Sewing Classy: The Camden Cape

I’ve wanted a cape coat for YEARS. Probably 10 years ago, I went out to lunch with a friend, and she was wearing this beautiful, gray cape (from Target, of all places!). And I just thought it was the most classic and chic thing I’d ever seen anyone wear. I kept my eye out for something like it for the next several years and nothing was ever quite right.

After I started sewing garments, I started looking for a cape pattern. I fell in love with the Camden Cape pattern from Seamwork. It was actually the thing that convinced me to subscribe! And then I did absolutely nothing with it for probably 2 years.

I started thinking about this pattern again at the end of 2017, and added it to my Fall Sewing Plans (and eventually my 2018 Make Nine, because I totally did not get to it in the Fall. The road to hell, you know?). I hit a bit of a road block finding the right fabric, and ordered a TON of swatches from Mood. Those turned out to not be very useful because it’s pretty difficult to get a feel for the drape of a fabric on a 3 inch test swatch. And then, my wonderful parents gave me a BIG gift certificate to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco.

I’d never shopped in Britex because it always seemed unnecessarily expensive (still true), but they have an AH-MAZING selection of wool. So I went in, petted all the pretty things, and got talked into a wool whose price tag made my toes curl. Amusingly, it’s not even close to the most expensive wool fabrics in there, but $75 a yard is NO JOKE guys. Then Douglass, the dapper wool floor guru aptly pointed out that this is the exact reason people give gift certificates: so you can buy something you wouldn’t have bought for yourself. So in the end, I bought two yards of the most expensive and most beautiful fabric I’ve ever owned.

And then you can imagine what happened next; I was so terrified to cut into it that I just stared at it for a month.

I knew I wanted a slimmer shape for my cape coat, as many of the patterns are pretty bell-like. A circle-shaped cape really didn’t appeal to me, so I knew I’d have to muslin to get the look I wanted. Eventually, after my muslin adjustments, I ended up taking out a whopping 24 inches from the hem circumference. It ended up a little tight in the shoulders, and I probably should have muslined a size up for more shoulder wearing ease and THEN taken out all that width. But I mostly wear it open or with just the bottom half buttoned, so it’s not too much of an issue.

I lined it in a black and white windowpane poly crepe from Califabrics. And I finished the lining hem with emerald green bias tape for an elegant clean finish. I pinked the lining edges, though I should have serged them because this faric frays like nobody’s business. So far the pinking is holding up, but I may go back and serge the seam allowances. I love the classic, but still playful contrast between the lining and the outer fabric. I hand sewed the lining to the outer fabric at the arm slits, rather than top stitching.

Overall, this fabric sewed up easily and the Camden Cape went together pretty smoothly. I even sewed my first blind hem! And never have I loved my tailor’s clapper more than during this project (which, in fairness, is what I bought it for). But oh man, so satisfying. I also found these great, wooden buttons at my local Joann’s, and I think they’re the perfect proportion and texture. Since the two layers of wool were too thick at the front edge to fit under my sewing machine foot, I hand sewed the button holes. I had never done bound buttonholes before and I think they turned out alright. I can definitely see myself using that technique on some other special garments in the future.

This cape makes me feel so pulled together and grown-up every time I put it on. And who doesn’t need more of THAT feeling in their lives?! Also, I can’t tell you how many compliments I get every time I wear it out. I can imagine wearing this for many years, and I don’t think it will ever go out of style. It feels like something my really stylish sewist grandmother would have made and worn. Here I’m wearing it with a Seamwork Neenah top in a speckled knit, also from Britex.

Bonus; since I narrowed the pattern SO much, I actually only used one yard of this beautiful wool! I’m not sure what I’ll make next with it. Honestly, I might even give this whole pattern another go, and correct some of the small imperfections. But that’s not a huge priority at the moment. I’m going to see how much wear I get out of this before I commit to making a super meticulous version.  Or maybe a wool pencil skirt?  If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears!

8 Replies to “Sewing Classy: The Camden Cape”

  1. Gorgeous cape and I have this on my wish list (purchased the pattern) but like you don’t want it too full so interesting to read how much you reduce the hem circumference by.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I didn’t want a huge bell shape. So I mostly just figured out the circumference I wanted from my shoulders if it dropped straight down, and then altered the pattern pieces accordingly. I think next time, I’d probably omit the bottom band and just use the lining pattern pieces as the outer pieces too, since I think the horizontal band gives it much more shape and body.

  2. It’s beautiful! It’s chic! The buttons are amazing! But I have to know: can you carry a bag while wearing it? I also downloaded this pattern immediately and haven’t budged on it since for that reason (I live in Boston and my commute to work is done on foot, I need a big ol’ bag for winter accessories!).

    1. Thanks! I have a big purse that I schlep all my work stuff in, that I carry when I’m wearing it. Often I’ll hold my purse in the crook of my elbow, which is sometimes a pain, but usually alright, even when I’m carrying my laptop. When I’m wearing it open, I’ll sometimes throw my purse over my shoulder, and just let it bunch up. It’s definitely not as easy as a regular overcoat with sleeves, but I think it’s pretty worth it!

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