Sewing · Victorian

The Emerald Cape

AKA the Cape of Insanity!

I have a habit of getting overly ambitious with my sewing plans. Right from Day One I was wanting to and planning to make projects beyond my skill level or just projects that take a whole lot longer to do than I think they will. I can say right from Day One, because that was the day I started teaching myself how to sew.

So, of course, it was bound to happen again recently, and it happened with my 1890s cape. The pattern (from Truly Victorian) is a rather straightforward pattern and makes up reasonably quickly if you don’t get carried away (Mum’s cape didn’t take me very long) but I wanted to add a ‘little something’ to mine – maybe some trim or a bit of braid. Something simple but elegant. Ha. No. That would be too easy, wouldn’t it? I accidentally discovered an extant cape that had braiding and beading on it and couldn’t get it out of my mind. I had to do something like that.

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This was my inspiration…

To be fair, I started working on this before Mum made any mention of me making her an outfit, so when I started, I thought that I would have plenty of time to do everything.

I started by cutting out and flatlining the main piece of the cape and ended up with a large lily pad taking up most of my available floor space.

I also traced the pattern and spent an afternoon figuring out how I wanted the braid and beading to look. I opted for a simplified version of the extant cape’s decoration. Once I had that figured out I pinned the paper to the cape and sewed the guide stitches by hand.

Once those were in and the paper torn away I began the very ambitious task of sewing on all of the beads. These beads are absolutely teeny tiny, and it took me about 40 hours to sew them all on over the cape. I usually worked on it a couple of hours at a time over a period of a few weeks.

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That’s a normal needle – those beads really are tiny!

When that was finally done, applying the braid was almost a walk in the park. At first I wasn’t sure how the braiding inside the beaded triangles would go, but decided to repeat the braided pattern I had already used on the cape, but to make it a bit smaller so that it would fit.

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Carefully stitching the braid near the beading
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Beading and braiding finished

Happily, the beading and braiding were then done and dusted. It was then time for the collar. I flatlined the outer pieces with broadcloth and the lining pieces with organdy to give the collar a bit more support. I also shortened the pieces by half an inch because the height was otherwise giving me Dracula vibes.

The pattern calls for the use of millinery wire but I wasn’t sure if I would have enough leftover for both hats I would be making. I decided to use synthetic whalebone instead and was quite happy with the result – I also used it for Mum’s cape collar as well.

I also needed to cut out the lining fabric for the cape and opted to use the taffeta for that. Unfortunately I wasn’t paying enough attention and didn’t double-check after folding the fabric in half that I was in fact cutting out two layers all the way around. I had to resort to piecing to make the lining complete.

I added a strip of organdy around the bottom of the lining and then it was time to put everything together. I attached the collar and then the lining before turning it through and closing it by hand.

It looked good, but I wasn’t done yet. The space above the braiding looked too plain and I needed a way to close the cape (decoratively, at least). I’d found ribbon that was almost a perfect colour match so I decided to use that. I pleated it, leaving the ends free for tying, and sewed in on to the neckline.

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Finally finished! The front
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Finally finished! The back
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Details…

As I stepped back to look at it the realisation hit me – it was finished. I didn’t have anything more to do on it (I’ve since added a couple of hooks and eyes though). I cannot wait to wear it in Oamaru in two weeks (uh oh, there’s only two weeks to get everything done? I need caffeine in an IV, stat.)

And… now that I have finished my Aubergine Bodice… this is a quick snap of how epic it looks over puffed sleeves!

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Worn over my bodice with puffed sleeves

6 thoughts on “The Emerald Cape

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