You can see that I persist in sewing hopeful spring/summer clothing despite the weather's just as persistent insistence that it is not warm enough to wear them. I had just finished my first attempt of 1970s-era Butterick 3953 before Mr Rat and I decided to go visit the Red Butte Gardens in north-eastern Salt Lake City this past Saturday. Since it has been too dark, too stormy, and too busy to take photos for most of the month, Mr Rat suggested I wear my new blouse and he could photograph it during our exploration of the garden. It was a hopeful suggestion, but most of the time I was bundled up in my homemade grey wool cape and my long brown skirt and the only time my blouse saw the very weak sunshine was when I took off my cape long enough to capture the few photos above.
We enjoyed our trip to the gardens, and seeing the first bulbs blooming in the midst of the grey and brown expanses of grass and soil and bare branches. I also enjoyed wearing my new blouse, and foresee it making many reappearances during Me-Made-May and afterwards, as the weather warms up. I like the fit, the ruffles at the bottom of the sleeves, and the scooped neckline. The hardest part of sewing it was turning the long drawstring inside out. That took me quite a while of patient poking with a bamboo skewer. And the next hardest part was sewing the bias binding casings on straight for the sleeve elastic and the drawstring waist. The rest of the blouse was quite simple: it has no darts, just a little easing at the sides of the bust, and all the shaping comes from the casings. I did the buttonholes by hand, used thrifted buttons (I have so very many of these white buttons! You will probably see them on a lot of my summer sewing ahead this year), and added white cotton crochet lace trim by hand to the neckline, the bottom hem, and the ends of the sleeves. I like the crochet trim a great deal: it is delicate and simple. I try to buy a few spools of it whenever trims come on sale at Hobby Lobby and I happen to be near a store. Then I pre-wash it, since it is prone to shrinking, and iron it before I sew it onto my chosen fabric. This particular fabric is a thrifted piece of seersucker in a nice shade of grey-blue.
Altogether, I am pleased with my first attempt at this pattern. I think I might change the slope of the shoulders just a little, so that the neckline is a little tighter, but otherwise I don't think it needs any adjustments.
Has spring sprung in your part of the world yet? (Or autumn, for the lower hemisphere). Do you ever sew out of season, just because you are looking forward to the next one a little more than the one you are in? Winter feels like it has been going on for such a long time.
I feel like I have a few things to apologize for: first, that I've been somewhat absent around here. I mentioned in my last post that January was tumultuous and I was sick for a rather long portion of it. Second, that my new tweed cape-jacket made from McCall's 7291 is so wrinkly in these photos! I tried steaming it with my iron but the wrinkles didn't want to come out. I'm going to take it to the dry-cleaners to get it professionally pressed when my husband takes his suits to be cleaned, but I wanted to take some photos of it, and we haven't made it to the dry-cleaners yet. Hopefully we'll go in the next week or two, and the next time you see this jacket on the blog, it will look much more crisp. And third, I apologize that the quality of the photos is varied. By the time we walked to the park with Gia to take these pictures most of the sunshine we were hoping to photograph in had already disappeared. So only a few of these photos have even a little sunshine or warmth or color in them, and some of the photos are very cool-toned indeed, and even a little blurry (although that can be interesting, sometimes).
This project was a somewhat frustrating one, and I have to admit that at least twice I thought of giving up and not finishing it. But I'm glad I pressed on, because I like how it turned out very much. The tweed is also very warm, even if it wasn't very nice to me while I was sewing it. I used McCalls 7291 (which is still in print, I believe---I think it got released a year or two ago) as a base for what I wanted. I didn't like the way it is drafted on the envelope to hang open in the front, so when I was cutting out the fabric I widened the front pieces and the front facings so that they would overlap. I also decided I didn't want to add the collar onto my version, since the tweed is heavy and scratchy and I thought it would be easier to wear scarves with with my jacket (as I did here), or a collared blouse where the collar could peek over the top, without the collar getting in the way. The tweed is from a church rummage sale I attended with a friend some years ago, and the facings are cut from a scrap of flannel leftover from one of my husband's sewing projects. Some of you longtime readers might recognize the tweed from a Christmas present I made for my husband three years ago. I used all of the remaining fabric to make my jacket, and it was not only wrinkly, but badly-behaved. It liked to move about while I was sewing it, it was too thick to make rolled hems, and it frayed all over. My solution to these problems was to only sew the main seams on machine and hand-sew everything else. I top-stitched the seams by hand so they would stay flat and fray less. Then I hand-stitched bias binding (also thrifted---I was lucky to find two packages of the same 'seal' brown I used on all the visible parts of the jacket, and I used some green for the arm-holes, which are hidden by the cape-sleeves) to all of the edges, which made dealing with them so much easier than trying to wrestle the tweed under the sewing foot any more than was necessary. It took a while, but I am pleased with the result. Even though up close it is apparent that the bias tape is hand-sewn, at least it looks even, and it gives the jacket more visual interest. I finished the buttonholes by hand as well, and used some brown tortoise-shell style buttons from my stash that were probably harvested off of one of my husband's old and worn out jackets.
Once I get this jacket pressed, I can imagine wearing it a lot. The fit is good---close but not tight, and it looks nice with full skirts and dresses, like my flannel dress I'm wearing with it here. I think the McCall's pattern is better used as a base for drafting than sewn the way it was designed. But I may well use it again if I come across the right piece of fabric. I like the flared cape-sleeves, which easily accommodate puff sleeves worn underneath, yet are long enough to keep my whole arm warm.
I am grateful it is February because we are that much closer to Spring. I hope you are well, wherever you are, and enjoying the beauty around you, whether it is the greenery of the south or the stark white and grey of the north.
This past Sunday when we took our morning walk to the monastery I wore my recently completed Simplicity 8131 bow-necked blouse, one of my long cotton-polyester broadcloth Simplicity 7880 skirts, my black wool vest, and since it was very cold and windy I wore my grey wool cape, too.
Mr Rat and Gia and I were charmed by the many squirrels taking advantage of the recently wilted clover to find all their hidden stashes of nuts. The wind scudded big white clouds across the sky behind the pink church with its beautiful bell-tower, and the heavy, sleepy flowers nodded in every rush of wind that sounded so much like the waters of the ocean distantly roaring.
After the briefest day or two of sunshine, rain and cold have returned for the rest of February, and I have been grateful to wear my new warm, grey woolen cape. Unfortunately the wind and the rain have made photographing it difficult, and I was happy to get even a few photos despite the dim light and the hard wind that was pulling my hair every direction during our walk.
This is my second version of Vogue 8959. This time I made view B, but added more buttons down the front using the button guide from view A to determine the distances between them. I wanted a warmer cape, so it needed to close down the front instead of flapping open. I used the same black leather buttons that I used on my previous version of the cape, reviewed here. I also topstitched the seams by hand like I did on my short cape, since I was pleased with how it looked.
The fabric is a charcoal grey wool-blend coating, found at the thrift store, but since I wanted it to be very warm, I underlined all the pieces in large scraps of cotton flannel left over from making my nightgown and robe, reviewed here. The fabric I used for the lining is also from the thrift store. It is a shiny black acetate, I believe, judging from the feel of the fabric. It wasn’t very easy to work with, because it was very slippery and frayed a great deal. It behaved the worst at the buttonholes, where it started fraying around my hand stitching. Luckily I had some fray-check which I used on the buttonholes and haven’t had any problems with them since.
Our weekend was more cloudy than sunny, which is why these photos are rather dimly lit, but it wasn’t raining so at least we could take Gia to the monastery to look at flowers before church. The rain made everything vividly green and mossy, and the break in the showers brought some of the flowers out hopeful for sun.
I wore my two-year old little black cape made from Vogue 8959 in a size XS in a textured wool that I bought on clearance. It is fully lined in plain black polyester lining fabric and the leather buttons are from a JoAnns button clearance several years ago. They had a whole basket full of buttons for 25-50 cents each, and I bought so many that I am still using them on projects now.
Vogue 8959 is a good introductory pattern to start making outerwear, since the construction is simple and the fit of capes in general is very forgiving. The pattern is drafted to have very rounded shoulders, though, so if you have narrow shoulders, like me, even the XS will have a somewhat exaggerated shape. It gives it a 60s look---they also preferred bell-shaped capes---or a modern, avante-garde look, depending on fabric and button choice---but if you don’t like the shape of the shoulders, then you should probably chose a different cape pattern. I made the shortest view, and like the length, although I hemmed it more narrowly than the pattern called for.
The only vintage cape I own is made of double-faced wool and is reversible, so all the seams are top-stitched, and I noticed how nice and flat they are. Inspired by that detail, I top-stitched all the seams of my cape by hand. I think hand-stitching is more subtle and sinks into the wool fabric more nicely than machine stitching. The hem is also sewn by hand, and the button-holes.
I am fond of capes for several reasons: you can wear them over any shaped sleeve or any fullness or length of skirt, they are easily layered over jackets, suits or sweaters for extra warmth, they are easy to walk in, and they have a clean, elegant line.
I had some romantic impulse last month that made me think that a blue hooded cape was just what I needed for early fall, when the weather is changeable and it is nice to wrap yourself in something light in the cool shade that is easy to take off in the warm sun. So I pulled out some beautiful fabric the color of water that I found at the thrift store a few years ago and made myself one. I am not sure what the fabric content is---it is loosely woven, drapes beautifully, but is relatively thick, like linen. Perhaps it is ‘homespun?’ It was easy to sew with, but did stretch out a great deal in the areas of the cape that were cut on the bias.
The pattern is Simplicity 1771, cut in a size XS, which looks like it is intended to be a costume pattern to make hobbit outfits. With some imagination, though, many costume patterns can be used for more ordinary, daily clothing, especially those costume patterns designed to make simple old-fashioned dresses, cloaks, and aprons. This cape pattern is easy to sew for anyone with a little bit of garment sewing experience, and the most complicated part of the process was evening the hem after it hung several days for the portions cut on the bias to stretch out, which they did considerably. I finished the seams by hand to make them as invisible and unobtrusive as possible while making sure they couldn’t fray. The neckline is held together by an old frog closure that my mom had stored away in her sewing cupboard, which matched the fabric perfectly.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew