Monday, 18 October 2010

Make your own Down Balaclava

This little article should help along on your way to making yourself a down balaclava to keep your head warm, especially if you’re using a quilt or hoodless sleeping bag.

To start with you will need a pattern. There are several available across the net but the one I chose to use was this one provided by Jan Rezac at ( Thanks Jan for putting that in the public domain!!!
I enlarged the pattern to 66.7% and printed out the different sections, glued them together, and then cut out the pattern. The centre strip is 5 inches wide. I then glued another piece of paper to the bottom of the pattern and measured down 3 inches to make the point for the front and back. I then arched from the points to the base of the original pattern for a snug fit over the shoulders. The back could have been maybe ½ to 1 inch shorter with the front ½ inch longer for a better fit. Notice also how the point for the back is measured from the middle of the centre strip.

So once you’ve got your pattern sorted cut out the material. Be sure that you flip the pattern over when marking the second to give you opposites. Mark the baffle spacing from the pattern at the same time, my preference is to use tailors chalk.

Sew one side to the centre strip so that the raw edge will be inside the hood. Basically place the visible side of one piece against the visible side of the other.
Repeat for the other side.

I use a flat felled seam to add strength but it is probably not necessary. To sew the seam fold the raw edges over and sew them down.
Repeat the whole process for the other side of the hood.

You should now have two hoods ready for the baffles. Cut your baffles to the desired height for the loft you are aiming for, allowing for seam allowances. My baffles were 2 inches, this would give me baffles of 1.5 inches once ½ inch was used in seam allowance. I was aiming for a slightly puffy look. I used some mesh I had that is not extremely delicate. If using lightweight mesh then I advise folding it over itself before sewing on.

Place the edge of the mesh against the bottom baffle line on the hood. Sew using the line as a ¼ inch seam mark. Repeat for the remaining baffles.

Now repeat the same process to attach the two hoods together. As you progress up the hood, sewing on the baffles, it will come together.

Now turn the raw edges of the hood into itself a ¼ inch or slightly more and pin the pieces together as you go. This should ‘seal’ the hood. Leave areas undone on one side at the end of each baffle to allow for stuffing.

At this point you should also pin in a flap to one side of the hood neck to be used for closure. Alternatively you can extend the pattern at the neck area by 3 inches on one side (this will need to be done on both inner and outer pieces) or 1½ inches on all pieces. I will probably do the latter on the next one I make.
Stuff the hood and pin shut.

Sew around the whole of the hood using a ¼ inch seam allowance. Now repeat splitting the difference between the stitching and the edge of the material.
You should now have a sealed hood!

Adding the drawstring sleeve:
Cut a piece of material to the required length (add ½ inch) by 2 inches wide.
Fold over the top and bottom edges ¼ inch and sew to give two finished edges.
On the inside of the hood align the edge of the material with the edge of the face part of the hood and pin on.
Sew together with ¼ inch seam.
Fold the unsewn edge over ¼ inch and then pin to the other side of the hood. This should hide the raw edge inside the tube. Sew together.
Run a cord through the tube and add cord locks!

I leave the closure type to you, buttons, Velcro, whatever takes your fancy. I used three pieces of Velcro sewn on length ways to allow some adjustability in tightness.
You can also add in a loop of thin webbing or material at each of the bottom points during the pinning together face. You can use these to run cord through to go under your arms to keep the hood from shifting in the night.
Enjoy your hood and leave a pic here or somewhere I lurk as a thank you if can. Ask questions whenever you get stuck and I’ll try to answer them.
Rob (Still sleeping cold in 2 foot of down in the middle of the sun)


  1. Hi Rob, just found your Blog after reading your post on OM, that hood looks great as does the quilt you mentioned on OM.


  2. That's a really great post - detailed, comprehensive and informative - not sure I'll try it any time soon but if I ever get the time one winters evening, I may get hold of Mrs M's sewing machine...

  3. Tracked your blog down from BPL at last. Great hood you made and guide. Thanks.

  4. Very good. Thanks for the instructions.

  5. Rob, great job on the balaclava. I want to try and make one also, but my computer and copier wont let me down load the correct size. Can you post the dimensions from top to bottom, and from front to back, or if I send you some money can you mail me a paper pattern? My email is Thanks Jack

  6. Hi Rob - great post. I'm also having trouble printing the pattern in an appropriate size. As the previous poster asked, could you post some dimensions or some ideas on how to proper print the pattern? Thanks for your help. - Nate