capes + library = fun

logo 1Before the Star Wars and Frida Kahlo capes, it started with 7th grade Family and Consumer Science. They still sew in FACS – what we called “Home Ec” back in the day – and we needed to find material for a string bag for my son. We were at a fabric store, and we’d been talking about the new things in the children’s area at the library. Our youth librarian and manager had added dress-up clothes, a train table and new puppets, and the little ones were loving it all.

My son and I were looking at all the amazing patterns at the store when I started to wonder about capes. What if we made some capes to put in the dress-up tiger capearea? Capes are perfect for the library. If someone spills their mom’s coffee on a cape or steps on it with their muddy boots, you can just wash it, and they’re really, really hard to break. How hard could it be to find a simple pattern and throw something together? Maybe I could use up some of the fabric I’d stored in that big bin in the attic for years. Maybe we could re-use a few old library t-shirts. Maybe someone else had some fabric to pass on that would work.

I know. It sounds a little like an old movie… “Come on, kids, let’s put on a show!” But with the capes, I just knew this crazy scheme would somehow work out. So we charged forward. I asked the library staff for old t-shirts to recycle, and before long, orange, green, brown, black and blue shirts started showing butterfly capeup in the daily delivery.   I mentioned it to my sister, who happened to have a lot of Dr. Seuss fabric in her basement. A pattern was easy to find online, we came across some fun fabric on sale, and soon, my son and I had a nice stack for the library: a tiger, a princess, a superhero, a butterfly, and Rosie the bookmonster.

Kids can manage a cape if it’s got a Velcro fastener, and their imaginations are always ready to make the jump from wearing a superhero cape to being a superhero. Capes work for all kinds of characters — princesses, space aliens, farmers with flair, animals, chefs. With the right cape, you can be anything!   Seeing a little guy play with the new trains in one of our capes really made my day.

A few weeks passed. I couldn’t stop thinking about other possible capes, imagining what could be. Didn’t someone else need a cape? Most people would think that, laugh a little, and then go on with their day, shelving the idea with other impractical things. Not me. After talking to a few of the aides about my crazy idea, I made another cape for a student worker who was headed off to grad school. I remember grad school, and I’m telling you, there are moments when having a cape might just be the difference between an awful day and an ok one there. Another one down.

Then I realized I didn’t have to stop there. I could set up a survey, have my co-workers answer ridiculous questions, and make more capes. Do you sense a certain madness here? Well, I’m just getting started, my friends. It turns out that no one even tried to stop me from doing this. Not my family — apparently they’ve come to expect this kind of thing from me. Not even my boss. She didn’t wonder if this was an appropriate thing to bring into the library setting. She loved the idea and wanted one herself!

So I set up a survey and sent it out to my co-workers. I love surveys. Here are a few questions from it:

Which colors best fit your caped personality?

–bright, happy (orange, red, yellow)

–dark & brooding (brown, black, darker colors)

–pink, lots of pink!

–lively greens, blues, purples



Possible fabric options.  Choose at least a few.  I’m not sure what will work out.

–Batik – African – cool cultural – travel

–Alphabet – handprints – cute kids

–Dogs – cats – sharks – fish – owls – birds


–Flowers – plants

–Clifford the BIg Red Dog

–Curious George

–Disney Princesses – Frozen

–Hello Kitty

–Toy Story – Cars – Peanuts

–Spider-man – Superman – superheroes – Avengers

–Dr. Seuss – Eric Carle

–Star Trek – Star Wars – outer space – planets


–Something elegant

–Something nerdy

–Something else not on this list –  please explain below

List any favorites (e.g.: Star Wars but NOT Star Trek or NO CATS, only sharks!) or explain something else to help design your dream cape.  If you have ever wanted a “Hello Kitty” cape with pink polka dots on the back — I’m not naming names here — NOW is the time to mention it!

arthur cape

When all was said and done, everyone got a cape if they wanted one, and so did some of their kids. More than thirty capes in all, including an Arthur, a Frida Kahlo, a Star Wars, several Dr. Seusses, and a Star Trek.

Capes are a silly thing, really. But we all need things like the cape project sometimes. It’s not really about the capes, although they are pretty cool. It’s about the chance to have some pure fun and pure joy at a time when you really need it. How many other things in life can I say that about?

Did it hurt anyone? No. Did the kids (and the co-workers) like it? Yes. Did I see my fellow library workers (manager included) floating around the library on Halloween trailing pink Hello Kittys, books, and stars ? Oh, yes… That’s all I need to make it worth my time.

And we’ll be able to use them again soon when the summer reading theme is superheroes. They’ll probably even count as “business casual” then.

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One thought on “capes + library = fun

  1. Chris Knox says:

    I am one of those co-workers! I have a great STAR TREK cape that I wear when the mood strikes. I haven’t thought about wearing it for Summer Reading, but if my boss is okay with it, so am I! Thanks for the capes, LIOWABRARY!!


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