How to Build Your Own Varsity Jacket

Written by dana griffin Google
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How to Build Your Own Varsity Jacket
Traditional Varsity Jacket (Varsity Sports Jacket image by Sirena Designs from

Be authentic, traditional and unique in a personalised, hand-tailored varsity jacket. Introduced in the late 1800s, traditional varsity jackets displayed athletic prowess and team spirit. As a fashion trend, the letterman or varsity jacket's features provide warmth, versatility and distinctive individuality. Traditional jackets are made of melton wool with leather sleeves, but great alternatives are corduroy with twill sleeves or denim---blue or coloured---with poplin sleeves. Whatever the choice, the contrast and the knit collar and cuffs give the characteristic varsity jacket look.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Jacket pattern
  • Melton wool fabric in dominant colour
  • Quilted satin lining fabric in dominant colour
  • Leather in off-white
  • Straight pins and pattern weights
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fabric chalk
  • Chenille patches
  • Heavy-duty embroidery sewing machine
  • Heavy-duty needles
  • Heavyweight thread
  • Chenille embroidery thread
  • Double-sided tape
  • 3-inch ribbed knit trim
  • 6 to 10 snaps 5/8-inch
  • Snap-setting tools

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    Creating the Jacket

  1. 1

    Refer to the pattern instructions for fabric and trim lengths.

    Lay out pattern pieces. Pin pattern to fabric, but use weights on leather. Cut out pieces for wool shell, leather sleeves, quilted satin lining and ribbed-knit trim.

  2. 2

    Working with the back of the shell (the wool piece), use a measuring tape to locate the centre---left to right---at the height of the bottom edge of the sleeve opening. Mark an X with white fabric chalk.

    Center the school name or team mascot patch over the X, and pin in place. Machine stitch the patch with matching thread.

    Embroider the student's last name in cursive with chenille thread, centred under the school emblem patch.

  3. 3

    On the left front wool piece, locate the midpoint from the centre edge to the side edge at the height of the bottom of the sleeve opening. Mark with chalk. Center the letter patch on the shoulder with the bottom on the chalk mark. Pin in place, and stitch onto the fabric.

    At the same location, centred on the right front piece, embroider the student's first name in cursive with chenille thread.

  4. 4

    If sleeves are of two-piece construction, sew the sleeve front and back together at the outside seam in matching thread.

    On the right sleeve, 1 5/8 inches from the top at the shoulder, mark an X on the leather with blue chalk. Center the year of graduation patch from that mark down the sleeve. Affix to leather with double-sided tape. Stitch the patches onto the leather.

    At the same location on the left sleeve, place the jersey or position number in the same manner.

  5. 5

    Follow pattern instructions to complete pockets, sleeves, lining and trim.

  6. 6

    Mark jacket fronts for snaps using pattern guides. Use the snap tool to attach the snaps.

Tips and warnings

  • Look for patterns in the costume section of pattern books.
  • Melton wool fabric has a nap requiring extra fabric length.
  • Place two snaps in the waist trim, one 5/8 inch from the top seam and the other 5/8 inch from the bottom fold.
  • Traditional quilted lining adds warmth to the jacket. If a lighter-weight jacket is desired, use satin that is not quilted. The lining should be a smooth, slippery fabric for ease of wear over clothing.
  • Patches stitched to leather cannot be moved; there will be holes in the leather.

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