costuming · Hers · Sewing

My Cape Caper – (about one year ago – this was actually supposed to be my first post!)

Dictionary.com’s definition of caper would have you imagining that I am wearing this cape and jumping around like a crazy person.  Not so much.  I guess that this post is more of the adventure that I had in the making of this cape.  But it is kinda fun to say Cape Caper, come on admit it.

This particular adventure started when I decided that I would start walking home from work. It is about a 4 mile walk home, which isn’t bad.  I have a lovely designer (GoGo Gear) motorcycle jacket that Partner had gotten for me a couple of Christmases ago.  This jacket has LOTS of retro-reflective parts on it. This is important because of the low light and dark conditions that I would be walking home in.  The problem with this awesome moto-jacket is that by the time that I get home, I am a sweat-ball.  I feel gross and disgusting and the jacket sticks to me.  So, I started thinking about a good way to prevent all that sweatiness and came up with the idea of a cape.

I have a love of historical fashion esthetic.  I would need a pattern and some fabric. Enter Amazon.com… 

This pattern is Tailor’s Guide Patterns – Lady’s Cape Pattern with options for hooded cape or Kindsale cloak. My thought was that I would make the Kindsale hood and be able to put it down flat when it wasn’t needed and then use it as a hood when needed.  I also need the hood to be large enough to go over my bike helmet in case I was riding my bicycle that day.  This pattern seemed to fit all my needs.  Since I would be riding my bike in it sometimes, I would be making a shortened version of this cape.

The fabric (also ordered from Amazon.com) is  Eco-PUL waterproof PUL fabric print 56″ wide in “London Plaid”.  It is typically used as diaper cover fabric.  It is very light weight and waterproof.  I loved the plaid design.  This fabric isn’t very warm though.  I went to the local JoAnn’s fabric store and purchased a red flannel that matched the red in the PUL fabric, to line the cape with. While at JoAnn’s I also picked up really big hook and eye type closures. After I got home, I washed the flannel in HOT water.  I wanted to get any shrinking out of the way up front.  This garment is going to be used often and will definitely need to be washed on occasion.

I wanted to incorporate some retro-reflective properties onto this cape as well, but I didn’t want it to mess up the esthetics of the cape.  Back to Amazon.com to find some Pearl .5″ Wide Reflective Cord Piping, 5 yd, Black . This looks plain black in normal lighting conditions but it “lights up” when vehicle lights illuminate it.  Hopefully this makes me more visible.  Now I was ready to begin.

When the pattern arrived I was surprised to see that it came in two pieces and needed to be taped together before I was able to use it.  It was fine, I had just never had a pattern like that before.  It was on nice heavy paper instead of the lightweight tissue paper of commercial patterns.  It was easy to position and tape together.  With Partner’s help I measured from the base of my neck to the bottom of my bum.  (I didn’t want it to be longer for when I am riding my bicycle) Then I took a pencil and marked the pattern with my desired alterations.  This was my first time ever, working with plaids.  I had a general idea that they should be lined up and the pattern was mostly all one piece.  Before cutting the fabric, I matched the pattern at the selvage edges and pinned all along the fabric.  Then I laid the pattern on the fabric and cut out the main body of the cape.  The hood patterns were printed within the body of the main cape pattern.  To be able to use this pattern piece without cutting a big hole in the main pattern I needed to trace the hood pattern.  I keep freezer paper on hand for such occasions (and to use in some quilting applications).  After reading through the construction instructions, I had decided to use the ‘small’ hood.  Both hoods are generously sized, but for this cape the smaller of the two would work better. It would still be large enough to pull up over my bicycle helmet from Bandbox.

After cutting out the main fabric and the lining fabric, I carefully read the instructions and then proceeded to do things my way.  I pinned all the markings for the tucks around the neckline and sewed those (as per the pattern). Then I figured that because I was incorporating the retro-reflective piping into the hem I should do the neckline first.  This was in direct contradiction to the pattern instructions (of course).

The next step in my master plan was to fold up the hem in the main fabric, then I could add the retro-reflective piping to the hem.  After it was added, it was pretty easy to fold up the edge of the red flannel lining fabric.  I also added some of the piping to the neck edge.  Walking home in the dark, the more piping the better!

When I got to the construction of the hood, it wasn’t what I expected, but is was definitely interesting.  To construct the small hood, I needed to fold both pieces of fabric in half, separately, and seamed up the back.  Then, with wrong sides together, the seams are opened up and sewn together.  In a kinda ‘back-to-back’ sorta fashion.  Then turn the lining over the hood, thus the right-side/out-side is actually on the inside and the lining is on the outside.  This way I could turn back the outside edge of the hood in over the lining and stitch it down.  Then I could turn the hood right way round and attach it to the cape.  At this stage, I was pretty close to being done.  There was a final step to the hood.  It was to pleat and area at the back of the hood.  I really couldn’t figure out this part, so I left it undone.  This left the hood in a very pointy-point.  I then sewed three of the large hook-and-eyes as closures down the front of the cape.

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Upon wearing the cape the next day I discovered that the hook at the neck remained closed alright, but the other two – not so much.  I headed back to the fabric store and got some braid closures, these have been wonderful and very functional.

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The second thing that really bothered me about the cape was the very pointy point of the hood.  It just sent the wrong message about me.  After some discussion with my co-worker and the knitting group ladies we came up with an alternate plan for the hood.  I poked in the point and sewed a straight seam across the fold.  This was a most welcome improvement!

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