Sweet Magnolia Cape

My playdate in New Westminster with my parents this weekend was a success. I got everything I hoped for: rest, ease, learning and a beautiful new cape.


This pattern, called the Tonia Cape, is available as a free download from Fitzpatterns; it was featured as a podcast on Craft in October, but much to our dismay, the audio component does not seem to be currently available. Some speed demon cranked out their product in under two hours; our version took upwards of eight hours. A word of warning to the uninitiated: there are directions missing for those lacking experience in finishing and garment sewing. Also, there are no instructions for incorporating a lining, though the pattern suggests this is an option. Luckily, my mother is a talented improviser with more experience under her belt than I have years in my body.


My goal in going to spend the weekend sans ma famille, was to create a garment under my mother’s tutelage and guidance. Since I skipped Home Economics in the eighth grade, and I was stubbornly determined not to learn anything from my mother as a teenager, I’m just now discovering how much satisfaction comes with sewing for yourself.

Lance and Melissa collaborated to make sure the little ones were shuffled to and fro all weekend so that I could not only get away to sew, but I could knit on the train all the way there and back! Can you imagine, almost eight hours of uninterrupted knitting? I can’t remember the last time I had so few distractions.

Half an hour into the train ride I realized I had forgotten four things:

  1. A second skein of yarn for Rogue; I was down to the final dregs where the center-pull ball starts to tangle up in the loose strands
  2. My sunglasses; while I love sun as much as the next person, a few minutes in the sun without something covering my eyes leads to a quick headache
  3. My camera; what is a blogger to do on a road trip without her camera?
  4. The pattern. Yep. The 4′ x 5′ pattern Lance downloaded at his office, imported into AutoCad so he could scale it properly and printed for me three days ago? Yep. Rolled up in a nice little tube on the dining room floor. Note to self: stay away from the cookies when you are packing the night before a weekend away

I had three and a half hours to contemplate my dilemma: a duffel bag full of fabric (I went a little hog-wild at Pacific Fabrics on Friday afternoon in anticipation of the sewing weekend, buying 10 yards of cotton, velvet, linen, wool crepe and dupioni silk for at least six different projects), but not a single pattern.

Eventually, I decided the simplest thing would be to find the nearest Canadian version of Kinko’s, log on to a public terminal and download the pattern to their printer. That couldn’t take more than half an hour, tops.

I should state for the record that I have not lived in Canada since 1996, and not in Vancouver since 1993. Though I visit my parents at least six times a year, I feel like a duck out of water as soon as I cross the border. It amazes me just how American I feel as I listen to the radio and pick out the extreme accents of the broadcasters from Saskatchewan or Edmonton.

When I finally settled into my mother’s car, I told her of my mistake and asked where she thought we could find a public Internet terminal and a large-format printer. She suggested a Staples in Burnaby, in the same general direction as home. Yes, they did have a large-format printer, but no public access to the Internet. If I’d like to email them the file from home, then they would be happy to print it for me. Only this Staples was 30 minutes from my parents’ condo, and neither of us felt like driving back later to pick up the print.

At home, I started to call around to find a better alternative. Another Staples had a large-format printer, but it was not hooked up to their computer terminals; an Office Depot had a large-format printer, but it wasn’t working. In the end, I ended up at an Office Depot literally next door to the original Staples. Grrrr. Four hours later, we finally started to lay out the pattern.


After we cut out the pieces, I happily sat down at my mother’s Pfaff machine, a quilter’s wet dream. I was the picture of discpline for the first four hours, but as the light faded outside, my energy started to flag and my mother started doing more of the sewing. In the end, she did most of the sewing, which is why it looks so fantastic. Really, she added professional touches that were not included in the pattern instructions, creating a garment that was finished in every sense. I stood by her side, watching her every move, trying to soak it all in, but I realized towards the end that even an “easy” project like this one with no sleeves, cuffs, waistbands or inset zippers still exceeded my skills by a wide margin. I’ll be signing up for a sewing class at Stitches before I try another project on my own.

The color of this fabric reminds me of the magnolia trees that are in bloom all over Seattle right now; to my surprise, though just 2 1/2 hours north of us, the Vancouver climate has yet to encourage the same trees to blossom.


I intended to use the turquoise linen for the lining, a remnant I found in the clearance bin on deep, deep discount at Pacific Fabrics, but when we laid out the pieces, we couldn’t make it fit. The pink linen was the same weight and quality, so we decided to mix and match the fabrics, creating the most brilliant piece of clothing I own.

One last warning for those printing this pattern in the US or Canada: there is a box in the upper right corner of the pattern that reads “note to printer: this box should measure 100mm x 100mm when pattern is scaled properly”. The first time Lance printed the pattern directly as downloaded from Fitzpatterns, the box measured 80mm x 80mm; the clerk at Office Depot ran into the same issue. Lance imported it into AutoCad to get the sizing correctly, but the lady at Office Depot just tried increasing it by 20%, resulting in a box that only measured 95mm square. Since that print cost me $9, I told her it was good enough; we would fudge our cutting lines to size it up a little.


3 Responses to “Sweet Magnolia Cape”

  1. 1 Nicole Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 5:18 am

    No, no, no, I think you needed MORE cookies!!!

  2. 2 lance Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 8:51 am

    20% of 80 is 16.
    25% of 80 is 20.

    To upsize the pattern properly from 80×80 to 100×100, the pattern needs to be increased 25%.

    It really does look good. Especially on you 🙂


  3. 3 Dacia Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 10:38 am

    wow, that sounds like QUITE the project. it turned out great, though!!

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