How to make a Command Cloak

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Original Author: K'Jett Qorvazh/Jett Borkowski

Supplies

  • 5.5 yards of a 60" wide, moderate weight fabric (I suggest Gabardine, Heavy Suiting Crepe, Ponte, or the like. Get something that has a give but that is not a true stretch/knit, and that isn't too stiff to flow nicely.)
  • 3-4 spools of thread to match
  • 1.5 yards of at least 72" wide batting, thickness of your choice
  • .5 yards of medium weight interfacing
  • 1 package heavy duty or decorative (your choice) snap, you need 4 for the cloak, and the tool to attach them with. (Several companies sell a rather expensive tool for this; do not bother with it. Get the cheap kind that you use a hammer with, they're easier and cheaper.)
  • Tailor's pencil or chalk, in a color other than the material you chose for the cloak
  • A yardstick
  • Straight pins, and not the ones with the ball on the end
  • Patience, and I'm not kidding. The cloak takes time to quilt and sew together. Just take your time. It'll come together.

Foreword

If you've never quilted before, my, aren't you in for a treat! No really, I'm not trying to warn you off, but to let you know that this is time consuming, especially if you've never done any quilting before. I'm going to try to go through these steps as thoroughly as possible, and include as many illustrations as needed to help you through.

For the sake of the limited size of your printer, I've not included some of the pattern pieces in template form but rather given the dimensions of what is needed. Use your yardstick to draw these patterns out on taped together copy paper, on rolls of brown wrapping paper, on cheap pieces of interfacing, tracing paper, whatever works best for you. For other, smaller pattern pieces, I've overlapped them on the standard 8.5" x 11" copy paper, which you'll have to make several copies of and cut them out as directed for each piece.

A note on fraying: I am lucky enough to have a serger, which is a type of sewing machine that finishes raw edges of fabric to prevent them from fraying. Most people aren't going to have one of these handy, so I suggest using pinking shears or zigzag stitching all raw edges to help prevent them from fraying. You're putting a lot of work into this, so take the extra time to keep it from literally coming apart at the seams.

A note on sizes: This is sized for the average person, but it should fit most people. If you are much smaller than average, don't make the back quilted panel as wide, which will cut down the size/width. If you are much larger than average, add a few inches to either side of the back quilted panel, which will add to the width of the overall cloak. This cloak is a more or less loose garment, and is not super-fitted, so if you are somewhat larger or smaller than the average, you should be fine. As to height, if you're short, don't worry about it, you can hack off at the bottom any excess. If you're much taller than average, add the extra inches to the bottom of the quilted front panel and the same to the lower back panel. If the size or height of the finished garment is a real concern to you, make a mock-up. Get some muslin or similar cheap material and put the pieces together without bothering with the quilting and check the fit. Bear in mind that you do lose some of the height when the piece is quilted.

I'm going to take you through each step working first on individual sections that get quilted and so on, then showing you how to put each piece together.

Read through this before starting to cut or sew anything.

Upper Back Panel

Back Panel

Make a template on paper that is 20" wide x 17" long. Using that pattern, cut 1 of your batting and 2 of your fabric. Sew down each side of your fabric, right sides together. Flip the fabric so that the right sides are facing out, and slide the batting in between the two. It will be a tight fit, but don't worry about having to trim excess, when you first pin, then sew it down, the fibers of the batting will compress and won't bulge out. Lay the sandwiched fabric on a table, smooth it out with your hands, and begin pinning it down, taking care both to pin through all layers and not to let the fabric shift around the batting.

Take your tailor's chalk or pencil (I'm calling it a pencil from here on out) and your yardstick and mark the middle of back panel at the top and again at the bottom. Draw a line down the center. From the top to the bottom, both down the middle line and down each side, use your pencil to make a notch every 2". I know it doesn't necessarily even out to be exactly 2" at the bottom; that doesn't matter. Using your yardstick, match the first 2" down at the middle line to the top of first one side, then the other, forming a slight "V" shape. Now connect the second 2" down in the middle to the first 2" down mark and connect them again. Repeat until you've marked the entire back.


Sew (quilt) the entire thing together following the lines. It's important that you've got it pinned down securely, and if that means you've got it down with 20-30 pins, don't sweat it. It helps to start by quilting down the middle line, then sewing each line outward from there. Now, and this is very important, sew slowly and carefully so that the lines are straight. When you are quilting a straight line, and you make a mistake and don't quite sew it straight, it shows!! Take your time and do it right. You can start to take the straight pins out as you get each bit sewn down so they aren't stabbing your hands as you quilt it down. (Did I mention you might get your hands bloody? Well, you're a Klingon, right?? Blood is a good thing!)

Make sure all the pins are out, and set this piece aside.

Underarm Curved Panels

Underarm Panel

Put your template together as directed. Before cutting anything, mark on your template where the quilting will go. On the upper panel, you'll see a mark every 11/2". On the lower curved edge, you'll see a mark every 3". Connect the marks to see how you will be quilting on this curved edge.

Cut out the 4 fabric pieces. Make a sandwich again, but this time put the batting on the bottom, and 2 of the 4 fabric pieces, right sides together, on the top. Sew down all layers along the upper curved edge. Trim the excess down to about '", and flip one of the fabric pieces over so that the batting is in the middle. Pin securely, as you did with the back piece. Using your template, take a pencil and mark where the quilting will go, and quilt it down. I suggest running the lines from the top to the unfinished edge at the bottom. Finish by running a stitch along the lower curved edge and along either straight edge. Now do this all again for the other underarm piece, so you have two.

Make sure all the pins are out, and set these pieces aside.

Front Quilted Panel

Front Quilt

Make your template for the front quilted panel. The dimensions are 65" in length, 6" at the top, and 9" along the bottom. Cut 2 batting sections, and 4 fabric sections. As you did for the underarm section, sandwich the layers with the batting on the bottom and the 2 fabrics, right sides together, on the top and sew through all layers down the length of one side. Trim the excess down the sewn edge, and flip one of the pieces over so that the batting is in the middle. Pin securely through all layers then baste down the unfinished outer edges. Do the same for the second piece before you go any further. You'll want to set it up so that the edge that was sewn and trimmed is pinned so that it is on the inside when the cloak is finished, and the sewn, finished edge is directly down the middle.

Lay the two, pinned pieces side by side with the sewn edges together. Take your yardstick and your pencil, and make a mark every 2" all the way down the length of both centers and both edges. You have them side-by-side to make sure they line up together, so that when the cloak is finished, they look even. Mark the lines to be quilted angling down towards the middle, then sew each piece. Sew from the finished edge to the unfinished edge. Again, be sure to take the time and sew straight lines. If a line is crooked here, it's even more noticeable than it would be on the upper back panel. Trim the excess thread off the finished piece, and now firmly sew down all the unfinished edges where they were just basted before. Don't bother picking out the basting stitch; it's not necessary.

Bringing the Quilted Pieces Together

Bringing Them together
Bringing Them together 2

Take a brush or dry washcloth and dust off the pencil lines. Now iron each piece to flatten out the quilted bulk. Don't iron the pieces flat, just iron them enough so that they you smooth out the stitches and the bulk so they are not so lumpy.

With the right sides together, pin the two quilted front pieces to the quilted back panel. Let the raw edges of the two front pieces hang over the edge a bit so that the seam lines up with the finished edge of the back piece. Sew together along the top. Turn the raw edge that is showing on the top (where your neck would be when worn) under and hem to finish the edge.

Flip the top two pieces over and out of the way. Take the two underarm pieces and attach them, right sides together, to the bottom of the back piece. You can line them up edge to edge because both of the edges are finished. The smaller width is what I consider the top, and it is this edge that gets attached to the bottom of the back. After sewing them together, make a small snip on the inside edge almost up to your seam on the inside where these two meet, so they can turn under easily and still leave a lip on the bottom. The lower back piece gets attached to this.

To attach the underarm pieces to the front quilted piece, bring the top of the underarm piece down approximately 16" on the front inside of the front quilted panel and begin pinning there. I say approximate because really anywhere from 15"-17" or so will be fine. The easiest way to pin this is to turn it so that the right side faces inward and set over another person before pinning. This way you can sort of eyeball the thing so that it looks right to you. Scientific? Well, no, but it's the best way. Once you've got it situated to your satisfaction and pinned, sew it down.

The inside front panel is the only part of the circle that goes around your arm which still has a raw edge sticking out. Snip it close to the seam where the front panel meets the underarm panel, fold the raw edge under, and hem it. You can hem it by either sewing it down through all layers, or by whip-stitching it underneath the layers on the inside. Both ways look fine, it's up to your personal preference.

The Lower Back Panel

Lower Back Panel Template
Back Panel 1
Back Panel 2

Make your lower back template. For the curve, outline the outer edge of your underarm panel pattern piece, which gives you the exact angle of the curve. Now, and this is important, before you cut the template out, add '" to that curve. You need to do this to allow for the seam, or the edges won't match up right, and you'll have to fudge around to get the angles to fit. I give the dimensions as 12"ish along the top and 36"ish along the side. Don't let the "ish" worry you. Being slightly over or under each measurement has to do with how the curve sits. Once the pattern piece for the lower back panel is done, use it to cut out your fabric. Be sure to place the edge on a fold as shown.

Placing right sides together, pin and sew the edge around the curve of the underarm piece and down the side of the front panel to the bottom of the panel first. You'll need to make a snip or notch in the raw edges where the curve meets the front panel for easement. This should be easy to do, you're following the curve on either side and the line down to the bottom. If for some reason the underarm and sides don't match up, start pinning where the underarm piece joins the front panel piece. You can trim the excess from along the top of the lower back panel before attaching it to the upper panel.

There is going to be some excess at the bottom; don't worry about that yet, you'll hack that off later. Do not sew the lower back to the upper back yet, and yes, I know there's a lot of extra back there. The extra is for the pleat in the back. The pleat is necessary for the cloak to flow behind you when you stride through the halls at cons. It's a beautiful thing to see. Trust me.

For the pleat, pin the lower back to the upper back, right sides together, moving from each side to meet at the middle seam. There will be a big loop of material left. Find the middle of that loop, bring that to meet the middle of the upper back panel, and pin it down, this time working from the middle back out to the sides. Sew down through all layers to attach the upper and lower panels. Sew it down twice, in fact. This gives the back a little more security. It bears a lot of weight because of all the material, and the bottom can catch things as you walk, and it's generally the first thing to get it's stitches pulled out so give it the extra seam.

Flip so that the right sides are out, and get ready for the pockets.

Pockets and Flaps

Pocket Flap
Pockets
Flaps

Make your copies and cut out the templates for the pockets and flap. On the template, I have said to cut out two of each pocket, but if you would like to have secret pockets, and what Klingon doesn't need secret pockets, cut out four of each pocket.

There are little notch marks on your pocket pattern. This is for sewing a seam down the pocket to form that "V" shape on the front. The "V" shape doesn't do a thing, it's just there for the effect. Make the seams tiny, lining the foot of your sewing machine next to the edge of the pocket to sew. Hem the tops of all of the pockets and set aside. You don't have to do the "V" for the inside pocket, unless you really want to. Just hem the top of each secret pocket and set aside with the rest.

Cut out four of each flap, and two of each size of interfacing. Take two flaps and one interfacing piece, sandwich together with the right sides together and the interfacing on top and sew together along all sides except the top. Snip a notch at the top corner of each lip and crop off the pointy bits from each corner edge. Turn right side out, poke out the corners so that they're flat, sew down the top part of the flap, and press. Attach your top snap to the flap, using the snap placement mark on your template as a guide. Repeat for each flap.

Pin the flap, as if it were open, to the front panel. It should be around 7"-8" from the top. That doesn't matter so much, just slide the flap down until both sides are even with both edges of the front panel, then pin in place. Take your pocket and position it an inch or so under the edge of the flap, and pin loosely. Bring the flap over into a closed position, and use your pencil to make a note as to where the snap on the flap meets the pocket. Unpin the pocket, cut a small 1"-2" square out of some scrap material and a piece of the interfacing, and place them, interfacing between the two layers, on the back of the pocket under the spot where the bottom snap will be. Heavy-duty snaps are, well, heavy duty, and you need to add some stability and strength to your snap so they don't tear through the pocket when you unfasten them. Put on the bottom snap. Repeat this process for all four pockets. A word of caution though: be easy on the snaps and pockets when you open and close them. Don't yank them open, or sooner or later, no matter how reinforced it is, they'll rip out.

Take the top pockets and lay them on the front panel, approximately 8" down. Fold under the edges like you would a hem and pin in place, lining the pocket edge up to the front panel edge. As before, they should fall about an inch or so from the flap. The only thing you really need to be careful to do is to line up the top and bottom snap so that it will lay flat when closed. For the secret pockets, simply line them up on the inside of the front panel, directly opposite of the front pocket and pin in place. Sew down through all layers to secure the pockets in place. Sew down the raw edges of each flap, and snap them shut. The lower pockets get the same treatment, and they fall about 8"-10" below the bottom of the top pocket. Again, line up the flap first.

Finishing the Bottom

Put on the cloak, and have someone mark the length you want, taking care to line up the bottom edges of the front panels so that they are even. Mark the line carefully and evenly with your pencil, then run a basting stitch across that line. Check for accuracy, then trim off all excess fabric up to '" below the basting stitch. Roll up the bottom and hem all the way across. To help prevent fraying, you might want to double roll the hem before you sew it down, so that the raw edges are turned completely inside and can't fray.

Hood

Hood Example

Make your copies and attach together as directed. Cut four from your fabric. Two are the outer hood and two are your lining. You can, if you wish, use a different color for the lining. For example, if you have a black cloak and your house color is red, you might want to have a red lining. Aren't choices wonderful? You'll need about a 1/2 yard for a lining of a different color and thread to match.

Take two of the four pieces, right sides together, and sew together along the outer curve of the hood. Repeat with the lining. Take the hood and lining and sew together along the straight edge, which is the part that frames your face. Flip so that both right sides face outward and press. Sew along the top again, this time with the wrong sides together, and baste along the edge of the bottom. Carefully trim to 1/2" from the basting seam along the bottom. Do a rolled hem along the bottom of the hood, so that the raw edges are turned to the inside. Roll the hem away from the lining side, and under the hood. Pin to the cloak, matching the middles together and pinning outward. Make sure that the visible part of the rolled hem sits against the quilted sections and doesn't show. The hood will extend a bit down the front panel. Sew down through all layers.

And that's it! You're done! Now go give a Feddie a good kicking. Go ahead, you've earned it!

Template Files

These images are scaled to 75%. You will need to enlarge them to get them to the correct size.