A Return to Sewing

Did you think I had abandoned my cape?  After an unexpectedly long hiatus from sewing – due to busy holidays, travel, and things out of my control – I finally returned to my sewing room last week.  And although PINK is supposed to feature large in my 2022 sewing agenda, I first had “anything but pink” unfinished business from 2021.  Yes, that cape which I thought would be such an easy make…  I put the final stitches in it last week, only about 6 weeks after I imagined that would happen.

Hah… Those buttons are much more of a deep olive green in reality!
Can you tell it was freezing when I took these photos? This duo will be a good Fall ensemble, but it is not quite warm enough for the middle of Winter!

In all fairness, I should say whenever I must stop a project and then return to it weeks later, I always imagine that it has taken me much longer than it should have.  There is a “reacquaintance” factor in the time involved.  “Now, just where am I in this?  What’s the next step?  What did I do with the undercollar?  Is the lining already cut out?  If so, where is it?”  and on and on. Believe it or not, I tend to be rather organized about my sewing, leaving notes for myself – that sort of thing.  But still – the momentum needs to be rebooted, both for the project and for myself!

Enough of this babble. On to the cape – what worked, what didn’t, and what will I do differently, should I make this pattern again.  Regardless – the cape is ready to wear, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  

I had to pay extensive attention to laying out the pattern and matching plaids as best I could, knowing that this uneven plaid was going to play some tricks on me.  For the most part, I think I was fairly successful; at least there aren’t any glaring mismatches.  

I must have sewn, torn out and resewn the collar at least five times until I realized those stripes were never going to perfectly align.
I chose an olive green silk charmeuse from Emma One Sock Fabrics for the lining.

The arm slits are just lovely, both outside and inside:

The welts are continuous with the front princess seam.
The lining is brought right up to the inner edge of the welt and slip-stitched in place.

I was a bit concerned about the size of the collar.  This is a pattern from the 1970s, when collars tended to be a bit oversized.  I certainly did not want this cape to scream 1970s, so I was ready to pare down those collar points if necessary.  But I think the collar is perfect just the way it is.

I under-stitched the collar to control the edges.
I think the size of this collar is just right.
I also under-stitched the front edges of the lining. The entire cape is underlined with silk organza, which gave me the perfect anchor upon which to attach those stitches invisibly.

The one component of this pattern I did have trouble with was the separate closing tab.  The pattern, surprisingly, did not specify bound buttonholes.  Rather it called for machine or hand-stitched buttonholes.  I usually like to make bound buttonholes on wool fabric (there are exceptions, of course, but I did not look at this as one of those).  So I dutifully went at it.  But the narrow width of the tab made turning it, with bound buttonholes applied, nearly impossible.  No, make that totally impossible.  It was lumpy, uneven, and unacceptable.  But I was not going to give up on my bound buttonholes.  I decided to redraw the tab, using “squared-off ends” rather than rounded ends.  I knew that would give me more space to manipulate all the interior buttonhole bulk.  I also oriented the buttonholes horizontally instead of on an angle as shown in the lower pattern piece below.

The lower figure is the original tab as taken from the pattern. The upper figure is my redrawn tab.

Voila!  It worked, and I think it might even be a better look than the tab with the rounded ends.  

Not sure why my olive green enameled buttons look almost mint green in these photos.

So – what would I change next time?  I think I might add an inch or two in length.  I think the cape pictured on the pattern envelope looks longer than the reality of it.  

I also think I would taper the back hem of the cape to a gentle extended curve so that the back of the cape is about one to one-and-a-half inches longer than the front.  When I visualize that, I like what I “see.”  

Making this cape has reinforced my opinions about this type of outer covering – it is graceful and quietly elegant in this unfussy form, even in plaid.  Finishing up this project was necessary, but also, as it turned out, a successful start to the new sewing year.  


Filed under bound buttonholes, Capes, couture construction, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns, woolens

27 responses to “A Return to Sewing

  1. I can appreciate your trepidation with starting up with a sewing project after a hiatus. I am in the same predicament as I’ve not sewing anything since well before Thanksgiving!!! Therefore, I have nothing but praise for your successful completion of your divine cape. The matching of the plaids are perfect. The collar and the tab are beautifully finished and I agree with you that your adjustment to the shape of the tab works well with the pointy ends of the collar. Once again, you’ve done a masterful job.

  2. Janet Thornton

    So elegant! What a gorgeous combination….inspiring as always! Thank you, I am airtingbin my sewing room stuck on something frustrating, and this gave me a great lift.

  3. Diane

    Your sewing skills are amazing, as well as your willingness to tackle complicated projects. The results are stunning! Although I sew much simpler patterns, I am inspired by the beautiful clothes you create! I always look forward to your posts!

  4. Lisa Jones

    Beautiful job. Your placement of the plaid is right on

  5. Betty Morgan

    Wonderful. It really look great on you. Might have to make something like it. Hope you are able to get out a bit to wear it.

    • Thank you, Betty. That is certainly a conundrum at present – where to wear these clothes! Finding occasions to wear the pants has not been an issue. Hope springs eternal, however, and I look forward to wearing the pants with their cape at some point.

  6. This is such a lovely combo!
    I was waiting to hear your cape thoughts – a neighbor loaned me one since I have 1 arm in a sling for 3 months, and I’m surprised how much I like wearing it.
    Happy sewing in 2022!😊

  7. Gayle

    A beautiful job as always.

  8. Cindy Hawkins

    It is absolutely stunning, Karen! You did an excellent job with the matching of the plaids. The whole outfit is so smart looking! I totally understand about trying to get back into your routine, after “life” has gotten in the way. I am going through the same thing right now. Baby steps , getting back to speed!

    • Thank you, Cindy! Sometimes a “forced” break helps us be more enthusiastic when we return to our stitching. I hope that is the case for you!

      • Kerry

        Hi Karen! I’m a former seamstress, and did much of my dressmaking in my 20s, which as the late 80s to the early 90s. Had a baby, work, etc, I think the last thing I sewed and completed was a batman costume for my six year old son, making that 2001. Occasional curtains and other home decor, straight seams and minimal cutting. Your skill completely speaks for itself, had you any professional training? Also, I am curious if you’ve noted the number of young sewing enthusiasts frequenting your blog or possibly in other social media in the sewing field. I am always hopeful that fast fashion and the awful trend toward man made fabrics in the industry will someday become as unwelcome or at least as unfashionable as smoking. In my youth it was all about cottons, silks, linens and wools, while anything poly was shunned. Why is that not the case in this era of vegetarians, yoga and sustainability, if you wouldn’t buy plastic and styrofoam dishes for every day, why do you want to wrap yourself up in it every day? Organic? Why is fashion left out of that trend?

      • Hi Kerry, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. First of all, no, I have not had any professional training, but the classes I have taken with Susan Khalje have taught me so much. Also, in my late teens and early twenties, I started using Vogue patterns which were like mini sewing lessons in themselves. Especially the designer patterns gave excellent lessons in couture. Anyway, it is difficult for me to tell how many younger people frequent my blog. It seems whenever I allude to my age, I lose one or two followers, who probably decide they don’t want to spend their time with someone so old! I agree about the natural fabrics, which in my opinion, cannot be equaled. Fortunately there is a lot available in those realms which is so fortuitous for those of us who prefer the “real” thing! I appreciate hearing from you!

  9. Peggy Shaver

    As always, fascinating. Perfect cape looking sharp on beautiful Karen. You should get a lot of use from it. xoxo Peggy

  10. More fabulous-ness!!! I love these recent pieces Karen!


  11. Lovely, Karen. I can really relate to having trouble starting back up after a hiatus! Hope life is returning to a more normal routine now!

  12. So lovely! It looks great this length but I like your ideas about a longer version and with extra length at the back. I’ve been wanting to sew a cape for about 10 years. Perhaps I finally will this coming winter. Thanks for the inspiration

  13. Such lovely details. The fabric has that wonderful little stripe in it too!

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