The 30 minute jacket, a.k.a the Easiest Thing I’ve Ever Sewn.

22 Jan

I’d call it more of a “cardigan” or a “shrug” than a jacket, but I suppose it depends on what material one uses.

The design is from the publication Threads, and it’s free online, right over here.

I made it in a stretchy, snuggly black knit, and while it’s cozy as can be, it will probably photograph like a blob.

The oddest thing to me about this jacket instructions (I hesitate to even call it a “pattern”) is how many people get frustrated with the directions. I was thinking about this through the whole…uh, 13 minutes or so that it took to sew the two seams it takes to construct this jacket.  I think the problem is that we think about folding cloth the same way we do about folding paper. If I handed a sheet of paper to someone and said “fold this three times” it’s quite likely that they would fold it either lengthwise down the middle, width-wise down the middle, or from opposite corners, through the center.  Unless we are willfully iconoclastic, most of us think linearly and in a routine fashion, so even a set of directions as simple as “fold, sew” can go radically awry if the “fold” part doesn’t follow one of those three intuitive ways we’d all most likely revert to, when instructed to “fold this”.

So I wondered if I could explain this in a different way that might make it clear, illustrating the way I saw this in my head when I looked at the Threads diagram. (And maybe I can, or maybe I will wind up just confusing the issue further.)

Instead of letters and numbers, I’m color coding it. The colored lines are where you are going to sew: red to red, and blue to blue.

So you take a long rectangle (2 3/4 yards by 25″, but there’s room for variation in all directions) of soft, draped fabric. This softness is the key: your fabric will not fold like a crisp piece of paper!

You’re going to sew the red edge to the red line, and the blue edge to the blue line. That’s all: two whole seams, for an entire jacket/cardigan thing.

To make sense of how it turns into a cardigan, I’ve drawn in a humanoid (sort of) model, keeping the red and blue seam lines:

Your head goes in the middle, your hands go out the openings left at the top edge.  The bottom edge becomes both the back bottom as well as the left and right fronts, once they fold up.

Voilà, a cardigan in two seams. (A red one on your right arm, from those two red lines coming together, and a blue one on your left arm, from the two blue lines coming together.)

Easy. No pattern, no numbers, no letters, no measurements, even: a perfect project for beginners, or for haphazard people who like to wrap fabric around them, stick it in place, and wear it out of the house as if it’s the latest in designer fashion.

If you prefer directions with numbers and letters, I’ve made a version like that, too, as well as the secret to taking it from a 30-minute jacket down to a 13-minute jacket, the way I made it.


Bring 1 to A, hold it, don’t pin it, and let it pivot loosely,  and then bring 2 to B.

Bring 3 to D, again letting it pivot freely, and bring 4 to C.

Your head goes between B and C, your wrists between 1 & A and 3 & D.

Don’t worry about where fold lines go, just let the fabric drape as it will.


Now, you’ve probably got a raw edge along the 2-4 bottom line that you’ll want to hem. But hemming is tedious (especially on a stretchy knit fabric), so if you want to save yourself 17 minutes or so, you can do what I did: use a full 2 3/4 yard cut of fabric, folding it long-wise.

You use the same red and blue lines as up above, sewing through all thicknesses as if it was a single piece of cloth.

Since the cut fabric edges (on left and right) get seamed, you won’t have any raw edges to finish, at all. Theoretically you could still top-stitch or finish your selvedges (at the back of your neck, and at your wrists), OR, if you’re looking for the utmost in cheap-and-easy, you just declare it finished right then and there.

Which is what I did, and why I call it the “13 minute cardigan” as well as “The Easiest Thing I’ve Ever Sewn.”

I mean, really, it’s genius: you can walk into a fabric store, choose 2 3/4 yards of fabric, have it cut, go home and sew two seams, and have an instant jacket. It’s really quite wonderful, and I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on that.

[Theoretically, also, one could accomplish the same thing with knitting, just making a long scarf or stole and seam it in the same way. Ah! That’s a potential solution for the knitter who finds herself with too many Clapotis!]



6 Responses to “The 30 minute jacket, a.k.a the Easiest Thing I’ve Ever Sewn.”

  1. nkd January 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    I marked that pattern in the magazine when I first got it, and when I switched from paper to DVD I marked it as well. I’ll really have to do it some day.

    How fun it would be to do with lame’, or velvet or other scrumptious textiles.

    BTW, having a serger would make it just as easy to finish the edges as to construct it.

  2. handmadejulie January 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    For sure, about the serger!
    But even those without the big guns can still zigzag away. You should totally try it.

    • nkd January 22, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

      I had been thinking about embroidery placement, and then I realized that a pashima could serve as the base as well, with the fringe adding a funky detail along the seamline (using an edge joining foot and and heirloom embroidery type joining stitch)

      • handmadejulie January 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

        Oh, it’d be great with a pashmina! …and then embellished at will.

        Hmm, maybe I want to make another. Thank you for that idea.

  3. SewingElle January 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Wow thanks for pointing that jacket out! I love fast projects like this. Thanks for your lovely comment on my blouse too.

  4. Ruth Monnig October 10, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    You have no idea how helpful this is. To be fair to those of us who are challenged by the magazine’s directions, there were many ways they could have been interpreted. You do he dot matching in more or less one step. They do it in two and it mentions folding over and everything gets all bunched up. Bravo to you and thanks for the clarity!!!

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