When you go to a weekend workshop at Alabama Chanin, which I highly recommend, part of your “tuition” goes toward a DIY kit. You spend that first Friday evening looking at the different garment options, the different colorways, the stencils and the embroidery techniques. You even get to try on different sizes of the garments you are interested in. Once you’ve made your selection, they get to work that night cutting, stenciling, and getting all your materials ready so that you’ll be able to start making your project the next afternoon after the brunch and the workshop. It’s best to do a little research before you head to Alabama so that you have an idea what you want to make.
But then you get there, it’s overwhelming how beautiful everything is, and you want it all! I went there convinced I wanted the long jacket in a black and navy colorway with the facets stencil. I had seen a picture on Pinterest and it looked so chic. But as I was trying everything on, I reconsidered. The A line dress in plum looked so good with the Ugg boots I was wearing. The cropped jacket highlighted my figure better than the long. Then, I tried on the walking cape from the 2016 Build-A-Wardrobe series. Honestly, the sample didn’t really catch my eye at first, it doesn’t have much shape. But somehow, when I draped it over my shoulders, it just felt right. The weight of it, the ease of it. I was smitten.
I even went back and forth on the color decision but in the end I decided to stay with the black and navy I originally wanted. I did change my stencil choice to the polka dot design which was on the sample, who doesn’t love a polka dot! The sample had a variegated embroidery floss but I decided to go with all black. This was going to be my first time using the floss and backstitching so I wanted my design to be as straight forward as possible. That said, I did get a little crazy and get an extra layer of fabric to make the cape reversible. Thanks Rachel!!
Phew! Decision made. That was not easy. Also, I couldn’t help myself and I bought another kit while I was there (we got 20% off anything we bought that weekend). The camisole dress in navy with the facets stencil. It’s going to look great under the walking cape!
When I got home I started in on the project and quickly realized the polka dot is going to be pretty easy. It took a few tries, but I figured out the perfect thread length to reach around the diameter of each dot (about 34”, or 17” when doubled). I also determined the easiest way for me to work with the embroidery floss: the floss has 6 strands wound around each other and the amount you want for each stitch is only 4 strands. After trying a couple of options I realized that if I took the six strand floss and turned it into three sets of two strands, and then doubled the two strands and knotted it off at the bottom, I would have four strands to stitch with. You have to be careful when separating your floss though – it helps to keep a lot of tension on the strands when you are pulling them apart or they want to curl back up on each other and even knot. A good example why “loving” your thread is so important!
The most difficult part of the project was the shear size of it. When laid out flat, the fabric is about 58” by 48”. Getting to those middle circles was not easy. It was laid out flat on my dining room table for most of the time because it was just too darn big to travel with. I even decided to count the dots at one point. 369! And that didn’t include those half dots along the edges. When you consider I used backstitching – that’s a lot of embroidery floss.
Assembly was really straightforward. There is a link to the instructions on Alabama Chanin’s website. Since this was going to be reversible, I needed to think things through a bit.
First I constructed the collar. Then I sewed the front seam. When I finished the seam I turned it over and topstitched it to give it a clean look.
Next I sewed the pocket pieces together, put a piece of binding on the top of the pocket, and then attached it to the reverse side.
Lastly, they provided me with a snap to attach but I had to think about this for a few reasons. The snap on the sample had some nice crocheting on it to make it blend better with the cape, but I don’t know how to crochet. Then, since I want the cape to be reversible, the snap would only work on one side. I sent a query out on Instagram to #theschoolofmaking and got a few great suggestions (magnetic button, kilt pin), but in the end, I decided to try and create my own loop type closure using what else, jersey pulls. I sewed a loop on one side of the cape and two large knots on either side of the other side. I may still need to tweak it a bit. I think I made my loop to large but that’s the beauty of hand sewing, just take out the stitches and try again.
Finished! That is always such a good feeling. I wore it out to lunch the other day and it felt just like a remembered from the workshop, like a warm hug!