Today is my first Indian ethnic-wear DIY post. The idea of this came along when I was looking for a jacket or something to layer with a brown floor length kali dress. I could not find something I liked completely and most of the embroidered pieces available were priced above Rs.7000. I would probably wear this layer just once or twice and was not willing to spend so much on it. That’s when the DIY bug bit me again.
Some of you might think that it’s easy for me to make one since I have studied fashion designing and you won’t be able to make one. But that’s not true, I have made the tutorial easy enough for anyone to understand. If you have basic stitching knowledge you could make one yourself or you could even instruct your tailor on how to make it. The tutorial includes pattern instructions, design details, finishing touches and additional tips.
I finally picked the in-trend Cape for my top layer design. The cape as we know it in Indian fashion was brought into the limelight by Anamika Khanna in the year 2012. Since then Anamika has designed variations of the silhouette in all her collections. In 2015 other notable designers like Samant Chauhan, Payal Singhal and Riddhima Bhasin have incorporated the cape in their ethnic wear collections. You will also see the influence of cape in western-wear collections by Rohit Gandhi+Rahul Khanna, Amit Aggarwal and Huemn among others. The cape is a versatile clothing piece that can be styled easily with both ethnic and western wear.
The cape design I chose is based on a design by Anamika Khanna (click here for the picture). Please do not assume I am promoting copying of original designer pieces. I am against stealing someone’s design creations. I have just taken inspiration from the in-trend silhouette and modified it to suit my design sensibilities. Also, it is impossible for anyone to achieve the finishing and skill level of a designer house.
I am making two cape tutorials: one without a lining and one with a lining. Depending on your fabric and the look you want you could follow either. I will further explain the particularities in choice in individual tutorials. I did a mini-shoot styling the capes with six different ensembles.
Muslin fabric- 1 meter
Embroidered fabric- 1 meter (minimum 38″ width)
Sewing thread contrast to muslin fabric- 1 piece
Sewing thread matching the embroidered fabric- 1 piece
Chart paper/ pattern paper- 1 piece
Measuring scale/ ruler
Tailor’s chalk/ fabric marker
T-pins/ pearl pins
Note the measurements of your chest, waist, shoulder to bust, shoulder to waist, bicep and the length of the cape. My brown kalidar has a yoke of 16.5″ so I kept the length of the cape 1″ extra , i.e.17.5″. You will require your main garment, in my case the kalidar, during pattern making to mark the neckline and shoulder. If you cannot use the main garment for these two markings you could use any garment that provides the two shapes.
Make the pattern. Using one edge of the chart paper place your main garment’s vertical mid-line and trace the front neckline, back neckline and the shoulder. From the point where the neckline meets the shoulder draw a thin line down. Put a mark at 8″, at shoulder to apex (usually around 10″) , at shoulder to waist (usually around 17.5″) and at shoulder to total length of the cape on the vertical line. In the picture above I have marked uptill above hip to show the shape of the cape if it was longer.
Next horizontally mark 1/4th of the chest measurement from the edge over the shoulder-to-apex point. Horizontally mark 1/4th of the waist measurement from the edge over the shoulder-to-waist point. Add 2″ at the chest mark and 5″ at the waist mark. If you have thick arms you could add more at the chest mark. Draw a line connecting these two extended points. Mark on this line horizontally from the 8″ vertical line mark.
Then shape out you cape slope from the shoulder-armhole point to the 8″ horizontal mark. Do this free hand according to the picture above. You can always adjust this on the muslin sample.
Click here for a diagram of the pattern.
Trace the pattern onto the muslin fabric for a test-fit. Keeping the grain of the fabric straight place the pattern and draw the half back, then invert the pattern and keeping the straight edge lines aligned draw the other half in continuation. Next draw one half for the front keeping a minimum of 1/2″ distance all around from any other pattern marks. Invert the pattern and draw the other half. Using a tracing wheel mark the front neckline (this is the lower of the two neckline marks) on both muslin pieces.
Using a measuring tape mark 1/2″ marks all around on the traced pattern, this is your seam allowance (extra fabric for inside of the stitch). Cut all around. If you are not lining your cape you could cut the neckline and hem, at the desired length, without the 1/2″ allowance.
Pin along the side till the neckline making sure both pattern pieces are aligned at the traced line. Next stitch along the pinned seams/lines. We use a contrast thread so it’s easier to manipulate in the next stage if required.
This is how your finished muslin cape will look on the inside. Try it on and check the fittings. Based on your design pin the front accordingly. If your final cape design is going to be with a single button- pin only at the top and if it is going to be full closed- pin all through the front. Check for the shoulder slope shape, the ease to move your hands and the fall of the hem shape. Keep in mind your final fabric might result in slight fitting differences. Manipulate on the muslin itself till you are happy with the result.
The shoulder in my test-fit was standing so I went in and stitched the slope a pinch more inwards. The side with the bare hand is how it was and the side with the camera in my hand is after the alteration.
As explained in steps 3 and 4, trace the pattern with any alterations that you might have made onto the final fabric. My fabric was quiet thick and prone to fraying so instead of 1/2″ seam allowance all over- I marked 3/4 ” seam allowance. Next stitch the sides of the fabric as explained in step 5.
In my final design I wanted curved edges at the neckline, center front and hem following the circles of the fabric. Also, I planned on using hooks for the center front closure, so added one inch extra on both front panels. I kept this in mind while cutting and made sure not to cut out any circle midway along the pattern lines. If needed keep a little extra fabric at the edges.
Iron the seam flat and try on the cape for a final fitting. Next finish the edge of the inside seams. You could piko the edges if the fabric is thin, fold and stitch each side for thin to medium thick fabrics or use zig-zag stitch on the edges, the choices are endless. Check this article for more options.
I used the ‘red C’ setting in my Usha Allure machine which is essentially a triple zig-zag stitch. I used it at slow speed to get very close zig-zags imitating the embroidery stitches of the fabric.
First finish the neckline and the front opening/center front. You could use facing to finish your neckline or edge finish according to the fabric and design. The finishing part is a little tricky specially with the embroidery fraying as soon as you cut it, but with little patience and trial-and-error you will get it. If you are unsure of any stitching or finishing try it on a scrap piece of the original fabric first.
I wanted to keep the process as simple as possible so after cutting the neckline according to the circles I finished it with the same zig-zag stitches (‘red C’ setting in my Usha Allure machine at low speed). Next I cut away all stray threads from the finished edge.
The last step is to finish the hem. Keep the finishing of the hem similar to your neckline finish. I first planned the edge shape. The length in the front and the sides of the back were same and I went a little higher at the center of the back for a more stylish uneven hem. Similar to the neckline cut I cut out the shape, finished it with zig-zag continuous stitches and cut away stray threads. If you follow the same finishing as mine, you can go over certain fraying areas twice with the zig-zag stitch if needed.
Add the hooks and stitch the eyes.
This is how the cape looks from the back when laid down flat.
The front with the overlapping circles uneven edge. The back with the slightly higher back center.
The neckline with circular edge and zig-zag finishing. The front with it’s uneven edge, like the hem, is in sync with the rest of the design when left open.
Even thought the post seems long it took me only 3.5 hours to make the pattern and stitch the cape with final finishing. I finally had a product costing me just for the fabric and three and a half hours of my time.
Hope the tutorial was easy to understand and follow. If you have any queries regarding it leave me a comment or an email. I have tried to explain as much as needed, even though the list for technicalities can be endless. The final pattern may differ according to individualistic body features but the main outline would be similar to the pattern explained. While designing a cape of your own, if you have any questions that I can help with shoot me an email.
Happy designing! 😉
P.S.- The cape is made to my fitting so the fall on my friend’s, for the styling shoot, has a few bumps here and there.