If you can't thread a needle even if your life depended on it, you can still make yourself a functional and practical ritual robe. The first thing you will need to do is to find out your body's length from the bottom of your neck to the knees or ankles (which ever you prefer.) This can be done one of two ways.
1. Have someone take a tape measurer and measure down your spinal column from the bottom of your neck (where that funny lump is) to your knees or ankles. Once you get past the derriere, keep the tape measurer straight if you were following the line of a rain coat. This will give you your length.
2. If you can't find someone to do this, take your favorite bathrobe or any clothing you have which is not very fitted and is long and simply measure the length from the collar to the hem along the center of the back. This will give you your length.
Now, it's time to sit down and do some math. Take your length and divide by 18 (Length / 18 = X). This will give you your yardage. Then it's off to the fabric store.
You will need to buy the following:
* X yards of 60 inch wide fabric (45 inch if you are slim and want short sleeves). Cotton or poly-cotton blend is best for this purpose. (If you buy 100% cotton fabric, add 1/4 yard to your yardage to allow for shrinkage).
* 2 Yards of Ribbon or Trim to match fabric,
* 4 yards of 1/2 inch permanent fusible web tape (this goes by a variety of brand names) (Have the store where you buy the fabric make sure both edges are cut straight.)
When you get home, wash, and dry the fabric. Then iron out any wrinkles. Now you are ready to make your robe. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise and hold it up to your shoulders to check the length. Trim off excess fabric if necessary. At one end (the short side) fold the fabric up 1/2 inch (this will make your hem). Then following the instructions on the package of fusible web, gently steam the webbing in place along the hem. Then fold again and press in place. Repeat for the other end.
Now fold the fabric lenghthwise then bring hems together completing a quarter fold, making sure all edges are even and lay out on a large surface or floor. Measure three inches from the outside edge and cut diagonally toward the other side making a "V." This will make the neck opening. To finish the neck opening, steam the fusible webbing to the wrong side of your ribbon. Then pin to neckline. Press permanently onto the neck line. (You may need to add extra webbing to each corner or V to ensure it stays in place.) For the sides of your robe you can also use the fusible webbing to hem the edges so they are neat.
(If you wish your robe to be closed on the sides use the webbing to close it by pressing small strips (1/4 inch) in between the fabric right sides together, then gently iron seams flat. Be sure to leave enough of an opening for your arms and the fabric to form sleeves. Hem the sleeve edges the same as you did the bottom hem.)
You're robe is now done! Congratulations! To wear, simple put on over your shoulders, fold the front edges back, and belt. The back hangs free like a small cape. If you want a bit more security, you can either pin the back or add ties to the edge. Note: This article was first published in the Spring Equinox 1996 issue of "The Accord," the newsletter for Council of the Magical Arts.
Some helpful information on choosing your fabric.
You need to have a basic knowledge of fabrics, or know someone who does to help you, and decide how you intend to use your robe. Most of us DO tend to hang around candles a great deal. We wouldn't want to be wearing big droopy sleeves that are combustible right? You wouldn't want to be in the middle of a ritual and ACTUALLY go up in a puff of smoke. Keep in mind some fabrics don't burn.. they MELT (many types of polyester are plastic). Most traditionalists prefer natural materials (this means cotton or silk but generally not polyester) However, if you have a little blend of polyester in your cotton this cuts down on ironing. Silk is generally hard to care for, requiring either dry cleaning or hand washing. When you shop for fabric, take note on how much the cloth "ravels" on the bolt. All fabrics tend to fray a little bit, but there some almost disintegrate into a big nasty ball of fuzz at the edges. Run your hand across the fabric to see if you can seam it without its becoming unraveled. If you are working with silk or satin, there is a product called "fray check" which is much like glue you put on the seams AFTER you sew it to prevent further unraveling. You can also zigzag the seam selvages after sewing to prevent this. If you are a novice at sewing I strongly suggest that you stick with cotton, cotten blends, or percale. Do not attempt to use a stretch material like knit used in making tee-shirts or swim wear. These types of material need special handling.
The fun part comes after you get the basic robe done - it's the decorating. If you have a special talent for embroidery, cross stitching, applique, you can design a special symbol that is meaningful for you. Perhaps a totem animal, emblem, runes, oghams, or Celtic knot work will be your choice. If you visit the fabric store, you will find that they have pre-decorated ribbons that can be used in wide and narrow ribbons. Your options are endless.