I decided that I wanted a cloak for my priestess to add another layer which I can bundle myself up in on cool evenings and cold days. I have admired the full circle cloaks you can find on the internet and thought this character would probably suit one. However, when I got out my sewing machine to hem a piece of cloth to go in my “Shrine Kit” jar, disaster! So whilst I shipped it off for a bit of tlc from a guy who’s serviced it before, I had to face up to sewing stuff without my trusty machine. And you know what? The thought unnerved me.
However, I really really wanted a long red cloak that swirled dramatically. Wanted it badly enough to do the research and mathematics before snapping up the last of some red polar fleece on Amazon (though I wasn’t quick enough for the amount I originally decided I needed). Enough to look up hand sewing seams tutorials online. Enough to decide to bite the bullet and just do it! <cue music!>
Since people seem to have enjoyed my previous kit blog posts I thought I would document the process in turning a roll of cloth into a swirly cloak of doom! And show you that you don’t need a sewing machine to make awesome kit … but it certainly helps!
I decided to work in polar fleece first as it’s warm, snuggly, and argued to myself that if I found it didn’t make a good outer it might make a decent lining for a warm cloak. I also found a tutorial for a quick fleece cloak that didn’t look half bad, but wasn’t quite what I wanted. Because I already have a collection of hoods I decided to skip adding a hood and continued to look at the full circle and three-quarter cloaks that are around on the internet – this was when I still thought my sewing machine was ok. I found several tutorials on circle cloaks online but found this one by Elli Lutemaker to make the most sense, given the careful explanation of why. I’ve never made my own BIG pattern before and the idea of just sewing a load of triangles together that are supposed to fit me (and be of a size I’ve just decided) made me really nervous. However, working through the tutorial set my mind at ease and I was waiting for my cloth to arrive.
I foolishly thought that it would be another weekend project – cut, pin, sew, photograph, tada! Then I found my sewing machine was acting up and my cunning plan had to be adapted. People used to make stuff decades before sewing machines became the norm, so surely I can do it too, right?
At least that’s what I told myself. So I did a bit of smurfing around the web and came upon ways to do felled seams by hand, or Elizabethan seams (both of which intrigued me and made me think I could do this) – which brought about the new challenge of relearning what hand stitches were before my fleece cloth turned up … Talk about biting off more than I can chew!
When the cloth arrived it was beautiful! So soft and fluffy and warm! (I might have wrapped myself in it after washing and drying it). Dreading attempting these new seams I tried my hand on a few bits of scrap to get a feeling for how these seams were going to work before laying hands on my scissors and set myself up for the long haul. This was not going to be a “quick” project and I would not rush myself – this is what I told myself.
Then the guy who was servicing my sewing machine gave me a call to say it was ready for pick up and my self-righteous hand sewing plans and “authentic” kit ideas went out the window as I sobbed over my machine and thanked it for working as I sewed my cloak together in time for Summerfest. For those who were there at the event, this cloak is the one I was wearing every evening (because I wanted to see how warm it was and because new kit is exciting!)
Making the Cloak
- Red Polar Fleece cloth x 5m
- Woven ribbon trim
- Decorative buttons x 2
- Plain white buttons x 2
- Pencil, paper, calculator
- Scissors, pins, measuring tape
- Sewing machine
- Red thread and hand needles
Using the tutorial by Elli Lutemaker I worked through the preparatory steps and drafted up the dimensions of my cloak before I did any cutting (and before I ordered the cloth – though sadly I had to order less cloth than I wanted due to stock, but it just meant the cloak was a 3/4 rather than full circle cloak).
After washing the cloth several time to reduce the risk of future pink linens the cloth was then folded and cut in accordance with my rough cutting pattern, guided by the tutorial. I made a couple of mistakes with orientation, but given that polar fleece doesn’t really have a proper outside/inside facing (it does but there is very little difference), it didn’t matter hugely once I’d calmed down from my little “I can’t do this” tantrum.
I then matched up all four quadrants of the cloak and began sewing them together using a flat felled seam, which encloses the raw edges of the seam within itself.
Once I had the four quadrants sewn (making four kites) I then began to piece the cloak together with more flat felled seams. I sewed all the narrow points together at the top (ish) and laid out the cloth mountain as flat as I could on the floor to mark out the required radius for the collar. Above you can see my “sew” marks and my “cut” line.
I then folded the seam over and sewed it in place. I decided to enclose the collar with another piece of cloth to avoid having to sew a rolled seam and to make the long straps that would eventually tie the cloak closed or cross each other to make the wide strap across the chest after the style of the cloaks in films like Tristan and Isolde. I’ll just leave this here …
I then hung up the cloak, pinned at the collar with several safety pins, for several days for the cloth to drape under its own weight. I was concerned that fleece would be super stretchy, so I’m going to keep an eye on how the cloak deforms over time.
With the help of my OH we pinned one quarter of the cloak at the front for cutting, which I then translated around the other pieces to give a rough circle when worn. I then rolled the bottom hem and machine sewed it up before rolling the front seams and sewing them flat. I then attached the long collar rectangle before cutting it to length based on how much I’d need to make a sturdy knot and still give a sensible opening when the strap was laid across the chest.
I added a button hole on each end of the strap and sewed on the buttons close to the first seam near the shoulder. On the outside I attached the decorative button I had chosen for this project, but also sewed a plain button on the back to prevent the force being exerted through the outside button from tearing the stitches out. I read that this was a way to prevent that somewhere but I’ve lost my source … It’ll come back to me at some point.
With the buttons attached the cloak was considered wearable but not finished. There was so much red! I hadn’t considered how the cloak would look when worn and had considered attaching some trim up the front and around the collar, but wasn’t sure if it was needed until I reached this stage. Whilst the trim had been bought for this project I wasn’t going to cry if it ended up in the stash for a while. However, when I pinned a length against the front edge I had a “eureka!” moment. This detail was exactly what I was missing, so I set to pinning and handsewing the trim up the front and round the collar. My parents put up with me sewing during a visit where I sat unmoving in an armchair surrounding by sewing bits and bobs carefully sewing the ribbon on. I call this trim my “northumberland” trim as it reminds me a little of the Northumberland flag that is proudly displayed in parts of the north east.
Once this trim was on (with a small length to spare) I was so happy with my cloak. I took it with me to Summerfest and wore it the first night over t-shirt and jeans whilst I wandered the camp ooc, then added my furred hood and mantle when I wore it IC on the evenings and it is just as warm and snuggly as I hoped it would be. I can’t wait for night sites and winter now to wear this cloak as a regular piece of kit!
The cloak, as I said earlier, can be worn in a multiple of ways –
Tied at the collar, the cloak is paired with a hood and mantle (bought from Having a Larp) to be worn on evenings and wet days (or just because it just looks good!)
The cloak worn with the ties twisted together to form a strap across the chest. The tunic is shown to give an idea of how clothing would look underneath.
Here are some detail photos of the buttons, trim and different styles of closure.
Time to make – approximately a week and a half of evenings and weekends, though most of this was figuring out what I’d cut wrong and hand sewing the trim. The cloak itself was completed over the course of a weekend.