Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vintage Cape Finished! Simplicity 6651

I finished this project back before Thanksgiving, and here it is blogged at last! My vintage cape from Simplicity 6651:

Voila! It's hard to get good photos lately, since the sun is around only once in a great while - so please excuse the somewhat blurry look here. I actually finished this a month ago - just in time to go see my grandparents for Thanksgiving. It's the photos that have been holding me up. I'm glad I finished it in time to see my grandma, because she was the first one to teach me to use a needle and thread, way back when I was seven. Somewhere I still have a quilt square that I hand sewed under her instruction. I'm glad I did finish the cape, because she had a few of her own to show me, made during the sixties. I really wish I had some photos - they are beautifully done. Next time I'm up there I will remember to take pictures.

This cape is the most complicated thing I've done so far, and I consider it a stepping stone to tougher projects - like a real coat! There are a few things I'm very proud of on this project:

1. Working with nubby, thick, loose-weave wool - not the worst, but not easy peasy either. I wish I had a serger for finishing the edges. I tried using bias tape, but the wool was just too thick for the narrow tape I had. I ended up zig-zagging everything, which I think will be fine. Anyone else know how to best finish the edges of such a bulky, loose material?

2. Drafting my own lining! - A cape is an easy project for doing your first self-drafted lining.

Here's some pictures of the inside:

I'm not sure whether it was necessary to draft the lining with facings all the way around, the way that I did. I've seen other capes around the web where the lining is cut the exact same as the outer fabric. But I didn't want that. Don't know why, just didn't. So I extended the center front of the pattern pieces so that they could fold back and create a facing along the opening, and then I drafted additional facings to curve around the rest of the cape. It was fairly simple, although time consuming! Also, I couldn't cut the facing as one long piece - even though it is continuous - because it would have been ridiculously long and odd shaped. So I divided it up into four pieces that were sewn together like so:

I know! It looks like a crazy mess, but it worked! Here's the facings all sewn to the lining:

After this was all done, it was just a matter of sewing the whole thing to the outer cape, right sides together. I left an opening in one shoulder seam of the lining that I used to turn the whole thing right side out. I didn't put a facing around the neck because I looked at a coat of mine for reference, and it didn't have one there. Besides, the wool would have been scratchy on my neck. The lining is just a cheap poly satin, but I think it works just fine.

3. Bound buttonholes - There several helpful blog tutorials on bound buttonholes out there. I referred to those written by two of my favorite seamstresses: Gertie and Tasia. I ended up doing something similar to Gertie's method, and I relied heavily on my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. They have not one, not two, but maybe five or six different methods. I won't post photos here for fear of copyright issues, but I will say their most helpful tip to me was to do your buttonholes factory-style or assembly line-style. Don't do one start to finish then start the next. Mark the placement of all of them at the same time. Then move on to the next step, and so on. It helps you maintain consistency, and it probably goes faster too.

Here's some photos of my process:

cutting out the pieces - you need two buttonhole lips per buttonhole, and one patch per buttonhole
I decided not to mess around with the nubby wool on the buttonhole lips. Instead, I used a black cotton from my stash for a little contrast. I think it would have been very difficult to use the wool, especially with how loose-woven it is. Also, while Gertie made her patches out of silk organza, I just used the same black cotton, cut on the bias so that it would stretch when I pulled it through the button window and pressed it flat. This worked fine for the thick wool, but might not work as well on other fabrics. Also, since the patches blend with the buttonhole lips, you don't have to worry if they show a tiny bit.

Interfacing the lips
Since my cotton was pretty thin, I interfaced it to add stability. I just wish I had thought to do this first before cutting them out. Oh well!

the lips are sewn right sides together with a basting stitch across the middle

and then pressed open
I measured the placement on my cape, and then put interfacing on the backside.

Then basted my patches onto the front side.

The interfacing on the back made it easy to mark the exact placement of the stitching:

I think it also helped me to get some control on this loose weave wool. So then, sewed around the rectangle and snipped out the middle:

Pulled the patch through to the wrong side and pressed flat:

the bias cut helps for getting it to lay flat here

And then sewed the lips on and all that. You know the drill, or if you don't you can consult Gertie. And then I sewed just a regular buttonhole on the facing on the backside. And I ended up with this:

A buttonhole which is highly mediocre and kinda gets lost in the thick weave of the wool. Oh well! I think two things could have made this better. 1) slip stitching around the opening like Karen recommends, which will keep the patch in place and out of site, and 2) a different fabric! I'm convinced that with a wool like this, things are only going to look so precise. The looseness of the weave just doesn't want to do better. It's not my fault, I'm pretty sure.

Okay, on to...

4. Working with faux fur - Not that hard! And I made the underside of the collar in the the same gold material as the lining, which pleases me to no end.

I followed Gertie's instructions for drafting a peter pan collar, so that my undercollar would not be exposed. Actually, I did a sped up version of Gertie's. Instead of drafting a whole separate piece for the undercollar, I just used the same pattern and then kinda trimmed off an 1/8 inch from the outside edges of the undercollar and called it good. Worked fine.

And there you have it! A finished cape.

Now I'm going to sell it. I know, how could I? But after all this effort, I look at the photos and think, "That just looks like a sack on me." I still love it. It's super comfy to wear in the car. It's warm. But it just doesn't look all that nice on me. Maybe it could be smaller. Maybe it's just not my style. But I think this one might be destined for my Etsy store. And all is not lost! I learned a lot in the process of making it. Plus, it can fund my next sewing venture. What do you think?


  1. It doesn't look like a sack, I think you look very beautiful, and very cute!!!
    love it !!!!

    1. Thank you! The Sew Retro community is giving such positive feedback, I guess I better reconsider my idea to sell it!