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Copy Caftan

November 29th, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

In a mis-guided attempt to lean into the leisure-at-home that characterizes this Covid year, I decided to make a caftan. I dreamt of gliding gracefully through the day — or at least an evening — wrapped in a flowing cloud.  Serene.  Relaxed.  In, as it were, another world.  A not-2020 world.

This did not entirely go to plan.

First of all, I needed a caftan pattern, or at least some guidance. The pattern had to be simple, because there’s nothing I need more in 2020 than instant gratification. But I wanted a look — and some kind of a fit — that was a little more than popping my head through a rectangle.

More than a pattern, I needed inspiration. I found it here, at BurdaStyle, 7/17/105. Since I don’t happen to have this particular Burda magazine in my vast Burda collection, winging it seemed to be the answer. I couldn’t see downloading a .pdf for what amounted to no useful pattern pieces.

I loved the idea of the angled seams under the arms — some sleeve control is a good idea when wearing so much yardage. And I knew I wanted a v-neck, but I also knew I didn’t want one that looked like this — straight lines on those vees make for a lousy fit.

I had some slightly weighty rayon/poly in stash, bought quite a while ago, which I could never figure out how to use. It was perfect for this garment! After calculating how far down each arm I wanted the “sleeves” to go, I then figured out the length from shoulder to ankle, and doubled that so that I could just fold the length in half without bothering with shoulder seams.

Then I hauled out some scrap paper and went about deciding what I wanted the neckline to look like. After some fiddling, I had the depth and width as I wanted them, and then I did something very important — I slightly scooped out the sides of the v in front. This is a nifty trick I use on any pattern that isn’t well-drafted — curving the sides of a v-neckline allows it to lie against the body in a way that straight sides just don’t.

Miss B., my dummy, wears a tunic made from a t-shirt.
This is not an elegant look beneath much of anything.

I measured out the yardage for the whole caftan, cut as necessary, and then carefully marked the center points for the neckline — having remembered to add seam allowances! Using corresponding center points on my paper mock-up I drew the cutting lines for the neck opening on the fabric with tailor’s chalk, cut along them, and voila! I was ready to sew.

Naturally, I don’t know how Burda finishes this neckline; I just used bias tape, counting on the seam, the under-stitching, and the final stitching to keep it stable. This worked just fine!

Once that was done, I tried the caftan on, and decided, by pinning judiciously, exactly where I wanted the underarm stitching.  This took a bit of experimentation, but in the end I go it right. I’m happy I took the trouble, because it’s this stitching that keeps the caftan from shifting when worn, and makes managing all that volume much easier than otherwise.

There’s an almost invisible circle up to the right.
That’s where the underarm stitching ends
There’s a very difficult-to-see line of stitching
angling slightly down from the bottom
of the circle, which goes to the lower side.

In a vain attempt to make this a practical garment, I did add ties — made of lightweight seam binding — at the shoulders.  When not in use, they slip down into the caftan and are unnoticeable. When I want to do anything, each sleeve is tied up and, more-or-less, out of the way. This works, sort of. I wouldn’t dare cook in this thing, though, and any ordinary household activity — working at a desk, computing, sewing, weaving, reading, interacting with cats — is impossible. It’s like wearing bed linens.

Last of all, I calculated where I might want a belt, again using the pin-and-fit method. I made two openings at the appropriate places, and then faced them with interfacing and self-fabric, turning and stitching in place.  I dislike tie belts, so I interfaced a band from the very small piece of left-over fabric, and added fasteners.

As it turned out, though, I don’t like wearing a belt with the caftan, so that much was wasted effort for  me. Your mileage may vary! (There’s no picture, because the belt’s apparently already in exile, and I can’t find it.)

All in all, though, this caftan was a great success — I really did manage to replicate the garment I meant to make. Except that a caftan has no place in my life, even with sleeve ties.  It’s death on the stairs, and impossible to manage if I actually want to do anything. Too. Much. Fabric.

That said, it’s fine for an evening eating chocolates — or cheese — on the divan. Perhaps we need more of that Chez Noile?

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  1. Sherryl
    December 23rd, 2020 at 16:22 | #1

    Loved your idea of making a contrasting, fill in neckline of soft knit.

    • Noile
      December 24th, 2020 at 12:56 | #2

      Funny! Ms. B., my dummy wears a tee shirt to soften her wire frame. It’s probably time I looked into a more suitable under-cover for her!