Making a cape definitely means that I’m a sewing super hero, right?
The moment I saw the Chic Cape, the latest PDF pattern release from Sew Over It, I had to sew it immediately. There was just something, well, so chic about it!
Plus, I had been sitting on this wonderful lilac slate wool boucle from Fabworks Mill. I’d scooped it up for half price when it was “Fabric of the Week”. It had originally been slated to become a second Eagle Jacket by Vanessa Pouzet (here is my first). But then Sew Over It’s Chic Cape “hit the shelves”. I had a few days off from work. It seemed like sewing destiny.
Fabric + Pattern = Perfection
This pattern and fabric combo turned out to be one of those match-made-in-heaven sewing pairings. I lined it with a gorgeous peacock blue silky smooth market mystery fabric (the selvedgde of which was marked “a touch of cashmere wool”). Basically, I could not be more in love with all the fabrics in my Chic Cape.
This Chic Cape was a totally unexpected make but I really love it. It makes me feel really put together for basically zero effort. I also really wish I had owned this while I was breastfeeding my son. It really is perfect for that!
We sewists spend a lot of time searching for cosy “secret pyjama” patterns but this takes it to an entire new level. Who needs secret pyjamas when you can have a chic blanket?
So, no regrets
But, having said this, I had some issues with the Chic Cape pattern.
Before I set out some of the problems I experienced, I want to say that I absolutely love many Sew Over It patterns. Their beautiful paper patterns come with clear and wonderful diagram form instructions. This year has, however, been the first time I have purchased Sew Over It PDFs, as opposed to paper patterns. And with both my Penny Dress and this Chic Cape (my only SOI PDFs to date), I have experienced difficulties with the quality of the instructions, although the Penny problems were very minor in comparison.
Sew Over It’s unique MO
I didn’t fully appreciate when I first bought a PDF pattern from Sew Over It, that they sell and market their patterns using a somewhat unusual modus operandi. From what I understand, the typical life cycle for one of their patterns is that it will first be made available to people who attend a class, specifically for sewing that garment. The next step is that it will be made available for sale as a PDF pattern. Then, at a later stage, a pattern will be made available as a “fully-fledged” paper pattern.
With both this pattern and the Penny dress, I jumped on the PDF because they were not available in paper version. When I first purchased a SOI PDF, I didn’t actually realize that the instructions would not be the same lovely, clear diagrams that accompany the SOI paper patterns.
Well now I know. I get it.
The PDF pattern instructions are not as fully formed as the instructions in a Sew Over It paper patterns. However, I would still expect them to be clear enough that you can sew the garment without major difficulty. After all, a desire for instructions is one of the reasons why sewists (i.e. me) love indie designers.
Of course I understand that this MO serves a purpose. It definitely enables Sew Over It to make their PDF patterns available to us eager customers much more quickly. And, of course, I’m yet to have a “dud pattern” from Sew Over It. They are always beautiful garments.
But, I have decided that Sew Over It’s PDF patterns are not for me. In future, no matter how much I want it now, I will wait for the realease of the full quality paper pattern.
Our sewing time is too precious to spend trying to muddle through instructions enraged, rather than revelling in the excitement of creator mode.
My Chic Cape specs
Let’s start with a few technicalities. My cape is a size 10. The fit is good, even slightly generous. It is rare that I fall within the second smallest size of a pattern, so people who are genuinely petite, may wish to check out the finished garment measurements before sewing.
I was able to squeeze my Chic Cape out of about 1.7 metres of my shell fabric. However, this was only possible because it was very wide (1.6m). Even with this width, I barely squeezed the pattern pieces in width-wise.
I also used my lining fabric for my undercollar and back facing pieces. I was concerned about both bulk and the extent to which my wool would fray in these hard-wearing areas.
Sewing with open weave wool
This was my first time sewing with an open weave wool. I used some of the techniques from this Seamwork article to get me through. In particular, a narrow zig zag stitch was all I could do with this wool without my machine trying to gobble it up like my 2 year old when he sees a Kinder Surprise. Due to the open weave, I also had to finish all seams, even though they would be enclosed.
Speaking of techniques, does anyone have any great ideas for marking dark, thick, open weave wool like this?
I diligently cut notches. However, once I realised I had to finish seams to prevent fraying and that I preferred to finish each side separately prior to sewing my seams so that I could get the final seam to sit flatter, all my precious notches were gobbled up by my overlocker. Before overlocking I put pins in the fabric to point to my notches, but they fell out during the course of sewing. None of my pens or chalk were visible on this dark and fluffy fabric. In other words, I ended up notchless and having to do lots of referring back to pattern pieces. Any surefast marking techniques I am forgetting about?
This notch problem led me to make an annoying error. A cape isn’t a garment I’m familiar with. As a result, I found the side panel pattern piece a bit confusing. It wasn’t evident to me which side would connect to the back and which to the front. This led me to attach one of the panels to the front piece incorrectly so I wound up with two right sides of my cape lining. So I had to flip one of them around and sew one of my side seams exposed. Thus the lovely clean finish of the Chic Cape was compromised. By my own incompetence.
But it’s the inside and I’m ok with that.
PDF Pages – Give me more…
Before I launch into my real gripes about the Chic Cape pattern, I have to point out that the Chic Cape is a biiiiig PDF – 54 pages. But I’m not complaining about that, I knew how long it was when I decided to purchase it (cuz must-have-that-gorgeous-elegant-timeless-cape-right-now).
The one thing I want to whinge about is that it should have been even longer.
Yep, you read that right.
Sew Over It PDFs are still laid out so that you really have to stick all (or almost all) of the 54 pages together. I much prefer it when PDFs are laid out so that, even if there are more pages, you only have to stick a smaller number of discrete sections together (e.g. 10 pages for the front piece, 15 for the back etc). Many designers now set out their PDFs like this, such as By Hand London and Jennifer Lauren Handmade. It is all about accuracy. No matter how careful am, by the time I reach the final row of sticking 54 pages together, I simply cannot get both marking points on each page to line up perfectly. So I end up with inaccuracies built into the pattern from the outset.
It’s all about the instructions
Alright, let’s turn to those instructions.
My main problem is that the photos accompanying the instructions were poor. At the outset it is explained that, due to the weight of the fabric in the photographs, the shell fabric in the photos has been entirely interfaced. With black interfacing. But the lining used in the photos is also black. So, at crucial times, you end up squinting at black-on-black, in grainy home-printer quality photos, trying to understand what you are looking at.
The main part where I struggled was with the instructions for hemming and attaching the lining and cape together. Prior to this step, I was sailing through this project. Humming happily and dreaming of walking down the street as a caped crusader. Then, the instructions for the hem and lining attachment hit me like kryptonite (ok, ok, I’m done with the super hero thing now… )
I spent longer trying to figure out this step than sewing the entire rest of the cape. I simply couldn’t understand what was happening in the instructions. The black-on-black photography problem really came into play.
A myriad of minor confusions left me lost. I got lost even at the pressing stage (step 23) – how was I supposed to continue pressing along lining when the lining is much shorter than the shell – do I press both at 4cm? What do I do where the lining and shell meet?
Also, the instructions don’t actually tell you to sew your cape to your lining at any point. You go from pinning them together (step 25) to them already having been sewn and turned the right way out (step 26).
There is also no explanation that there is enough room for you to turn the lining in and out through the armhole. If you are not familiar with lined outerwear sewing techniques, it is not necessarily evident that the armhole is big enough for this.
I don’t mean to be nit picky. Usually I would let little things like this go. After all, I can read between the lines when required. But the combined effect of all these little things was that I muddled about for hours unable to figure out the way forward.
So, my way forward…
In case anyone finds this post after searching “how to hem and attach lining of Sew Over It Chic Cape”, below is the step by step of how I did it. My plan has never been to offer “tutorials” on this blog. So many better sewists with better photography skills already do that.
But my aim is to try to help out sewists like me. So on this occasion, it seems warranted.
Another disclaimer is that it is quite possible that what I describe below is actually precisely what the Chic Cape instructions tell you to do. I just can’t understand them.
How I hemmed and attached the lining of my Sew Over It Chic Cape
So here goes: this is how I attached my cape to my lining along the hem.
- With right sides together, I lined up the raw edges of my cape and lining. I sewed them together, but only between the seams connecting the front piece to the side panel (roughly along the pink line). I used a 1.5cm seam allowance because I actually liked the longish length of the cape and didn’t want to take too much off.
- Then, I turned the lining through the arm hole so that my lining and cape were wrong side together.
- I pressed along the seam I had just sewn. This gave me a hem of about an inch, although this was uneven in some places due to distortions in my cutting (my own fault – this fabric was tricky to cut on carpet. Also, I should have cut each piece individually, rather than as a pair).
- I then turned my concentration to the two front pieces of my cape. This is the part where the lining and cape were not yet attached. I lined up where my lining and cape pieces would need to sit in order for the arm holes to line up correctly. I then folded everything into position and gave it a good press.
- I then tried it on to check that I was happy with how it sat and that my two front pieces were the same length.
- Then I turned it back through an armhole until it was it was right-sides together.
- Next, I pinned along the pressing line I had just made in the lining. I then sewed along this line for a few inches, just so that I could machine-sew a bit closer to the centre front of my cape. I then finished the seam along most of the length of my hem, trimming down where I had some excess of my shell fabric.
- Then, I turned the cape wrong-sides together, through the sleeve (a final time). Then I hand-sewed from the pink clip in the above photo to the edge.
I hope that might be of some use to someone, somewhere, one day…
I’m not sure if it’s the right way to do it, but it worked for me!
What a cape-r!
In the end, I really adore my Chic Cape. It is so cosy and warm. I’m now quite curious to learn whether or not a cape actually makes a practical outerwear garment! But, of course, we’re having an unexpected burst of Indian summer here!
In addition, if it hadn’t been for the hem, I would have said that the Chic Cape was actually quite easy. Until this step, the only thing that I had had to be careful with was managing an open weave wool and handling some bulky seams around the collar.
But, you live, you learn. I have now learned that I prefer to wait for the wonderful paper releases of Sew Over It’s patterns. And I have a million times respect for all you talented sewists out there who can breeze through a sewing project without needing instructions.
Unfortunately that’s not me. Yet.
Now excuse me, I have a blanket – sorry Chic Cape – to snuggle up in…