The Cape

I know Edna Mode said no capes…

But counterargument…

Maybe capes?

I know the timing of this post is suspect but this really wasn’t intended as a Halloween garment. I somehow convinced myself that I would casually pop on a cape. As one does. The pattern is question is Vogue 9288 and the utility is…doubtful.

Here’s a list of V9288 ‘can’ts’:

Can’t carry a bag.

Can’t wear a backpack.

Can’t hold hands with a companion.

Can’t move my arms above the elbow.

On the ‘can’ side, there’s items like swish, twirl, menace, flap like a crow, etc. So I guess you do the math?

This is view B (because view C would just be impractical, amirite?) and truthfully its only real purpose is that it’s fun to wear. I’m really torn – this satisfies, at best, half of my ‘quality and sense’ goal, but if you had told the me in high school who was obsessed with LotR that I learned to sew and DIDN’T sew myself a cape I would have kicked your butt from the Iron Hills to Far Harad.

It’s not even particularly warm, though! And because it’s wool (the price said ‘probably not’, the sheepy aroma says ‘but it is’) it gets stinkier in the rain. So I can wear this on dry, not-too-cool days when I’m overcome with sartorial daring. So yeah, that’s been twice in the past 6 weeks. Not my best ROI.  

But rather than litigate its very existence – it’s here now! – let’s talk about construction. As I said, I used wool, a subtly gridded wool suiting that moves really nicely and smells a bit. Unlike other sewists who have blogged this cape, I elected not to line it, due to an admixture of cheapskatery and urgency (if I waited to find the perfect lining, I would possibly lose my momentum to make a cape at all). I used my regular lightweight cotton interfacing for the facings and collar, but it can’t quite stand up to the weight of the large buttons.

They’re from a Ziploc of leather buttons I bought at a flea market many years ago. It cost $5 and it turned out to be one of my greatest sewing investments. I only need to undo one collar button to get in and out of this cape. It goes over my head though, which you might find disarranging if there’s more to your hairstyling than mine (shampoo and a declaration of “Let the wind take it”). All of the buttonholes are functional. If I undo the bottom buttons, my range of motion VASTLY increases; if I was redoing this from the beginning, I’d shorten the placket to the top four buttons only.

I considered swapping the patch pockets for welts, but my fabric was springy/bouncy and it didn’t press neatly or stay pressed well. I suspect a high polyester content, but it didn’t mind high iron heat, so it’s a bit of a mystery. I didn’t want to fight it, so in the end I chose patches, but rectangles instead of the curved pockets called for. My trusty random piece of scrap wood (a.k.a. my clapper) was handy here.

I didn’t make any other changes to this pattern. It’s a straight size M, the largest size in my envelope. I actually cut the tissue paper!! It’s the right size for my shoulders and bust, and obviously my hips fit inside. However, I failed to account for the center panel – it’s its own piece, and in a perfect world I would have graded it wider at the hips, because my flank coverage is a little dicey.

I used my serger sparingly – just on the long edges of the main cape facings, which I serged, turned once, and stitched.

The center back seam and edges of the front panel facings are all on the selvedge.

The back of the cape could probably be cut as a single piece, view and fabric width permitting. I French seamed the side seams. The finished cape is tidy and will probably age well, especially if I wear it as infrequently as I have so far.

Depending on that someone’s style, this pattern could be someone’s entry-level project into outerwear. It’s mostly straight lines, there’s no complicated fitting, no sleeves – just buttonholes and hemming a curve. The directions were great and the diagrams were clear. Way to be, Vogue!

But I don’t know yet if this will be a permanent fixture in my closet. It did wake up my cape appetite – I’d like to try a more modern one next, like the Seamwork Camden. Two capes, though, when this one gets limited wear? I try to only sew clothes I intend to wear but I love the idea of being a swishy confident cape witch. It’s a conundrum.

In the meantime, though it wasn’t intended as such, there’s one approaching occasion where it’s sure to come in handy…

Happy Halloween!

Pattern: Vogue 9288

Pattern cost: $15.98

Size: M

Supplies: 4.5 yards of gray wool suiting, Sewfisticated, $31.46; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 9 hours

Total cost: $47.44

Past Lives

I have something a little different to show you today. While cleaning out an old laptop, Professor Boyfriend came across these photos of the first garments I ever sewed! I’m saying garments instead of clothes, well, because…see!

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The time: Halloween 2010. The show: Avatar: The Last Airbender. The place: our beloved first apartment, a studio where I kept my sewing machine in a skinny cabinet next to the stove, the one meant for cookie sheets. The face: mine! And little!!

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I’m writing this post from memories that are nearly a decade old. Some things I remember clearly, like buying the fabric from a discount store in East Cambridge called Sew-Low, one of those dark, chaotic, multi-story shops totally stuffed with unlabelled bolts of fabric (sadly since closed). Other details, not so much. I don’t remember how I worked out the “pattern pieces” – in quotes because I had never sewn a pattern before! How did I cut out a sleeve? Was it even remotely sleeve-shaped?

Okay, let’s rewind. I had recently sewn a tote bag, and thought the logical next step was to create a Kyoshi warrior costume.

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Sure.

I bought several yards of discount cotton (?) and merrily chopped it into, at a guess, only rectangles. The belt: for sure a rectangle. The skirt: a smaller rectangle over a larger rectangle. The sleeve ties: rectangles. Neck band: a rectangle, almost certainly not cut on the bias. Apparently I had clothes figured out.

I don’t remember whether I skipped the sleeve details because of time constraints, an acknowledgement of my own lack of experience, or – terrifyingly – some notion of practicality (did I think I would wear this again?).

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I’m laughing at myself now, but also, hey, good for Kid Lia. I didn’t know what I didn’t know!  I never changed thread color, and the belt, in particular, seems to have been hemmed one edge at a time. I guess I couldn’t sew a corner yet!

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I think the layered skirts had a shared elastic waistband. Sadly there’s no record of this costume without the brad-and-cardboard armor, but if I put elastic into the sleeves as these photos imply, I probably would have bodged some into the skirt as well.

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Despite the uneven hem of the bodice (so memorably awful that I can still picture it), the anarchic seam allowances with no finishes, and those sleeves that I still can’t riddle out, this Halloween folly bound me to sewing (with hoops of cardboard!). I don’t remember what I spent, exactly which fabric I used, or how long it took. I remember my pride, though! I wanted to make something, so I did! What can beat that feeling?

I don’t have any technical sewing advice. Just this: if you want to make something, you should!

NERD ALERT  – regular sewing enthusiasts can stop reading now. But! Which kind of bender do you think you would be? I’m politically aligned with moderate Equalists (why should the entire police force and government be benders? HMM?) but at the end of the day, pre-Korra, Earthbending please. ^_- Though to quote a certain Airbender –

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“Flameo, hotman!”   

Buzzwords

Hi all! What’s the buzz?

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Oh, is it the base of my Halloween costume? It is!

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One of these days I’d like to cut loose and make a COSTUME, we’re talking something that needs super specific underwear and maybe you have to crouch to get through doorways, but in the meantime (as in, as long as I stay in my beloved but closet-less apartment) I pull together costumes from daywear. You could be forgiven for thinking “This? A costume? No, no, sir” which, like, fair enough. Though there are more posterboard components for the night itself.

Anyway, I’m a Spelling Bee! (Professor Boyfriend, not pictured, is a Spelling Beekeeper. His veil is dotted with yellow and black striped capital letter “B”s.). Whereas I’m, basically, a nerdy bee? The sewn elements are a pair of Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts, which I covered thoroughly here, and a Seamwork Natalie blouse.

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Nothing much to say about the shorts except that they’d match the concept better in black, but I found this grey linen locally for $3/yard, so yeah, SOLD.

One of the best parts of working in an elementary school is that you can have serious in-depth conversations about Halloween costumes. During one of these, a six-grade visionary suggested I add suspenders to my outfit, which: yes! They really cinch the Poindexter vibe! It’s just suspender clips and black ribbon, so only aesthetic, no support. I actually already had these – a couple years ago I got smitten with the idea of suspenders just long enough to order the clips, and I wore them maybe twice before the day I paired them with culottes and a leotard and had to reenact The Great Escape when I wanted to pee.

The ‘bee-siest’ piece is this top. I’ve been thinking about the Natalie blouse for a while and I’m glad I finally made one! In recent months I’ve been glibly converting regular collars to camp collars and then moaning that they don’t sit right, but actually following directions to learn a new skill seems to have worked better, TELL EVERYONE. I think the trick is in the width of the facing. The plackets curl open close to, but not over, the edge of the facing. It mildly stresses me out that it’s just tacked down inside and not topstitched, but maybe that’s an important ingredient too?  

I did add three additional buttons between the four recommended ones. More stitching is better stitching.

This top certainly fits, but I should have picked my size more wisely. I sewed an 8 bust graded to a 10 waist. Thanks to the boxy fit it’s not tight anywhere, but the shoulders are too narrow.

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Ideally, the shoulder seam would sit 1/2” – 1” further out. I think I’ll retrace the pattern in a straight size 12. The good news is I know already that I won’t need to grade for my hips!

Oh, a note on plaid-matching – I remembered to match the side seams below the bust dart, but completely forgot about the sleeves. Oh, well. Though, it’s been a while since I’ve set a sleeve in the round, not to mention I French-seamed it, and it is sitting pretty smoothly! So it might be in the wrong place, it might not match the plaid, but I’m calling it good!

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I probably won’t wear these bits as an outfit together after Halloween (contrary to everything about my personality, I’m not actually putting effort into being a nerd), but separately, yes, for sure. Do you dress up for Halloween? And if you do, do you try to keep the pieces wearable in daily life, or do you go wild?

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Either way – Happy Halloween! 😈

Pattern: Afternoon Patterns Fern shorts

Pattern cost: NA

Size: D at waist, E at lower hip + thigh

Supplies: 2 yards of linen blend, Sewfisticated, $5.98; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread, rivet from stash

Total time: 4 hours

Total cost: $7.38

Pattern: Seamwork Natalie

Pattern cost: $3

Size: 8 at bust, 10 at waist

Supplies: 2 yards of Kaufman Sevenberry: Classic Plaid Twill Plaid Yellow, fabric.com, $24.24; thread, buttons from stash

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $27.24