Raye loved playing dress-up so much that she went on to study costume and makeup for her BA, then got an MFA in surface design.
Different Styles of Cloaks
The earliest forms of outerwear, once people got tired of just wrapping themselves in blankets, were capes and cloaks. At a time when fabric yardage was costly and labor-intensive, and sewing and tailoring had not yet evolved, this was the simplest shaping of woven material into something useful to wear in cold weather. Just a small amount of form allows it to hang from the shoulders and stay in place, freeing the hands for other tasks instead of keeping the garment wrapped around you.
In modern times, cloaks and capes are often relegated to the realm of costume, with the extra fabric viewed as bulky and intrusive to highly-active movements. However, they still shed the rain and can keep you warm with a style and elegance all their own. And since the patterns tend to be uncomplicated, it's easier than you think to make one for yourself!
History of Capes & Cloaks
- Cloak Line Drawings. Fashion and Costume History 1
Full length cloaks have been in fashion since time began. Undecorated it is one of the simplest garments to make.
- Tempus Peregrinator's Cloak Site: A Short History
The English word cloak derives from the medieval Latin cloca, meaning cape, and the Old French cloke, which was the same as the later cloche, meaning bell.
- Cloak - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A cloak is a type of loose garment that is worn over indoor clothing and serves the same purpose as an overcoat—it protects the wearer from the cold, rain or wind for example, or it may form part of a fashionable outfit or uniform.
- Cloak Etiquette
Some of the history behind capes and cloaks
- Antimony & Lace ~ DIY dark and gothic fashion
One of the trickiest items to learn to wear properly is a cloak. It seems so simple, and one might think that it would go with everything, but there are certain types of clothing and certain occasions where cloaks are more appropriate than others.
Designing Your Cape
Before you get started, there are a few decisions that you need to make about your cape or cloak that will make the actual project a lot easier.
Costume or Real Garment? - Is this just a one-time garment (try the no-sew version!) or do you want this to work as a real outer garment that protects you from weather? You'll want better material and to spend more time on a real cloak versus a cape for a costume party.
Length? - Capes can be to the waist, to the knee or full-length (to the ankle) It's often best to make sure they don't drag on the ground as this can make them get wet/dirty or prone to being stepped on. Pinning some fabric and walking around the house can help you get a good idea of what works for you. Be sure to try things like going up and down stairs, going in and out of doors and at least just once try going to the bathroom with your practice cape pinned in place.
Material? - Are you doing a character cape? Or is this a historical recreation for the SCA? Costume capes tend to be satin, cotton or velvet, whereas historical garments are almost always a heavy wool or brocade that will actually shed rain and keep you warm. If the cape is going to be worn anywhere near fire, go with a natural fabric as that will resist embers (which melt holes in synthetics) and which is much more fire resistant. If you don't want the cape to flap behind you and hang down straight more readily, make sure the fabric is heavier. If you do want the cape to flow and flap, pick a lighter weight material like a silk. Also be sure to look at the "wrong" side of the fabric and decide if you want the inside of your cloak to look like that. If not, you'll want to pick out a fabric to line it with.
Garment details - Do you want your cloak to have a hood or not? Or maybe just a stand-up collar? Will the cloak tie at the neck, button shut or fasten with a brooch? Do you want your cape to have any inside or outside pockets? Or maybe an inside secret pocket? The more details you can think about and make decisions on before you start making your cloak, the better you can control your project budget and the less likely it will be that you get stuck halfway and can't figure out how to finish it.
How To Make a Cloak Video
Cloak Patterns & Instructions
- No Sew Warm Cloaks
Although this describes making a child's cloak, the same exact methods can be adapted and sized-up to make a fleece cloak for an adult.
- Cloak *how to* page
This is a pattern for a cloak as worn by the Jawas in Star Wars.
- Cloak Patterns
What follows are patterns for a suggested starting point.
Sewing Tricks and Tips
ALWAYS wash any fabric before you start working with it. This removes any of the sizing from when it was manufactured and makes sure it won't shrink smaller after you've sewn it up.
The thicker your fabric, the more thread gets used sewing it. If you're making a really heavy cape, make sure to get a spool more thread than you think you need so that you won't run out before you get done and thus can ensure the colors will match properly. If you plan on doing any zig-zag stitching, get double the thread you think you might use as that stitch eats up a lot of it.
The best way to hem your cloak or cape is to put it on and then do the pinning. This allows the fabric to hang naturally by its own weight and you get a straighter hem that way. You can put the cloak on a dress form, have a friend the same height as you wear it, or put it on yourself and have a friend do the marking and pinning.
Want a way to finish edges without having to sew them? Try using what's called fusible interfacing or hem tape. This is a lightweight type of fabric coated with a thin layer of glue that activates when heated with an iron. Be sure to read the product directions carefully for specifics before using, and make sure they will hold up and stay permanent for whatever method of washing you will be using on your cloak.
Sewing Capes & Cloaks
- Craftzine.com blog: Hooded Cape Pattern
Teresa Franco shows you how to sew a hooded cape with her cape pattern -- perfect for Halloween or for trotting on over to Grandmother's house.
- Cloak Making Guide - The Semi-Circular Pattern
This pattern is a little more complex that the basic rectangular pattern but it does produce a very nice cloak without too much effort.
- Cloak Patterns
Multiple cloak patterns, including half-circles, rectangles and more. Specific sewing styles and pattern numbers listed for modern patterns too.
Got Any Cloak or Cape-crafting Tips To Share?
Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on June 23, 2012:
Audrey, one of my best friends (who doesn't hardly sew) just got some great fake fur on sale at her local fabric store and made the entire thing in a night or two sewing entirely by hand, and years later it's still in great shape and has never needed any repairs or rebuilding. So it is easier than many people think.
Audrey Howitt from California on June 23, 2012:
I have never tried making one-but you make it look easy!
heart4theword from hub on March 20, 2012:
I don't know how a cape can look creepy and yet, one can be so beautiful? Must be the story line of fashion for the desired look and purpose. Have a friend who makes beautiful plush velvet capes for ladies who want to look and feel like a princess:)
Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on November 30, 2011:
meagain54, you'll probably be able to find the velvet (which is a pretty standard burnout/devore) if you call around to your local fabric stores and ask if they carry it. There are lots of online fabric retailers who should also carry such fabrics.
firstname.lastname@example.org on November 28, 2011:
Wonderful info! My granddaughter wants a Harry Potter invisibility cloak so badly, and I could sew one if I knew where to find the screen-printed velvet that I've seen the manufactured items for sale at $$$$$$ on Amazon and Ebay. Does anyone know where this velvet can be purchased by the yard?
Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on November 24, 2011:
Ace, for "torn" capes, you either have to make the hem purposely jagged (uneven) or you can cut holes in the cape and then sew around the edges to stabilize the shape.
Jenna Heap on November 20, 2011:
I have always wanted cloak and thanks to this web I can actually make it!!!!!
Ace on October 28, 2011:
Can you post up one on how to make torn capes, Like the Superhero Spawn. My favorite looking cape by far.
Erin on August 23, 2011:
Ah, the most comfortable of things always go out of style for hundreds of years....
Good tutorial. If you want waterproof fabric, go with alpaca wool instead of sheep wool. It is warmer and more resistant to water.
Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on March 30, 2011:
pandora, there are a lot of resources linked on this Hub, but you should do a web search for stores in your area, or check at this summer's medieval fairs.
pandora on March 30, 2011:
i live in england and my mum has no respect for anything remotly magical i have showed her that clokes are practical but she wont make it im not allowed on her sewing machene where can i buy one?
Emma from Houston TX on March 19, 2011:
Good job and thanks for really sharing.
Boo on February 13, 2011:
I have been wanting a Harry potter cloak and now I can make one!!!!!! Very good
Momwithahook on August 10, 2010:
Excellent tutorial. I love it.
adorababy from Syracuse, NY on July 01, 2010:
When I gave my 4 year old niece a superman costume with a cape and the boots with it. I could not describe the reaction that I got from him. It was like the most amazing gift he had ever received. Children has this huge fascination about character heroes with capes.
gerf1inkle on May 21, 2010:
Sweet! Now can I look twice as scary... ! Or be a superhero.
Rachael Lefler from Illinois on March 21, 2010:
Good job, I'll keep this in mind if I decide to make a costume for the Ren. faire this summer! :)
IdaKenelm on February 26, 2010:
My son has been begging me to make him a cape, so he can better play 'Lord of the Rings'. Thanks for the resources.
Misstikal1 from Chicago, IL on October 04, 2009:
Nice hub my friend. This is helpful to me, especially since Halloween is right around the corner. That Medieval Wool Cloak Costume Cape is something I may purchase.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 12, 2009:
Great hub just in time to start getting ready for Renfest. I made a rather crummy cape a few years ago but can see that a good quality cape is doable.
Superman05 from Philadelphia on May 21, 2009:
Fantastic hub, Relache. I've been getting more involved in the Renaissance Fair we have in Pennslyvania and was looking for information about making a cloak so I can look extra cool this summer during the fair =) Thanks.
Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on January 13, 2009:
Veej, weight vs durability is a bit of a toss-up: the lighter the material, the more it can snag or catch. Try looking for a medium weight cotton or light-weight wool.
Veej on January 13, 2009:
How cool! I didn't know there was such a body of resources around cloakology. What kind of material would you recommend for a cloak that is both light and less likely to be damaged by getting caught on stuff?
Ria Bridges from Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada on January 02, 2009:
Excellent Hub! Definitely something I'll remember to look back on when I get around to making a cloak the way I've wanted to for so long!
email@example.com on October 18, 2008:
Great picture...I want to make this one...can't find the pattern link on the site!
Jules on October 14, 2008:
Very interesting. Was going to buy one, but now I think I'll make one instead. I feel inspired!
Rodney Fagan from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City on April 21, 2008:
Thanks for this one Relache will pass it onto my who makes bustiers.
Bonnie Ramsey from United States on April 20, 2008:
Very interesting hub. I absolutely love cloaks and capes. I had one for many years that was made of some type of fake fur. However, it was really warm and I loved the look as it could be worn with almost anything and look stylish. Thanks for the reminder. Think I will try to find another one! LOL
solarshingles from london on April 20, 2008:
Very nice! I had a chance to see and to touch very special cloak - costume at the end of 2007, which was used in the church for special worship ceremony. It looked so nice...I was very persistent to find out the price of that amazing work of art and I was told £10.000 ($20.000)!!! There is an old tailor in Rome, who makes them.