We’ve had a heatwave here in the UK, and the only garment to wear is a caftan! The Charlie Caftan by Closet Core patterns is a great design and I’ve made a few of them now. They’re relatively easy to sew and are a lovely showcase for bold prints like the border prints I’ve used in these versions.
The border print on these runs the length of the fabric, so that means rotating the front and back pattern pieces 90 degrees to get that border to be at the hem. My fabric was not wide enough to accommodate the length of the pattern pieces (it was short by 2″), but that’s OK, the dress must be drafted for someone taller than me – it’s still ankle grazing. I just take a tiny hem to help compensate for that loss of length in the cutting.
My next tip is to fuse lightweight interfacing to the neck edge of the dress back. I found without this that the back edge was stretching out and would then be a nightmare to sew to its corresponding facing piece. Just just an interfacing piece from the same pattern piece as the back neck facing and fuse in place.
Make the waistband ties as per the original instructions and set those aside. Next sew the front centre bodice seam, finish edges and press open. Sew the gathering stitches to the top edge of the skirt front as in the instructions.
Keep working on your ironing board for the next step. I pin into the board to make sure that every stays aligned. Turn the work over so it’s now right side facing you. Pull up the gathering threads so that the skirt gathers match the width of the bodice edge. Use lots of pins to hold them in place.
Now let’s hide that ugly interfacing. Take the smaller of the two front panel pieces that you pressed earlier and fold it in half, finger pressing or marking the centre. Then lining up that mark with the centre front bodice seam, place the panel wrong sides together with the dress front. The panel should cover all of the interfacing strip.
Turn your work over so the right side is now facing. You should have a box of stitching securing everything. Now take the waist ties and position them at each end. I allowed about 2cm within the front panel box. Pin in place and stitch to secure. I did two vertical bars of stitching on each tie end. Now, just a note here, you can then obviously see this stitching on the inside as it is worked through the dress and that inner panel we just added. I don’t mind that, to me it feels a bit more secure. But if you didn’t want to see those stitches on the inside, you could secure the ties in place before adding that inside panel.
I hope you found this little construction hack helpful. I think the visual result is very similar and I think this is much easier when working with very drapey, fluid fabrics (which are of course the ones you want for the perfect wafting caftan!).
Things to consider are: there are three layers of interfacing in that front panel so don’t use anything too heavy and thick. Go for a lightweight interfacing. I find that after washing and wearing it softens up really well and adds just the right amount of structure to that area.
Thanks for reading and happy sewing everyone.
The fabrics came from the Rag Market, bought ages ago and I’ve no idea what they are. Very drapey and soft, fray like mad. I think they might be viscose, there’s nothing on the selvedges at all.
The dress has long ties that come from that front waistband and tie at the back. If you’re using a border print I think it looks nice to cut those so that the ends have the border pattern.
I’ve started cutting fabrics like these wriggly viscoses using a rotary cutter. That seems to give a much more accurate result.
One of the lovely features of this dress is that front waistband and ties. In the original instructions, it’s suggested that you form this by seaming in the front panel, letterbox style. That’s an option, but I think with these very badly behaved fraying fabrics, it is really quite difficult. So I’ve been using a hack which I’ll try to explain here…
Next prepare two of the front panel pieces. As you can see, I’ve fused interfacing to both of mine and I’ve turned the edges over and pressed them. You need to make one smaller than the other, just by a little bit, say 1cm in both directions.
Now, cut a strip of fusible interfacing that is cut a bit wider than the space you’re gathering the skirt into, by about 4cm high. With your work the wrong side up, carefully fuse this to the bottom edge of the bodice front, so that it is half on, half off. Be super careful not to fuse the overhanging half to the ironing board!
Pin from the top down as shown in the photo so the pins won’t be in the way of the iron. You’ll see a little bit of the interfacing peeping through the slit between the two sections. Don’t worry about this, but do cover your work with some baking parchment if you’re concerned about sticking things to the bottom of your iron. Making sure all of those gathers are sitting really nice and vertical, fuse the gathered edge in place. Inevitably, you’re going to flatten the gathers a bit here, but don’t worry, you can lose any crease with another press after the sewing is done.
Turn the work back to the wrong side and it should look like this, with a strip of interfacing now holding the bodice and the gathered skirt.
Hold it in place with pins and then head to the machine and top stitch it in place close the the edge of the front panel on all four sides to secure.
Now all we need to do is tidy up the outside of the dress! With the remaining front panel piece (the larger one), fold it in half and finger press or mark as before. Line up with the front bodice seam and position in place. It should cover that box of stitching that’s showing. Pin in place making sure the ties are sticking out nicely at each end.
Top stitch on the edge of the front panel piece as neatly as possible and you’re done! Proceed with completing the remaining steps for constructing the dress as per the pattern instructions.