With usual method for making a cloak I use poly/wool because you can get it for about �50 a yard and it looks and feels like wool, but is more washable. And Simplicity pattern no, 8010, which is for fancy dress costume including a Robin Hood outfit with cloak! The hood fits properly and looks good, and I’ve used the pattern four times with various fabrics. The pattern witters on about using vast quantities of felt and Heat ‘n’ Bond, but just ignore that and sew all the seams. Kilt buckles (about �50, use a leather needle) are good for the fastening. There’s also plenty of material left over for matching pouches and suchlike. Also, if you use this pattern and make the cloak bit only about a foot long, you’ve got a great hood.
How to get dye out of costume
Dye! Yeeeurggh! Lime green poster paint – luvverly. Anyway, if you get hit, DON’T use hot water immediately. Rinse it in COLD water as soon as possible and it should just come out. If it’s dried hard when you get home, then spray copiously with Shout! or Biotex spray – give it a real soaking – then machine wash on the lowest possible temperature. (Handwash anything? – you must be joking, life’s too short).
If you get poster paint dye on fake or real fur, or suede, you’re pretty well stuffed.
How to reinforce a collar
What do you use to re-inforce a collar so that it is rigid (sort of like a shirt collar is, or the brim of a peaked cap)? I took apart a peaked cap that I had and it used a type of plastic, but I’m sure there must be easier ways (but I can’t use cardboard ‘cos it needs to be washable)?
Have you come across ‘interfacing’? It comes by the yard/metre or fractions thereof at the fabric shop, and is designed specifically to stiffen up fabric. It comes in different weights; I used a very lightweight grade for the cuffs of my black mage silky swordsman’s shirt, and a much heavier weight for the waistbands of wool trousers. It also comes in (at least) black or white, and as sew-in or iron-on. Get the iron-on stuff.
So, to make a collar, you would cut two collar pattern pieces in the garment fabric, plus one in interfacing, and then fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one of the main pieces.
To fuse interfacing: get a cleanteatowel very wet, then wring out thoroughly so it’s damp but not dripping wet. Place main fabric collar piece on ironing board, right side down. Put interfacing pattern piece (same shape!) on top, glue side down. Put damp tea towel over the top. Now press the iron, on a hot setting, down onto the interfacing sandwich; pick it up and press it down again, don’t slide the iron around. Do this until the tea-towel isn’t actually steaming any more… and the interfacing should be well glued.
If you do get it a bit wrong, you can usually manage to peel it off again… it will become anchored firmly when you eventually sew through all three layers of collar. Sew round three sides, leaving the side open where the collar will fit to the main garment, then you can turn the collar inside out so the interfacing is hidden inside, and attach collar. (pin it and experiment first, so that you get the sandwich in the right order before actually sewing it up! I regularly get it wrong.)
If interfacing isn’t sufficiently stiff, you can use stiffened fabric which again is sold just for this purpose, but I think it’s sew-in only.
Photo-Mount aerosol spray adhesive (for graphic designer types, you use it on paper and card and it can be lifted and repositioned) is great for positioning heraldic devices on tabards before sewing. Don’t use too much, or it will get all sticky, and it will be difficult to get a needle through the material.
Pressing and finishing seams
I think that one of the most important things to do when making costume, which makes the item into a professional looking garment which hangs well, is to press all the seams and finish them off properly. It also makes costume last much longer.
When I’m costume-making, I have the ironing board set up, and after sewing each seam on the machine, I press it. This involves laying the garment along the board seam upwards, with the raw edges of the seam allowance opened out flat, and pressing the seam open using a damp cloth as explained above, until the cloth isn’t steaming anymore. (If you’re in lazy mode, use the steam iron direct onto the material – but pressing is better for delicate fabrics.) Although this adds time and aggro to making the kit, the finished garment will hang straighter and better. By the way, I’ve found that I can press thin leather if I’m careful, but always on the wrong side (i.e. the side that won’t be seen), otherwise it can leave marks.
Unfinished, raw seam edges will fray: unless you’re using non-fraying fabric, finish the seams properly and the kit will last much much longer and not fall apart in the washing machine. Check the seams on ready-made LRP costume, for an indication of how well it’s been made and how long it will last. If the seams have been left raw and look as if they might unravel, then beware.
I use pinking shears most of the time (those large sewing scissors with zigzag blades) and when the garment is completely finished, just cut off the excess all the way down each raw edge, parallel to the seam. I use half inch seam allowances (i.e. when sewing a seam, I sew the fabric layers together half an inch from the raw edges) and cut about a quarter inch off. Don’t cut too close to the seam, or it will fray. I don’t know exactly why a serrated edge stops fraying, but it seems to work. Pinking shears cost at least ten pounds and probably more, but they last nearly forever; I bought mine several years ago but they still work perfectly and don’t need sharpening yet.
If you haven’t got access to pinking shears, you can also finish off a seam by sewing a zigzag line down each of its raw edges, using a sewing machine. And I finished off the seams of my two thin leather tunics by using Copydex to stick them down flat.