This has to be the most ironic way to get a custom order. I posted on Facebook: “Today’s tip for seamstresses: When you think to yourself, ‘I’m sure tired today,’ stop working because that’s when accidents like slicing your thumb open with a rotary blade happen.” One of the responses to the post was from a friend who moved to California a couple years ago. She said, any chance you’re interested in making a shiny superhero cape for my son? Well, I’ll take the work, even with the bleeding gouge across my thumb knuckle, cause I guess I’m that kind of girl.
My first step was to find a good tutorial online. I ended up referring to these three:
This one for the collar (initially – I ended up changing the collar, see below)
1 yard each of red satin and blue satin
1/2 yard of yellow satin for applique (I could have gotten away with 1/4 or 1/3 yard)
Coordinating shiny thread
Velcro (recommend 1-1.5″ width)
Heat and Bond
One-sided Fusible Interfacing
I had my friend send me her son’s measurements: 11″ neck and 22″ from shoulders to knees. I used the cape pattern from the link above and marked out the lines with a ruler and piece of white chalk on the backside of the satin – adjusted to be 25″ in length. To cut out the curved bottom, I pivoted the ruler from one corner to the other marking the 25″ point every 4″ along the way then drew a curved chalk line along that edge. I cut out one piece of fabric first and then used that as the template to cut the second piece of fabric. Then I cut two long triangles, 4″ by 24″ – the size indicated in the link above for the collar. I attached each collar piece to the cape using a straight stitch and then clipped out little triangles along the seam line so it would lay well.
Next I tackled the applique. My friend wanted a lightning bolt on one side and the letter “Z” on the other (her son’s name is Zeke). I started with a word document and used the Insert > Shapes function to put a giant lightning bolt on the page. I adjusted the size a bit and then inserted a page break. Then I typed the letter Z, made it a giant font size, like 400 or 600 and scrolled through the font types til I found one I liked. I printed off the two pages and cut out the shapes. Then I traced the shapes right side down (inverse) onto the paper side of some bond and seal. Then I cut loosely around the shapes and cut out a piece of fabric that was just larger than the cutout. I laid the non-paper side of the Heat and Bond onto the wrong side of the fabric. I set the iron to silk and held the iron to the paper side for 2 second, gliding the iron to a new area and pressing for 2 more seconds until the entire surface bonded. Cool. Then I cut out the shape using the pencil lines I had drawn and laid the yellow satin shape onto a side of the cape. I tried to center it below the collar. I could have placed the emblem lower on the cape, but at the time near the top seemed appropriate.
I struggled with the applique:
- Zigzag tension too high – the stitching creased the fabric underneath it, I eventually set it to between 0 and 1
- Heat and Bond didn’t adhere well to the satin – I went over it with the iron on the lowest steam setting and cotton towel between iron and fabric
- I added fusible interfacing to the back side of the fabric for stability
- **I recommend testing your zigzag stitching on a scrap piece of fabric to get the tension right
I used matching yellow shiny thread to do a wide zigzag with a short seam length (between 0.5 and 0.75 on my Singer machine for a “satin stitch”) around each shape, being careful while turning the corners – I found it best to sew beyond the end of the corner and then turn on the outside stitch so that it would then zag back onto the fabric.
Once the appliques were set, I sewed the two pieces together. I sewed the cape portions with the serger first and then sewed a straight stitch on the inside of serged seam (my serger tends to have a loose tension and the stitches would be visible, plus the extra stitching adds durability). The collar I sewed with a straight stitch first and then with serger to clean up the frays. Next I cut out some triangles along the curvy part of the collar/cape intersection so it would lay well. Having left one end of the collar open, I turned it all right side out.
I struggled with the velcro collar:
- Velcro and satin do not mix. I tried the cape on and tested the feel. Two layers of satin are heavy and was uncomfortable around the front of my neck. My friend’s son has sensory processing disorder and I didn’t want him to be uncomfortable. So I crisscrossed the collar pieces so the weight would sit across my collar bone. It felt better, but I could see stray threads in the mirror. I took it off and saw that the satin had snagged and destroyed the satin – I needed to rethink the collar.
- Not only was the velcro a problem, but if the collar pieces were long enough for my neck, they’d be too long for a child’s 11″ neck.I don’t know how people make satin capes with velcro closures. I took the velcro to the fabric store and tested it against all the satin fabrics and many other shiny fabrics. The only ones that didn’t snag were polyester linings and taffeta. I decided to use taffeta for the collar since it was shinier than the lining.
- I decided to find wider velcro, so it would take up more of the collar width and expose less fabric to snagging.
Next step was to find a new way to build the collar. I searched on the internet and found nothing super helpful. I saw some people had made rounded collars as part of the cape piece, like the way you would cut out a bib. I couldn’t cut out the cape differently at this point, so that wasn’t going to help. I decided to look in the book, Making Children’s Clothes: 25 Stylish Step-by-step Sewing Projects for 0-5 Years by Emma Hardy for a collar pattern. It was exactly what I needed. Sure enough, there was a collar on a boy’s shirt on page 32 that looked perfect. I wanted it to be wide and round so it would sit over his shoulders and hold the weight on his collar bone. The little boy I was making the cape for has sensory processing disorder and I didn’t want the collar to be too tight or feel like it was choking him, so resting on his collar bone instead of the front of the neck seemed like the right solution.
I cut the pattern piece out and widened it by 1/2″ or so and lengthened the collar so that the ends of the collar came to center line – that way it would have enough space in the middle for his neck while overlapping in the front with the velcro. The pattern pieces looked like a slightly warped horseshoe.
After cutting two pieces of yellow taffeta and attaching fusible interfacing to one for structure, I removed the original collar from the cape, turned it inside out and sewed each taffeta piece to a side of the cape along the back edge of the collar. I then sewed the two collar pieces together, leaving a hole along the inside edge of one of the ends. I turned the entire thing right side out through that hole, which may have been a mistake. When I sewed the collar pieces onto the cape, they were devoid of wrinkles. After turning right side out, the collar was horribly wrinkled and I had a really hard time ironing it out. I may have been better of turning it through a hole in the middle of the collar. Alas.
Lastly, I sewed on a 1.5″ x 1.5″ piece of velcro to each collar end and sewed the whole closed. FINISHED.
I am worried about the durability of the satin material for an active little boy. But I keep telling myself: It’s a play cape, it’s not meant to be perfect all the time. If it snags up, he won’t mind. I hope that’s true. Right now, I’m really happy with the end result. Next time, I might just make it one large piece with the collar attached, but I still haven’t solved the problem of snagging satin.
Happy Superhero Cape Making!