The Ins and Outs of Cloaks (And How I Made One)

Rather interesting title I hear you say.  Why would I be talking about cloaks?  Well, this all came about because one of my friends had a cloak given to her as a present.  Its made from dark green fleece, lined with a pretty, darker, patterned lining and complete with hood and a nice hook fastening at the neck.  I was very jealous of said cloak for several reasons, a) it looked amazing, b) it looked warm and snuggly (and perfect for going to sleep under) and c) it fired off my creative streak that instantly went “YOU HAVE TO MAKE ONE!!!!!” (in a loud, excited voice inside my head).

So, I decided that I would indeed make one.  I did some research on the internet looking at the best ways to make a cloak and what varieties you get.  Turns out you can get quite a few, and almost all of them are hooded.  I found quite a few of them (just put “cloak” in your favourite search engine and have a look through the images).

A Brief Discussion On Types Of Cloaks

Full Circle Cloaks

These seemed to be the most common, possibly because they are easiest to make.  You literally get a whole large circle of material leaving an appropriate neck hole and an opening at the front.  It can be made from one piece of fabric (if its really large…) or more commonly several pieces of fabric, the exact number depending on how wide your fabric is.  Something like this for the pattern:

FullCirclePAttern

The best thing about these is that there is lots of fabric and its guaranteed to go all the way round you and you can fit several people under the cloak with you as well (I always wondered how Harry’s invisibility cloak could fit 3 of them under it! (Harry Potter reference if you’re unsure)), well these maybe aren’t the best things, but they are some of the bonuses.  Also super swishy.  A random thought occurred to me that if you sew up the front of a full circle cloak you’d have a rather large poncho…

Half Circle Cloaks

These are a bit more like a cape rather than a cloak.  The fabric doesn’t necessarily meet at the front, they’re often shorter but look just as cool (although less swishy and less warm).  As the name suggests, these are made from a semicircle!  The pattern would look something like this:

HalfCirclePAttern

Shaped Cloaks

These cloaks are made so that they have less material at the hem (less swishy, but probably more practical for some situations, presumeably windy days!) and so that they sit neatly over the shoulders.  I’m not going to draw a pattern for this one, but it seems that they are made from 3 pieces of fabric – the back piece and 2 front pieces which are joined at the shoulder and run straight down the sides.  It also looked harder to make!

Other Comments

While these are common types of cloaks, there are many customisations you can do, including a design on the back, a motive running down the front opening edges, different colour cominbations, with hood, without hood and many more things.

There are also some common materials that seem to be used.  For historical re-enactment the most common material seems to be a thick wool.  I’m not a historian and do not do historical re-enactment so I can only assume that this is because original cloaks were often made from wool.  For modern day cloaks it seems to depend on the usage.  If you are going for an elegant, beautiful cloak that shows off your wealth and superior clothing (let’s face it, cloaks are awesome, you must have a great taste in clothes if you have a cloak) then it seems to be velvet, often with a satin lining or similar.  If you’re going for warmth and snugglyness (that is definitely a word – I didn’t just make it up, really I didn’t) then fleece (with or without a lining) seems to be fairly common.

So, What Do I Want From My Cloak?

A good question that I asked myself.  I guess first thing is to work out when I’d wear it.  The answer to this is simple – as much as possible, but particularly at Folk Festivals (it will be useful as an extra blanket!), when I want to snuggle on the sofa, to wear over my formal clothes when going to formal dinners (I’m involved in a Cambridge University society, this happens fairly frequently), whenever I want to be warm, and also when I want to make a point of looking awesome.

From this, I worked out what I wanted from my cloak!

  • It needed to be warm
  • It needed to feel nice (so I’d want to snuggle in it)
  • It needed to look formal (but not too formal)
  • It needed to be swishy (because I love swishyness)
  • It needed a big hood (because I wanted one)

The Design Specifications Of My Cloak

From the above I decided on the following:

  • It was going to have fleece as the outer material (because fleece is warm, and also easy to sew)
  • It was going to have a satin lining (because this makes it look formal and feel nice)
  • I was going to use a 3/4 circle cloak pattern (to avoid drowning me in fabric when I wear it! But so that it still meets at the front and is nice and swishy)
  • It was going to have a hood.

Excellent, this seems to be most of the main decisions decided upon!  The final consideration is colour.  This was fairly easy.  I knew I wanted a black outer, so black fleece it is!  Black is formal and means that it will match with almost anything.  The satin lining was going to be a dark colour, I decided on dark navy blue in the end.  Blue is part of the colour scheme of Granta Blue Morris (the Morris side I dance with) so it would be useful for wearing over my dance clothes at dance outs in case of coldness.  It would also match with many of my clothes.

So I then sourced the materials and then I started to make!  I got so engrossed in the making process that I forgot to take any photos as I went along, but I’ll do my best to describe it as well as I can!

The Making Of The Cloak

1. A Little Model Cloak

I made a model cloak for my minature mannequin using a scrap of fleece I had leftover from when I made pyjama trousers.  Look, doesn’t he look so snuggly!!!  (Its a bit short though, but that’s ok, it was only a model).

2. The Pattern

This is the basic pattern that I cut from my fabric.  The big parts of a circle are for the long cloak big, the rectangle with a rounded bump is for the hood.  I wanted a hood with a rounded point going downwards because it’ll look pretty as I will almost certainly wear the hood down most of the time.  (Note this isn’t to scale…otherwise that would be a very big hood!)

CloakPattern

All pieces are cut in both the satin and the fleece.  The big semicircle I’m going to call piece “A”, the two semisemisemicircles  pieces “B1” and “B2” (they are each an eight of a whole circle) and the funny shape that is for the hood, piece “C”.

3. Making The Cloak (Without The Hood)

So I have my materials, my pattern pieces are all cut out, its sewing time!  First of all, starting on the satin (because its the hardest material) I joined pieces B1 and B2 to the straight sides of piece A.  This was done by playing one of the B pieces right side to the right side of piece A and sewing a normal straight seam.  To neaten the seam and help prevent them fraying I then used a zigzag stitch over each of the seam edges before sewing the seam edge down.  From the right way round that looks like this.  The fabric looks like its gathered slightly because I forgot to set the tension on my sewing machine properly.

DSC02459

I then did the same with the fleece.

Now its time to join the satin to the fleece!  So, putting the right sides of the fabrics together, I carefully matched them up at the neck line.  I then sewed this as a normal seam with a zigzag finish on the satin part.  I then sewing it again about 5mm above the seam line I’d just sewn (so 5mm nearer the edges of the fabrics) just to strengthen the seam as this is the seam where the cloak is going to hang from.  Wonderful, joined at the neckline!

I then matched up the fabrics down the long front edges and sewed them in the same manner as the neck seam.  Finally I matched up the bottom hem (this is a very long hem!) and sewed most of the way along it, again like I did for the neck seam.  I stopped about 30cm before I reached the edge.  This because I now need to turn the cloak the right way round!  Before turning it inside out, its a good idea to cut little notches carefully into the seam at the neckline so that it doesn’t complain at being the other way round, it helps to sit nicely.

Turning the cloak right side out was very easy as there’s no particularly small bits to turn out!  To sew up the hole in the hem, you should probably use a neat slip stitch.  I still haven’t got the hang of slip stitching so I just used a straight stitch on my sewing machine, it ended up looking like this:

DSC02464

Excellent, a large part of my cloak is made!!!

4. Making The Hood

This took some think about!  First of all, I worked with each piece separately.  I started with the satin as before, because satin is trickier to work with.  Firstly, I folded the hood piece (C) in half (right side facing in) and sewed along the red line marked in the diagram.  This means the hood isn’t open at the back (a useful thing I find!).  This was done with both fabrics!

Hood1

Then I turned the fleece piece the right way round and inserted it into the satin piece (still the wrong way round).  This means that the right sides of both fabrics should now be facing each other on the inside.  The next task was to sew around the red line marked in the following diagram.  This is the seam which goes around the front of the face if you wear the hood up!  (So don’t sew through all four layers like it shows in my diagram! Just one satin and fleece, it can be done all in one go!)

Hood2

Next, I turned the hood round the right way and started on the neck seam (the bottom line on the diagrams).  To do this, I carefully folded both fabrics in on themselves and sewed a straight stitch all the way round, much like I did to close the hem at the bottom of the cloak once I’d turned it inside out!

Hurrah, I have a hood!

5. Attaching The Hood To The Cloak

This was probably the trickiest part of the whole prcoess.  I knew this needed to be a strong seam as its where the cloak will hang from.  So, first of all, I put the satin side of hood against the satin side of the cloak at the neckline and sewed a straight stitch about 1cm from the edges, so I could see the fleece when I was sewing).  I then folded the seam backwards so that the fleece on the hood was lying flat onto the fleece of cloak and sewed a straight stitch as close to the bottom of the hood part as my sewing machine allowed.  This means that you shouldn’t see any of the wrong colour on either side of the hood.  When it was finished the join looked like this:

And voila!  A cloak has nearly been made!

6. Making And Attaching The Fastening

There are many ways to fasten a cloak.  A metal fastener, button, ribbon, string, cord etc.  I decided to use some of my left over satin to make a ribbon tie.  To do this I cut two long rectangles about 7cm wide.  I then folded them in half (right sides together) and sewed a seam close to the open edges (the edge furthest from the fold).  Then I turned them the right way round.  To hold them together more securely I then sewed two further lines of stitching at about the same distance from each edge.  Next I folded over the ends to hide the fraying edges and sewed them down:

Excellent, two satin ribbons!  Now to attach them.  To do this I tried to sew as neatly as I could (it wasn’t as neat as I hoped in the end).  I attached them by sewing them to the fleece side of the fabric like this:

DSC02473

The Final Cloak!

So, if you’ve managed to read this far, then I have successfully made a cloak!!!  Time to put it on and enjoy the snugglyness, the warmth and the swishyness.

If you would like a cloak made for you then please contact me :).

Pssst!  You can buy one on Etsy!

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