Handmade Christmas Gifts, Part I: Superhero Capes

Aidan and I have a nephew and godson who were born just a few days apart from one another and are now just a few weeks away from their third birthdays. We’ve always had fun coming up with gift ideas for both boys and, I think, have done our fair share of spoiling. On the one hand, it’s really easy to come up with gift ideas for really young kids because everything is new to them and because they tend to like just about anything. On the other hand, it’s hard because a lot of kids have no shortage of toys, and because so many toys (and clothes and baby care items and just about anything that you could purchase for a kid) are aggressively gendered and branded in a way that kind of squicks me out. One of the reasons that I like handmade gifts for kids is because it gives you the chance to subvert some of that gendering and branding business. Plus, I figure I should take advantage of the opportunity to make these little guys gifts because it won’t be too long before they are too cool for my crafty shenanigans.

Superhero Cape via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

I came up with the idea for superhero capes while I was searching for ideas for what became the Monster Love baby gift. Amidst all the free tutorials for things like bibs and baby hats and whatnot, I came across this free tutorial for superhero capes from Thread Riding Hood. I thought about making superhero masks to match the capes, but eventually thought better of it. I figure that little kids have enough of a time staying upright and avoiding scrapes and bruises that they don’t need to deal with the added complication of potentially obscured vision.

The tutorial has a pattern for two different sized capes—one size for 18m-3T and one for 4T and up. While my nephew and godson are basically the same age, they’ve occupied opposite ends of the growth chart since they were born. So I used the smaller size for my nephew, who is more slight, and the larger size my godson, who is both tall and broad. The difference in sizes is a matter of about 2” of length and a bit of additional width with the larger size.

Superhero Cape via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

All the fabric I used was quilting cotton from Jo-Ann Fabrics. The comic book words novelty print I used to line the back of the capes (which is the same print I used for the coffee cup sleeve I showed in an earlier post) looks like it’s still available on Jo-Ann’s website. I got a yard each of the red and purple and 2 yds of the comic book print and had plenty of fabric left over (all of the fabrics were ~44” wide). I was able to cut the blue backing for the logo out of 1/4 of a yard of fabric.

Superhero Capes via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

While I’m sure the wildly independent toddlers that received these capes would object to the comparison, these capes are not much different than the monster baby bibs I made awhile ago—the capes are larger, but the process of making them is essentially the same. Following the advice in the tutorial, I searched for something like “superman alphabet” and used one of the fonts that came up to trace the letters that I appliqued to the back of the capes. It wasn’t a terribly scientific process—I basically zoomed in on the letter I wanted until it was about 5” tall and then traced it by holding a piece of paper up to my computer screen. When you trace the logo design onto the fusible web, you just have to remember to trace the design backwards so that it will be right-side up on your fabric. I just traced the right side of the logo with a black Sharpie and it bled through the paper enough that I was able to flip the paper over, lay a piece of fusible web over the top, and trace the design backward without any struggle.

Superhero Logo via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

My crowning achievement with these capes is that, unlike the monster bibs, I managed to not totally muck up the edge stitching around the applique. In fact, I think I did a pretty bang-up job managing all the angles and curves and shape changes of the logo. There was that thing where I accidentally sewed part of the cape to itself while edge-stitching, unpicked the stitches, and then made the same mistake except worse. But aside from that episode, I think I showed real sewing growth.

Superhero Logo via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

We gave both boys a copy of Bob McLeod’s Superhero ABC with their capes. As you can imagine, it was hard to find good books about superheroes that weren’t just franchise fodder. McLeod’s book is really colorful and has great illustrations that show a different superhero for each letter of the alphabet. The book features a good number of female superheroes and a more racially diverse cast of characters than you’d see in a lot of books. Plus, the descriptions of their superpowers are silly and fun. It might be a bit before the boys really appreciate the book since they are still pretty young, but I think it stands a good chance of becoming a favorite.

Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod

Around the time that I finished making these, I dreamt that I had a huge Superman logo tattooed on my throat—so huge that it stretched almost from my chin to my sternum. The dream wasn’t about actually getting the tattoo or having other people react to the tattoo—the dream was just me thinking about the tattoo. And in the dream I was genuinely trying to figure out if the tattoo was a bad life choice. I was rationalizing that my tattoo was somehow different than other neck tattoos, because in my dream state, it seemed to me that my giant logo throat tattoo wasn’t really that noticeable. And finally, I was trying to remember everything I’ve heard over the years about the relative pain and success of tattoo removal procedures. They say that dreams are your brain’s way of working out problems while you’re sleeping, and if this is the case, I’m not sure what my tattoo dream says about my problems. Perhaps just that making gifts for people is always more stressful than we anticipate? Regardless, I’m happy with how these capes turned out and even happier that I don’t have a gigantic Superman logo neck tattoo.

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