(These instructions used to be on their own page, but I'm cleaning things up on the site, so now it's a blog article!)
© 2008 Analogue Chic/Allison McConnell
Please do not duplicate these directions or my photos for publication, and do not sell any capes you make using these directions. Feel free to make them for yourself, or to give as gifts. Contact me for permissions: allie [at] analoguechic [dot] com.
Update – Note on Sweatshirts: I used a sweatshirt with set-in sleeves (like a t-shirt) for this project. I just realized many sweatshirts have raglan sleeves (the seams look like an upside-down V and touch the neckline). It is possible to use one of this type, but it may look weird with those seams showing. If you make one with a raglan type sweatshirt, please email me and let me know how it goes. Thanks.
- L-XXL(+) sweatshirt*—you want this to be at least 2-3 sizes bigger than your regular, snug-fitting size, and the bigger the better (e.g. if a size Small fits you well, you want at least a L-XL or bigger sweatshirt)
- ½-1 yard contrast lining fabric* (you will need 1-2 yd if you are making your own matching bias tape**)
- Closure of your choice for collar: button(s), hook & loop tape (e.g. Velcro®), snaps, buckle, ribbon ties…
- (optional) ½ yard light-to-medium weight interfacing
- (optional) 1-2 yards piping or trim of your choice
*go for second-hand/recycled!
**How-to’s to make your own piping, and for sewing with piping:
Basic sewing tools—matching thread, sharp scissors, straight pins, iron, flat surface, measuring tape and/or ruler, needle for hand sewing, tailor’s chalk or wash-out marker
Important Note: If you are going to use a sewing machine, and you want to use piping as trim, be sure you have a zipper foot that can be switched to sew on right or left.
Skill level: Advanced beginner to Intermediate.
(These directions are written from my “slash-and-burn” perspective, for times when you just want to make something cool to wear now! I have included additional notes for Good Little Stitchers, in italics, for people who have time and patience and would rather make a higher quality piece that will be more stable and last a little longer, no offense to those people. We all aspire to be Good Little Stitchers.)
NOTES ON STITCHING:
- I recommend using a stitch-length of 3 (smaller than basting, but bigger than what you’d use with lighter weight fabric) with sweatshirt fleece—it’s easier on the needle, and easier for you if you need to rip stitches.
- I also recommend using 3/8 inch seam allowance—it’ll be less bulky with the sweatshirt fleece, and it will leave you room to take in your seams if you need to fit it smaller.
- Please, make your life easier, and be nice to your sewing machine, and pin your fabric perpendicular (like a cross) to the seam line you want to stitch—it’s easier to take out the pins as you’re sewing, and they won’t get stuck in the presser foot and fall all over the place.
Preparing the Sweatshirt
- Remove the ribbed collar band, sleeves, and ribbed bottom hem from the sweatshirt—keep the sleeves, you will use them later (please re-use the rest).
- Cut open the side seams from waist to bottom of armhole; do not cut shoulder seams yet.
- Trim the neckline if you want a little more ease when you pull it over your head. If the sweatshirt is really big (i.e. especially top to bottom), and the neckhole is very wide on you, I would cut off the top of the sweatshirt straight across below the neckline, and then trace and cut out a new neckline from a sweater or jacket that fits you well.
- Now, with the sweatshirt body laying flat with the sides matching and straight and center front and back matching, take a sweater or sweatshirt that fits you the way you want this cape to fit– take into consideration whether you will be wearing many layers underneath or not.
- Lay the sweater nice and flat on top of the sweatshirt, line up the necklines and center-lines, fold the arms of the sweater across the front.
- Using a marker or tailor's chalk, trace the shoulder seams of the sweater from neck to just beyond shoulder point– be sure to extend at least 1/2 an inch around for a seam allowance; you may want to extend more to allow for fitting and adjusting.
- Now, you can trace the side seams basically straight down if you want a snug-ish, flat front like mine (basically a rectangle shaped front), or draw side seams flaring out from the shoulder if you want more drape (and your sweatshirt is big enough—basically a trapezoid-shaped front, with the bottom wider than the top).
- If you need to, make your side seam line a nice smooth curve, make sure the shoulder isn’t too square, and cut through both layers along your seam allowance line. Good Little Stitchers will pin the layers together along the inside of the line, so they don't shift.
- Good Little Stitchers will now put staystitching around the front and back necklines—just a basting stitch from each side to the center, so it doesn’t stretch as you keep working.
Back of Capelet
- Take just the back piece of the sweatshirt material now, find the center point of the neckline and the bottom hem, and mark it by drawing a dot or just place a pin. Now measure down along that center line from neckline to anywhere from the shoulder point to mid-shoulder blade, but not below the bottom of the shoulder blade—mark that point with a dot or a pin. Now cut a slit from the bottom hem to this point along the center line– mark it with chalk first, or just eyeball it. This will be where you insert one of the sleeves to get a nice, pleated flare in the back.
- If you want the top of your inset-opening to be squared off, snip a tiny ‘V’ at the top of the slit. If you want the top of the opening to be an upside-down ‘V’, just leave the slit. Good Little Stitchers will now put a few zigzag stitches at 0-stitch length at the top of the slit so it doesn’t stretch out.
Back Flare Insert
- Take one sleeve from the sweatshirt, remove wrist ribbing and snip off all the seam stitching.
- Usually, the bottom seam of the sleeve will be the straight grain—fold the sleeve back in half so the former seamlines are matching, and the fold is now the centerline of the sleeve—mark this with pins at each end. If necessary, trim the wide curved end (the shoulder seam) so that it is evenly curved.
- Lay the back piece with right side up. Matching right sides, lay the sleeve on top of the back—match the narrow top of the sleeve to the top of the back slit, and pin the side of the sleeve along the slit. NOTE: If you snipped the top of the slit to get a square shape, just extend the top of the sleeve a little beyond the top of your ‘V’-cut. Stitch the pieces together.
- Flip the back so right side is down, and sort of folded in half along center line—the flare insert should now be right side up. Matching insert and side of slit as before, right sides together, stitch along the other side of the slit. The insert piece is going to make kind of a tube shape.
- With back pieces laying right side down, align insert seams together so flare insert is folded up on top. Match center top of flare insert to top of the insert seams, and flatten the insert. The narrow top of the flare will be folded and straight, parallel to the bottom hem—pin this and top stitch it down, once close to the insert opening, and then again about 1/8 inch above that stitchline, not extending beyond the folded edges of the insert.
Front of Capelet
- Take the front piece, fold in half matching sides, and mark the center line.
- Along the bottom, measure in from each side 6-8 inches, depending on where you want the arm slits placed—mark these points, and make sure they are equally distant from the center front.
- Measure from the slit points straight up (parallel to the center line) about 9-10” —mark this line and cut it. Good Little Stitchers will now put a few zigzag stitches at 0-stitch length at the top of each slit so they don’t stretch out. You want the slit to begin just above elbow level, but you can adjust it in a moment.
Constructing the Capelet
- Lay back and front piece on top of each other, right sides together—match shoulders and ends of the neckline first, and then pin down the sides. The bottom corners may not match exactly, and the entire bottom may be uneven—you’re going to even it out in a minute.
- Stitch the side seams from shoulder to bottom hem.
- Try on the capelet, wrong side out. Check the neckline—is it easy-on, but not too wide? Check the arm slits—do they start just above elbow-level? If not, use chalk or a pin on the side seam to mark where they should start (measure straight across and mark the new start point when you take it off). Check the shoulders? Do they stand away from your actual shoulder too much? Are they loose enough to wear a sweater underneath? If you need to, pin the shoulders the way you want them to fit. Don’t worry about the hem yet—we need one more step.
- Once you’ve marked and/or pinned all of your adjustments, take off the capelet, keep it wrong side out. Laying it flat, again make sure the crucial points are matching, and measure to make sure that your fitting marks are exactly the same on left and right sides. Then, stitch and trim away.
Creating the collar (optional, of course)
- Measure around the neckline—if you are making button holes, or you want the ends of the collar to overlap as in my 2 capes, add enough length for your button, or as long as you want the overlap.
- Basically, you are going to make a lined tube to attach to the neckline. You need to cut a rectangle as long as the neckline plus your extra measurement, and as tall as you want the collar to stick up—remember to add seam allowances!—cut one rectangle from the other sleeve of the sweatshirt, and one rectangle from your lining fabric. If you want the collar to stand up, and it doesn’t seem like the fleece plus your lining are stable enough, use interfacing in between.
- Pin the fleece rectangle to the lining rectangle right sides together—remember to sandwich in your piping or other trim—and stitch along each short side and only one long side. If there’s a lot of bulk along the outside of the seam, you can trim away a layer or two of fleece (this is called grading the seam allowance, for all those Good Little Stitchers).
- Turn the rectangle right side out, gently poke out the corners, and press the seam, carefully not to flatten the piping or trim.
- Now, with the cape right side out, pin the collar to the neckline of the cape, right sides together—the open side of the collar will be lined up with the neckline. Good Little Stitchers will now hand baste the collar to the neck. Stitch the collar to the neck. Remove the pins or basting stitches. Press the seam allowance toward the body (do not clip the seam allowance as you would for other curved seams!), then top stitch very close to the seam, capturing the seam allowance so it lays flat and the collar stands up. Good Little Stitchers will also create a neck facing, so everything is neat and in its place, or at least bind the neck seam.
- If you are adding piping to the arm slits, now is the time. Otherwise, turn the edges of each slit under, pin, and top stitch. Or leave it raw, if you like that look.
- Add the closure to your collar now.
- Put the cape on, inside out. Check the bottom, all the way around. Is it even? Do you want it shorter? Good Little Stitchers will have a stitcher friend help them measure up from the floor and mark the new hemline all the way around—don’t cut on this line! Remember that you need at least a ½ inch extra length to create a neat bottom hem (you can also leave it raw for a ‘deconstructed’ look).
- Turn up your hem, pin, take off the cape, and stitch.
Secret Kangaroo Pocket
- Lay the cape flat, inside out. Measure across the front center flap, from the inside edge of the slit seam to same point on other side. Measure from top of hem to as tall as you want the pocket to be, not above the top of the arm slits. Cut 2 rectangles from your lining fabric with these measurements, plus1 inch on all sides. Take one of the rectangles, and cut the top corners so the piece looks like a trapezoid sitting on top of a rectangle (unlike the photo)—don’t cut the angle all the way to the bottom corner, or your stuff will fall out of your pocket!
- Turn under the edges of each piece, top stitch. Then, lay the trapezoid piece on top of the rectangle piece so that both pieces are right side up. Pin the top and bottom edges and stitch them together, leaving the sides open for the pocket openings.
- Now, pin the pocket to the inside front center flap of the cape. With a needle and thread, slip stitch the sides and bottom of the backingto the seam allowances of the flap, so that the stitches do not show on the front. Do not stitch the top of the pocket, because the stitching may show on the outside.
And voila, you look fabulous, darling! Be sure to post it on Craftster!
Endless List of Variations (please email me your suggestions, and I'll add them here):
Ruffled trim, Peter Pan collar, contrast fabric on the outside of the collar, piping around the hem, piping/trim on the back flare seams, EPAULETTES!, stenciling, embroidery, A HOOD, contrast flare insert, punk rock spikes…