So you wanna wear a cape?

(God, this new uploading system is balls. It took me forever to arrange them in the right order, because according to Tumblr, despite the pictures being both numbered and uploaded in order, they should just go where-ever they please.)

In this tutorial you’ll be learning to make a basic single-layer cape that attaches from the collarbones. It is patterned as a circle so that it drapes and flows, giving it a lot of body and “flow” when you walk. It has a hand-rolled hem on all sides to give it a clean, finished look without any raw edges.

It works for characters with “trimless” single-coloured capes, such as Superman, Mon-El, or Thor. I will be doing tutorials for trimmed capes or double-layered capes (or capes that have different coloured layers) at a later date, as well as a proper tutorial on collared capes.

What you will need:

  • Basic sewing equipment (pins, tape measure, scissors, sewing machine)
  • Sufficient fabric; a half-circle cape will take roughly 120”x60”, but ideally you just need a rectangle that is double in length as it is in width. You also want this fabric to be light-medium weight and made of polyester so that it is easier to care for and IRONS WELL. A tiny bit of stretch is alright, but be aware that the more stretch there is, the more your cape will desire to be as close to the ground as possible… and who likes a droopy, sad cape?
  • An iron and ironing board.

To make things easier, you may also want:

  • A flexible ruler makes life easier to do the curve of the neckline.
  • A friend to help play “compass” with you.
  • If you have the physical constitution of wet paper towel (as I do), you may want to pop an Advil, because you’re going to hemming for fucking hours.

Ready? Here we go.

Spread your fabric out on the nice, clean floor. Fold it in half down the middle so that you have a square. Then fold it diagonally, so that you have a “slice”; the third and fourth pictures demonstrate this, but you basically want to have something that will open up to be one piece. This is going to save you a lot of time pinning the bottom curve of your cape.

Once you have your fabric laid out nicely and the edges lined up beautifully, take your measuring tape and decide how long you need this cape to be. Josh here is 5’7” or so, and we cut the cape to 57.5”, this way the finished cape will land just around his ankles from the back of his neck.

Remember compasses? Not the kind you use to save your lost ass from the wilderness and find “North”, the kind you used in sixth grade math class like twice and thought was really cool but had no practical use for.  Well, now you get to do something Similar. Line up your measuring tape with that top “point” of your fabric, so it sits nicely in the middle. Have your friend put their finger on it, with enough pressure to keep it from sliding but still leave it room to “swing”. You’re going to use this to draw a large curve across the fabric, using whatever length suits you — if you want to cut a 58” long cape, then use the 58” mark on the measuring tape to pin across. You can see us doing this in picture six. 

Finish pinning the whole way across and then cut just below the pins. When you open it up, you have a big ass cape! (Picture seven.) But it doesn’t have a neck curve yet, and you’ll want to add that so it hangs around your neck nicely. Fold it up again in half (don’t worry about the pizza slice this time) and measure your neck to see how wide you want this neckline to be. We picked 20”, which means we needed to cut an arc that spanned 10”. Now, I’m impatient with math, so I just bent my flexible ruler into a curve and used my measuring tape to make sure it was equal distance away from the corner, but if you’re better at math than I am, you can figure out how many inches you need to “swing” just like you did to cut the bottom of the cape. (A 10” half-circle needs about a 6” swing, for the record.) When you’re done that, cut.

And now you have a cape!

But it’s not finished yet.

If you’re fancy, you may have something called a “rolled hem foot” that lets you do stuff like this easily, but a) I find those things more trouble than they’re worth and b) what am I, a wizard? I’m not fucking around with a foot when I can do it manually. You might be a wizard, though, so if you want to explore this magical sewing foot, you can read someone else’s tutorial here.

But if you’re cool and want to stick with me and learn how to do it manually, that’s cool, too.

Now, if you just folded over the edges once and sewed it down and called it a day, your cape might still be okay. But you don’t want fraying –– that stuff is ugly, and you’ll appreciate the extra work of doing a rolled hem, which is just a fancy way to say “fold that shit over twice.”

Picture 9 shows this pretty clearly, I think –– fold over the edge you want to hem once, iron it, and then fold it over again, so that the ugly raw edge is trapped inside. Pin it all. You’re going to want to pin it very evenly and close together, and TAKE YOUR TIME. If you rush it, you’re going to end up with an ugly, uneven hem, and it’ll bubble up in weird places because you’re hemming a big curve, here. This can be very tedious and take a long time, especially if your cape is huge. (This is why it is usually faster to just make a double-layered cape. UGH, HEMMING.) But the results are worth it; a single-layered cape with beautiful hems is gorgeous and usually less bulky than a double-layered one, so they fly better.

Once you have everything pinned (taking care to pin down the corners neatly, too) you can sew it all. Take your time and make sure the fabric is tight/flat when you sew over it, lest you end up with weird bubbles and misplaced hems. Stay close to the edge of the hem, so that you don’t end up with overhang.

Speed will only sabotage you.

Once you’re done sewing it all down, take out any remaining pins and give the whole thing a good ironing. This should smooth out any remaining warps in your fabric, as you’re using a polyester and they can be warped back into line a little with some heat. 

And then enjoy your cape. You earned it. 

Go race some airplanes.