A Cape Update: Padstitching

Hope you all had a lovely weekend! How about a change of scenery after all the school updates and Pendrell blouse posts? Here’s an update on the vintage tartan cape I started!

We’ve matched the plaids, we’ve pressed the darts, and pretty soon the cape will be finished! This is a very simple piece to construct. And therefore, the pattern instructions don’t say much. They expect you to know how to make bound buttonholes all on your own, and to pad-stitch your collar as well. In 1965, that must have been standard knowledge among those who sew. I’m going to follow the cape pattern advice and add in the padstitching.

Thought I’d share a behind-the-scenes look at the tailoring I did on the cape, before closing up the collar!

My undercollar is two pieces, so I overlapped the hair canvas interfacing and zigzagged it together. Now it matches the size of the undercollar fabric pieces.I looked up padstitching on Gertie’s blog, and found a tutorial on padstitching your undercollar. Perfect! The only thing is, she refers to the roll line, something I don’t have on my pattern piece. I checked back through the series and marking the roll line happens at the muslin stage. Oops!

How do you mark a roll line if you didn’t make a muslin? What I did was basted my collar and interfacing to the cape itself, tried it on the dress form, and then marked the roll line.I pinned the cape together at centre front, rolled down the undercollar to where it naturally lay. Here you can see the back view with the interfacing zigzagged together. (Looking back, next time I’ll zigzag once and trim the extra hair canvas, instead of stitching three times.)Next, I drew along the fold line with my handy Trickmarker. (You could use pen if you wanted, the hair canvas is thick enough so it won’t show.) The felt tip worked nicely to lightly draw the roll line.Keep marking all the way around the roll line.Then, carefully unpick the basting, removing the collar from the cape. Voila! Marked roll line. (Is this what you would have done? Or do you have another method to find the roll line?)Re-traced the roll line with marking pen, so we can see it better.Now we can padstitch the collar. I mostly followed Gertie’s instructions with a little help from my books. Take a look at her post for more on padstitching! I’ll show you what I did, though it’s less of a tutorial and more of a ‘behind the scenes’ post.

First, baste along the roll line with uneven stitches. Check!(Note: I used all-purpose polyester thread for the padstitching. Normally, we’re supposed to use silk thread, but I didn’t have any on hand and wanted to do it right now.)

Close-up of the basting. I had to move quickly before the trickmarker faded!I read the instructions rather quickly, and forgot to mark in the padstitching lines before doing the basting. So I drew them in afterwards: 1/4″ spacing on the collar stand, 1/2″ spacing on the collar itself.Now, the padstitching! I started with the stand:Not too messy for a first try! I’m pretty excited, it actually works. The collar is starting to shape itself here. Next, the collar (or the fall, if you prefer):Look how nicely it forms the shape of a real collar! Yay! I’m glad I took the extra time to padstitch now. After comparing my stitches to the book, mine are a little large and sloppy, but they do the trick. It’s nice to practice on a cape, a fun wardrobe piece and not an everyday item, so I can get better for my next attempt at tailoring. Now when I get to sewing a fabulous tailored coat, I’ve had a practice run at padstitching first. Lastly, we wrap the collar around the ham, steam it in place, and leave him overnight. Goodnight, little guy! See you in the morning.

While I know my padstitches are less than perfect, I love how the stitches form the collar into shape. The idea that we can mold, shape and form garments with structure is just another way to add quality into the things we sew. The padstitched collar is going to add extra quality to my cape, I hope, more tailored and less homemade. I’m excited to try more tailoring in the future!

What do you guys think: have you done a lot of tailoring yourself? Are you interested in seeing techniques and tutorials? Or does that fall under the ‘things you’d never sew’ category?

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27 Responses to A Cape Update: Padstitching

  1. gina February 28, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    This is wonderful, you will enjoy this cape for years to come, love the fabric.

  2. TanitIsis February 28, 2011 at 6:19 am #

    I love padstitching, it feels like magic! I probably would just have pinned my collar around the ham to approximate the roll-line (actually I think that’s what I did with my coat), but I bet your method is more accurate ;).

    Can’t wait to see the finished cape!

  3. woolcat February 28, 2011 at 6:23 am #


  4. Eilane February 28, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    Ol√° T√°sia, amo seu blog e imagino que sua capa ficar√° perfeita.


    Eilane – Brasil

  5. Rhia February 28, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    I don’t think I would have bothered with tailoring. However I think that if person wants to create true luxury items then it’s recommended to use every little “trick” to make it fit perfectly. If the roll line isn’t marked on the pattern I would trace it on the pattern aswell so that it’s easier to trace it next time.

  6. Irene February 28, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    I think of tailoring as magic – flat material gets molded into a 3-D piece. You did a lovely job on the padstitching.

  7. Emer February 28, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    I never really understood tailoring until this post. Never knew why padstitching was used. It looks really great. And I would like more tutorials please.

  8. Misty February 28, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    It’s really interesting to watch your cape coming together! I’m intrigued by a sentence in your post though. You said, “Note: I used all-purpose polyester thread for the padstitching. Normally, we‚Äôre supposed to use silk thread, but I didn‚Äôt have any on hand and wanted to do it right now.” Can I ask why we are supposed to use silk thread? Silly me the beginner, I’ve been using all-purpose polyester thread on my few sewing projects so far!

  9. Claire (aka Seemane) February 28, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    Hi Misty,
    I believe Tasia is saying that it’s recommended to use Silk thread when you do the hand-sewn pad-stitching (i.e. not using the Silk for your sewing machine stitching). I also believe that the Silk thread is recommended as it’s thinner (finer?) and it is also more slippery than say Polyester or Cotton threads – qualities that make it easy to handle when hand-sewing, and the finer thread is far less likely to show through your top layer of fashion fabric if you make an error and the needle slips up (or takes too big, or too deep a stitch through the fashion-fabric) :)

  10. karen February 28, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    I think your padstitching looks pretty great for a first time :)

  11. nikole February 28, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    One observation, I notice you didn’t cut the seam allowances off the hair canvas, won’t this cause too much bulk when it’s done?

  12. Angela February 28, 2011 at 8:26 am #

    I personally love this kind of information. Padstitching is a new concept to me so I appreciate the description and the photos. I love learning new techniques.

    Your cape looks so great! Can’t wait to see the finished product.

  13. LindsayBobindsay February 28, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    Amazing! I love love love seeing things like this; it’s so inspiring! Your cape is going to be so beautiful.

    I can’t wait until I can sew at this level of quality one day… *sigh* so pretty!

  14. Lauren February 28, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Wow! Looks great! Love the fabric you’re using, too.
    I love padstitching. There’s something relaxing and almost meditative about it :)

  15. Becky February 28, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    It’s not something I’ve tried yet, but I would. I wish I’d known there was such a technique a few years ago, actually…my winter coat is a suedecloth peacoat that I sewed myself, and I think the collar and lapels would lay so much better if I’d done this! I think I may give it a go the next time I sew a jacket.

  16. adelaide b February 28, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    That plaid is really lovely!

  17. Tasia February 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    @Rhia: Ah! That’s such a good idea, now I wish I’d traced the roll line onto the pattern for next time. I’ve already closed it up, darn! I did have a fleeting thought that I should mark it, but then thought would I ever make a cape more than once? I’m starting to think I might, so now I wish I’d marked the roll line. Ah well! Lesson learned :)

    @Misty: Hi Misty! Claire aka Seemane is right, I meant silk thread for the padstitching only. The rest of the garment is sewn using regular all-purpose thread. Which is all I usually ever buy, unless it’s for topstitching.
    Why the silk thread? Claire is also right here too, it’s because silk thread is nice and slippery, so it passes through the hair canvas easily and won’t leave impressions on your fabric from the basting. It’s also strong, which is great for structure work like padstitching.

    @nikole: You’re right, I did that after the steaming around the ham. Once it was all steamed up I didn’t want to move it! But I did trim 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance off of the hair canvas so it wouldn’t stiffen up the seam allowances.

    I liked the padstitching, and know I can do much better next time. Because it’s a cape, I didn’t go too crazy but there are so many other things you can do with tailoring! In my book they even show twill taping the edges, for nice collar edges that won’t stretch out. Or perhaps that was a lapel. Either way, there will be more tailoring tutorials when it comes time to sew Fall coats!

  18. Sewingdina February 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Wow I’ve learnt something new and you’ve taken some of the mystery out of coat making. I thought you were going to straight stitch across those lines so it was a surprise to see the triangular stitching!

  19. Gail February 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Now you have my interest! I’ve just picked up a book on tailoring and am very keen to try pad stitching the interfacing rather than using fusible interfacing. Do the stitches show on the outside of garment? The pictures I’ve seen seem to suggest that you are picking up a small thread – like blind hemming.

  20. Joolz February 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    I for one defintely vote for “more please”. Your tutorials are so lovely and clear and you include so many photos that they are very easy to follow. The only problem is that you are costing me money!! After seeing the inside of some of your projects I finally bit the bullet and bought a serger last week. Then on Saturday I saw some gorgeous turquoise tartan fabric that I probably would have passed up before because I didn’t want the hassle of hunting around online and in books to learn how to match it up, but because of your tutorial on how to match up plaid I bought enough to make a simple skirt and I’m looking forward to sewing it, rather than dreading working out the matching. I also ended up buying fabrics that I would have passed on before because I now have a serger!!

    While I was typing this I was wondering why yours is the only sewing blog that I have added to my RSS feed (so far) and I realised that it’s because you don’t make me feel inadequate. Some of the other sewing bloggers, wonderful and helpful as they are, seem to make piece, after piece, after piece. I almost can’t keep up with their blogging, let alone their sewing pace. By contrast reading this blog makes me feel calm, but inspired. Please keep up the good work as I’m enjoying reading every page.


  21. Tasia February 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    @Gail: Yes, that’s exactly it! You pick up a small thread on the backside of the fabric, not letting it show through on the right side. Just like blind-hemming! If I had done mine with more finesse, they would be smaller, but I could make big chunky stitches because my fabric was so thick, you’d never see any show-through on the other side. And because I was still wrapping my head around the concept. I didn’t feel like I could write a how-to guide on something I’ve only tried out once :)
    One of my books also shows a machine-tailoring method – where you don’t use fusible interfacing, but you use machine-stitches to tailor the hair canvas. Ever turned up a lapel and saw wide, zigzag stitches? That’s machine tailoring! I want to try both methods and compare. One day!

    @Joolz: Thank you for such a nice comment! How awesome that you were inspired to go out and buy a serger. You’ll be so pleased with it! Even though your bank account might be unimpressed. Double yay for turquoise tartan -my favourite colour :) Thanks for saying I don’t make you feel inadequate. I know the feeling, when you see people churn out pretty things one after the other, you want to keep up with them somehow. (And feel bad when you can’t. Or when you have projects that fail.) Even though everyone’s life is different, with varying amounts of free time and responsibilities. So I’m glad I come across the right way – full of information and sewing goodness, but not too overbearing or too ‘look at me!’

  22. Rachel February 28, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    I’ve not tried any tailoring techniques yet, but i’d love to at some point, so any information you wish to share will be gratefully received over here. Also any opinions on when the techniques are worth it and when they can be left out.

    Great job on your first pad stitching though, It’s amazing how the collar holds its shape on it’s own like that.

  23. quietandsmalladventures February 28, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    wow this is so different from what i did (but to be honest i took what i learned form making a coat and translated it into cape without reading any of my sewing books!) i drafted a peter pan collar and put 3 layers of flannel in the middle of the wool upper and under collar. i basically “quilted” the flannel together and then sandwiched that between the wool upper and under collar. then i had to mold the finished, stitched collar into the correct shape.

    this roll line method works much much better!! i have so much to learn!!

  24. Tasia February 28, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    @Rachel: Ah, good point! A lot of techniques can be left out with only a minor difference, I’d imagine. I’ll definitely offer my opinion on whether it was worth the time or not. In this case, I think it was! The collar rolls so nicely and forms a soft curve around the neck. Which it may or may not have done on its own, with regular fusible interfacing. Even though it’s just a cape, and doesn’t really require a lot of structure.. it adds a nice touch. I’m hoping people will look at it, think it looks expensive, but not know exactly why.

    @quietandsmalladventures: Sounds like your method with the padding would add structure and body, but without the curve of the roll line. If this kind of thing interests you, take out a book on tailoring from the library! Even if you just read through it and don’t actually do anything, it’s kind of cool to see how it works. (Or perhaps I’m just a dork, obsessed with all things sewing related :) ) Gertie’s blog, back around the time of the Lady Grey sew-along, had a lot of cool tailoring posts. Which is what got me interested in the whole idea too, that and the idea of making things better and more special. Or, just stick around here! I’ll definitely be revisiting the whole tailoring idea. I want to make a winter coat! It might end up being a Fall coat by the time I get to it though…

  25. Christine February 28, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    I’m so jealous of your cape. It looks fantastic! The fabric is amazing. Can’t wait to see the final project!

  26. Caroline March 1, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    Very, very cool. I’m impressed you went there.

  27. Casey March 2, 2011 at 5:52 am #

    I’m still working on my Lady Grey jacket (a long story… but I trashed the first version and started over!), and up to the point of padstitching my collar. I love padstitching–it’s so fun to see something start to shape and curve just like it should! It’s amazing what a difference it makes too on a garment. I definitely love it!

    Your cape is looking great, btw! (Well, what little we can see in this post… ;)

    ‚ô• Casey