As the weather has been cooling down I’ve realized that while my daughter may be excited to wear her princess costume for Halloween this year, it’s not exactly appropriate for a New England fall evening, not even with a turtleneck underneath. Remembering my own trick-or-treating years as a “ballerina princess fairy” (it involved a sparkly tutu, wings, and a tiara made of Christmas tinsel), I took a page out of my own mother’s book and decided to stitch up a cape made out of fleece to keep my daughter warm.
It would have to be purple, to match her costume and because it’s her favorite color. Happily, my local fabric store had 60″ wide fleece in a nice deep purple, so I picked up 2.5 yards and a yard of matching purple satin ribbon. The great thing about fleece is that it requires no hemming, and it’s thick enough to drape nicely as a cape without looking flimsy. I’d never made a hooded cloak before, but how hard could it be, right?
I decided to make a 3/4 circle cloak in order to ensure that it would stay open enough in front to show off the costume. Since the fleece was 60″ wide, that meant I’d need 2 yards to cut out a big 60″ diameter circle, and I tacked on the extra half yard to use to make a shoulder ruffle (both for decoration and to add extra warmth).
First, I cut out the main cloak, using the simple method of folding the fleece into a big square, folding that into quarters, and drawing an arc by measuring out dots 30″ out from the center point. I also measured out 3.5″ from the center point to cut my neckhole (which would eventually be 7″ in diameter– a mistake we’ll get to later). Once I had my giant donut, I simply cut out a quarter of it and set that aside.
To cut the hood I first took a rough measurement from my daughter’s collarbone, over her head, and back down. I made that the length of my hood (22″), and the width was based on the neckhole of the cloak– since the neckhole was about 19″ in circumference (remember, it wasn’t a full circle), I made the width of the hood a little more than half that measurement, as each end of the hood would be attached to half of the neckline. (I left a little room in for gathering) When I initially cut the hood I widened it towards the center, thinking it would make the hood a better pointy shape– this was also a mistake in the end, and I ended up narrowing it back down again later. Stick with a plain rectangle for a hood, don’t get fancy.
Since I had plenty of fabric left over, I decided to put an extra ruffle around the shoulders, kind of like a Sherlock Holmes cape (or, as I explained it to my daughter, Anna’s capelet in Frozen). I didn’t want to have to gather anything, since fleece is so thick that gathers would add unnecessary bulk. Drawing on my experience with circular ruffles, I knew that the inner circumference of my shoulder ruffle needed to be more curved than the neckhole– otherwise the shoulder ruffle would look flatter than the cloak beneath it– the opposite of what I wanted. I decided that I would make the ruffle out of a full circle with an inner circumference of 19″– same as the 3/4 circle of the neckhole. That way the ruffle would be slightly fuller than the cape, but not too much. I ended up making a donut with a 3″ inner radius, which was just about perfect.
So, with all the pieces cut out my first step was to attach the shoulder ruffle to the underlying cape.
It was simple at first, but when I held up the double-layered cape I was faced with a problem– the neckhole was just too big for a little kid. It was a good size for me, but definitely not for my daughter. I decided to make a few small pleats in the cloak before attaching the hood, which worked great, except then the hood was too wide for the decreased neckhole. I had to make pleats in that too, but not at the same places as the neckhole pleats, because that would make far too many layers of already-thick fleece for my sewing machine needle to get through. As it was, the fabric layers were already too thick for my pins to get through, and I ended up needing to hand-baste the layers together with a doll-sewing needle (3″ long and very sturdy).
Luckily, the sewing machine had no problem getting through my fabric, and it turned out fine, if a little bulkier than I’d wanted.
Finally, to add an extra princess-y touch, I took a yard of purple satin ribbon, cut it in half, melted the ends over an open flame to prevent fraying, then attached it to each side of the neck opening, ready to tie into a nice bow.
The whole project took about two hours, tops, and it turned out adorable.
Moral of the story? Make sure you know the right measurements for a project, even (or perhaps especially) the so-called “easy” ones. Specifically, a 3″ radius would have worked much better for the neckhole of a child-sized cloak. If I were making a full circle cloak I’d have reduced it down to 2.5″ (since I’d be using the full inner circumference as opposed to only 3/4). Next time I make a cloak for someone I’ll keep that in mind– and since the project as a whole was so simple, I can see myself making these for birthday gifts in different colors!