After my success with the purple hooded fleece cloak I decided to try a different version as a gift for a friend’s little girl, who is obsessed with owls. The great part about cloaks and capes is that they’re so versatile for costumes and general play, and they’re basically one-size fits all. I decided that a half-circle cape would be perfect to mimic an owl’s wingspan, and got to work.
I started off with 1 1/4 yards of aqua fleece– in retrospect I probably only needed 1 yard (60″ wide, so a half-circle cloak would only need 30″ of width to maximize use of the fabric), but I wanted to avoid having to come back for more later on, especially since I’d need fabric for the hood. I originally cut the cape with a 30″ radius, the same as I had with the purple cloak, but ended up cutting it shorter for easier play. (also, the little girl is only two, so she might trip over a longer cape)
Yes, those are my two cats, behaving as they always do around fabric.
Next I bought 18 letter-sized sheets of felt (6 each of 3 colors), and planned out how I’d cut them into feathers. Most tutorials online have all the feathers the same size, but that just seemed impractical– if the feathers were all big then the ones at the neckline would look too bulky, but if they were all small it would take forever to make enough. I decided to mimic the feather pattern on an actual bird’s wing and make some small, some medium, and some long and thin for the edges of the wings.
I cut out templates and tried to lay them on the cape to determine how many of each size I’d need– I figured that I’d need about 15 small feathers (2 rows near the top), 36 medium feathers (3 rows in the middle), and 18 large feathers (1 row at the bottom). I traced out my templates onto the felt and cut a few extra just to be sure I’d have enough.
Then I started laying out the feathers on the cape, overlapping the rows slightly and trying to keep the colors evenly distributed. It took longer than I’d expected, since I had to be sure that the top edges of each feather were securely hidden under the row above. I ended up making the cape into a modified half-circle, since a real owl’s wingspan is obviously wider than it is tall. I did end up using almost all of the feathers I’d cut, so I guess I calculated pretty well!
Once my feathers were all laid out, I tacked down each feather with a small blob of fabric glue to hold it in place temporarily. I let the glue dry overnight (during which time my cats apparently had a party on top of the cape and messed a bunch of the feathers up), then machine-sewed the feathers down in rows, starting from the top.
I made a hood for the cape by measuring the hood one of my daughter’s coats, which was 8″ deep and about 11″ tall. I cut a piece of fabric 8.5″ wide and 23″ long, then folded it in half and drew a curved seam line, so that when sewn it would make a rounded hood. (for a pointed hood, I’d have just sewed up one edge of the folded fabric)
I pinned and stitched the hood to the neckline of the cape– I had to make some pleats in the hood to get it to fit, since unlike the purple cloak the neckline was very short (a consequence of the half-circle shape). Once the hood was on I cut the cape down to just beyond the bottom edges of the feathers.
Then I added the details– big, round eyes and a pointed beak on the hood. They’re made of more felt (the beak is a double layer for strength) and were tacked on with glue before being sewed on.
Finally, I sewed down a wide ribbon at the neckline, and two loops of elastic on the outside edges for her wrists. That way she can spread her wings and fly!
- The fabric glue did a decent job of holding down most of the feathers while I sewed them– a few came loose, probably because of the cats and because I had to repeatedly roll up and unroll the cape to work on it over time. But overall the glue did its job. Definitely necessary if you’re going to lay out all the feathers beforehand.
- I’d originally planned just to chain-stitch the feathers together and sew rows directly to the cape without laying them out first. I see now that the plan would never have worked– you need to spread the feathers out at different angles depending on where in the cape they’re located, so laying them out is an important step.