Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sew Weekly: Into the West

The good thing about unpicking very, very old costumes (circa 2005, before I can even pretend to say I was sewing) is that back then, I had no idea what tension or stitch length were, so I'm essentially picking apart a costume held together with basting stitches.

It's rather wrinkly from being in storage for so long. 

The bad thing about unpicking very, very old costumes is that for some unknown reason, I thought it was a good idea to topstitch seven times in some areas, albeit with a basting stitch.

I would've ironed/steamed it better, except that it's going back into storage to wait for December.
And yes, I'm wearing jeans with it for pictures...not very elven!

The excellent thing about old costumes is apparently, I totally scored on fabric since I picked up 3 yards of very nice 60" wide gray wool in the remnant bin, and probably paid no more than $10 for it.

The hem is longer in the front. I wish I could say it's because I tend to catch hems with my heel and
I took that fact into account, but it's really just because that's how it ended up. 

The sad thing is that I saw fit to cut up that yardage and make into a very poorly constructed and totally unfitted "cape" of three gores. And I mean cape in the loosest sense of the word -- it was really just a large, uneven pentagon that had a necklace sewn to it to make it stay closed. Even then, the weight of the wool was too much for the poor thing and eventually the lobster clasp broke.

Capes are so nice for twirling!

The practical thing about this cape is that since it is wool, it's very warm. And of course, I had the brilliant idea of working on it this week when it was in the eighties. Thank goodness Cecily was available as a body double. As it was, trying the cape on several times was nigh unbearable.

You can kind of see what I mean here about the three triangles sewn together thing. 

The only reason why I brought this cape back out to work on was this week's Sew Weekly challenge: "Worn Out West," i.e. looking to Western wear for inspiration. Well, me being who I am, I had to interpret this in the geekiest way possible: west = sailing across the Sundering Seas = elves in LOTR. So, rather than breaking out the ditsy florals and button-up shirt patterns, I opted to remake my old cape in anticipation of the movie coming out in December. I know, it's The Hobbit, not LOTR, and Galadriel certainly didn't give Thorin's band camouflaging elven cloaks, but I'm going to want something warm to go over my hobbit maid costume (which is done, btw, but I haven't taken any pictures yet) when I line up for the midnight showing.

I think this hood is just the right size for staying on my head, but not looking out of proportion to the rest of the cape.

Like I said before, the first incarnation of this cape was really just three isosceles triangles sewn basted together, with no hem and or collar or anything. It didn't really hang right since, you know, shoulders. It would've worked well had I been, say, a literal beanpole. So, with Cecily's help, I reshaped the top seams and did some creative pleating to help it sit better over my shoulders. I also added on a hood from the remnants that I had thoughtfully saved and carried with me through multiple moves (at least six times, through four cities, over a period of seven years -- that's some serious stashing commitment right there!). I had just enough to squeeze out this hood, and it's not nearly as long and pointy as the ones from the movie, but that's fine. I think those look a little silly, anyway. To close the cape, I cut off the sad necklace and replaced it with a more suitable clasp from Jo-Ann's.

You can see the weird pleat I added to make it sit on my shoulders.
Also, I actually used one of my machine's decorative stitches on the hood!
Annnddd...I just noticed I need to do a better job brushing off that pink chalk. 

Fabric: 3 yards of very scratchy, very warm gray wool...maybe I'll get around to lining it one day. Hah! As if, seeing as how this is just a costume cape.
Notions: A clasp
Techniques: None, apparently, since I just winged it the first time around, and even the second time around!
Hours used: The first time I made this, I remember it taking me the better part of a day, probably around eight hours. This time, it took about four hours to undo and fix my mistakes and add a hood.
Will you make it again? No need for more capes like this. But capes not based on isosceles triangles? In all likelihood, if I'm being honest with myself, yes.
Total cost: The clasp raised the price to $13.
Final thoughts: If only it were socially acceptable to wear long, flowing capes on an everyday basis! I love the feeling of having it flapping around and behind me, even if it does make me more susceptible to being sucked into plane engines. And gray goes with everything. And if I were playing hide-and-seek at night on the UCSD campus (which is mostly concrete buildings), this cape would be excellent camouflage.

If only I were standing among the graceful arches of Rivendell, and not just in front of a bay window in my apartment complex!

This cape definitely made for a nice break from knit-stashbusting. Sometimes, you just need to break up the cake-baking with something entirely frivolous! Don't worry, though, I'll be back to real clothing real soon!


  1. I'm with you on wishing long capes were socially acceptable on an everyday basis. There a a couple of bright red ones in a movie adaptation of the Jane Austen novel "Persuasion" that I would love to make for myself, but I have a feeling that it wouldn't work to try to fit into an everyday wardrobe, at least not without my co-workers worrying about me.

    1. Oooh, I know the red capes you're talking about! Those are definitely droolworthy, but I can also see how they don't work so well for everyday wear.

  2. I love the update on the hood! It looks great.

    1. Thank you! And coincidentally, it rained yesterday. Not that I wore the cape out into the rain or anything, but still.

  3. Awesome! I love the addition of the decorative stitching. I can't wait for the Hobbit!!

    1. December is such a long time away, isn't it? And I was thrilled to be able to actually crank the knob over to stitch #18!

  4. Oooh decorative stitching!! :D Great clasp find too - very elvish looking! You would fit right in at Rivendell! :)

  5. Mrs. Chan! I just read your comment on my blog. It's SO wonderful to hear from you, and I feel honored that you still remember me!

    What a small world! How do you know Pauline? She and her husband, Dean, are great people, and have been wonderful friends to me.

    I knew you are a great baker, but I didn't know that you are also a great seamstress!

    You're amazing! You know, capes are going to be "in" this winter. I think a red one would look stunning on you.

    1. Anna, I definitely remember you! Dean used to be roommates with my husband when they were in college, so that's how I know them. Say hi to them for me!

      I've actually got enough "normal" capes that I don't think I need another one, but gosh, a red one sounds like it would be darling!

  6. I love your take on Into the West! Really, what other conclusion could you have come to? And right before I read this I saw a bunch of DIY costumes for Toad, from Mario Bros. Perfect dorky internet time.

    1. Haha it was the first thing I thought of! I think I might have seen the same Toad costume DIY, too...

  7. Not a bad cape actually - the pointed hem makes me giggle a little when I look at the second twirling photo. =) And I think I've done that type of shoulder alteration before.

    I needed to make some witch capes for the Shakespeare production I recently worked on, and I managed to geek them up by using a Jedi robe pattern (minus the hood) as my base. And guess what! - the designer gave me sheer curtain fabric to use. I thought of you, hehe.

    1. That pointy hem is one of those things that I might fix if I ever get up the gumption, but for now it's not really noticeable unless I'm twirling! I love that you used a Jedi robe pattern to make capes from curtains! I've actually never made a Jedi robe before...

  8. Fabulous! What a great twist on the challenge! I was tempted to go this direction, but had the perfect super-Western fabric that needed to be made up. I don't think I have time to make something for the Hobbit premier here in Welly, (and it's weirder somehow since I'm so close, kwim?).

    You're so lucky that your 'didn't know about tension and stitch length' = basting stitches. A huge swath of my super early things are sewn with absolutely miniscule stitches that are a massive pain to unpick. Not fun.


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