Ever since the dawn of superheroes, there has been the superhero cape, as essential to a good action hero as a tight fitting outfit and shiny white teeth. There have been rumours that the superhero cape is in fact imbued with special powers, that Superman would be unable to fly, Batman unable to fight crime, Muffinman unable to bake tasty cinnamon rolls without their respective capes. Most modern scholars of superherocracy agree that the cape is merely a dramatic aid, wonderful for flapping in the wind and essential for proper superhero drama and decorum, but not intrinsically linked to actual super powers. Yet the cape remains an integral part of the superhero mystique. Man.. or astroman? I say it's the cape that makes the difference.

Okay, so let's get down to the nitty gritty. We're all slightly deluded and potentially misguided comics fans here, aren't we? So we ALL want one. Don't deny it. I recently had the pleasure of making a genuine superhero cape for an aspiring superhero acquaintance of mine, so I thought I'd share my construction techniques.

Yam's Yamtacular Superhero Cape School

Now, your first instinct is probably to get a long rectangle of cloth, add ties, and tie it around your neck. RESIST THIS URGE. Not only would a neck tie offer your arch-villains a convenient garrotte and tug at your airways during the chase scenes, but the long rectangle approach just looks dumb and campy and gets all twisted up. You want a cape that drapes well. You're a superhero, not a hallowe'en costume, damnit.

I took my pattern from a site about beanie babies. Shut up! Unless you're Bruce Wayne and have Alfred order in your ten million dollar custom outfits, you can't afford to be picky. It was a pretty good pattern, so here is my attempt to butcher it in ascii:

                 |                                |
                .                                  .
               ;                                    .
              ;                                      '
             ;                                        ;
            .                                          ^
            |                                          |
            .                                          ;
            |                                          |
            .                                          ;
            `                                         .
             ^.                                      .
               ^;                                  ; 
                 ^.. __                       _..^
                       ''....           ....''

The bar at the top will be folded over to make a sheath for the drawstring, and the rest will hang loose. Now, a good sized cape for most people with this pattern will be about 160cm (64") wide (edge to edge), and about 120cm (48") long (top (where the bar is) to bottom). That fit me, a short girl, though it was a tetch long, it fit the 6' fellow I made it for, and it fit his 6'5" brother. You may wish to adjust it if you're short or taller than um, 7 feet.

You will need to cut two pieces of this pattern from different materials (if you don't use a liner, it doesn't hang right unless you use super heavy material, and you'd still have to hem it so it doesn't save you any work). You'll also need about 150cm (60") of something to use as a drawstring (I used some braided together durable yarn), a good darning needle and a smaller needle, a couple skeins of embroidery thread, and some clear plastic thread. (I use the invisible plastic stuff because it's stronger than cotton thread but not much wider. This is a superhero cape, man, it's going to get some abuse.)

For materials, be flamboyant. You're a superhero, and you need to stand out in the crowd. I used some shiny purple material with sequins for the outer layer, and lime green denim for the lining. (I also used some turquoise faux velvet as an overcover for the collar area, but I won't get in to that in these directions.) The advantage of being flamboyant is that the material you want will ALWAYS be on sale. I can't figure out why no one seems to want lime green denim or purple sequin lamé, but let me tell you was Fabricland ever eager to get rid of it.

Okay. So draw out your pattern on a big ol' piece of paper, cut it out, pin it to your material, and cut out your pieces. (I was really lazy, so I just drew it freehand on the wrong side of my denim and then cut the purple stuff to match, but your cape will look better if you have a chance to make sure that your pattern is symmetrical and stuff, so I recommend using paper.) Now, lay the pieces on top of eachother so that the wrong side is FACING OUT. You're making a fabric sandwich here, and you want the good sides that you eventually want on the outsides of your cape to be the filling. Pin it together. (I used my stapler. Heehee.)

Now, thread up your big darning needle with some embroidery thread. I used bright yellow. I'm not using a sewing machine because I don't have one (all my money went to buying crime fighting tools, see), and I'm using embroidery thread instead of normal thread because it looks cool and because it's a lot more durable. As I said, you want this cape to be able to survive an encounter with your arch-villain. Sew together the curvy edges of the cape. LEAVE THE STRAIGHT PART AT THE TOP OPEN.

All done? (took me a couple of hours) Reach through the top (which you left open, right?) and turn it inside out, so that the good sides of the fabrics, which you had on the inside, are now on the outside. Smooth out the edges. Doesn't that look nice? Now you just have to make the drawstring part.

Fold over the bar at the top so that it forms a long rectangular pocket-tube-type-thing. Sew along the bottom with your clear, fishing-line-like thread. Leave the ends open. Now, thread the drawstring through this tube. (If you're having trouble, tape the end of the string to a chopstick, and shove that through the tube.) Tada! You just made yourself a SUPERHERO cape! Aren't you proud? Try it on. The cape should drape nicely, and you should tie the drawstring so the weight rests on your shoulders, not your neck.

You handsome superhero, you!

In modern days, the superhero cape has been replaced by the more-stylish trench coat. Gambit from the X-Men comic/cartoon, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and the entire cast of The Matrix are all handy examples.

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