Capes and Winter Coats – Making Your Own

“What do the Amish wear in the winter?” asked a friend a while ago. Traditionally, the women wear a cape, men wear wool jackets. Mennonites I know wear everything from plain black coats to parkas. Staying warm is what’s important.

Friends Patterns ( has the Amish Mandlie or Mantle cape pattern. It has a short overcape. They also have a pattern for a Jennifer coat, a simple, a-line coat to go over dresses, which can be made long or short. I find it hard to drive in a cape, so I prefer a coat when we have to go somewhere by vehicle, since I do the driving now.

I love capes. I packed mine with my now-disappeared vestments. I plan to make a new one, but what I really want is the Kinsale cloak from Folkwear Patterns ( It’s a full, hooded Irish cape. I wear a cape because I am walking somewhere, and I want extra fabric over a cape dress or a coat, a hood that will cover a bonnet, and enough length to cover to the ankles. I carry things under the cape – handbag, shopping bags, even a backpack. (Looks a bit odd, but very effective.)

Costume cape patterns are not meant to be lined with anything heavy, and you will need a good wool, quilted or flannel lining in a cape you wear outdoors. My last cape was black wool, lined with wool in the front and flannel in the back, to save some weight. It had a velveteen lined hood and a pewter clasp. I wore it at seminary, at burials, and in the cathedral in the winter if we had long meetings there. (Which got me a mild reprimand from the bishop, who said that “some” thought it “too ecclesial in appearance.” I said, “It’s what I wear in the winter.” Do you think I cared if someone thought it looked like a cope? It’s black! Besides, I could pull it around me and close my eyes, with my head pillowed back on the wall against the hood. Just meditating, of course.) In really cold weather, in unheated bedrooms, we slept with the cape as a top blanket.

I don’t think commercial coat patterns are big enough to go over all the layers we Plain women wear. They tend to be fitted through the torso, or have lapels, or fancy pocket designs. the witner coat I wear now is an old wool one, bought when I was first ordained, single breasted, with a small collar. It’s starting to show its years, though. I hope one more winter…


5 thoughts on “Capes and Winter Coats – Making Your Own

  1. My Kinsale cloak is made of heavy wool (but not like a melton, more flowy) and I lined it with the heavy coat lining available at Fabricland in the late fall. It’s satiny on the one side and flannel on the other. Quite warm. One thing to keep in mind. The Kinsale is fairly full, you will need the material thin enough to gather and sew at the yoke. As it was, we had to hand sew some parts together because it was too much for my machine. You will be pleased with the pattern and the Folkwear come on long lasting paper.

    • There are liberal Quakers who aren’t necessarily Christian, and there are Conservative Quakers who live much as Amish, except usually with electricity. The Quakers helped the Amish emigrate to Pennsylvania, and once ashore, the Amish adopted Quaker styles of dress as more practical for the area, rather than retaining their more complex native dress. I hope that helps a little. I am much more like a conservative Quaker than I am like the Amish, although I have much in common with Anabaptist theology while remaining Anglican.

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