–UPDATE 3/6/16: I have revised this tutorial to add suggestions for longer and adult-sized cloaks!–
When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with capes, and I often raided my mom’s linen closet for pillow cases which I safety pinned around my neck with one of those enormous safety pins my mom used with my baby brother’s cloth diapers (I was a child of the eighties, before you had to put labels on everything warning you not to steam iron clothes you are WEARING) so I could transform myself into wonder woman or a princess or a nurse… nurses wear capes, right? So I may be partial, but I personally think that a cloak is the perfect, most versatile costume piece, if you must have ONE thing. It can be gender neutral, making a girl into a princess, Red Riding Hood, or an elf. Or nurse. A boy can become a knight, Robin Hood, Harry Potter, or a hobbit. Plus, a great quality cloak meets the needs of every dress up situation, from the kids’ dress up bin to Cosplay or ComicCon, or even LARP. Plus, capes aren’t like a dress, which will be outgrown in a year, at best. If you make it a long one, it can last a child for a few years (if I’m lucky, this may even last for a few children).
I can personally crank one out start to finish in under two hours, but– full disclosure– I’ve never actually done that, because I always get interrupted by lunch time, laundry, and someone spilling the straight pins on the floor….
So, here is how to make a simple hooded cloak without a pattern. Keep in mind that the below tutorial is for small children, but I have updated it with suggestions for taller children up to grown ups.
1. You will need a couple of measurements.
A). First, measure from the nape of the neck to the floor (or approximately where you want the cloak to fall). This is an approximate length measurement (length will vary slightly based on seam size, how snugly the cape fits to your child’s neck, etc.). You will need this measurement before you buy fabric.
B). Next, do a very loose measurement around the collar. We absolutely don’t want this to be snug around the neck, so keep it at a VERY loose drape about halfway between the neck and shoulder, and then add a minimum of three but as many as 6-8 inches (if you wish to pleat or gather the top of the cloak). This measurement will also be a guide for the width of your hood.
C). Finally, drape your measuring tape around the face to approximate the way you want the hood to fall (from the collar bone, over the head, to the collar bone on the other side), whether this be close against the face, or wider and roomier. Divide this figure in half and add an inch (for example, if your measurement is sixteen inches, divide by two to get eight and add one. Your length of hood– cut on the fold– will be nine). Clear as mud?
2. Acquire fabric for the cloak and its lining.
For a finished cloak length of around 30″ or less: I recommend that you take the length of your finished cloak (from the neck as discussed above), double it, and add 12″ extra (for a 24″ cape length, I will buy 60″ EACH of the cape fabric and cape lining fabric).
For a cloak with a length over 36 inches: Triple that length.
Keep in mind that you can use either 45″ or 60″ width fabric, but make sure both your lining and fabric are the same width to avoid difficulties (if you do use mixed width fabrics, cut out the shorter width fabric first). I used velvet and satin because I try to go for awesome with stuff like that, but… it was a terror to sew. If you repeat those fabric choices, plan on pinning EVERY INCH, because it crawls and slips like mad when you sew those two together. A good source of fabric at pretty decent prices is Fabric.com.
3. Here are the pieces you will be cutting, followed by a layout as I set them on the lining fabric.
A). ONE LARGE BACK PIECE. (Take note: if your cloak will have a length greater than 30 inches, you want TWO of these). On the fold and from one corner, cut your large(st) piece. You will cut a nice rounded corner out of it (Four or five inch radius. I usually eyeball this one, but you can measure, chalk, and then cut it). This will be the back neck. Now, using your measuring tape as a compass to keep the length uniform throughout the curve, you can either begin to cut (or draw it out in fabric chalk first) the hem of the cloak. In the photo, this is the piece on the far left.
B). TWO SMALLER FRONT PANELS. On the selvage (the finished edges opposite the fold), you will cut two front panels (the fabric is doubled, so it looks like you are just cutting one. Follow me?). If you are OCD about things like this, I really do apologize for saying that you pretty much just do what you did with the big piece, but on a smaller scale. I kinda just cut it as you see with the middle piece(s) in the picture.
C). THE HOOD. You’ll go back up to your fold and measure down the hood length (Remember how we divided that in half, so you’re actually cutting HALF your measured length plus an inch?). For the width, I recommend that you keep it pretty close to the neckline measurement from point 2B above to avoid too many gathers or pleats at the end. I give it a slight curve, toward the neck.
OKAY. Good job. Now using your cut pieces as a pattern, do exactly the same thing with your lining.
I usually go ahead and lay my pieces out as you see here so I can make sure I’m sewing the front panels to the right side, etc. Remember that if you are making this for a taller person, you will lay two large panels next to one another in the back and sandwich them on either end with the smaller, front panels.
4. Pin and sew your sides together. Right side, left side. Do this for both fabrics. Press your seams.
5. Lay your big, nice cape out on the floor and lay the lining out on top, RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER. Beginning at the front panels, going all the way around the hem and back up the other side, you are going to pin and then sew that bad boy up (leave the neck open). Press your seams and turn inside out. It should look like this:
6. That was easy right? It’s time to sew the hood. Sew the back of your hood (and lining) up, like so. Press the seams open.
7. Now put them together, right sides inside and sew all around the front edge.
8). It’s time to attach your hood to the cloak. Beginning at your outer edges, pin inward, and pleat or gather as needed if your hood and the neck of your cloak are different sizes. NOTE: You are only pinning and sewing the OUTER fabric. Two photos here: one with the pins, one with the seam sewn.
9). And now it’s time to FINISH! I go ahead and hand sew my last neck lining seam. If you pleated your cape or hood in the last step, you’ll need to repeat that here. Wow, see how easy?
10). And now, just put on a hook and eye closure, one of those nice frog closures, or… I actually found some nice hook and eyes in the jewelry section of Hobby Lobby.
11). Happy play time to you and your little ones!
Here is a video tutorial I made on how to sew a hooded cape that might clarify a few of the details.
Here is another cape I used in our Frozen themed photo shoot.
If sewing isn’t really your thing, you can just purchase one from my Etsy Shop.