The markings are chalk, which will rub off.

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With the e-collar pocket sewn on, the fronts are done, until its time to finish all the raw edges.

Game Bag:

One of the most important parts to a bird hunting vest is the game bag. This allows you to store your game in safe place and keeps them from getting smushed or damaged, and allows for cooling of the meat. The game bag needs to be accessible without removing the vest, because often times there’s a lot going on at once.

The game bag here, has expandable corners, that allow it to open up wider when needed, but also keeps the excess fabric out of the way when not in use.

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The outside wings of the game bag are the expandable parts. The design is made by inserting a dart (slash and spread the pattern), but is sewn like a pleat. This way the extra volume stays accessible. Snaps are used to hold the fabric together when not being used. This picture also shows the small backpack, which has a two inch box pleat running down the center. A major theme of this project was simple design with usable features. Not too many bells and whistles, but enough features to be convenient.

The backpack has a zippered closure and zip shield on top. The construction process was created as I went, and worked out well.

To reduce bulk in the corners, and keep the zipper slide from coming off, the zipper was cut about 1 inch shorter than the width of the backpack. Then, zip stops were created with the orange fabric, which also make up for the lost length. The zip stops are sewn into the corners.

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This picture is terrible, but shows the zipper construction process. With the above pinned into place, everything is edge stitched. The zipper shield is sewn first, right side to right sides, then is turned and topstitched down, like a flap pocket.

With the backpack finished, its time to line the inside of the game bag. This is a simple, right side to right side, stitch, turn, press, and topstitch.

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Above, is stitched, but before turning and topstitching.

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This is after stitching and turning. It just needs a light press, and top-stitching.

The back of the main vest is also lined. To make this easier with the slick ripstop nylon, I placed right sides to together, and sewed only one length. This is turned and top-stitched.

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Attaching the Side Seams, and Grosgrain Ribbon Hemline:

Things got a little weird here, as I worked out the hemline and bottle holder construction order.

One big mistake I made was not attaching the water bottle holders to the game bag prior to sewing the game bag to the vest back. Luckily, I made it work, but it could have been much easier.

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These water bottle holders are simple tubes with 2″ wide webbing at the bottom to hold the bottle in place. I could have spruced these up a little, but they’ll work just fine.

In the picture above the snaps of the game bag are visible. These hold the excess fabric out of the way, but open to allow an extra 5 inches of space.

The very top of the game bag / pack combo, is attached to the main vest back by two backpack style clips. These allow further expansion of the game bag, and can also be unsnapped to open up the whole game bag area.

The vest fronts are sewn to the vest back with a flat felled seam. This seam is strong, and eliminates any raw edges. With the fronts attached to the back, the bottom hem is finished with grosgrain ribbon.

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For industrial sewing machines, and some domestics, you can use a ribbon / tape attachment to sew perfect bindings. The one above is a single fold, 1 inch ribbon attachment. It does an excellent job of applying neat and even ribbon to straight and rounded edges. The tape is fed from the right side of the picture, through the attachment where it is folded into halves before getting sewn.

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Nice and neat on both sides

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Finishing Touches and Final Pictures:

The game bag / pack / bottle holders are the most time intensive and difficult part of the vest. Once they are done, there is little left except finishing touches.

The facing is placed to the inside of the vest. This facing is not sophisticated, and is sewn in a patch like fashion. The arm holes are finished with grosgrain ribbon as well.

For the neckline I chose to use bias tape, as I thought the grosgrain might be a little rough on the skin.

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The last part of the whole project is to sew in a separating zipper onto the vest fronts, and its done!

Here are the final pictures:

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