Circular Cloaks & Capes - An Idiot's Guide

Updated 21st May 2013

created this blog because I wanted to make a hooded cape and was not able to find a satisfactory pattern with detailed design and construction methods

The cape is for daily use; not just for a one-off Halloween / cosplay.  It has to be good enough to appear in formal events.

I spent hours of research and more hours taking apart my project - cape with pointy hood especially the hood because I had believed the patterns found in the net would suit my requirements.  This is the hazard of being!

Much information given was incomplete, inaccurate or misleading.  Apparently, there are many people who like to show off their creations but keep their trade secrets too!

I have much experience in clothes repairs and making made-to-measure garments akin to the kirtle for my clients.  I am now imparting my findings to you.

a kirtle

The rave in the full-circle cloak.

I tried this one and was disappointed I only managed a 7/8th circle.  I tried it on and believe'd probably snag it on the hollyhocks and tripped undemurely before you could squeak "Batman! Help me!".  Some 'Damsel in Distress' you'd be!

full-circle patternwool full-circle cloakfull-circle twill cloak
Full-Circle cloaks

Arthur's cloak:                 Perimeter of cape, 186" for a 6' manikin.
Standard cotton cloak:     Perimeter 174" for circa 6' height.

Let's take a realistic figure of 55" - about calf-length for a tall-ish person.  Forget the part that you have chopped off to accommodate the neckline and the difference in length where the shoulders are:-

The mathematics for the perimeter of a circle is 2πr where π is 3.142 and r is 55".

Perimeter of cape = 2 x 3.142 x 55" = 345" = 9 1/2 yards.

This is waaayyyyyyyyy too much fabric.  I made this mistake for believing what I have read.  Okay....test this by pinning 2 lengths of bedsheets.....about 180",  Drape it around yourself and see if you are comfortable with this.

345 ÷ 2 = 173"............this is a half-circle perimeter measurement....circa 4.8yds.

Well....when sale sites claim to offer a full-circle cape with perimeter of usually below 200", it is actually a full-cone cape.  Guess who was the sucker!!!!!  This was an expensive lesson in checking the mathematics rather than plunging headlong into a project.

The full-circle cape is impractical and uneconomical.
The half-circle conical cape is more than adequate.

Flaunt your boots by making a mid-calf-length half-circle conical cloak instead.  Save a lot of hassle faffing about corralling the length whilst trying to avoid horse droppings at medieval fairs.  What about mud, sleet or ripping the hem on twigs as you go gallivanting in the woods?

a rectangular mid-calf length cloakmid-calf length cloak-side viewhood-detail
A mid-calf length rectangular cloak

I remade my cape to just over a semi-circle of mid-calf-length 45” with perimeter (after fitting…the shape is actually oval) 190”.

I found an old book on the net with hood patterns after I messed-up of course!

Some formal robes and patterns

Harry Potter hoods

I found blogs of avid Potter fans mentioning that hoods were modified but guess what?  No actual revised patterns were given.  I slogged, unpicked stitches redesigned by adding and taking away fabric, restitched and refitted, many, many times with a few breaks killing zombies (Plants Versus Zombies) before I finally settled for an acceptable look.

If the hood is a car, it would be a Mark 7.  Yeah! Precision engineering required to turn ‘How to make a cape in 2 hours’ i.e a kit-car into a Mercedes.

The look that I wanted:
  • pointy hood
  • no visible centre seam
  • roomy 
  • stiff enough hood opening 
  • washing machine friendly

The hood looked something like this but with the pointy part longer and pointing further down; thus not sticking out too much.


I am giving you the opportunity to share and/or learn techniques.  I am not going to reinvent the wheel but to put pneumatic tyres and racy spokes instead.  Please ask me questions especially if you are a novice.

No question is too simple such as:

What size needle should I use?” or you may go for the more complex e.g.
  • The fabric for my hood is slightly short…..Help!!!!
  • Why is it that the fabric becomes shorter at the joints after sewing?
  • If I want to lengthen a cape….how?
  • The durn hood is floppy at the opening….what would be the best stiffener that is also washing-machine friendly and how do I attach it? Forget the interfacing, folks!
  • I want cape-to-hood joint to be smooth like this of Mordred's below.
  • Does the hood look good if moved slightly back from the beginning of the neck opening or not?

smooth-joint hoodMordred cloak with gap at hood jointlined hood cloak with floppy hoodunlined hood

I offer remedial measures for those who've messed up…….(your's truly messed-up too!!!).  Try to give relevant information with photos where necessary so that I can whip-up a specific-to-you potion. For difficult to visualize problems, I will include tutorial photos……I shall concoct new-to-you mini-lessons with contrasting fabrics and thread so you may see clearly.

Perhaps these questions may be relevant to you:
  • What stitch length should I use and why?
  • Is there a way to modify the hood so it will stay better on my head?
  • How do I arrange the fabric to include gathers before cutting the neckline?  Will gathers affect the overall length?
  • What should I do before purchasing fabric?  This is the most important consideration.

Questions need not relate to capes only but I shall contribute my sewing knowledge if I can; if not, then I shall lead you to other links whenever possible.

Points to ponder:
Is billowing acceptable?   Do you have gale force 8 there?

a showtime cloak

the untrippable knight?
Billowing pictures

Arthur's blue cloak showing behaviour of fabric during movement.

  • does the hood joins to the cloak with or without a gap? Gathered for fullness?
  • is it a circular or rectangular cloak? Does it have shaped shoulders?
  • length from nape to point of hood if you want to have this generous hood style.
  • last picture - the right side of hem dragged the floor. You may want to shorten your cloak a bit.