If you’ve been eyeing puffer jackets but don’t know how to make your own, the search is over! After researching the manufacturing of commercial puffer jackets, I decoded the process and simplified it for the home sewist. I started with Mood Fabric’s burgundy ripstop nylon. This turns out to be a really great choice as the lines in the ripstop fabric are a perfect guide for following while quilting the puffer jacket. Mood Fabrics has so many different colors of ripstop nylon fabric, you can make a puffer jacket in any color!
For the lining, I wanted a soft, fun fabric, so I chose this Maroon/Gray Tartan Plaid flannel. (Don’t you think retail puffer jackets would be cold against the skin when initially put on because they use nylon as both the main and the lining fabrics?)
While researching, I discovered the outer and inner nylon fabrics get quilted together before they are stuffed. It requires a very large, factory size machine to blow air and goose down into the pre-quilted sections. Needless to say, this type of machine is not a viable option for the home sewist! Taking apart a down pillow or comforter and stuffing the jacket by hand might be an option, but discovering how most commercial down is raised and harvested, ruled out down as an option for me. (This type of research is NOT a path you want to travel if you are squeamish or an animal lover!!! Because I’m such a pioneer woman, living in the country and lovingly raising my own animals, someday I may have enough down collected to make a puffer jacket filled with down.) But for today’s puffer jacket, I chose to use traditional quilt batting.
With burgundy ripstop nylon for the outside, flannel for the lining, and quilt batting for the inside, I set about constructing my puffer jacket. I used my favorite outerwear pattern; the Halifax Hoodie by Hey June Patterns because I already knew it fit me well. (Fitting adjustments are a very real consideration for me as I’m 6’ tall!) With a few modifications, the Halifax Hoodie pattern was a great block to start with.
I cut out each pattern piece from nylon, lining, and batting. After playing around with the batting, I decided to use 2 layers of batting inside each pattern piece for extra loft and warmth. The only thing I didn’t consider when making this choice was how the extra batting would make the arms smaller and tighter. The finished result is not unwearable, but I certainly can’t layer a sweater underneath the jacket!
Next, I set aside the lining and layered up the batting and ripstop nylon using wonder clips or clothes pins to hold together the layers while quilting. All sorts of quilting designs are possible, only limited by imagination! For my puffer jacket, I used 2” spacing on the sleeves, neckpiece and side hood pieces. For the center hood piece, I used 1/2” spacing, which you can see in the photo below.
On the front and back pieces, I started at the waist with 1/2” spacing, and radiated out to 2” spacing above and below to create a slimming appearance at the waist. Elastic across the back also helps add shaping, as you can see above.
While quilting, I used nylon thread because the outer fabric is nylon. It’s a little finicky to work with, and doesn’t seem to be as stable as other thread. But it is waterproof, like the rest of the outside of the puffer jacket. For all other seams, I used polyester thread.
I found it is very helpful to use a walking foot on my sewing machine while quilting the pieces together, and later, for sewing the seams. The nylon fabric is a bit slippery, and all the layers can get thick and hard to keep aligned without a walking foot.
Even by sewing carefully, using wonder clips and a walking foot, I still needed to tidy up when finished quilting by trimming the batting from around the edges of each piece. In the photo above, you can see a side hood piece after it had been quilted, but before trimming. I just used a scissors or rotary cutter to trim away the excess batting sticking out beyond the nylon fabric.
After sewing each seam I also graded the seam allowances by trimming extra batting away as illustrated above. This helps the finished jacket lay nicely around the body and not be too thick or stiff at each seam.
In the photo above, you can see the quilted lines match up from the back to the front. To match the lines of quilting around the body of the puffer jacket, pin the pieces together at quilt lines where you will be stitching. For example, I was using a 1/2” seam allowance, so put a pin through the front piece and back piece at each line of quilting, 1/2″ from the raw edges.
Matching the lines of quilting across the front zipper can be tricky. It is helpful to sew on one side of the zipper, and then use chalk to mark the location of each line of quilting on the zipper as shown above. Next, pin the marked side of the zipper to the other side of the jacket, making sure to match up the lines of quilting across the zipper.
Next time, there are some changes I would make from the lessons I learned while sewing this, but right now I’m so very excited to have an ethically produced, custom-fitting puffer jacket! If you make a puffer jacket, please share it with me. For more of my sewing adventures, you can find my blog at Skirt Fixation, and follow me on Instagram too.