Sewing Projects: The Caftan Experiment.

I bought a few yards of black chiffon recently, and wanted to try something relatively simple and low stakes to get a feel for sewing with it. I’m also on the prowl for some kind of fancy-handmade-yet-generic-enough-to-make-en-masse gift for the adult women-folk of the family. A see through caftan might be a bit risque, but it sure beats a generic vanilla bath set. Let’s call it a beachy cover-up, if we must be so prudish.

So this weekend was the trial run.

To sew a caftan, theoretically, you really only need a few measurements: the width (measurement from end of arm to end of opposite arm where you want the garment to end), the length (where you want the garment to end), the desired size of your neck opening, where to put the side seams, and where you want to gather or belt in the garment. My highly sophisticated blueprint:


When I did this I sewed it in one piece of fabric folded into quarters and a head hole cut from the center, which was, I think, a mistake, because it’s so tricky to hem in this way, and I didn’t want to add a facing to chiffon. Next time I’ll do it in two pieces to make the neckline finish neater, and easier to manage if I try a v-neck. I measured it to end just above the knee but forgot to account for the mathematics of boobies and so it hit a few inches higher on the thigh than I had intended.

Sewing it up was simple enough. I started with hems on the bottom of both sides, sort of out of necessity, because chiffon is a messy beast. It’s also incredibly slidey and I found it tricky to maneuver without seam lines getting all drunk like. Not a big deal on the hems and the neckline but a huge issue when I topstitched down the sides. My moment of genius solution to this was to use tissue paper to draw a stitching pattern and then to pin it to the top of the fabric as a guide and a stabilizer. Then when it’s finished, you just tear it away. Magic!

What I wanted to end up with:

laurelCanyon-020113-bc-005_t650(image credit)

 What I really felt like:

Petrie_original_colors(image credit)

I think the long sleeves and excess fabric below them made it feel more flappy than I wanted. More experimentation to come!

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