Cassock finished, and how I did it

Well, I said that would be the title. The cassock is finished, but you remember how I procrastinated about the sleeves? I’m still not happy with them. I’ll write up my mistakes to help you out there avoid them.

So here is the sleeve pattern I used this time. If you look at the earlier post you’ll see last time I went from a two piece sleeve draft going from a 1940s manual on garment cutting. The main problem here is that the cap is too tall and the sleeve too narrow at the top. This sort of shape might do for a 1940s ladies jacket for going out where one’s arms may remain gracefully by one’s sides. You might think this would be good for altar boys too – they should be sedate and solemn on the altar.

Here is my star altar boy in a shot taken with my rather idiosyncratic camera. The advantage of the washed out lighting is that you can see the details of the cassock better – the black material tends to hide these things which is great for minimizing mistakes. Also harder to work with at night if your eyes are not so strong.

The front band just covers the zipper. I think it should be a little wider to look right, but it’s all covered by the surplice when he’s serving and probably doesn’t matter too much. Buttons look much better – I might have to try that next time.

To the right is a worse shot with better colours. Also shows how eager he is to model the cassock – at least he’s more eager to get in front of a camera than to do school work, but that’s another story.

Back viewTo the left is the back view where you can see the box pleat in the back.

Hands upAnd to the right is what happens when arms are upraised as when he raises the priest’s chasuble at the consecration of the Mass – yes, the most important part of the Mass. Fortunately the surplice covers the worst of it. Still, it is worth doing the sleeves again.

So that’s the post for today. Yes, I’ve made another cassock and it works well enough but I’m not finished with the design yet. I’ll redo the sleeves for this one and the earlier cassock and let you know how it goes.

And be sure to let me know if I’m re-inventing the wheel here!

Size 8 Cassock in 3 easy steps

And 29 hard ones. (Please pardon the bad joke.)

For some background, you can see all my altar server posts here. I have four boys, only two old enough to serve – though the younger ones are keen as mustard. The options for fitting them out with vestments were daunting. Our local Church Supplies shop was asking big money for raglan sleeved cassocks. There was a seamstress over 100km away who had done cassocks and surplices for other boys, but distance and money were issues. Now, I’ve done Medievaloid garb before as well as good trousers for Mass and a few jackets, so I did them myself and now it’s time to try again. I couldn’t find much help on the internet last time so I resolved to put that to rights as far as i was able. So hopefully here will be all my experiences.


Earlier I made a trial run cassock in a lightweight black fabric – an old curtain funnily enough – with two piece sleeves. The sleeves turned out to be a little too tight, but with the hotter weather (southern hemisphere here) it has become the preferred cassock. The other was a better fit, but used black gaberdine, which has helped my sons learn about what happens when you overheat. If anyone from cooler climes would like a size 8 cassock, get in touch.

And in case it comes in handy, if an altar boy does feel like he is about to pass out he can go to the sacristy and get a drink of water and see if that helps.

This time I’m using black polypop “Great value-for-money polypop blend combines the benefits of polyester and cotton poplin. 65% cotton, 35% polyester. Resistent to wrinkles, stretching and shrinking , our huge range of polycotton poplin coloured fabrics are also breathable and comfortable.”. Also very cheap and widely available. I used white polypop for the surplices.

Pattern pieces

With your patience I will try to make pictures of the pattern pieces hopefully to scale at 300dpi – I’ll include some indication of scale in the picture – those paper measuring tapes you get when a midwife measures your babies head do come in handy after all!

The collar pattern was small enough to scan in so it is not skewed. The other two are photographed then traced in the Gimp and then scaled to what seems like the right size.

I haven’t put much by way of markings on the patterns. To see how they are laid out keep scrolling down. You need to add seam allowances, extrapolate a skirt, add allowances for the pleat in the back and what would be the button band in the front if we weren’t using a zipper. I draw around the pattern in chalk then cut out around that leaving a fair bit of room. I’m impatient so my cutting is not the neatest, but I trim the seams before finishing them with a zig zag.

I still haven’t done the sleeves – hopefully tomorrow so as to have the cassock ready for Sunday.

Cutting out the pieces

This is the back of the cassock – the calico is a sort of basic bodice draft designed to fit over clothes. From there I’ve extended it down to the ground and added seam allowances. The centre back is cut along the fold but with extra room for a pleat at the back. This will have a seam down the back to the waist line then a box pleat from there down.

This is the front of the cassock. To the centre I’ve left space to make the front band that will cover the zipper. I’ve cut both sides the same – later I will Carefully Think which side is which and trim accordingly. I was lazy and included the selvage here – it means you don’t have to zig zag the edge, but watch that the selvage lies flat. Sometimes the selvage can be tighter than the rest of the fabric and spoils the way it hangs. Also, now I’ve sewn it up I could have left a bit more room for the button band.

These are the collar pieces. One is interfaced with a lightweight fusible interfacing. It’s not a very neat job, I am out of practice and I know that the black hides many mistakes – or I’m just careless.

Lastly the sleeve, which I haven’t cut yet. This is my two piece draft from last time. The serious patterns like fitted sleeves, but these boys prefer a bit of room for their arms. I will modify these to hopefully make roomier sleeves.

I might just leave it here for this week and leave you hanging for the next exciting episode: Cassock finished, and how I did it.

Altar boy cassocks and surplices

Today we have two cassocks and surplices in size 8. And you can see the four year old modelling the prototypes. He’s eager to be an altar boy, but we think he should wait.

Things learned:

  • Admiral Gaberdine is a bit heavy. A straight broadcloth sort of fabric seems to work better.
  • Following the instructions in the right order really helps.
  • Getting a little bit of black thread stuck in a french seam in white poly-poplin is frustrating. I left it there as unpicking and resewing may have made it worse.



How to sew a cassock

Model aged 4 wearing protoype cassock It’s an exciting time here. One boy is preparing for first Holy Communion. Two older boys are learning how to serve Mass, the first altar boys in the family for who knows how long. Then there’s the one in the picture who is helping me learn how to sew a cassock.

Back view of small prototype cassockFirst I bought two secondhand patterns from Etsy. McCalls 2079 and Butterick 6765. Neither were anywhere near the size I needed, but the instructions were good. I kept reading them for 3 weeks before actually settling down to measure my sons and start drawing with chalk on the black fabric.

The fabric came from a vegan friend who was passing on fabric, much of it beautiful wool. I think its a lightweight wool blend. There’s only a very little bit left.

Another help was a book called “Principles of Garment Cutting” by E L G Gough. I referred most to this to draft the two piece sleeve. I think I will be referring to this a lot more to make the proper cassocks.

The final cassock is much more like the McCalls pattern. It was the simpler of the two with a zip front and just one box pleat in the back. Butterick’s pattern had something like a princess-line back with three box pleats.

Here I put fairly low res photos of what I am going from. If McCalls and/or Butterick object I can take them down again. Maybe they can make new patterns in size 8-10. That would make this so much easier! But drafting your own patterns is very rewarding and I’m learning lots.

For the final run I’m thinking of using Admiral Gaberdine from Lincraft and poly poplin for the surplice. Do you think a wool blend would be more breathable?

All the best in your endeavours!

UPDATE: see the finished products here

Next, to write up the instructions.