Make Your Own Cape

You need an item that isn’t commercially available. You want something unique. You want total control over the materials, color, style, and details. You want a custom fit. You’re on a budget. You enjoy that smug “I made this” feeling.

The reasons that Vogue Patterns editor-in-chief Gillian Conahan gives to cosplayers, performers, and even once-a-year Halloween costume shoppers for learning how to sew (even a little bit) are the kind that we always champion at ABRAMS Craft, but they’re all the more important for those creative souls whose dream projects aren’t just hard to find at the mall—but pure fantasy. Her book The Hero’s Closet: Sewing for Cosplay and Costuming is on sale as of last week!

The Hero’s Closet is a practical introduction for anyone who wants to forget about generic, store-bought costumes, including a complete primer on sewing technique, plus patterns for 11 basic pieces that can be combined, altered, and adapted into 9 full-blown costumes. Will James at GeekDad calls the “Getting Started” section “worth the price of admission alone,” but even an advanced sewist might be surprised by sensible advice like Conahan’s for dealing with fake fur: “it should be cut from the back side using a razor blade or craft knife so you don’t cut the pile, which will help to minimize the fluffsplosion.”

In this excerpt from The Hero’s Closet you’ll learn to create a “luxuriously swishy” cape with stacked box pleats at the shoulders. It connects to your outfit with snaps, so you can “swiftly detach in the event of an emergency.”

Cape

Cape

Excerpted from The Hero’s Closet

TOOLS AND MATERIALS

Sewing essentials
  • Sewing Essentials (see above)
  • Lightweight fabric with a soft drape, such as blouse-weight cotton, silk/cotton blends, silky polyester, charmeuse, crepe de chine, or even lining fabric—amount based on step 1 (I used 3½ yds/3.2 m of 54"/137 cm wide gray plain-woven cotton shirting.)
  • 10" (25.4 cm) of twill tape, ½" to 1" (1.3 to 2.5 cm) wide (Anything in this size range will work.)
  • 1 yd (.9 m) of bias tape, ½" (1.3 cm) single-fold (optional)
  • 6 large sew-on snaps
  • Large safety pins
  • All-purpose thread in a matching color
  • Trim or decorative medallions for the shoulders (optional)

NOTE: Choose stable fabrics that don’t stretch or fray much, and make sure that both the garment you’re attaching the cape to and your chosen fastening method can stand up to the weight of the cape. If you want to use a heavy, bulky fabric like velvet, you may need to reinforce the attachment point with interfacing or a piece of twill tape behind the snap area. If you’re attaching the cape to a stretch garment, stick with very lightweight fabrics for the cape to avoid straining the fabric.

PATTERN

Download the cape pattern at the link above. Fold the fabric widthwise and cut 1 on the fold; see steps 2 and 3 for details.

INSTRUCTIONS

⅜" (1 cm) seam allowances are used for this pattern.

1. Begin by determining how much yardage you need to buy for your cape. The amount of fabric required will be twice your finished length + your shoulder width (measured across your back) + 16" (40.6 cm) for shoulder extensions and hem allowance. Excess width will fall into draped folds down your back, so if you like that look, feel free to exaggerate it by adding even more width to your shoulder width measurement. (Because the pattern is cut on the fold, any adjustment in the measurement should be halved when placing the template.) The maximum cape length will be the width of the fabric minus 9" (22.9 cm) unless you want to add a seam; for a long cape, make sure you’re buying a sufficiently wide fabric. For this cape, 3½ yds (3.2 m) of 54"- (137 cm-) wide fabric was used, based on a finished length of 45" (114 cm) and a shoulder width of 16" (40.6 cm).

2. Fold the fabric along the cross grain, aligning the selvages. Place the cape template at the top of the folded edge, making sure to place the half-shoulder width mark at the appropriate distance from the fold. (Compare your shoulder width to the bar on the cape template to determine where to place the template on your fabric.) Use the pleat lines as a guide to extend the cape to the desired length, adding the same amount onto the end of each pleat line and at the center back (A).

A.jpg

 

3. Connect the marks into a smooth curve to create the hemline of your cape. Cut along the hem curve, around the top edge of the cape template, and parallel to the selvages for the straight front edge (it’s best to trim the selvages off as they’re more tightly woven than the rest of the cape and may pull or ripple). If there is a gap at the center back neckline, simply cut straight across to the fold. Mark the pleat positions with small snips in the seam allowance.

4. Sew a narrow or double-fold hem (see page 67) on the two straight front edges of the cape. Finish the curved neckline edge with a narrow bias facing, as shown on page 65 (B). The facing used here is a bias strip (see page 66) cut out of leftover cape fabric that is 1" (2.5 cm) wide and stitched on with a ⅜" (1 cm) seam allowance.

B.jpg

5. Use the snips you made in step 3 and the center notch as a general guide to form the pleats on each shoulder. Arrange the pleats to your liking and pin in place (C). For example, you may want to make the pleats shallower or deeper to adjust the amount of shoulder coverage. Make sure both sides match.

6. Place a 5" (12.7 cm) strip of twill tape on top of the end of the pleats on the right side of the fabric as shown in (D). Sew in place along the upper edge of the tape.

7. Wrap the ends of the twill tape around the edges and fold to the underside. Stitch around the edges of the tape through all layers. Attach the male side of the snaps to the twill tape (E) and the female side to the garment. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the second shoulder.

8. Clip the shoulder pieces to a hanger and let the cape hang for a day or two so the fabric can relax. Pin the cape on a dress form or safety pin it to a helpful friend and check the length. Trim if necessary to make it nice and even and sew a narrow double-fold hem around the long curved edge (F). If you like, attach trim or decorative medallions to hide the shoulder ends.

To see the finished cape in action as part of Conahan’s “Superhero 2” costume, browse a sample of The Hero’s Closet below. Be sure to check back here at ABRAMS Craft for news on Gillian Conahan’s appearance at New York Comic Con this fall. 

4 fabulous gift ideas straight from our bookshelf!

With the holiday season kicking into high gear, we're looking for inspiration for everyone on our list this year. 

These sweet and simple gifts (and the books they came from!) are some of our favorite picks for simple handmade gifts for everyone from your neighbor to your work wife.

  • Dressing up your dishware has never been so easy. Try adding this personalized touch as a host gift at a holiday or dinner party—and top it with home-baked cookies!
Playful Ceramic Platters  from p. 86 of Anna Joyce's   Stamp Stencil Paint

Playful Ceramic Platters from p. 86 of Anna Joyce's Stamp Stencil Paint

  • For the crafter who you can barely keep up with (also adaptable for other handmade projects: try a smaller version for knit sweaters, pouches, and other sewing projects!)
Hand-Drawn Quilt Labels  from p. 128 of   The Spoonflower Handbook

Hand-Drawn Quilt Labels from p. 128 of The Spoonflower Handbook

  • A cute and simple way to make something special for someone special.
Traced Wildflower Hankie  from p. 68 of   Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

Traced Wildflower Hankie from p. 68 of Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops

  • We love this simple yoga (-or- ukulele -or- farmers market) bag—easy to customize for friends who are always on the go!    Cecilia Yoga Bag from p. 58 of Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style

Straight from our 2015 shelves:

Have you made anything inspired by STC Craft on your bookshelf this year? We want to see it! Show it off online and tag @stc_craft on twitter or instagram. 

Stamp, Stencil, Paint Your Way to a Colorful Life!

Textile artist Anna Joyce believes that we should all live with color and pattern every day. Now, with the release of Stamp, Stencil, Paint, so can you!

In this beautiful and approachable new book, Anna Joyce shares her signature hand-printing techniques for adding color and pattern to ready-made surfaces like fabric, ceramics, paper, leather, furniture, walls, and more. Inspired by vintage fabric, folk art, shapes in nature, and exciting new color combinations, Anna’s distinctive projects showcase the beauty of the unexpected and the mark of the artist’s hand. Following beautiful step-by-step photography, you'll learn new, easy skills to stamp, stencil, and hand-paint wonderful projects for your homes, wardrobes, families, and friends.

Anna's joy for making things by hand is truly infectious, and if you're in Portland this weekend or New York the week after, you can see for yourself at one of her exciting tour stops:

Portland, Oregon Events


New York City Book Tour

Can't make it to one of the events above (or can't get enough of Anna)? You can still get involved and learn from her with this fabulous giveaway from our friends over at Creativebug, going on now! .