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X-Wing Flak Vest

Original work by Angela Anderson-Cobb, modifications by Brian Anderson

Materials

  • About 2 yards of white nylon woven fabric. I used a material from Joann Fabrics called sport nylon and you can usually find it in the area of the store where they have craft and utility fabrics.
  • 40' of clear PVC tubing 5/16" outside diameter size to insert in the large channels. This can be found in the plumbing aisle at Home Depot and Lowes.
  • 8' of white plastic coated 14-guage wire found in the electrical section of Home Depot for the smaller channels.
  • 1" wide white elastic, about 6"
  • 1" wide white twill tape, about 3 yards, for the adjustmet strap at the back and sides.
  • Closures for adjustment strap. These are called insertion locks by the garment industry and can be hard to find . Tandy Leather sometimes carries them and Corellian Exports does also although you will have to check with him for current availability. A potential substitute would be suspender clips.
  • Buckle for back of adjustment strap. This was another tough thing for me to find locally At first. Some people have found them at surplus stores either loose, if you're lucky, or as part of a sleeping bag carrier sling or an A.L.I.C.E. belt suspender. You can get the sleeping bag carrier online for around $2.
  • Basic sewing materials: sewing machine, chalk/non permanent marker, thread (white and blue), craft paper, etc...

Patterns

These patterns should serve as a guideline. You may need to adjust them if you are significantly smaller or larger than the person this was designed for.

Inner Front | Outer Front
Inner Back | Outer Back

Getting Started

Redraw the patterns for the vest sections onto kraft paper using the measurements given and cut out, you may have to adjust these a bit to fit your individual build, but this pattern has been used by petite, average and large chested people using the same size patterns and they all looked fine in them

Pin each pattern section to a single layer of fabric, making sure that the grain is straight, and cut out

Turn the side edges of each section under 1/2" and press. Stitch the resulting seams down using a single needle for the back sections and a twin needle for the fronts.

The Front

Here is a tip to make the whole process of stitching the channels for the tubing go much easier and faster. Take your cardboard or posterboard and make three sections across the width of it - 1/8", 1/2", and 3/4" cut these out. These cardboard strips will be used to measure and mark the spacing for sewing your tubing channels.

Stitch the outer and inner front layers together 1" down from the top edge. Lay the 3/4" cardboard across the vest with the top edge right against that first stitching line you just did. Trace along the bottom edge of the cardboard with your water-soluble marking pen. Flip the front section up and place the 1/8" measuring thingy up against the stitching line on the back layer and trace along the bottom. Flip the front layer back down. Line up the markings on the front and back layers and pin through the two layers then stitch along that line on the outer layer of the fabric. You should now have created the first channel for the tubing on the front of the vest.

Place the 1/2" cardboard strip against the bottom line of stitching of this first channel and trace a line. Sew along this line through the two layers of fabric then repeat the steps above to make another channel.

When you have sewn that channel, measure 2" down from the bottom stitching line and sew across through both layers. This will be that gap you see in the front of the vest with the smaller channels in it. To make these smaller channels sew across the front layer spacing the lines 1/4" apart beginning and ending at the edges of the front layer.

When you finish sewing the gap area, repeat the steps for the larger channels until you have 9 more. When you are finished with the large channels, measure down 1" from the bottom stitching line of the last channels, mark and cut off any additional fabric below this line. Turn the bottom under 1/2" and stitch across.

The Back

For the back you will repeat the steps for making the large channels until you have 14 sewn. Skip a space 1 1/4" wide then sew two more channels. Measure down 1" from last stitching line, turn under 1/2" and stitch just as you did on the front.

The Shoulders

Cut 4 pieces of the left over nylon vest fabric 2 1/2" x 10" (This is just a guideline. You may want to test the length of yours to make sure they fit your frame). For each strap pin two pieces together and stitch the long side together with a 1/4" seam allowance. Leave the top and bottom unsewn. Trim the seam allowances close to the stitching then turn the strap right side out and press. Starting 1/2" from the top edge make stitching lines 1/8" apart across the straps until you get within 1/2" of the bottom end (this is tedious, but it make a big difference in the look of the straps). Turn the top and bottom ends under 1/4" and press then stitch the straps to the front and back sections of the vest. Some of the pilots had the straps sewn over the front and back pieces, and some of them were under. For a generic pilot they are usually over the main body pieces. If you are replicated a particular costume, try to see if you can figure out how that vest was done. Biggs Darklighter is a case where the straps are under.

The Sides

For the adjustment strap. First make the casing. Take two 6' lengths of the white twill tape, turn each end under 1/4" and stitch the turn edges down. Place the casings on the back section of the flak vest in that 1 1/4" space you left between channels 14 and 15 and stitch the long edges of the casing to the vest as close to the edge of the tape as possible.

For the insertion lock/strap assembly, a piece of vinyl/leather, a piece of the elastic, and the lower part of the insertion lock assembly (with the holes in it). You are going to put them together in that order at one end of the elastic piece.

Take 2 pieces of off-white canvas or nylon vest fabric about 3 1/2" x 1 1/4". Turn all edges under to the back 1/4" and press.

On the front part of the vest in the area near the lower outer edge where the tubing channels don't extend to, place the plain edge of the elastic at the edge of the vest at the level of the area between tubing channels 7 and 8. Place the piece of canvas or nylon over the elastic and stitch the whole thing down around the edge of the fabric piece. Repeat on the other side.

Take the other piece of the insertion lock (the one that slides into the other side), the other piece of vinyl/leather, and a 2' length of the twill tape. Layer them together in that order then insert the U-shaped prong in the end of the insertion lock piece to hold it all together. Repeat for the other strap section then thread the plain ends of the strap sections though the casings so the free ends are in the gap in the back of the vest between the two casings. Thread the ends of the twill tape straps through the buckle so the free ends are on the under side of the buckle. Try on the vest and close the side insertion lock. Adjust the strap to fit, then cut off the excess twill tape leaving a couple of inches. Take the vest off and turn the raw edges of the strap under and stitch. To finish you can either sew the free ends to the underside of the straps or to make it more adjustable use some Velcro.

If you can't find the insertion locks, use some suspender clips sewing the clips to the twill tape straps and sew a 1" D-ring to the elastic on the front section of the vest.

Tubing

Take the tubing and cut sections to size and insert each piece in the big channels. For the small channels cut the wire with some wire cutters (it cuts very easily), each piece should be about 12" long. Gently sand the ends to smooth them out and sand any lettering off the outside then insert through the open ends of the smaller channels.

Finished Product

This is my vest, made by following these instructions.

 

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