I choose it because I am not yet confident enough to tackle coats, jackets and tailoring and the pattern really appealed to me. It isn't overly roomy like some capes and it's based on a vintage pattern, so I hope it will do double duty with jeans everyday and a pencil skirt for smarter occasions.
This is my second digital pattern (the first was So Zo vests). Due to the simple shape I thought it would be easy to stick together and fortunately I was right. I'm really glad I tried digital patterns. I like getting something pretty much instantly on the printer and the range of designs available. (Just to be correct Tilly & The Buttons Coco dress/top pattern was my third digital pattern, this was finished and blogged first as it was needed for a set date).
I bought the fabric from Oxfam. It's been quite a puzzle to know how to handle it. It came with an Italian label with fibre content listed as 45% PA, 37% WO,15% VI, 03% WS. So I gather there is some wool and viscose in there but I don't know what PA and WS are. Anybody? (Whenever I put a question like that out there I'm always convinced the answer will be obvious and I will seem really stupid!) Anyhow it's very thick and warm, double sided, pretty firm but with a little widthways give. I took a chance and machine washed it on a cool wool wash with wool wash liquid and it turned out fine. I hope no-one is going to tell me I definitely shouldn't have done that!
I choose the navy side as my right side, as sadly I look terrible in most greys (for the same reason I didn't make the cape reversible, which would have been possible with this fabric). If you follow the suggestions, you would use two fabrics - a woollen outer layer and a nice slippery fabric for lining, but this material is already really warm.
As I didn't use lining the instructions weren't very relevant to me. I read them and they look perfectly clear. I may make the cape again (lined) for autumn and then I will be able to say for sure. But there are only four pieces and five buttonholes so I think it's a pretty easy sew (and you can also use buckles instead for a more casual look).
The cape sat cut out for a while as I fretted over what to do with the seams. Neither the Internet or my sewing books provided an answer I was happy with. I made different types of seam samples but felt they were too bulky/rigid for the shape which needs a bit of flop to look right. In the end I took the easy way with the shoulder seams and overlocked them after sewing and pressing (in theory I could have left them as I don't expect the fabric to fray but apparently I can no longer leave a raw edge inside my handmades).
For finishing the long edge I finally decided to try to separate the fabrics. This took ages as they appear to have been bonded together with superglue.
I used embroidery scissors at first but I made a little cut in the fabric, so I tried a seam ripper and much careful wiggling. Every now and then I still caught a nick in the fabric. Next I tried simply tearing the layers apart but was too worried about the fabric distorting, as the pattern relies on nicely shaped edges. So it was back to the seam ripper. It was frustrating as I could see this pattern and fabric together had a lot of potential but I just couldn't figure out how to do the step without the risk ruining the fabric. The hardest bits were the centre fronts as I had to separate much deeper to enable me to insert interfacing between the two layers.
If anyone knows a foolproof way of separating fabric layers please, please comment below. Other than that, I cannot recommend a fabric such as this if you are going to separate the layers (although I guess some fabrics may be bonded less firmly. Order a sample!).
This is how the cape looked when I had separated then folded in all the edges:
Then I couldn't decide whether to top stitch the edges or hand finish them. The lazy part of me really wanted to top stitch, but it would have made a slight ridge all the way around the edge. Since I had put so much effort in already I hand finished the entire cape. My sewing would be a lot quicker if I did less hand finishing.
I finally got to grips with my automatic buttonhole foot making this cape. I had two problems, one was if I sewed with the edge of the item at the back of the machine the buttonhole foot catches on the ridge. I solved this by turning the fabric around (I know - "No shit, Sherlock!", but I am used to a four step buttonhole that you can stick anything under any old way and it always came out perfectly). Two, sometimes the needle would start to sew across the buttonhole too soon. Apparently the smallest tap on the buttonhole lever that you pull down causes the machine to think the end of the buttonhole has been reached, and I was accidentally knocking it the tiniest bit occasionally when guiding the fabric through. So much to learn!
The buttons are Italian from the newly discovered mini treasure trove that is The Crafty Patch. I am not sure if you can see, they are a kind of squashed circle the imperfection of which really appeals to me.
I attached them by making a thread shank using a method from this book. My mum had this book when I was little, but I got mine from a charity shop for £1.99. It was published in 1978 but is still the first book I turn to when I need some guidance - techniques don't change much and although I love the Internet for help sometimes I just like to sit with a page open and really absorb the method. If you see one of these books and you are a sewer, snap it up - you won't regret it!
Despite struggles with the fabric, I am really pleased with my cape. I think I will wear it a lot, some real life woodland strolling would be nice :)
Finally, there's quite a bit of fabric left over - enough for another garment. I don't want to waste it but neither can I contemplate all that separating again. If anyone has an idea for a pattern that won't require it I would love to know. I've thought of a jacket with bound edges (Chanel type) but nothing else really springs to mind.
Also, if you have worked with similar fabric yourself, how did you finish the seams? Thank you!
Happy sewing, 'til next time!