Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
(Yeats, The Second Coming)
Esperanza, my ren faire character, is a recruitment officer for the Spanish Army*. Her purpose is two-fold: raise an army, take over England. Part of what I do is welcome people to Spain. It’s funny. People laugh. Early in her development, when I did this, someone asked me if I had a flag. I didn’t, but after the inevitable Eddie Izzard joke had run its course, the wheels in my head started turning, and I came up with what I believe is my best idea since I first gave mr. biscuit my email address: a flag cape!
So I did some research, and decided to use the Cross of Burgundy flag, which was the naval ensign in use by Spain until the 1700s, and was also the flag the Spanish flew over their colonies. You can see reminders of it in the state flags of Alabama and Florida. It also flies over the old Spanish forts in San Juan, Puerto Rico (where we took our honeymoon, incidentally, and bought the tiny cannon that lives on Esperanza’s hat).
So during the more helpful of my Sewing Lessons From A Friend, I created The Flag Cape Version 1.0. She had half of a circle skirt laying around for whatever reason, and it fit me perfectly as a short cape. We lined it with some shiny gold fabric I had, and I put together a close approximation of the design out of a patchwork of red fabric, everything from corduroy to Santa felt. Of course, I neglected to pre-wash any of the red, and the first time it rained it ran like mascara at a screening of Titanic, but I still thought it was pretty spiffy. It was certainly dramatic and swished nicely.
I don’t think I have a picture of this version, or if I do I can’t find it in any sort of reasonable span of time and therefore don’t care. It looked an awful lot like Version 2.0, because it’s the same cape, only for Version 2.0 I splurged on some super shiny satin and used that for the cross:
Behold also my living room table, which is too small and round to sew anything but too big to have any other furniture
As you can see, I was still just approximating the design. It worked well enough, I guess, but when I started Version 3.0 last week, I decided I wanted to Do This Shit Right. So I started over. Completely.
Instead of the scratchy, dirty-white, unidentified-synthetic-fabric I’d been using, I picked up a crisp white cotton something with a gift card, and switched the cheesy fire-engine-red for “linen look” (which is to say, a poly/rayon blend) in a more brick shade. I also found a beeeeeautiul soft yellow remnant for the lining, but I can’t find a picture of that, and since I did not bring it with me to this coffee shop, you will have to use your imagination and trust me when I tell you it all looks lovely together.
So the day before yesterday, I was sewing along. You may remember that things were not going well already, but I was cheerfully determined to move past it, especially given that I was already behind schedule. I kept encountering the same problem, though. I had determined to cut out the pieces of the saltire separately–two long lines, and then 24 little knots–for reasons unknown to me at this time. I think I thought it would be easier to position everything correctly? Anyway, it looked like this
Shortly thereafter I ran out of pins
I had pinned all the pieces into position, and then I added the bias tape I was using to hold down the edges. I didn’t bind the edges per se, just sort of…pinned it along the edges? I don’t know, it seemed to make sense when I began the long and arduous process of stitching all this down, using my most careful, attentive, Concentrating On My Sewing Face.
A reasonable facsimile of my Concentrating On My Sewing Face
As I continued, though, I noticed a problem. A repeated problem. The linen-look (whatever the hell that means) kept pulling out from under the bias tape, leaving my creation in tatters. As I repeatedly attempted to fix this in all the different places it occurred, it came to me that this was not just a repeated problem, but was, rather, due to an inherent design flaw. It was a Forever Problem.
So I decided to try again, slightly differently, by cutting out the entire saltire in one piece, edging it, and then stitching the whole thing onto the base. This time, I was going to make it work! And then, as I was picking out the (oh-so-carefully and tightly sewn) seams that connected the red to the white, I managed to tear a GIGANTIC FUCKING HOLE IN THE WHITE COTTON.
So yesterday I went back to the fabric store and got more. While it was washing, I killed dragons and Falmar in Skyrim and cried in my soul. And today when I get home from the adventures that have brought me to this coffee shop, I will try again.
Here is a picture of my cat watching me sew.
*please note that in the 1530s these things do not exist, and I am completely OK with this