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Flak Vest Tutorial

 
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JediXXL (Gil Guemes)
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:08 pm    Post subject: Flak Vest Tutorial Reply with quote

Star Wars Rebel X-Wing Pilots Flak Vest Tutorial.
By Eric Moody aka Division 6

Photos by Angela Anderson-Cobb

First off this project is time consuming in both prep and execution.
Make sure to have as much picture reference as possible. Read everything to get a sense of what is involved and what order the steps are in. ( a lot of reading )
After making a slightly simpler ( custom ) version I was able to figure out some of the bugs that should be fixed in this tutorial.

Research Discoveries:
From the pictures that I used from at least 4 MoM tours, one being worn at Celebration 1 in Denver, LFL images and pictures posted on the net and assorted books and magazines, I discovered that no two vests are the same and differ some what in each movie.
A number of images I used in getting measurements have lasers posted at intervals for measuring all the details at the MoM exhibit in San Diego Ca. ( Courtesy of Mat Clayson of Hi-Impact )
I also used known sizing of the straps on the chest box for scaling images without lasers.

You can get side insertion locks at http://hardwareelf.com/ Look for "Thumb Catch", medium size in the "Latches and Locks" section. (L-049C)
These are more accurate than the Tandy ones below.

The ones sold by Tandy Leather:


Note: ONLY Luke had the metal clips at the shoulders in Empire.

Since there are a number of differences in each vest, you can decide on which elements to use on yours.

Height of the front panel ranges from 8" to 8.75"
Bias ranges from .25" to .5"
Some vests don't have bias on the edges but are instead just rolled and sewn.
Spacing between ribs varies somewhat as well as open areas at top and bottom and sides between bias and ribbed panel.
Some Empire versions appear to have a thinner nylon or vinyl backing. ( at least Zev's )

What I believe to be an original ANH vest has the shoulder straps starting at the bottom of the front and going all the way over to the bottom of the back.
The Empire and Jedi versions had the shoulder straps cut off and new, wider ones attached at the top edges, but you can still see the original straps in the vest. ( some have mistaken these for smaller wires )
The straps are in a "V" shape in most vests, but there appears to also be at least one that on the back they are attached straight vertically.

Materials needed: ( I tend to get twice what I need in case I mess up or need to make more than one )
Paper for making patterns
Ruler ( 18" or longer for best results )
Pencil
Blue water soluble fabric pen (optional )
Sewing machine ( unless you like doing it by hand )
Straight pins
Heavy white or off white nylon for exact reproduction, heavy cotton (denim) will work for a non screen accurate version. ( 2 - 3 yards )
1" webbing ( 1 yard )
Leather small piece ( 6" x 6" min ) preferably in a off white finish.
Slider buckle ( x 1 ) for the back.
Luggage type clips ( x 2 ) for the sides.
Thread
Heavy gauge plastic coated wire, metal rods, metal, vinyl or plastic tubing ( for ribs ) ( amount varies depending on the widths of panels )
( I used stiff black water drip tubing from OSH, makes a nice hard shell )
Long dowel .25" dia. min. for turning shoulder straps inside out ( optional )


First of all you'll need to make the patterns.

Marking off an area of 8.5" x 14" for the front and 10" x 14" for the back. ( 1" wider all around if rolling edges )
Next divide the pieces in half with a center line or by folding.
At the top of both mark off 9.25" centered
From the bottom of the front pattern measure up 3", than another 2.5", than 2"
At the upper most line, centered mark off 10" horizontal.
Starting at the top make a line ( 9.25" ) down to the 10" mark than curve it out to the line 3" from the bottom. ( see picture )
Once you are satisfied with the curve ( checking reference pictures ) fold paper on center line and cut so edges match.
For the back place the front pattern over it, mark the top than move pattern to bottom edge, mark off edge up mid way than finish to the top.
Fold and cut.

The next part is tricky, I did it right on the fabric but you can make a pattern if you like.
On taller pieces of paper you will need to figure out all the extra material needed for making the rolls for the tubing.
.25" dia. tubing requires a minimum of 5/8" to fit in, providing your real good at sewing the spacing in a straight line ( I'm not )
Making it a full .75" will make putting the wire or tubing in much easier.

Starting at the 2" strip that is flat start marking off the spacing of the rolls and flat areas between., leaving an extra few inches at the top and bottom.
Next you'll have to figure out how the edge will curve using the first pattern as a gauge. (not an easy task )

For the back you'll do the same thing but starting with a flat area 1.5" from the bottom of the main panel with a 1.5" flat area above that. ( see picture )

Next is the shoulder straps.
Depending on which version you are making the length and width will differ.
The ANH full strap is 1.75" wide and approx 27" long, so the pattern will be 4" wide ( .5" for sea allowance ) and 17" long.
TESB & ROTJ Versions will require a 4"x 8.5" and a 4" x 10" as well as a 4.5" x 9".

For the sleeves on the back for the adjustment strap to run threw 4.5" x 2"

Leather pieces will be ( 2x ) 2.5"x 1.5" - ( 2x ) 1.75" x 1.5" - ( 2x ) 3" x .5" ( marked in gold on picture )

Cutting Fabric:
For the backing it can be done a couple ways, either as a single piece or with two pieces, hiding the stitching from the ribbing attachment.
Also if you are going to use bias tape on the sides than cut the same as the pattern, but if you intend to just role the edge make sure to allow at least .5" or more to do so.

Once all the fabric is cut it will be a good idea to mark all your lines for placement and stitching.
This can be done with a pencil or fabric pen.

Start off with the strapping.
Wrong side out sew along open edge giving you the correct overall width depending on the version you are doing.
Next turn right side out ( a dowel or long thin ruler will help )
Once right side out you will be doing the cross stitching. depending on what version you are doing will dictate the pattern, ( see picture )
Only the 8.5 area that is seen needs to have the pattern, the unseen area can just go down the edges.
All spacing is .25"

At this point you need to decide if you and to attach the strapping to the facing or if doing the second layer attaching it to the backing.
If you are not using a backing than attach straps now.

If you are doing a rolled edge instead of bias tape sew edges now.

Next roll and sew sides of facing pieces ( tuck and roll pieces ) leaving top and bottom edges for later.

Working on front panel first, place cover piece with flat 2" area over back panel centered and sew, making *8* .25" wide lines.

( IMPORTANT ) keep an eye on edges to prevent drift to one side.

Starting on the top above flat area, begin doing the roll and flat areas, than at top of panel fold over on face or over backing than sew covering top edge.
If not going over top edge make sure that backing has been roled and sewn before hand, for a clean edge, same with bottom.

Once the top portion is done work you way down to the bottom.

Once front is done, if adding a backing and you have not attached straps to front than attach to backing than attach backing to front and run bias down sides.

If not doing the backing just add bias, unless you have already roled the edge.

Next the back, starting on the flat area near the bottom where the adjustment strap will go, work to edges like on the front.
Finish off same as front.

Take the 4.5" x 2" pieces for the strapping sleeves and role and stitch ends making piece 4" long, than pinning to open area of back on the outer edges sew along top and bottom edges making sure there is enough clearance for the strapping to go through.

If you ar e doing the Empire or Jedi version attach shoulder straps now, since the ANH version will have had them since the beginning or at least since attaching the backing if doing it with such.

For the side clips, taking the ( 2 ) 2.5" x 1.5" pieces, round one end than sew on a piece of 1" wide webbing centered that runs to the attachment edge.
Next attach clip.
Sew on to the back side of front vest .25" down from side corner ( see picture) leaving 2" sticking out.
Next sew the 3" x .5" piece on edge of lower front ( see picture )

On ends of 1" strapping attach the 1.75" x 1.5" leather pieces than attach clip reciever piece.

Looking at back. attach clips to front of vest than figure out where the center will be when you are wearing it. ( best to try on vest backwards for placement )
Cut left strap and attach slider buckle than making sure you have plenty of extra cut and seal end of right side.
attach in center.

This should be everything you need to make a authentic X-Wing Pilots Flak Vest.












*Note: black is used in the picture for contrast, it should be all white. The vest in the picture was a custom job.

The only addition I would make to this tutorial is the backing of the entire vest in white cotton to cut down on the transparency of the nylon fabric.
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