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Need a medieval cloak pattern and fabric

BernaWeaves | Posted in Patterns on

Darling hubby and I have gotten some medieval clothing for wearing to faires.

We’d both like cloaks, in case it gets cold, but after having tried on a few ready made ones, they felt very heavy (cotton twill) and the hoods slip backwards and choke us, or they’re flimsy panne velvet (which isn’t really appropriate for the look).

I’m thinking about using wool, but I’m not sure what’s lightweight but warm, doesn’t ravel, and wide enough to accomodate the pieces.

I realize I could just make a big circle and let it hang to let the bias hang out, but I’m concerned that a full circle cloak will be too heavy and have too much material in it.  A 3/4 circle may have the nap going in the wrong direction or bias in the wrong spots, and a 1/2 circle doesn’t close.  I’m wondering if a fitted shoulder might be better than a flat circle shape.

I’ve found McCalls M8936, Simplicity 5794 and 9887, and Butterick B4030 online, but it’s hard to tell from an online picture what the pieces look like, or the instructions. 

Does anyone have any recommendations or experience in making this kind of cloak?  Comments about fabric choice, hood design, patterns, trim, closures, sewing techniques are all welcome.

Thanks, Berna



  1. Sancin | | #1

    How about using microfleece? Or any other weight. Fleece is light, cheap, can looks like wool and is quick and easy to sew. I have given up on woolen winter coats since I discovered how light and warm fleece is. I buy expensive fleece and used traditional patterns

  2. User avater
    Becky-book | | #2

    I made a cloak from a pattern that looks similar to the McCalls number you mentioned. It is fleece and quite comfortable. Fleece is NOT historically accurate for medieval garb, but if that is not an issue, it easy to work with and wear. Now keep in mind that I live south of Atlanta GA and it does not get bone chilling cold here like it does in Mich. (where I grew up) so my cape is warm enough to get around in, from house to car etc... So if you want authenticity and warmth, go with wool!!
    I used a "frog" to close at the neck but it is getting worn so I will need to replace it with something sturdier ... haven't decided what yet.

    Decide if you want to use your arms and keep the cloak closed, some of the patterns looked like they had no arm openings. My pattern has directions for leaving an opening in the side seam; make sure you place the opening at a level that will work for your arm length. Mine came out just a little too low so when I use my arms the cloak is pulled up a bit.
    If the cloak fits properly at the shoulder, the hood should not choke you. You don't want a huge hood, it won't keep your ears warm and won't stay put. You may need to fiddle with your pattern to get it just right.

    The other patterns looked trendy, or costume get-up to me. Just my 2 cents worth.

  3. Lilith1951 | | #3

    Check out this site I found doing a search: http://www.alleycatscratch.com/lotr/makingem/Patterns/Cloaks.htm

    They are reviewing all sorts of cloaks and capes for Lord of the Rings costuming, but their hints and suggestions looked like a wealth of information.

    I made a full-length cape for my daughter's prom some years back (10?) and it took a tremendous amount of fabric.  I used a commercial pattern (can't find it right now, sorry) and it had shaped shoulders, which she liked (that does cut down on total weight of the cape.) It had a loose hood and slits for arms to come out if you chose, closing with just a large, hidden hook and eye and decorative broach tacked on at the neck.  Frog closures are probably the most authentic looking, but a less formal look would be a casing and a drawstring, I would think, and the same could be put in the hood to draw it snug around the face if it was really cold and windy.

     We used heavy bridal satin and a lighter weight lining, because we were not concerned about very cold weather, but rather just a chilly May evening with a possibility of rain. The bridal satin (some sort of poly-blend) was very heavy and a good blocker for the chilly breezes that night.  You could find a quality very light-weight wool and it would probably not be as heavy as the bridal satin, but would be warmer and certainly would look authentic.  We made it in black so she could wear it for other formal events, and she has done so.

    I found the pattern to not be difficult at all, just a number of very long, mostly straight seams, due to all the "gores" and then doing it all again for the lining and then sewing the lining in all around.  Whew!  Lots of sewing, but nothing hard.  Good luck to you in finding what you need. 

  4. meg | | #4

    Have you looked at Folk Wear Patterns? I think the site is
    Some fabric and quilt shops carry these patterns as well.

    edited to add: http://www.costumes.org/ethnic/1pages/ethnolnk.htm

    Edited 4/5/2008 6:32 am ET by Meg

  5. User avater
    sewsavvy | | #5

    Hi! I want to second the folklore pattern. I know that other fabric sites carry the folklore patterns. Equilter.com, denverfabrics.com to name a few. The pattern number is  207. it is described as a Kinsale Cloak.  It can be made with or without the hood. I have not made the cloak as of yet. It's on my mile long "to-do" list :-(. It gives some great fabric suggestions, yes wool is one of them. Velvet, corduroy. Have you ever thought of cotton velveteen? Although wool is probably more historically correct... Good luck!!!

    1. BernaWeaves | | #6

      Thanks everyone!

      Microfleece is out, because it's not historically accurate.  (Also, I just don't like the look of it.  The seams never look pressed to me.)  I really want wool for a variety of reasons.

      1.  Historically accurate.

      2.  Self-extinguishing, in case of fire (we'll be around campfires in long clothing).

      3.  Wool's warmer when it gets wet, in case of rain.  (Cotton just gets colder and heavier when wet).

      4.  Drapes nicely and holds a crease well.  Presses well and doesn't wrinkle.

      5.  Repels dirt.

      You get the idea.

      I love sleeve slits, but those aren't historically acurate either, but they are easy to leave out.

      The kinsale cloak pattern is a bit too modern and too feminine.  I've actually seen that one made up and it's very frilly, and I need something a bit less 17- 1800's and more 13-1400's and more masculine.  Hubby's not very big, so I can adapt a woman's cloak pattern for him.  It just needs to look masculine, so I need to avoid gathers and frills, and use a masculine fabric. Cotton velveteen is close to what fustian was, I think, but he tried on a cotton velveteen one once and found it too heavy and stiff.

      Any recommendations on wool fabrics?  I live in Florida, but I only plan on wearing this if it gets in the 40s- 60s F and I plan on being outside for hours.  If it's too cold (30's or less), I'm not going outside, so it won't matter.  Any warmer, and I won't need one.


      Thanks, Berna

  6. SAAM | | #7

    Since you're not going to use the cape in super cold weather, you might look at summer weight suiting wools. They would be less heavy than wool flannel or similar coat weight wools.

    Have you decided whether or not you are going to line the cape? Satin is nice, but it can contribute to the sliding problems, though a cape that is shaped and fitted through the shoulders should stay in place pretty well. I've also seen capes lined with cotton flannel for additional warmth.

    The nice thing about a cape like the first view on Simplicity 5794 is that the additional capelets over the shoulders helps keep rain from soaking through.


    1. BernaWeaves | | #8

      I'm not planning on lining it, although I might line the hood; and if I do fitted shoulders, then just the shoulder area.

      I'll have to go see what's available.  I just wanted to get a feel for what I should be looking for or against, in case someone here had done this before.

      Thanks everyone!


      1. TheresaG | | #9

        When I was playing faire, I used a cloak in the mornings and evenings. But do you want something Medieval or Renaissance?Either way, I recommend A History of Costume by Carl Kohler, it's a Dover book.Here is a link to the illustrations http://www.theweebsite.com/garb/gallery.html Lots of capes and cloaks. You just have to scale up the diagrams. I think a cape that is fitted at the shoulders is best, also you can make straps inside to keep it from sliding and so you can throw it half off your shoulder.
        Of course your fabric choices are governed by just who your character is, but a lightweight wool is a good choice also linen isn't so bad either.A velvet or even satin if you are noble.
        The last piece of outwear that I made my son was a schaube, which he liked a lot.A schaube or schwab is also called a scholar's robe, I think.I believe they used one for Dumbledore in Harry Potter. It uses less fabric than a cape, has the option of using the sleeves or not. I faced it in another wool. Here is a dress diary of for the construction of a woman's http://myra.hem.nu/costume/CostumeGallery/Schaube/Schaube_Dairy.htm
        This is also a nice collection of outwear http://www.employees.org/~cathy/cote_body.html
        the gabardine is very similar to the one I am talking about. And of course for simple directions there is always Elizabethan Costuming by Janet Winters.

        1. BernaWeaves | | #10


          Thank you.  Those links and information help me a lot!  I've bookmarked them.

          The schaube looks like an early coat.  I haven't noticed that garment before.  I like it.  It's a lot less bulky than a cloak.

          Thanks, Berna

      2. Teaf5 | | #19

        Have you checked in the decorator fabric sections? The fabrics are wider, and you can often find very authentic-looking weaves and weights. Since they are for furnishings, most also are flame proofed.

  7. jane4878 | | #11


    If it doesn't have to accurate, Folkwear has a Moroccan Burnoose pattern.  The pattern drawing looks a bit much--which is why I never really paid attention to it.  I bought a camel wool burnoose in Douz, Tunisia about a month ago and it is much more restrained then the folkwear pattern picture.  The Arab men wear them either with their head through the neckhole or slung over their shoulders like a cape with their head in front of the hole.  The longer points in the front can be slung over the opposite shoulder.  They also wore them with one arm through the neckhole and it slung around across their chest like a Roman toga.  They're available in camel or sheep wool.  Natural colours.  Mine is a medium brown and incredibly soft and fleece like.  I bought it for my son, but I was very ill when I bought it so it's softness, warmth and lightness was wonderful.  The Tunisian men would tease me for wearing it since it's menswear:^)

    I'm trying to attach photos--computer misbehaving.  I'll try again if this doesn't work.

    1. BernaWeaves | | #12


      I'd love to see it.  I've always been curious about the burnoose pattern.

      Thanks, Berna

      1. jane4878 | | #13

        Here we go again...  #1 the front view, #2 the back, #3 folded in half and laid flat--the hanger is for size reference.  The hood is quite small.  #4 close-up of front and hood.

        1. BernaWeaves | | #14

          Jane:  What an unusual shape and detail.  Thanks for posting the burnoose pics. 

          Is it really so much shorter in the back?    Or do they wear it pulled backwards so the hem is actually no so short in the back?


          Thanks, Berna

          1. jane4878 | | #15

            It's shorter in the back, that's why if you put your neck in front of the neckhole, it pushes the cape back and it's less long in the front.  I had trouble getting my head through the hole--I have a large head.  I bought mine at a "prix fixe" store--shopping in Tunisia is either haggling or you can shop at a government controlled fixed price shop.  The cost is a bit higher then what you might be able to negotiate on the street if you were an adept haggler, and the quality can be higher.  Another woman in my group was hassled by one of the merchants to buy one, but none of them would fit over her head.  It gave her a good excuse to blow him off.  Mine had a larger hole. 

            The front is very long.  I'm 5'8" and the tassles in front almost touch the ground.  You could make it shorter in the front.  The guide with us said they should be thrown over the shoulder.  I found that they were always sliding off--a pin or brooch would be helpful.  I would tuck the underneath piece over the opposite shoulder and then throw the top piece over the other shoulder.  You'd end up a bit mummy-like.  An adult male would be easily tall enough to just wear it and let the front fall open.  They sold even longer ones.  Hope this helps.

            I love this one so much--I'd consider making one now from boiled wool or a soft melton.  My son and I fight over this one around the house.  They make great throws for watching TV.

          2. BernaWeaves | | #16

            Jane:  Even though this wasn't what I was looking for, I really like it.  I may make one anyway, just because it looks neat.  I suspect the hoods are just design elements now, and have lost their use (like hanging sleeves in the middle ages).

            Thanks for posting the pics.  The one laying flat with the hanger on top really showed the layout well.

            I can just see how this pattern evolved.  Cloak with hood.  One man gets too hot one day and lifts it up over his head, and shoves the neck back over his shoulders.  Other men think it looks cool and do the same.  The women even out the hemline.  Ta-da.  New design.

            Thanks, Berna

          3. User avater
            Becky-book | | #17

            Maybe you have already seen this site:http://www.reddawn.net/costume/oldcloak.htmsome DIY cloak info.Becky

          4. BernaWeaves | | #18

            Yes, but thanks for posting it again.



          5. mygaley | | #21

            I have made a number of medieval-style cloaks for members of a mardi gras crew. Each customer selected their own pattern and fabric, so I enjoyed seeing how each style worked out. My LEAST favorite is the cape with the shoulders that drop down like raglan sleeve tops. They don't fit anybody. My FAVORITE has a front and back yoke, a-line front(s), a-line back(s), a center back seam, sleeves that are set-in, and of course a hood. I live in Louisiana and our climate is very like yours. I would recommend the lightest weight wool or even a washable wool blend and line it to the edge with a very light weight lining. Pick a color/pattern that won't show dirt (I'm glad you agree with me on that). If you are being "choked" by the neckline pulling back, trim out up to 1" of the back neck. I know this sounds opposite, but it will make it possible for the cloak to sit more to the front.
            I seem to remember this was a McCalls pattern. I was asked to make it in tapestry and line with stretch velvet (don't ask how I made that compatible!) and it must have weighed 25 pounds. You can remove a lot of the weight and bulk and dirt you will drag by having it come about 12 inches above the ground. God bless you Galey

  8. Ocrafty1 | | #20

    I did some research a couple of months ago for a possible Renaissance fair at the local college I went to.  Do a Google search and put in Midieval pattens.  You will find LOTS of great info and pattens that you can enlarge, or learn to draft them, as well as resources for purchasing fabric, trims, etc. My laptop is down, :^(  and that's where I have everything bookmarked, or I would send you links.


  9. dollmarm | | #22

    Wow what a fascinating posting !

    I have one that I like and had hope to already make but my daughter bought me a really lightweight one at this really neat shop in a mall (they moved :~( -so sad)

    My daughter went to a Medieval Fair for a weekend where they camped out and wore only of that era and she made all her clothing needed, (except for the undies and the cap/cloak. She got herself a black one.

    MY pattern is Simplicity 7016 - there are 2 different ideas, plus there is a short wrap. 
    (they suggest wool blends, gabardine, worsteds, tweeds, herringbones, melton)

    The one is have is a dark emerald green (velvet-suede feel to it)  made out of Rayon.
    It was made in India and the company is Raaga. 
    I usually wear it w/ pants when out shopping and the air has that cold  bite to it.

    It has a hood.  Big floppy long sleeves, which most times do not use - just throw it around my shoulder and go. 
    Completely all around from the top, hood to the bottom that is this unique embroidered design.

    It also Laces up the front and I do not like that I have removed the sting  - I am looking for another way of closing up the front like some sort of easy clips to attached to the holes already there for the string lacing. 
    But I have the summer to look.

    I have enjoyed the sites that many have suggested to you - good luck what you decide and be sure to show us.  :~)

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