Sewing without a Pattern

A semi-circular cape with hood
The cape, a type of ancient sleeveless cloak, is a wonderful garment when dressing in "layers" for warmth.

To make the cape, you need a rectangular piece of fabric at least wide enough to accommodate the length of the cape (the radius) and at least twice as long (the diameter).

This hooded cape, 54 inches long plus 2 inches for the seams, required a rectangular piece of fabric (wool and mohair) measuring 112 inches in length and 56 inches in width. After it was sewn, the raw edges were encased decoratively with 3/4-inch wide flat double braid. Ten yards of braid are needed to edge the cape and hood and make the ties at the neckline.
To make a semicircular cape, use fabric wide enough to accommodate the cape's desired length (the radius) and at least twice its radius in length to accommodate the full sweep of a semicircle. Fold the fabric in half as shown, and mark the quarter circles with a pencil on a string, using the fold as the center line of the cape's back and the woven selvages at the bottom as the front closing of the cape.
To draw one side of the hood, make the top and back lines, plus three temporary lines (dashed lines above). To establish the neckline, connect the bottom right corner with the end of the 17-inch temporary line. To mark the front edge, connect the upper left corner with the intersection of the two dashed lines that meet at a right angle; then continue to the neckline. Allow a 1/2 inch seam allowance along top and back.
In preparation for drawing the semicircle, fold the fabric rectangle in half along the width, and pin it along the selvages and down the center to prevent the two layers from slipping. The positioning of the cape with its center back on the fold eliminates construction seams.(figure J, above) The selvages at the bottom of figure J serve as the center front opening. The curve of the neckline and that of the hem fan out from the center point. The material left over after the semicircle is cut provides material for the hood, detailed in figure K.

If you choose a napped fabric (any fabric with a one-way design, or a pile or texture that runs in one direction), the nap will run in opposite directions when you fold it, so you must then cut along the fold line and turn one of the squares upside down so all the nap runs in the same direction. Then place one square on top of the other, right sides together; pin and mark. Instead of having the seamless center fold, you will now have two raw edges to sew together to make a center back seam.

With the fabric folded as shown in Figure J above, measure a distance of 7 1/2 inches from the bottom right corner up along the center fold. Make a compass with a pencil or tailor's chalk tied on the end of a 7 1/2 inch length of string. Hold the end of the string at the corner, and with the string taut, draw a quarter circle. Follow the same procedure to mark the hem, measured along the center fold; in this case it is 56 inches from center point to hemline. Then cut out the cape. Baste along the seam line of the neck edge to keep it from stretching out of shape.
With the raw edge of the cape against the fold of the braid trim, stitch the cape to the braid 1/2 inch from the edge, starting at the neckline.
Fold the braid trim over the raw edge of the cape and stitch along its edge, thus securing it to the right side of the cape.
Fold under the raw edge of the braid trim where it meets the starting point of the braid, at the point where the neckline and hood are joined.
Stitch the folded end of the braid to the starting braid, making small stitches by hand.
The Hood
The only right angle in the side of the hood is the one formed by the top and back which are the same length - 14 inches. (see figure K above). You will have to make three temporary lines (the dashed lines in figure K) to get the correct angles for the front and neckline. Rule off the top and back lines and the three temporary lines as shown. Next, rule a line that connects the bottom right corner with the bottom of the lower temporary line - to establish the neckline of the hood. To make the front opening angle, connect the upper left corner with the intersection of two temporary perpendicular lines, and continue the line to meet the neckline of the hood. Allow an additional 1/2 inch at the top and back for seams. Cut two identical pieces.

Join the sections of the hood across the top and back with a French seam (figure C); then pin the neckline of the hood to the cape, right sides together. There is always some extra fullness when an inside curve is being fitted to an outside curve; so pinch in the fullness as you pin and baste it into place before sewing a French seam for a neat finish.
A French seam encloses raw edges to provide a neat finish. First, machine-stitch the two pieces, wrong sides facing, 1/4 inch from the edge (top). Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch. Fold along the stitched line, right sides facing, and stitch again 1/4 inch from the fold to enclose the raw edges (bottom).
The cape is bound all around with 3/4 inch flat double braid in eggshell color. This braid  can be machine stitched to both sides of the garment, using colorless nylon thread. Place the cape right side up. Starting at the neckline, lay the edge of the cape along the inside fold of the braid, and stitch it 1/2 inch from the edge ( look at the row of photographs above). Fold the free edge of the braid on top, and stitch it along the edge. Finish off by folding the braid under itself at the neckline where it meets the starting point; it will be least visible here. Hand stitch it so it lies flat. Stitch on the ties by hand or machine.

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