I was tempted to title today’s post, “The Saga of the Robe,” as this Christmas gift for my nephew, Lex, was 6 months in the making. It was quite a journey, but has a very happy ending, with a 10-year-old boy getting just what he asked for: a fluffy green robe.
I thought it a bit of an odd thing for a 10-year-old boy to request, when I asked him this summer what he wanted for his birthday in July. He replied — without hesitation — “a robe.” What color? “Green.”
Sounded simple enough. A green robe. I started looking for the fabric online, as I had just moved to Portland and the one fabric store I knew, Bolt in NE Portland, was still closed due to pandemic. Searches really turned up nothing in a green fabric that could be used for a robe. I finally found a vintage terrycloth fabric on eBay that had green it, but was not green per se. It was a good bargain for 3 yards, so I ordered it.
For the pattern, I found Rebecca Page’s Relaxation Robe pattern for children. The sizing was brilliant because it was by age, so I didn’t need to have Lex’s mom measure him. The terrycloth arrived and I cut out the pieces and started sewing.
The terry loops were shedding like a dog in summer. This fabric was definitely from the 70s and parts of it had been sitting in a sunny window for many years. So in addition to shedding heavily, it was also weirdly faded. I couldn’t use the fabric for anything small, like the hanging loop or belt loops. For those, I used some scrap microfiber. I got as far as sewing on the collar and thought, “Lex’s mom is going to kill me if he’s shedding terrycloth loops all over his house as this robe deteriorates with him inside it.” Lex would also be very sad when large holes started to appear.
So I scrapped the whole thing and fitfully stuffed it into a plastic bag and threw it in the attic. It was now one week to his birthday in July. I got him something else and he didn’t complain.
But I still wanted to make this robe! I continued to look for green fabric that would work. I saw a nice flannel at Sewing Studio that looked mostly green and ordered it. When it arrived, I didn’t know what I was thinking! There’s only a tiny bit of green in it and the orange is something Lex could only wear to a construction site. Not the thing for a “relaxation robe.”
Then in the fall, I discovered Mill End and 50,000 square feet of unique fabrics. I searched the hundreds of bolts and found one bolt of green fleece. I took it to the cutting counter and asked the guy for 3 yards. “There’s only 1-1/2 yards on the bolt.” What?? “What’s it for?” he asked me. “A robe for my nephew,” I said.
“Oh, this will never be enough. Do you want to find something else?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I’ll make it work.”
“A robe? It will never be enough!”
“Just cut it, PLEASE,” I pleaded.
He finally did and I went to the checkout with half of what I needed for the robe, not sure how this would ever come together.
A week later, I found another new favorite store, just blocks from my house: ReClaim It. An employee told me that the store is a non-profit and everything in it was saved from the dump. The store has a whole crafting section with fabric, ribbons, buttons and notions. I sifted through shelves and bins and found a plastic bag filled with green plaid scraps labeled “pieces from Pendleton robe.” I bought the bag for $3.
The Pendleton robe pieces turned out to be very large and in great condition. I put them through the wash with my fabric from Mill End and finally had 3 good, clean yards to work with.
I cut the body of the robe from the green fleece and it JUST fit. The collar, cuffs and pockets I cut from the Pendleton. I made my own piece for the back of the collar to cut out of fleece, as the Pendleton was a little scratchy and I thought Lex would like the fleece behind the neck better.
I used the technique I used for my mom’s Castillo Cardigan, and the leftover twill tape, to bind the collar seam. I bound the entire seam — all the way to hem. After looking at other garments in my closet, this is not usually how it’s done. This seam binding is really just for the back of the neck, then it will be tucked under at the top of the shoulder and it will be just a regular seam. Lesson learned. But it doesn’t look bad.
Something made the collar very narrow. If I made this again, I would widen it. The collar piece also ended up being about 2″ shorter than the robe body. I’m not sure if this was a problem with the pattern or because I modified the collar piece to make it out of two fabrics. Probably the latter. This forced me to hem 2″ off the bottom, which was a shame, because I’m sure Lex wouldn’t have minded the robe being even longer — especially if he grows. I’ve had this happen several times, where collar pieces end up too short. In future, I’m just going to cut them a few inches too long — no harm there.
I really can’t believe how well these two fabrics work together. The Pendleton was such a find! Sewing Studio currently has three Pendleton fabrics — each at $25/yard — and none green. With the added bonus of giving a second life to something that would have ended up in a landfill.
Lex’s mom texted me recently and said he wanted to wear the robe to his martial arts class! She had to convince him that it was only for in-home lounging. That says to me it was very well-received! -rp