This year many Christmas gifts resulted from people stopping by Weavers Guild; gift certificates, equipment, books, and in one case, a custom woven and tailored cape! A couple of weeks ago a woman came by the Guild with her favorite wool cape from the seventies or eighties. Would it be possible to duplicate it, she wanted to know.
Her timing was amazing, as she popped in right after Katherine Buenger’s volunteer yarn labeling crew finished processing a new shipment of perle cotton. Rita DeWane was descended upon by many of the Guild’s best weavers, including Katherine Buenger, Madeline Shinbach, Kala Exworthy, and Paula Pfaff (and I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone else). In short order the cape and its yarn were dissected. It was a plain weave with black warp (twisted) and a singles red in the weft. The yarn had a hard finish and was likely European. The wet finishing fulled it slightly. There were occasional slubs in the plain weave made by using slightly fatter unspun versions of the red yarn under fewer ends per inch than the base fabric, which was probably woven at nine ends per inch (shrunk slightly to ten ends per inch). Katherine thought that Highland wool yarn, sold in our shop, would be similar.
The simple garment was beautifully tailored of two rectangles of fabric. It opened with a zipper covered by a placket with perfectly sewn snaps at the top. We all agreed that while the cape could have been pulled over your head without another opening, the zipper made it much more pleasant to take on and off. This was an inspiring garment. Kala immediately pronounced, “I would leave the zipper exposed.” Katherine thought she would make a sample of the fabric with Highland yarn.
About four days later Rita’s husband called the Guild, hoping to find the name of the person who could make a second cape for his wife. No one had actually said she would do it, but I called Katherine, who said she might try sampling the fabric. During the week before Christmas, she did that and more. She had already finished a full replica – weaving, wet finishing, and tailoring! She wove up the fabric using Highland as she planned (“It only took me a couple of hours.”!), wet finished it, and then took it to her sewing class at Treadle Yard Goods. With advice from her friends, she sewed it up. Unfortunately the colors the cape owner wanted for her new cape were not available, or the task would be done. Katherine contacted Rita’s husband and negotiated a price for a new custom cape that will be ready early in the new year.
Katherine, who found the fabric and the garment shape full of possibilities for variation, plans to keep working. You may well have an opportunity to purchase your handwoven cape at Fiber Fair 2015.