How to Make a Cloak Out of an Army Blanket Part I

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The cloak that I came up with may not be exactly considered “period” by authenticity nuts. I may be nuts and I may have a penchant for accuracy, but I am not the garb police. Luckily, I live in An Tir. Here, most folks are concerned that you are dressed for the weather first and history second. Hypothermia is a possibility when it’s 50°F and overcast, which describes our typical weather patterns year-round. In fact, hypothermia is a greater risk than at 35° because you’re prepared for the temperature, 50 or above is practically shorts weather around here. Many people simply aren’t prepared or overestimate the weather.

Enough with the safety lecture. In summary: wool is not only period, but your friend. Unfortunately, I did not think to take pictures until the cloak was nearly finished. So I am going to give what I call “Idiot Directions.” I assume that anyone reading this has as much experience as I do, if not less. And I can barely operate my sewing machine, Arachne.

As all SCAdians know, thrift stores are a godsend. I picked up an old, green, wool Army blanket and a full, black, flat sheet at Goodwill last year. According to the tag on the blanket it was 3 ¾ pounds, olive green, 66”x84”, 100% shrink resistant wool. Don’t remember how much I paid, but obviously it could not have been much.

I tossed them in the washer on gentle and regular cycles, respectively, and hung the blanket up to dry. There was no fulling, which can happen even on cold. Your mileage may vary. Ironing is recommended, but I was lazy.

I laid down on the blanket lengthwise and marked about where I wanted it to fall, accounting for seam allowance. I am short, so the remainder cut off the bottom was more than enough for a hood. The big piece will be gathered into the body later on. Keep the small section (if you’re tall, there may not be any left over) for a hood, if you desire. If not, you might be able to make hosen out it.

Many (if not most) sheets are sewn off-grain, or crooked. Since they’re woven, you can snip and rip to prepare them. Maybe I’m just destructive, but I like this part. Make a horizontal snip just below the top seam and rip all the way across. Do the same with any remaining seams. You will want to leave any selvage edges. You can do the same instead of cutting to make it the same length and width of the wool. This will be your lining. Don’t forget to leave some aside for the hood, if you want one.

Now pin both main pieces together on three sides and sew. I used a ¾” seam throughout. There really is no “right-side” or “wrong-side,” unless your sheet has one then you’ll want to take that into account. Leave one of the width edges open. Turn the main piece right-side out. If your corners aren’t crisp enough, take a pencil and poke them out. Here is the sewn and turned main piece on my living room floor, thread bits and fuzzballs for that authentic "I'm in the midst of several projects that need to be finished in 2 and a half weeks for Egil's."

For the hood, you will want to start with 32”x18” pieces of both the wool and lining. You may need more, especially if you have a lot of hair. Put them together so you can cut both out at the same time. Fold both over in half length-wise or hamburger style for those of us who never left grade school. Measure out 12” along the long cut edge and mark it. Since I had mine spread out on the floor, I just marked it by pinning through all layers and the carpet. Mark out a gently curving line to the corner of the folded edge. Your two pieces should resemble something like this, the bottom edge will be sewn to the main body. The lining peeking out of the right side is the opening. This piece hasn't been ironed and the peak hasn't been poked out yet.I say sloped because if you go straight it might resemble a KKK hood, especially with the stiff wool. Mine turned out rather pointy. Please excuse the bra straps and the gigantic cold sores that are currently my bottom lip (lots of stress), and these were taken first thing in the morning. In other words, I don't always look so disheveled.

If you want less of a peak, then I would suggest fiddling with scraps of the sheet to experiment until you find a look you prefer.

The folded edge will end up being the top of the hood, the straight cut edge will be your facial opening, and the short 12” sides will be the neck. Pin the curved edges of the wool together and sew. Repeat for the lining. Put both pieces together and pin along the opening. I forget which side goes to which. I simply put them on top of my head and arranged them so that all the wrong sides would end up on the inside and all the right sides on the outside. Sew and turn right-side out. I put a couple of stitches by hand at the peak of the hood by hand to keep them together.