Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Swinging Thistle


This is just what the stitching doctor ordered for New Year’s Day : simple, straightforward, cosy, practical: a snuggle for cuddling sore heads and all over general grogginess; perfect for curling up on the sofa for watching good old black and white movies; yet finished enough to wear out – The Swinging Thistle!


This is what your pattern piece will look like or you can chalk straight onto fabric.


Essentially a half circle with a hole. One end will be the collar and the other the centre back hem.

The straight edge will be your length. I am 5’6″ (1.7m) and mine is 45″ (116cm) – adjust this straight edge to taste. Widest point measures 29″ (73cm).  This will determine the ‘swinginess’. Join the dots – the ends of the straight edge and the width in a curve, making a semi-circle-ish shape.



Fold the pattern piece in half (1/4 circle). On the fold is the bottom of the armhole. The armhole is an oval.



Mine measures 4 X 8″ (10 X 21cm) and is 6″ from the straight edge. Again adjust the size to suit your shape and fabric. Measure your upper back and half it – this is YOUR armhole placement.


Cut out.

If your fabric frays – either make a hem all the way around the outer edge, or bind with self fabric or contrasting bias.


Bind the armhole edges too.



The wrong side of the fabric will show at the collar so bear this in mind when making your fabric choice.

Try on. Cut a couple of bits of fabric that fit your hands comfortably and position the pockets to suit.

Stitch the open end of the pockets and then sew them onto your Thistle.


Wear in a multiple of variations.






Collar up as hood and/or brooch at one side to keep closed




Open and swinging




If it is particularly cold, then add sleeves the easy way……



Make a bolero from the leftovers…..wear under the Thistle




Wear upside down for a shorter length and fuller collar


The Thistle is a good choice for wearing under a coat too as you don’t have to grab a sleeve hem to get a coat on and there’s no bulk. And you can have a scarf/hood all at the same time.

Fabric choices:

  • Boiled wool (or similar as it’s the same both sides and doesn’t fray)
  • Any knit
  • Towelling for a southern hemisphere post-swim wrap
  • Chiffon for a pool cover up
  • Taffeta for a night at the opera coat
  • Tartan blankets for a feminine lumberjack look
  • Red velvet for Little Red Riding Hood

This fabric came from Chrysalis and is Sample #37, Thistle flower (hence the name of the vest), 140cms wide.

Variations are only restricted by imagination and extent of hangover:

Double sided – make two, join all the way around the edge, turn through the armhole and bind.

Square-off the circle from the armhole height for a straight front version.

Make the circle into an oval for less swing.

Easy to lengthen or shorten – full length chiffon with ostrich feather trim for a glamorous 1930s look for those moments when you swan around your penthouse with a cigarette holder in one hand and a cocktail in the other. Add more swing for this version by making a fatter circle – can’t skimp on glamour!

So if you’re feeling a little under the weather today but still have the urge to sew, grab a length of fabric slightly more than 1yd (1m), at least your preferred length. Remember to save the off-cuts for the bindings.

If you make a Swinging Thistle, I’d love to see your version. E-mail pics to me at the address at the top right column.

Happy New Year and good sewing wishes for 2015.



11 thoughts on “Swinging Thistle

  1. Great tutorial! Thank you.

  2. The bolero underneath is genius. Think of the possibilities for a travel wardrobe with a coordinating Thistle plus bolero. You make sewing and life seem like great fun. Please keep sewing and writing about it. Cheers and a Happy New Year!

  3. Gorgeous. Beautiful colour, beautiful shape. Beautiful on you. You: Beautiful!

    I was thinking about your previous post, re all the colours you have and love plus the black, whites and greys which don’t appeal so much. Take a look at how the Japanese combine black, white and grey with riotous colours. Fantastic. It might be an inspiration for you.

    Happy New Year to you. And thanks so much for continuing to post. You are an inspiration.

  4. Gosh, that’s brilliant! And what a simple idea. I love how you added the sleeves, I was wondering how they worked!

  5. Inspired Ruth! When the marbles stop rolling round inside my head I will re-read the instructions and go stash diving. I may even manage to ‘need’ to fabric shop. Yippee.
    Have a great 2015!

  6. Thank you for sharing the pattern! I bought a piece of fabric like this from Fabric Mart and made it into a vest…one that I love wearing! So to have instructions on how to make another is just awesome! BTW, Happy New Year!

  7. Looks very posh! Yet easy! I think I actually purchased a pattern like this a while go, a McCalls or something? I could have gone with this pattern instead!

  8. Thank you, Ruth for making this vest seem so easy! Guess the hardest part will be finding just the right fabric!

  9. Lovely! It works so well with your wardrobe!

  10. What a great pattern. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Pingback: Jinxed Jamie Jeans | corecouture

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