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Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Cloak: A Tutorial

When David was 4, he wanted to be a spider for halloween (9-month-old Mary was an adorable Miss Muffet). Then he was the Grim Reaper. Then Dracula, a ninja, the “man in black” from the Princess Bride…something black, in other words, every year. Every year, a custom costume made by Mom (except the ninja). This year he is putting together his own costume with stuff he already has, but he did have one request: “Mom, can you make me a black, hoodless cloak?”

Not a tall order, after all, I’m a pretty good seamstress if I do say so myself. I do better without a 7-month-old helping, though. And then there’s the fact that we just moved and, yep I know where my sewing machine is, can even locate my shears and some black thread, but dang! where is that sewing machine pedal?!

It’s amazing how when you move you are confronted with your entire past all in one gulp and, even though you lose a bunch of stuff, sometimes you rediscover something that you’d lost and are able to give it new meaning. I found this little gem:

cloak2 001

This is a wool shawl I made way back in B.C. (Before Children). It’s so classy and so easy to make and my little creative brain became feverish with the possibilities. And, yes, it would be possible to make without sewing. And, yes, David said it would be perfect if it were black.

So, I picked up a black, flat twin sheet for $4. You can also make this shawl/cloak/kimono using a length of 60” wide fabric (45” would work for a young child---measure from wrist to wrist to see how wide you need for “long sleeves.” A knit would be great if you don’t want to sew because it won’t ravel. Or unravel? Which is it?). About 2 yards. Less for a small child. Measure from the shoulder down to the knee or mid-shin and double it. You don’t want it much longer than that or the corners of the fabric will drag on the ground. If you use the sheet, determine how long you want it to be and then trim the excess off the end with the WIDE hem (save this scrap, I’ll give you a couple of ideas of what to do with it later).

Next, fold the fabric in half lengthwise, then fold in half widthwise to find your center point. Stick a pin there. Unfold widthwise (fabric is still folded lengthwise). At the pin, cut from the fold about 1-1/2 to 2” into the fabric perpendicular to the fold, then curve around until you’re cutting parallel to the fold and continue to cut along the length of the fabric to one end. I know that’s clear as mud, so I’m including pics of what it will look like after you cut (it would have been great if I had taken pictures as I did this, but it didn’t even occur to me to do a tutorial until after the deed was done---top is the selvedges or hemmed sheet sides, right is the cut edge, bottom is the fold):

whole fold This is your front opening, the curve fits around the back of the wearer’s neck. I pinked my edges as they were already starting to fray:

cloak I didn’t trim the width of the sheet (David wanted it extra long in the sleeve---personally I would rather cut some off).

Now, you can hem your raw edges, pink em, stitch or glue on some fancy trim, stitch on some bias tape, or just leave em (at least until you find your sewing machine pedal). Add ribbon ties or a button. Pin with a brooch. The possibilities are endless. Shawl, cloak, kimono. Use the cutoff bit to fashion an unattached hood:

with hood I folded the scrap in half and pinned a seam together along the raw edge for about 6 inches from the fold for this photo---you would want to stitch it. Put the “pocket” formed over your head and tuck the ends under the cloak…or leave them out.

Or use the scrap as a sash and tack a couple of large pleats at the shoulders---Samurai (Yojimbo?):


Make this out of a pretty print or some sparkly fabric for your princess. Experiment and use your imagination. By no means a revolutionary idea, but a way to make a versatile, easy to wear garment---great for dress-up or even quick costume changes for a play, hmmm…now I just need to figure out Peter's octopus costume...

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