A weather for woolen capes: my winter DIY/dressmaking project

I don’t know about the weather where you are when you’re reading this, but it’s starting to feel an awful lot like winter’s coming to Edinburgh. The haar’s (Scots for the fog that comes from the sea) here and it’s starting to feel cool. It’s not quite thick wool coat, gloves and hat weather yet, but we need to start thinking about layering up for the cold. I could never really work out the cape for practical reasons, but it’s one of those styles that I couldn’t get off my mind. Especially the ones that don’t bunch up when you’re carrying a hobo bag on your shoulder because the opening for your arms are just slits.

I prefer styles like the one below where your arms are properly covered and give your figure some shape, but if you like you could also flip back the top section so that you can leave your arms free.

60’s heather grey military cape

It does seem like capes like the one above are hard to come by. Maybe it’s the thought of regiment, control and immaculate uniforms behind the design, but I’ve got a thing for military style outer jackets. The brass buttons with an insignia or logo, the stiff collars and the shoulder strap where epaulettes are attached to show a soldier’s rank. It’s formal in that it’s a uniform worn for special occasions, but modern fashion coats and jackets can be also be worn as everyday wear, which makes it quite a versatile piece. I couldn’t think of a better style in search of a cape for the winter months.

Below are some of the other designs I’ve taken an interest in.

Gareth Pugh cape coat

Black winter wool cape

Women’s rain cape

Black military cape coat

Balmain tweed military cape

Mango military cape coat

Camel wool military cape

The idea of spending lots of money on deisgner capes to get the specific design I want (like the Balmain one) seems a bit over the top. As with everything else, I’ve decided I’m going to make my own cape.

I haven’t yet quite found the right fabric that I’d like to use for my cape. It would need to be a medium weight fabric to keep the cold draft out, but it can’t be too heavy otherwise it would be too much weigh to bear on the shoulders so heavy weight fabric wouldn’t be suitable in this case.

I like the idea of using Harris Tweed (as per my latest dressmaking/craft obsession). It would be a uniquely Scottish product and would be cheaper to make myself than buying a ready made one which retails for about £220 at least (at the local fabric shop, Harris Tweed fabric is being sold for £40/metre). I haven’t quite decided if I want it in a neutral colour (like this) or not (like this), but I’d like to keep the pattern quite simple, so either a plain weave or herringbone so it can be used for formal occasions or as a casual everyday cape.

I’ve had a look at patterns that are available and have decided on the New Look 6396 or 6227 (they both appear the same patterns). I prefer the longer length, generous arm holes and the mandarin collar in view B which allow you to easily slip your arm in and out of the cape. It will also allow you to carry a handbag by hand or to sling it over your shoulder, although with most capes you’re best to choose a bag you can slip over your arm.

New Look 6396

New Look 6227 – the model photo is for view C instead of A, but you can see the designs are exactly the same

There are similar patterns here, here and here if you prefer a different design.

This will be my first endeavour in making outerwear and I’ll need to make sure I get the right needles for the machine. One thing I’ve learned with using different types of material is there are different needle widths for different fabric weights. As you can imagine, you can’t use the thin needles normal weight fabric on heavy weight wool or denim. You can get a box of mixed needles (I believe you get 2 of each needles in a pack) if you don’t like the idea of buying packs of normal, medium and heavy weight needles because you don’t use a variety of weights very often.

If anyone’s made a cape before or outer coats, please share any tips or advice below. I would love to hear from you!

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