How to sew caftans

How to sew caftans

When you think of comfortable clothes, a caftan is usually at the top of the list of loungewear. You can make a caftan yourself in one or two hours with no pattern!

Purchase 96″ of any washable, soft fabric that drapes nicely. Cottons are favorites for caftans, but don’t hesitate to choose acrylics or even washable slinky silks. Be sure to buy matching thread and wide double fold bias tape for finishing the neck edge. If you buy stretch fabric, you don’t need the bias tape. Try to buy a fabric that has an attractive selvedge edge, as this edge will show on the finished garment.

Prewash your fabric so that it will not shrink later. Your caftan will get a lot of use. Using a fabric softener will make it even more comfortable.

Fold the 96″ of fabric in half and iron this half-way mark. This will be your shoulder line.
Leaving it folded, fold the fabric in half again down the center front line. Now you have 4 thicknesses half the width of the fabric and 43″ in length.

You will mark with a pencil at the corner of the folding for your neck opening on the caftan. Measure from the folded corner toward the shoulder 3 1/2 inches and mark with the pencil on both shoulder lines. Measure from the corner down toward the bottom of the caftan fabric only 1″, and another mark a total of 6″ down, marking only on the outer fold. The lower mark is where the center front neck ends. Now snip that folded corner, cutting a soft curve from the 1″ mark to the shoulder marks. This will become the back neck opening for most adults.

Open the caftan fabric completely, with the mark for the center front neck visible. Fold the entire length of fabric in half, matching up the ironed shoulder lines, so that the fabric lays on table 96″ long and half the width of the fabric. At the center front neck mark, cut in 1″ and cut a gentle curve up to the edge of the back neck at the shoulder line.

Congratulations! You have cut out the neck with no pattern. Try it on over your head. If after cutting out the neck, you find the opening too small for your head to go through, cut the center front down only 1 more inch. Or make the curve a little deeper to the side. Remember you will be losing another 3/4″ to turning under the neck edges if the fabric is a stretch material, so be careful not to cut away too much.

If you are using the bias tape finish, you can cut away a little at a time to get the opening to drop comfortably over your head. Always do your cutting with the fabric folded in half lengthwise to keep the front neck opening balanced. Do not cut anything off the back neck. If you want a square neck, trace around the bottom edge of a paperback book, but be sure to have the fabric folded so that both sides of your opening are even.

Once the neck edge is the proper size, finish it off before continuing with your caftan. Cover the edge with double fold wide bias tape, starting and ending at the back neck. Turn under the last 1/4″ of tape and overlap at least 3/8″ for the most professional finish. If you are using a stretch fabric, the caftan neck is simple (if you have a curved neck opening). Iron the fabric to turn under 1/2″ and then go to the sewing machine. As you sew, scoot the raw edge under the turn so that you get a 1/4″ finished turned edge. You will need to stretch the fabric a bit at the shoulder and at the center front to make the curves lie flat.

Take your caftan back to the ironing board. With the caftan folded along the shoulder seams, and again down the center (4 thicknesses now), measure down from the shoulder 12 inches and put a pin through all four thicknesses at the outer edge of the fabric. Put another pin 25″ below that. Iron a mark at both spots, and open the caftan, leaving it folded at the shoulder line. The first pin mark is the depth of the armhole opening. The second pin mark is the length of sewing that will close the sides of the caftan.

Fold and iron a line from the first pin mark on the right hand side to the first pin mark on the left hand side. Do the same with the lower pin marks. Also fold and iron a line down the center front of the fabric.

Lay the caftan across the ironing board. Make sure the edges of the front and back of the caftan fabric are lined up exactly. Along the armhole depth ironed line, measure out from the center front line 13″ on either side. Put two pins to mark these spots through both layers of fabric. At the lower line marking, measure out from the center 15″ either side and put two pins to mark these spots. These measurements are generous enough to fit a normal large person in the chest and hips.

Lay a yardstick on top of the left side of the caftan from the upper pin to the lower pin. Put two more pins through the fabric to make a line from the upper pin to the lower. Remove the yardstick and fold the fabric along the line of pins and iron this line. This will be your sewing line. Repeat for the right-hand side of the caftan.

Go to the sewing machine. With the fabric folded along the shoulder line, and the edges perfectly matched front and back, sew on the vertical ironed line from the armhole opening line to the lower crossing line. Reinforce with backstitching at each end.

Try on your caftan. Now you need to decide if you will want a curved bottom or a straight bottom at the hemline. In either case, have someone help you mark where the hemline will be, then hem it up, making a small roll hem on the machine, or hem it by hand for an elegant look. If your fabric has an unattractive selvage edge, You will have to roll hem the entire edge too.

Enjoy the comfort of a garment with no seams. Your caftan will be just the thing you want after a warm shower or a long day of hard work.

Enjoy the comfort

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