• Kat Zimmermann

How to Sew a Cloak

Updated: Aug 19


A white woman wearing a sage green kirtle laced up the center front, a mustard yellow petticoat, a cream Irish leine, and a green hooded cloak with a brass clasp at the neck. She appears to be running away from something dramatic.

For all your spooky, mysterious flights through the wood 🔮


Whether you want a cloak for Faire garb, a quick and easy Halloween costume, or just to wear and put out spooky vibes, this tutorial is for you.


Rectangular cloaks are a surprisingly easy sew - well-suited for beginners. You'll see two cloaks throughout this post - the plaid one made while taking the step-by-step photos for the tutorial and a solid green one. Their construction is very similar, though you will notice the plaid cloak is meant to wrap across the wearer's front and pin at the shoulder while the solid cloak clasps at the center front. The plaid cloak's hood is lined while the solid is not. Finally, the types of pleating are different.


Minor differences aside, both cloaks came together in just a few hours! The tutorial below will guide you through measurements, purchasing materials, and putting everything together.


Click here to skip to the tutorial!



 

Q: How difficult is this project?

A: This is a good project for beginners looking to advance their skills. Scale of 0-10 where zero is "I've never used a sewing machine" and ten is Amazing Sewing Master, I would say this is about a 3. Skills needed: machine stitching along straight lines and small curves, double rolled edges, pleating OR gathers. The pleats/gathers are the most complex part, but a great skill to learn.



Q: How much time will it take to finish?

A: To make a basic cloak without the lined hood, it takes me 2-3 hours. Including the lined hood, probably about 4-5 hours total. Add some time if you're a beginner or are working with particularly finicky fabric (e.g. organza).



An Eagle's green, black, and white plaid cloak that clasps at the wearer's left shoulder and has a hood lined with black fabric. Here, it is displayed on a dress form.

Q: What do I need to make a cloak?

A: To make a basic rectangular cloak, you will need:

  • Fabric for the cloak and hood (see notes below on types of fabric and how much to purchase)

  • A closure for the front of the cloak (see notes below)

  • Matching thread

  • Iron and ironing board

  • Pins and/or hem clips

  • Ruler(s)

  • Fabric scissors and a rotary cutter (if you have one)

  • Tailor's chalk / pencil / pen / something to mark the fabric


If you will line the hood, you will also need:

  • Fabric for the hood lining - about 1/2 yd should do it (optional)

  • Hand sewing needle(s)

  • Thimble (highly recommend)



 

Notes & Quick Tips

Seated, a white woman wearing a sage green kirtle laced up the center front, a mustard yellow petticoat, a cream Irish leine, and a green hooded cloak with a brass clasp at the neck.

(Fabric Types)

When choosing the fabric for your cloak, consider the following:

  • Intended use - will it need to last a long time? Be washable?

  • Drape - stiff fabrics don't work very well, make sure your fabric will flow over the shoulders and around the body.

  • Does it need to match other clothing? Consider color choice.

  • What is your budget for fabric?

Fiber type will be an important choice, especially where wash-ability is concerned. Whatever your choice, be sure to check the label before making your final decision!


I also recommend choosing a fabric that comes in 57 - 60 inch widths from selvedge to selvedge. This way the fabric should reach from shoulders down calves/ankles/the floor and you will not need to join multiple pieces.


For the two cloaks in the photos, I used a plaid wool blend from JoAnn Fabrics and a mystery fabric from my stash which I think is a poly-blend.


If you will line the hood, consider what fabric will be comfortable against the skin of your face, drape well with the outer fabric, and either match or contrast in color. The lining in the photos is a wool blend mystery from my fabric stash.




An Eagle's green, black, and white plaid cloak that clasps at the wearer's left shoulder and has a hood lined with black fabric. From behind, it is clear the cloak's fabric has been gathered into the hood using knife pleats pointed towards the center back.

(How much Fabric you will Need)

Assuming you are using fabric between 54 and 60 inches wide:


To get the minimum measure needed, generously measure shoulder edge to shoulder edge , multiply this by 2, now add about 10 inches. Round up to the nearest 1/2 yard.


For most folks, this will be around 2 - 2.5 yds.


To make a very full, dramatic cloak, add an extra yard. Now add an extra 1/2 yd for the hood.


If you are using 44 inch wide fabric, you will need to either accept that your cloak will stop about 40 inches from your shoulders OR account for the additional height needed. When sewing the pieces together selvedge edge to selvedge edge to make one large rectangle 60 inches long, multiply your needed yardage from above by 1.43. This will give you the figure for how much 44 inch wide fabric to purchase.


For example, if I am using 44 inch wide fabric and need 2.5 yards around my shoulders, I'll take 2.5 x 1.43 = 3.58 yds --> round to 4 yds. Then I can cut 3 strips 60 inches long and sew them together selvedge edge to selvedge edge to create the extra large rectangle I need.


Remember to add an extra 1/2 yd for the hood!


-->For the hood lining, you will also need about 1/2 yd.<--




A white woman wearing a sage green kirtle laced up the center front, a mustard yellow petticoat, a cream Irish leine, and a green hooded cloak with a brass clasp at the neck.

(Closure options)

To close the front, you have several options:

  • Button

  • Clasp

  • Hook and eye(s)

  • Toggle

  • Ribbon or cord tie

  • Cloak pin or broach

To use a cloak pin, you will want to make a wrap cloak like the plaid one shown in this tutorial. In the photos, I am using a plain sewing pin to hold it shut but, when delivered, it will be held closed by the Hand of the King. Any broach with a decently long pin will work, however. The key difference is that a wrap cloak closes at the shoulder while front close cloaks close at the center front.


The other closures will work regardless of the kind of cloak you make. The front close cloak in the photos uses a hook and eye clasp which I purchased here as a set of 4.



(To Line or not to Line)

Lining the hood is a nice feature that will make your cloak look more professional and add some additional warmth around your face and neck (important for Faire garb!).


That said, if you only plan to wear this once or rarely, it's definitely a step you can skip.


If you're on the fence about whether to line the hood or not, know that lining will require the extra 1/2 yd of fabric and some hand stitching.




(Pleating Options)

When gathering the fabric into the hood at the neck, you can use any kind of pleats or gathers. This means you have 3 choices: cartridge pleats (AKA gathers), knife pleats, or box pleats.


The photo below should give you an idea of the visual difference between them. Generally speaking, if you have a thinner fabric, I recommend gathers simply because they are easier to do (run a basting stitch, now pull). For heavier fabrics, knife pleats are a good choice.

A close up of the pleats on the two cloaks. On the left, the plaid cloak is shown from behind. Knife pleats are on either side of the center back with one box bleat right in the middle. On the right, the solid green cloak with gathers going into the hood.

On the plaid cloak, you can see I used knife pleats going towards the center back. Then at the center back, a single box pleat (inverted) joins the two sides together directionally.


Choose whatever pleating method you like!




(Rectangular vs Circular Cloaks)

This tutorial will walk you through the making of a rectangular cloak. Rectangular cloaks will gap in the front by your feet, unlike a circular or semi-circular cloak.


If you want historical accuracy, be sure to do some research on the time period you're aiming for. Most will make use of a circular or semi-circular cloak. These cloaks drape beautifully and, importantly, keep the wearer nice and warm. However, they use significantly more fabric and are more complex to piece together. Not necessarily difficult, but more complex. They make a lot of sense when you consider the fabric would have been much thinner and the cloak then constructed of many narrow, flared pieces.




 

How to Make a Rectangular Cloak


(Step 0) Decide on your cloak measurements using the diagram and guide below.

A diagram of the pieces needed to make a cloak. On the left, a large rectangle. The width is labeled cloak width plus seam allowance; The height is labeled 60 inches = cloak height. The hood is shaped as a rectangle but with one rounded corner. It is labeled hood height plus seam allowance and hood width plus seam allowance for dimensions.

Cloak width = (shoulder to shoulder) + 10 <-- This is a minimum measurement!


I recommend rounding up to the nearest 1/2 yd and using at least 2 - 2.5 yds for an adult size cloak. For more drama, make it wider. Typically, I cut out my hood and use all remaining fabric to make the cloak body.


Hood width - measure from your sternum to the nape of your neck, now add a few inches for comfort. I recommend about 12 inches for adults. Remember to add your seam allowance! I used 1/2 inch seam allowance, so added 1 inch to get 13 inches total. If you will not line the hood, add an extra 1/2 inch to the hood width. If you have a lot of hair and plan to wear it up or want the hood to cover a hat/coif/etc., be sure to add a few inches.


Hood height - measure from your sternum to the crown of your head, now add a few inches for the spooky factor. I used 18 inches for the height on the plaid cloak. Remember to add your seam allowance! Again, that's 1 inch for me, so 19 inches total. If you have a lot of hair and plan to wear it up or want the hood to cover a hat/coif/etc., be sure to add a few inches.


Cloak height - here, I assume 60 inch width fabric. It will be hemmed later, so don't worry if it's a little bit long. For smaller people, measure from where shoulder meets neck over the shoulder and down to wherever the cloak should stop. Add your seam allowance and you're done!




Cutting out the hood pieces - black fabric is double layered. A rectangle has been drawn and then one corner rounded off. The pieces have been pinned together, held down with pattern weights, and cut out.

(Step 1) With your fabric folded in half lengthwise (hotdog style) with right sides together, outline the rectangle of the hood using the measurements you took above (seam allowance included!).


Make a mark about halfway along a short edge and about halfway down a long edge, then connect them with a smooth curve.


Pin the two pieces together along the curved edge and cut out.


Repeat with the lining fabric (you can trace now that you have a finished shape).




The wrong side of the main hood fabric is opened up and the center seam is pressed.



(Step 2) With right sides together, stitch along the curved edge (from top of head to neck) of both the lining and outer hood pieces.


Trim the seams - use pinking shears if you've got them - and press open.







The layers of the hood have been sewn together with right sides facing. The seam which joins them runs along the front side of the hood, where the wearer's face will show.

(Step 3a - with lining) With right sides facing, match up the center seams of the hood outer and hood lining. Pin along the long front edge of the hood. Make a mark to STOP sewing 1 inch from the bottom edges. You will need this space later to lap the lining over the collar seam.


Sew, remembering to leave that inch at both ends. Trim.

The hood has been turned right side out and the front seam which joins the outer and the lining fabric has been slightly rolled so that the outer fabric just barely peeks over into the inside of the hood. It is being pressed in place and held with hem clips.




Turn the hood right sides out.


Roll the seam so the outer fabric is just barely showing from the inside of the hood, press into place. This will ensure a crisp color turn from outer to lining.







The hood lining and outer fabric are tacked together with a hand sewing needle. The needle only goes through the seam allowances.

Place the hood flat on the table so it looks the same as when you cut out the pieces. Pin the outer to the lining at two places along the curved edge, try to make them somewhat evenly spaced.


Open the hood enough to reach the spots you pinned from the inside of the hood layers. Use a hand sewing needle to tack the lining to the outer along the seam allowances.


This step will prevent the lining pulling away from the hood and separating while you wear it.


The hood lining is pressed in by one half inch so that the raw edge is concealed inside the hood.



Finally, press the lining up 1/2 inch (or your seam allowance) towards the wrong side of the fabric. The hood is now finished!







(Step 3b - no lining) Fold and press 1/2 inch along the long, outer edge of the hood (the same edge that is stitched in step 3a, for photo reference). Fold over another 1/2 inch to hide the raw edge and press again to create a double-fold hem.


Stitch along the inner folded edge of the hem to finish the hood.




A double fold hem is stitched at the machine. The needle is about one eighth of an inch from the inside folded hem.

(Step 4) With your main cloak fabric, cut out the rectangle using the dimensions you determined in step zero. Personally, I use the entirety of the remaining fabric after cutting out the hood. If you will do the same, that means evening out the edge from where the hood was cutout.


Create a double-fold hem on both of the cloak side edges (the 60 inch width between selvedges, labeled cloak height on the step 0 diagram). To do this, fold over 1/2 inch towards the wrong side of the fabric, press. Fold over another 1/2 inch towards the wrong side of the fabric to hide the raw edge, press.


Sew along the inside edge of the folded hem.


Repeat for the other side of the rectangle.




Preparing to pleat. Eight inches are left unworked and marked off with a double set of pins. The hood center is pinned to the remaining center of the cloak body. One edge of the hood is pinned near the double pins at one side. The area between the center back and hood edge is being pleated using knife pleats.

(Step 5a - wrap cloak) Set up to gather the cloak body into the hood.


If you are making a wrap cloak which will close at the shoulder:

  • Measure from your shoulder to sternum. Mark this measurement along one side of the cloak body top (for the cloak shown, this was 8 inches). I marked mine with two pins side by side.

  • Bring the other side of the cloak to the mark you've just made to find the new center back.

  • Pin the seam of the hood to the center back mark with right sides facing.

  • Pin the one edge of the hood to the first mark you made (overlap line shown below).

  • Pin the other edge of the hood to the remaining edge of the cloak.

The hood should be lined up so that it's centered along the areas that will be pleated.

Now you're ready to pleat!

A diagram of the pleating done on a wrap cloak. From left to right across the top edge: Overlap (8 inches in photos), a vertical red dashed line, pleating area, a vertical red dashed line labeled center back, pleating area. The pleating areas have arrows pointing towards them labeled equal lengths.


(Step 5b - center front cloak) Set up to gather the cloak body into the hood.


If you are making a cloak which will close at the center front:

  • Find the center of the cloak body by folding the cloak edge to edge.

  • With right sides facing, pin the center seam of the hood to the center of the cloak body.

  • Pin one edge of the hood to one edge of the cloak body.

  • Pin the other hood edge to the other edge of the cloak body.

Now you're ready to pleat!



(Step 6) You have 3 options for gathering all of the main cloak fabric into the hood: cartridge pleats (AKA gathers), knife pleats, or box pleats. In this step, you'll make the pleats. The next step will be attaching the hood. Regardless of what kind of pleat you choose, do not include the double-fold edges in parts of the pleats.


Cartridge Pleats: Sew a basting line (by hand or machine) about 1/2 inch from the top edge of the fabric. Sew a second basting line about 1/4 inch away from the first. Pull on these threads to scrunch the fabric up into the cartridge pleats.

--> If you've based by machine, pulling on the bobbin/bottom thread is easier.

A diagram of cartridge pleats AKA gathers. On the left, a rectangle of fabric has two dashed lines representing basting threads across the top. These are labeled with an arrow that says pull. On the right, the fabric is gathered by the threads into a wavy shaped area at the top.


Knife Pleats: Knife pleats use 3 times the amount of fabric as they cover. So if you have 3 feet of fabric, you can pleat it down to 1 foot, for example. The width of the pleats does not affect this ratio. If you need to pleat more tightly, you can overlap the pleats a bit. If you don't need to use quite that much fabric, put some space between the pleats.


Fold the fabric back over itself, then back again to make a Z shape fabric sandwich. Pin. That's it, one knife pleat down. Repeat across.


Do consider which direction you want your pleats to point. In my plaid cloak example, the pleats on either side of the wearer point towards the center back. The two rows of pleats then meet in the center for a single box pleat.

A diagram of a knife pleat. On the left, a backwards Z shape is labeled one pleat. On the right, a skirt-shaped piece of fabric has several pleats at the top labeled many pleats. An arrow points to the left noting that the pleats have a direction.


Box Pleats: Box pleats are basically like having two knife pleats in opposing directions under one little roof of fabric that they share. I find these are easier to make working on the wrong side of the fabric. Box pleats also use 3 times the amount of fabric they cover, regardless of wide you make them. So if you have 3 feet of fabric, you can pleat it down to 1 foot, for example. The width of the pleats does not affect this ratio. If you need to pleat more tightly, you can overlap the pleats a bit. If you don't need to use quite that much fabric, put some space between the pleats.


Decide how wide you will make each pleat, then fold one side of the fabric towards the center of the pleat and back again to make a Z shape. Repeat on the other side of the pleat. Pin. Repeat across.

Diagram of a box pleat. On the left, one pleat is shaped like a backwards Z and a Z meet one another. It also looks like an upside down triangle sitting on a flat line. This is labeled one pleat and even on both sides. The top is labeled right side while below is labeled wrong side. On the right, a skirt-shaped piece of fabric has many pleats at the top and a note that the pleats have no direction.




The top of the cloak after all pleats have been made and pinned in place. Two pins are used for every knife pleat. The hood lining has been pulled away from the outer hood and is not pinned in place so as to avoid catching it when stitching.

(Step 7) Pint the hood to the pleats, being careful to keep the pleats in place.


Sew. Be careful not to catch the lining fabric if you have lined your hood!


If you are nervous about this seam, baste it first, check your work, then repeat as a final seam.



The lining of the hood has been folded down over the seam and felled AKA whip stitched into place with matching thread. The seam is completely hidden.



(Step 8 - lined hoods only) Place the lining fabric so that the fold comes down to meet the seam you just finished and pin in place. By hand, whipstitch or blind stitch the lining to cover the seam.


Be sure to also secure the corners at the edges as they will still be open by 1/2 inch. Simply continue the whipstitching or blind stitching to close them.







The remaining top edge of the wrap cloak which was not pleated into the hood has been folded into a double fold hem, pressed, and sewn into place. No raw edges remain along the top of the cloak.


(Step 9 - wrap cloaks only) The top edge of the cloak which is not attached to the hood still has a raw edge.


Snip the fabric ever so slightly at the edge of the hood, just about 1/2 inch.


Press the raw edge downward so that the fold lines up with the hood's seam.


Open the fold and tuck in the raw edge to the line you just created to make a double-fold hem. Press. Sew in place.






The bottom edge of the cloak has been pinned upwards. The edge of the cloak has been pinned more so than the center, creating a diagonal line across the bottom. It is pressed into place.

(Step 10) Put the cloak on the wearer and take a look at the hem. Because this is a rectangular cloak, you will likely need to take up the edges of the cloak more so than the back. Pin the hem up evenly(ish) around the wearer.


Personally, I pinned once at the front, once at the side, and once at the back.



At the ironing board, press the hem into place using your pins as a guide. It's ok if you take out some of your pins in favor of a smoother line.



The pins have been removed from the wonky hemline and the folded over hem is being trimmed down to a consistent 1 inch across the inside of the garment.

(Step 11) Remove the pins from the hem, then mark and trim the hem fabric so it's even all the way across. For my cloak, that meant trimming it down to about 1 inch from the folded edge to match the shortest part in the back.


Open up the hem and fold the raw edge down to meet the pressed line you made in step 10. This will create a double-fold hem.


Press. Sew near the topmost folded edge.







A decorative brass clasp that functions as a hook and eye is being stitched onto the cloak by hand. It is placed just below the hood seam on the front of the cloak.


(Step 12) Attach the closure of your choice! Many closures need to be attached by hand, including the one shown in the photo to the right.


A ribbon or cord closure can be stitched on by machine.


Tip: If you are using grosgrain ribbon or ribbon/cord that is a poly-blend, you can carefully use a lighter or candle to melt the ends and prevent fraying.


If your cloak will close with a broach or pin, you can skip this step because you're already done!




 

A white woman wearing a sage green kirtle laced up the center front, a mustard yellow petticoat, a cream Irish leine, and a green hooded cloak with a brass clasp at the neck. She is walking through the woods and appears to be searching for something.


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Remember to like and comment on this post, especially if you have questions.


If you make your own cloak, be sure to share it online with #craftematics and tag me @craftematics on Instagram and Facebook - I love to see what you create!


Go forth and be spooky 🎃


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