Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Special project: crochet baby cape

At the beginning of the summer, my friend Cristin commissioned a crochet item for a colleague.  Rather than a baby blanket (which I could officially do in a coma) Cristin's friend needed a baby cape--nothing crazy, just a flyaway front with a hood.  When her text came through I thought to myself, "A cape?? I'm sure I could dig up a free pattern online. Or, I'm going to have to strike some kind of a balance between an affordable pattern and a doable pattern."

No need to dig up a pattern: When my mom heard what Cristin needed, she called up my grandmother and she in turn dug up not only a white baby cape she crocheted for me 30 31 years ago, but also the pattern she bought at Kmart to make it. For the record, my grandmother is not a hoarder--she can trash pretty much anything like a champ.  I guess it's obvious what her priorities are when she does choose to keep something that no one currently needs ... that being said, she tossed out ALL of her family embroidered linens about eight years ago because she assumed no one in the family would want them [insert several anguished emoji here].  I still can't believe I missed the boat on those.

(Also, can we pause for a moment and imagine a world where one can expect to buy crochet patterns at KMART?? Because, like, I can't.  Wet and Wild makeup? Sure.  100 piece box of Whitman's Sampler chocolate? Yup--I even asked for it for my birthday and my mom wisely "forgot" about it even though my plan was only to eat the caramels, marshmallows ("vanilla creams"), and coconuts and toss the rest.  Crochet patterns? huhh??  )

(And also, can we pause for a moment and wonder how Kmart is still around even in the face of Walmart and Target?  Because I don't know anyone who shops at Kmart anymore.  I kept them out of bankruptcy in the 90s by spending thousands of dollars on film and film development there, but that was 15-20 years ago ...)

Ok, so the baby cape:

I managed to do the whole thing--beginning to end--without having to rip anything out at all OR without throwing it at my mom while screaming, "I CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT SO JUST DO IT AND SHOW ME HOW!!"  Very easy pattern if you've made plenty of other basic stuff.  (Find the pattern here.)  You're just going to double crochet from top to bottom including all of the edging.  The cape is a large rectangle that works on the increase as you move from neck to foot.  When that's finished, you go back up to the neck and add a "square" on top that will be folded into the hood.  A shell edging goes around the hood and three sides of the body.  I used basic acrylic baby weight yarn (3) and an F hook.  (I didn't feel bad about using acrylic because it doesn't itch and it washes/dries beautifully). Despite the scale, it works up pretty fast ... I can't remember how many hours it took me to do ... 20-ish, the last three of which were spent in front of Serpico because Ron got to pick the show that night.  God, how terrible is it when the camera looks over Serpico's friend's shoulder as he reads the "get well" cards in the hospital?  So godawful.  Sidenote-sidenote: Vigg, have you been Serpico for Halloween yet? Because you could/should be.  Also I doubt Vigg reads this, so Julie will have to pass this note along.  ANYWAY, I managed to complete the cape in 10 days.

This is only the second time I've made my own pompoms (the other instance is here--scroll way down).  They're easy--if you google "how to make yarn pompoms," everyone from Martha to Better Homes and Gardens to Mollie Makes offers tutorials.  The pompoms are tied onto both ends of a long crochet chain, and the chain is woven through the foundation row of double crochet around the neck.  I gave Cristin the explicit instructions that the cape is to be returned to me for repair if the pompoms ever come undone in the wash. I gentle-washed and dried this once when it was finished, and it went through both machines in a lingerie bag--I think the lingerie bag is key.

The shell edging with picot ("a small cluster of crochet chains") is really beautiful--very feminine.

The hood is just a square on top of the body of the cape.  It's important that the right side of the hood matches the right side of the cape. It wouldn't be the end of the world if you mixed this up, but I know I would rip mine out and do it again if the front/back sides of the cape and hood didn't match.  Once the square is done (and before the edging goes on), you fold in the top two corners of the square and sew or single-crochet them together.  You can see the right side of the seam running down the center of the hood here.

I went with the single-crochet because that's what my grandmother did on my own cape--these stitches are on the interior/underside of the hood, but I wanted them to look polished regardless.  I didn't think hand-sewing with the same yarn would achieve the same effect.

It's too bad I didn't do these photos on a neutral blanket on the back deck--the lighting would've been so much more even.  I think it was raining the day I took these, and I had to turn it over to Cristin the next day.

You can see how working on the increase looks here: The cape isn't a simple rectangle--each row is longer than the one before creating a flared effect. If you look carefully, you'll see that the shells closet to the neck contain fewer stitches than the largest ones at the bottom.  This is the row by row "increase" that accounts for the size/shape.

Cristin's friend was giving this as a gift to a baby girl for her christening and she requested pink.  I should take some pictures of my white one just for comparison.  I would really like to make one in RED and an infant could be Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween--I bet you could even find a cute plush wolf to go with it.  Depending on the size of the infant at Halloween, she could wear the red cape for Christmas and maybe even Valentine's Day during the winter. It would depend on the birthday.  Wouldn't that be great?  (get in touch if you want one ... seriously!)

The pattern's size is tailored for 0-3 months, but someone who's really good could scale up to 3-6 months I'm sure.  Also, if you look at this photo you can see that the pattern calls for a pompom tassle on the hood ... my grandmother left that off of mine and I left it off of Cristin's.  We were shooting for cute ... not ridiculous!

I'm about two-thirds finished a baby blanket right now, and then I have TWO due in March (an hour ago, I only had one due in March ...).  But I could squeeze in a cape if anyone needs one ...


Laurie said...

omg - that is just adorable!! You are so talented!

Jo Harper said...

Thanks! I fully expected to mess it up big time, but the pattern is very doable. We will talk about yours ; )