Cape? Shawl? Wrap?

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I’m not going to claim that this is all my own design because I know I saw the original on Instagram. The problem is I can’t remember who posted it!  When I went back a few days later to look at it again I realised I’d forgotten who posted it and I couldn’t find it amongst the previous posts of the most likely candidates. Sad times.

A bit of an internet search for ‘cape’ or ‘shawl’ only seemed to come up with images of Superman and cosplay, or something suitable for your granny so I had to work it out for myself.

Luckily I’d made a bit of a mental note of the basic details (I hoped) which was (I thought) 1m70 of a fabric that was up to 150cms wide. It was basically a rectangle with two square holes cut out of it for your arms to go through…and that was it! The positioning of the armholes down from the top edge determined how much of a ‘collar’ you got, and how much hung down at the back.

While I was at the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace at the beginning of October I scoured the stands for some suitable fabric, something with a slightly drapey quality, not too thick, not stretchy, and not too expensive if it all went horridly wrong. I saw two or three fabrics I liked including a boiled wool at £20 per metre but in the end settled on a really nice medium-weight herringbone wool/mix in pretty soft grey tones from Fabrics Galore for a more reasonable £14 per metre.

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close up of the herringbone tweed, slightly bigger than actual size.

I started by using my own ‘cross-back’ measurement-this is the point between the folds of flesh where your arms and back meet, the back of your armpit really, it isn’t from the outside edges of your arms across your back. This is to start establishing where the two armholes should go, how far apart they are and how far down from the top edge. I also toyed with the idea of enabling it to have a hood so I made a little not-to-scale toile to see how this might work.

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Mini-Doris modelling for me

I wasn’t convinced though-it looked like something Hermione Granger would wear while wizarding so I parked that idea, for now at least. I made a little paper pattern to work out the position of the armholes so that I could plot them on the actual fabric.img_0162

Apart from the 15cms away from the CB fold (which represented half my X-back measurement) the figures were an educated guess and as you can see I initially thought I’d have square armholes. I soon changed these because I didn’t think they’d hang very well, I made them more arch-shaped instead.img_0097

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I cut a template of the size I wanted less a seam allowance because once I’d put the binding on the hole would get bigger and I didn’t want them too massive. in addition to cutting these out I shaped the four corners using my pattern master. img_0121

I knew I wanted to bind the edges but I hadn’t got anything in my stash (whaaaat!!) to do the job. I had some double-satin ribbon which I tested but it didn’t go around the curves well enough.

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test of the double-satin ribbon, right colour but too wavy

October 15th was Sew Saturday (stick with me here) so I decided to hop on the train to Brighton, two hours each way, to my favourite fabric shop, Ditto in Kensington Gardens. Amongst other purchases while I was there I bought a lovely soft baby-cord in a very pale duck egg blue, I only bought 50cms because I was going to use my tried and tested square-into-bias-binding technique. You can see how to do this in a previous post by Wendy Ward here.

So after I’d made all the bias (I’d calculated I needed a minimum of 7 metres!) I stitched it all around the edge and then under stitched it so it went nice and flat. The really daft thing at this point is that I hadn’t cut the armholes out so when I did, and was actually able to try it on properly, I found the front corners were much too long for my little legs!! Damn and blast! I had to take off the binding to recut the curves to a better line which didn’t hang down so much.img_0124

In the grand scheme of things it hardly matters, it’s just that I like to get things right first time, I shouldn’t be too much of a perfectionist especially given that I was largely making it up as I went along!

Anyway, once I’d redone this I folded and top-stitched the raw edge on the binding under. I did the same around the armhole edges too.

So that’s basically it, ready to wear…

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among the artefacts at the V&A museum

Overall I’m pleased with my cape/shawl/wrap/whatever and I’ve had some lovely comments already when I’ve worn it. It will be good to layer-up with thicker woollies as it gets colder. I feel a bit like WonderWoman in it when the wind blows but it’s fun and, apparently, stylish and it cost me under £30 to make. You could easily make it smaller with a shorter length of fabric, a fabric like boiled wool wouldn’t even need edging, or you could cut it out with pinking shears for a very simple effect. Also, I didn’t pursue the hood idea (buttons or giant press-studs?) and a couple of pockets might be useful too. It isn’t perfect and I’m not mad about the slightly square collar edge so I may change that to a softer rounded edge like the hem…or then again, I might not. I see it as a wearable toile and for a first attempt it’s wearable and I’m happy with that….it’s good enough!

Happy Sewing

Sue xx

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