Don't like ads? Help support the Mercs by becoming a Supporter or Auxiliary Member today!
Official Members also get to use the forum ad-free - so kit up and join us!

Complete TUTORIAL- Fully Separating Side Closure Flak Vest

  • 1 Replies


  • *
  • *
  • 410
  • This is all Karen Traviss' fault. OM #1882
TUTORIAL- Fully Separating Side Closure Flak Vest
« on: Apr 27, 2020, 10:18 PM »
This flak vest is designed to fully separate at the sides, allowing the vest to just be slipped over the head and then closed on both sides. It's a simplified version of whitecrow1's (now retired) flak vest system (video on page 2). Instead of the front part of the vest being entirely separate, this vest is made of a front and back half with two side flaps joining the front and back, using zippers placed approximately where princess seams would usually go, and then tightened down using parachute buckles. This is ideal for legacy style plates, solid style backplates, or just plain being easy to get in and out of.

I used quilted fabric and duck cloth for mine, although this same style of vest could easily be done in duck cloth entirely or leather as well. Edge finishing will be different for leather and duck cloth.

Here are all the pieces and parts you will need for this vest:
Front and back half (quilted fabric)
Two side flaps (duck cloth)
Neck seal (quilted fabric)
Shoulder bells (quilted fabric)
Small amount of velcro for neck seal
Small zipper for shoulder
Two separating zippers (I used two jacket zippers that were initially too long and shortened them- do not use jeans zippers)
4 or 6 pairs of parachute buckles with strapping (I am small and used 4)

Disclaimer and warning: my 'drafting system' is mostly guess and check! It's very haphazard and there are a few (very minor) mistakes even in this vest, so I don't feel qualified to write a drafting tutorial. This tutorial is primarly about construction, but I will do my best to explain how I sized all the pieces and include other tutorials that explain drafting better than I do. As always, a mockup is a good idea, and try on your vest frequently to make adjustments! Safety pins are my best friend during fitting!

Here is a great tutorial for drafting the front and back halves of the vest using a t-shirt: (Couldn't get a hyperlink to work properly, sorry) The pieces I am using in this tutorial were cut from a pattern that was traced from a mockup that was drafted using this tutorial. (Yes, all of my drafting is that convoluted  ;D) The most important things to check on this pattern are that your shoulder tabs are all the same size, front and back, side to side, and that the vest ends at or a little bit below your belly button. It's good to make sure that the sides of your front and back aren't too wildly different from each other, but they don't need to be exact and will not be sewn together. There is about a three inch gap in my finished vest on both sides between the front and back half. IF YOU ARE USING QUILTED FABRIC, CUT YOUR PIECES WITH VERY GENEROUS SEAM ALLOWANCE. As in, an entire inch of seam allowance. This will be used to make sure the batting of the quilted fabric doesn't shed.

To draft your side panels, we will be making a trapezoid out of duck cloth. The longest side will be the same length as the side of the back panel of the vest, and the shortest side will be the length of your zipper. The bottom edge is flat with the bottom edge of the back of your vest, and the top edge is just a straight line between the top points of the side. The tab needs to go from the edge of the back half to a point at least an inch outside of where your plates will be attached, so that the zipper doesn't interfere with plate attachment methods. You may want to sew your shoulder tabs together first so you can try the vest on to determine the length of the side panels. Cut these with a good amount of seam allowance as well.

(Not the zipper that will be used in the final vest, just there for illustration of placement)

Once you have your front and back halves and the side tabs, they all need hemmed. This is why we left so much seam allowance! Using your sewing machine, roll every edge over (fold twice) and sew it down. I like to go around twice, to hold the triple layer of thick fabric flat, but it's really only necessary to go once. If you only do one round of hemming, make sure your stitches are close to the inside edge of the seam, so that they catch all the layers and prevent the fabric from unraveling. Try to minimize bunching in the fabric, but some will occur. Do this with the duck cloth flaps as well.

This is the point where you can trace your pieces, if your initial drafting isn't suitable for being reused! (mine never is) I use wrapping paper.

Always fold your patterns in half while cutting to check for symmetry!

When this is done, you can join your vest at the shoulder tabs, so you can see how it fits! When using quilted fabric, I like to hand sew the very edges together so that the fabric doesn't become any thicker than it needs to be. Sew only one side directly, the other will have a zipper that makes fitting the vest over the head easier.

When hand sewing for kit items, I use a thick, upholstery weight thread, and after the first joining seam is done, I flip the work and do a whip stitch back down the underside to make it as strong as possible.

The next thing we are going to do is sew the strapping to the vest. Take a generous amount of strapping and sew it down to the vest about an inch and a half to two inches from the top and bottom. Make sure all your strapping matches up on all four sides. Then, take one half of the buckles and put them onto the strapping of the BACK of the vest, and sew down the loose end of strapping. I like to sew my strapping down far back enough that the zippers and duck cloth flap will go over it again, making it extra secure. (I ended up shortening the amount of strapping on the front of the vest once my zippers were on)

Sew the zippers to the short edges of your duck cloth flaps. There are many youtube tutorials if you need to make a long zipper shorter. Since this is a separating zipper, make sure you shorten it from the top. Outside of the zipper goes with the right side of the duck cloth, so it will face outwards when the vest is done. Using your plate templates, find the place for the other side of the zipper, just outside of the Plate Attachment Zone. Make sure the bottom edges of the flak vest and duck cloth flap line up.

Try your vest on and double check seam placement of the other end of the duck cloth panel. Allow the duck cloth flap to be loose, and use the parachute buckles to refine the fit.

Almost done! The only thing left are the shoulder bells and neck seal. These parts are optional- if you are going to have a separate neck seal and don't want shoulder bells, you are done! Congratulations!  :cookie:

To make the neck seal, we will need a long rectangle of cloth. Cut it extra long and give yourself some wiggle room- it needs to overlap by a couple inches to secure with velcro. My neck seal is 22 inches long and a bit over 3 inches wide. I cut mine 25 inches long so I would have wiggle room. Leave yourself generous seam allowance, and roll the seams again- all except the overlapping edge.

Now we are going to hand sew the neck seal to the collar of the vest. This keeps the maximum amount of room to get the vest over your head. You certainly can machine sew it, overlapping the pieces, but I find this dramatically decreases the amount of space to get it on and off. Once your neck seal is attached, you can determine the velcro placement and finish the overlapping edge.

Finally, just the shoulder bells! Take your shoulder plate or the pattern for it, and determine how big you want your shoulder bell to be, or copy the shape from an existing flak vest. Cut four pieces of quilted fabric and sew them together wrong sides out (if there is a wrong side), except for the flat edge. Now flip them right side out and sew along the seam again to hold them flat. Finish the flat edge, and determine placement on the vest. You want them centered on the top of your shoulders, but this doesn't necessarily mean the middle will be right with the shoulder seam. Try the vest on and adjust the shoulder bells before you sew, making sure they are symmetrical.

My pattern is a bit wider than I would usually do, because I'm going to be putting double shoulder plates on this flak vest. A few inches of the shoulder bell will also be underneath the shoulder of the vest itself.

And you're finished! Fully separating flak vest done!  :like: Now go weather it and attach your armor!

« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2020, 04:05 PM by trashcanmando » Logged
Re: TUTORIAL- Fully Separating Side Closure Flak Vest
« Reply #1 on: Aug 01, 2021, 08:26 PM »

  I just saw this tutorial via google search. Let me say that it is very well laid out and easy to follow. Also, looks like your vest turned out really well. Thank you for posting.



Don't like ads? Help support the Mercs by becoming a Supporter or Auxiliary Member today!
Official Members also get to use the forum ad-free - so kit up and join us!

Powered by EzPortal