Introduction: Aunt Susie's Opera Cape

About: I love making stuff!

Any dedicated Gene Kelly fan is likely to have seen the bat-sh*t crazy musical 'Anchors Aweigh'.  If you have seen it, you were probably too distracted by the sheer insanity to notice some of Aunt Susie's amazing outfits (no, not the sunflower dress - we all saw the sunflower dress...)

Those of you that did notice, probably wanted an opera cape (or that might have just been me...)

Anyway here's a 'drape for a cape' tutorial :-)

You will need:
A dressmaker's dummy
Half a metre of fake fur
Tailor's chalk/dressmaker's pencil
Dressmaker's pins
half a metre of lining fabric
About a metre of ribbon
Sewing machine
Hand sewing needle
Matching thread

Tracing/greaseproof paper/baking parchment
A pencil/felt tip pen

Step 1: How's It Hanging?

Firstly, hang the material inside out over the dressmaker's dummy and try to get it to sit evenly on both sides. You may want to pin the fake fur in place to make the next bit easier.

Roll the material over at the neck area and make a chalk line along the edge of the folded fabric.

The next bit takes a bit of artistic license and trust in your own abilities.

Decide, by eye, where you want the cape to start from and make a chalk mark there. Measure from the neckline to your chalk mark and repeat the process on the other side.  Now take some pins and start pinning in a curved line from the first chalk mark to the second.  You make make the cloak as long as the fabric will allow, but if you're adding a collar remember that you'll need some left over fabric for that.

Use your visual judgement to check the evenness of the curve.  Take your time over this: the shape doesn't have to be perfect at this stage, but the closer you get to it being symmetrical means the less fabric you lose after cutting out. (This will make more sense in a couple of steps.)

Draw a chalk line along this pin line.

Step 2: Snip Snip

Take the material off the stand and lay it on a table.  Neat-en up any uneven lines.

Now cut along the chalk lines at the top and bottom.  The best way to cut fake fur is with a scalpel or very small sharp scissors, but I really didn't have the patience for that, here, so I've used my regular shears.  If you're lacking patience, too, be aware that fake fur sheds like a *BLEEP*!

Fold the material lengthways and check the balance between the two halves.  There is likely to be a small discrepancy between the two sides so here is the point where you can make sure the sides are symmetrical.

(Did I mention that it sheds like a *BLEEP*!?)

Step 3: Cape Shape

We now have our basic cape shape, and we're going to use that shape as a template to cut out our lining fabric.  Keep the cape folded in half and place it on top of the folded lining fabric, matching the folded edges.

Step 4: The Collar

Now here comes the frustrating bit. 

If you're going without a collar you can skip to the ribbons!

Making the collar is relatively easy, but the process can seem a little long: particularly if you are itching to sew everything together.

Find the centre point of your neckline. Grab yourself a piece of tracing paper, or baking parchment and lay it on top of the fabric at the neckline.

Trace the outline of the curve (from the centre to the outer edge) of the neckline onto the paper.  Decide how deep you want the collar and using a ruler, mark your chosen depth along your curved line. (I think mine was around 3 inches).

Step 5: More Collar...

You're probably not going to want the collar to encroach over the front of the cape, so you can take an inch off the overall length of the collar pattern at this point by cutting at the short, straight edge - this straight line is essentially your 'centre back'.

Now we're going to add the seam allowance.  Take another piece of tracing paper and lay it on top of the collar pattern that you've just drawn.  Take a ruler and mark a one and a half centimetre border around the pattern, apart from the centre back.

This is now your completed pattern for your top collar.  Make sure to label it and add the words 'ON FOLD' along the short straight edge.

We now need to repeat this process again to create the under collar pattern.  This time only add one centimetre around the outside line.

Step 6: Even More Collar...

Place the top collar piece on a folded piece of your fake fur and cut out ( I might have mentioned that this sheds like a *BLEEP*!).

Now do the same with the under collar pattern and the lining fabric.

Place the two collar pieces right sides together along the longer curved edge, matching the centre points.  Start pinning from the centre.

Now, because the two pieces are of differing sizes, they'll have to be 'coaxed' into settling in together. That means a bit of time, a bit of frustration and a boat-load of pins.  Once this bit is done, however, things get a lot easier....

Step 7: Finally, Some Sewing!

Finally, we can start sewing!

Giving yourself a 5/8th of an inch seam allowance, sew along the pinned edge. 

Cut away some of the excess bulk and snip the curved corners.

Turn the collar right side out and press, using a piece of cotton to form a barrier between the iron and the fabric.  You will see an excess of fabric on the top collar.  Turn this under approximately 1/2 an inch and press, using the same method. Do not skip this as it will make the finishing a hell of a lot easier!

Step 8: A Bit More Collar... Sorry...

Find the centre point of both the collar and the cape neck and pin the the under collar to the right side of the cape, matching the raw edges.

Sew the under collar only.

(If your machine won't allow you to get right into the corners, you can hand finish them later.)

Step 9: Ribbon Time!

Ribbon Time!

Cut your ribbon in half and lay the cape, right side up, on a large surface.  Place one piece of ribbon on each side of the top front edge and (temporarily) pin in place.

Now take your lining fabric and place it, right side down, on top of the fake fur.  Pin into place all along the outer edges, stopping where the collar meets the body. (there's a reason for this)  Remember to rescue the pins that are holding the ribbons in place.

At this point I would suggest putting the cape back on the dummy to see how the lining is hanging.  If it all seems okay you can machine sew the lining onto the cape up to the point where the collar meets the body.  If you have opted for a collar-less cape leave yourself a six or seven inch gap for turning.

Turn the cape right side out and push out the 'corners' with a point turner or the blunt end of a pencil.  Press the cape using the same method as we used for the collar.

To prevent the exposed ends of the ribbon from fraying, carefully singe the ends with a lighter.

Step 10: The Finish Line

Almost there!

We are going to finish off with some hand sewing.  We're going to use the same 'ladder' stitch for both styles.

Those of you working with a collar will have that tiny fold that we pressed in earlier.  This is where to aim for with the hand sewing needle.

Lock your stitches at the beginning and end by sewing three or four stitches in the same place.

Once it's all closed up you are done!

All together now: "If you knew Susie like we know Susie...."

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