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  • Writer's pictureLonda

Super Simple Circle Cape

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

I've had sew much fun 'knocking off' this circle cape that I invested in while teaching out in Fresno a few weeks ago! I purchased fabric for SIX of them at JoAnn Fabrics for a bit over $100 - of course, with fabric on sale. I've timed myself, and each one takes me about 70' to create, start to finish. Now that equals great gifts in my book!

As you can see in the image below, it can be worn either longer, or shorter, with the 'cape' over the shoulders and wide across the back, or all snuggled up at the neck. For fabrics, the red is a sweater knit, the heathery one is a luxury heavy polar fleece, and the teal is a reversible activewear sport knit. REQUIRED: lots of crosswise stretch, and reversible, or 'pretty on both sides'. Before I forget, I'll add to that requirement, TWO full bobbins, as the zigzag stitching truly eats up thread yardage. Make that polyester garment construction thread - NOT embroidery thread.

photos of different fabrics and ways to wear the cape.
Super Simple Circle Cape

Fully tested, I even had my 'older' girls (6th-7th grade with some classes with me under their belts) stitch these up yesterday - and 2 hours was perfect! Mother of the gal in the red one reported that she wore it all evening til she had to go to bed. It's a L-O-N-G way around the perimeter of this HUGE circle, so it definitely taught them persistence, and how to 'boss the fabric around' as they perfected turning, tucking, and stitching all at once. I always tell them 2 great things about sewing: 1. That they'll be great drivers once they are old enough to get their license. 2. That though they can't boss their parents/teachers around, fabric NEEDS to be told what to do. Thankfully, they both selected heathery knits that hide a multitude of stitching 'wobbles'! But that was a lesson too. (For them AND for me as I guide them in fabric selection.)

picture of kids making and wearing the Circle Cape
Even Kids can make this cape - OR wear it with style!

Let me add that I wore my purchased sweater knit version nearly every day in beautiful but brisk 40-60 degree weather on our Williamsburg vacation a few weeks ago - and got MANY compliments on it as well.

NOW - for the HOW-TO

Here is the original cape I purchased, folded in half lengthwise (uppermost edge) and placed on some pattern paper. Note the seam at the left of the armhole. I decided that this seam really only just showed when wearing, and served no other purpose. I believe they did this to reverse the sides of the fabric so that when the 'collar' drapes down, it is the same 'look' as the lower portion, but "why bother?" is my decision - especially if you are using a 'reversible' fabric. The Sharpie pen is pointing out the poor, bulky joining of the sweater ribbing at the TOP of the armhole. Hence, I have you starting and stopping at the lower edge of the armhole (opposite of where you see the pen.)

original cape laid out for pattern
Original sweater cape. Note too the wobbly IMPERFECT edges!. :)

Here is the 'pattern with measurements.

circle cape pattern
Note, the pattern is 'flipped' from the pic above, so now the fold is at the bottom.

Since you likely can't see the measurements, let me make them clear for you.

1. Placed on a LENGTHWISE FOLD of fabric (lower edge) that is at least 54" wide (60" is best!) This will mean that the greatest stretch of the fabric is AROUND the garment.

2. Total LENGTH at the fold: 54" = therefore one needs 1.5 yards of 60" fabric, BUT I'd recommend purchasing 1 5/8 yard as you can never count on fabric being cut straight at the store. For my 'child size' for my 8-year-old niece (model is 6 years old), I made the total length at the fold 35".

3. Total WIDTH at the widest part: 28.5". This can be changed according to body size. I made it an inch less for the young girls (so 2" less wide between armholes). For my 'child size' I made the distance from the armhole to fold 5". Total width at the widest part: 19".

4. Armhole Location: Saying the 'top' of the cape is at the left in the photo above, it is 19.5" to the top of the armhole. The armhole is 9.75" long and 3.5" wide. from the bottom of the armhole to the right edge of the pattern, the length is 24.5". The circumference around the armhole is 25". This is plenty big. You could easily size it down even for adults. Remember, it will get LARGER as you roll hem the edge. Child size; 6.75" long and 3" wide.

showing lower portion of the pattern.
Showing lower portion of the pattern.

wave cut finish with triple straight stretch stitching.
Wave Rotary Cutter Edge with Triple Straight Stretch Stitch in pink.

I cut this out with a rotary cutter. (And so did my girls, with my watchful eye as they did the armhole cutting!) I used a Wave Rotary Blade for cutting the Child version. That seemed to be a bit to 'simple' of a 'finish', so I ran the Triple Straight Stretch Stitch around the perimeter of this polar fleece Cape as well. I selected pink, as she's getting a knit Twirly Skirt' to go with! It became obvious quite quickly that I needed to apply a bit of stretching 'pressure' to the fabric as I ran this stitch, or the stitching at the edge would not be able to stretch as needed in the collar portion when worn down over the shoulders.


1. Stay-Stitch the armholes 1/4" away from the edge starting and stopping at the lowermost edge, WITHOUT stretching the edge.

Stay stitching to stabilize armhole edges.
Stay stitching to stabilize armhole edges.

Double roll the edge in and zig zag.

Note with young students: after stay stitching the armholes to stabilize, we moved on to the outer perimeter, as I felt it was easier than the armholes. Mark the bottom of the armhole by holding the cape up and seeing which area below the armhole is the longest - that is the lowermost edge of the cape, or at least that is the way I see it. Mark with a safety pin. I just didn't want any bulkiness, less good stitching at the top of my armhole as I found to be the case on my purchased cape.

2. Double roll the armhole edge in and zig zag stitch with at least a 3.0 long stitch length and as wide as desired. I let the left 'zig' swing of the needle go OFF the roll, into the single layer. Start and stop at the bottom of an armhole.

When working on the lofty sweater knit, (and also with my young girl sewers), we did this 'roll' in 2 steps. First, rolling it in with the stay stitching at the left and zig zag stitching with 4.0 stitch length and 4.5 stitch width.

After that, I CAREFULLY trimmed any excess raw edge close to that zig zag stitching to eliminate any extraneous bulk - this was quite necessary (and messy!)on the sweater knit. The cable portion of the sweater knit added an additional challenge. I taught my young sewer to 'boss' it around, and squish it by lifting the presser foot up and then down again when getting to the cable.

For the sweater knit, then that zig zag edge was rolled in AGAIN, and stitched similarly, with the left swing of the needle going off the rolled edge onto the single layer. Right side of the foot should ride along the outermost fold of the fabric.

2nd 'roll' on the lofty sweater knit.
2nd 'roll' on the lofty sweater knit.

3. STEAM press (do not iron!) around the armholes to block and shrink in any 'wobbles'. Let cool. Teaching my students the difference between pressing and ironing is a hugely important lesson!

4. Roll and Zig Zag the perimeter of the Cape. I started and stopped below an armhole. I do this (and taught it) by folding in 1", then tucking the edge under to meet the fold with my left pointer finger. You can only go a few inches at a time, and should NOT let the fabric stretch while doing. Have the rest of the fabric resting on the table, NOT your lap. Again, my preferred settings for zig zag are; stitch length: 3 and stitch width: 4.5. I let the left swing of the needle go OFF onto the single layer of fabric. Believe it or not, this perimeter stitching took ME a full 30' to accomplish! It certainly taught my girls persistence as well!

5. STEAM PRESS to ease in any wobbles along the perimeter.

WALA - that's it! You are done done done and ready to do the next one!

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