Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Beach Caftan

Beach Caftan Thumbnail

This was *supposed* to be my project for our gulf coast trip.  Something nice and simple that I could easily make in the weeknights leading up to our departure with no stress and no last-minute-itis.  It got done in plenty of time and I would have had a nice leisurely night of packing were it not for that darn muffin top compelling me to make a new swimsuit.

Many years ago I made a beach cover up that I really like.  It's just a square of poly chiffon with a long, diagonal slit cut out of it.  It can be worn as a poncho, but I generally wear it as one shoulder; because the slit is on the diagonal the points of the square hang interestingly asymmetrically.  However, it doesn't really cover the booty, and for a family trip I figured I should go for a little more coverage.

I don't buy poly chiffons.  Chiffon is such a bear to sew that if I'm going to work with chiffon it damn well better be silk.  I didn't think I had any left in stash, having purged it all over the years, but then I found this piece.  I loved the colors and print so much I couldn't bear to get rid of it.  I made Simplicity 2594 out of a it a couple years ago (and bias poly chiffon?  fuggeddaboutit.  The grain is all kinds of messed up on that blouse.)

I didn't have enough length to make another square, as planned.  I could only make a rectangle.  So I decided to go caftan.  Thank goodness this otherwise difficult fabric tore.  I just tore me some straight edges and went to town.

Beach Caftan Pattern

Although it drives me crazy that Burda always publishes a "pattern" for a rectangle, in making this I realized that there is some design involved, albeit extremely rudimentary, and that there are decisions to be made.

The dimensions I ended up with:
-36 inches across the shoulder (apparently I had exactly one yard of full length fabric left)
-Total finished length:  29.5 inches from the shoulder fold to the hem
-Side seam:  9 inches down from the shoulder fold, 7 inches in from the side, and 7 inches long (it ends a little above high hip so there would be no issue of decreased mobility)

Serger Rolled Hem and Stitched Hem

My fabric was 60 wide, which I folded in half, the fold forming the shoulder line.  I finished the side edges using the serger rolled hem.  The hem is the selvage edge.  Once the side edges were finished, I folded the selvage under twice and stitched it down.  The edge finishes were very quick and easy.

Slightly Rounded Neckline

If anything about a rectangle can be said to be tricky, the neckline was the only difficult part.  I have a small head, so others might need a slightly larger opening.  I folded the fabric into quarters to find the very center, then cut a slit 11.5 inches long.  I created a little extra room for the head and a slightly more graceful shape by slightly rounding the neckline, as shown in the photo at right.

Fray Check at Corner of Neckline

I finished the neckline with a serger rolled hem, but I wanted to make sure the corner wouldn't fall apart under the needle, so I dabbed Fray Check in each corner and let it dry before taking it to the serger.  I started in the center of one edge of the slit; when I got to the corner I pulled it so the fabric was as straight as possible and continued the serging line.

Neckline Finish

The result is a nice clean finish.  I just cannot stop being in love with a serger rolled hem.  So far, the corner has held nicely through many puttings on and takings off.

Button and Loop

My innovation was to add a button and rouleau loop that can be used to create different looks for the caftan, taming the flowiness of the fabric and creating a narrower silhouette.

The button and button tab are placed 16 inches down from the shoulder fold, or 13.5 up from the hem on the same plane/layer of the caftan (which can be either the front or the back). I used a shank button and stitched around the serger rolled hem, which is sturdy enough to support the button's weight.

Modeling the Rectangle

While the rectangle in and of itself isn't entirely glamorous, I was quite pleasantly surprised by how much I kind of love this caftan.  It can be worn five(!) different ways, as shown in the thumbnail at the top:
1.  Free Flowing
2.  Belted
3.  Buttoned in front
4.  Buttoned in back
5.  Inside out

Buttoned in Back
Buttoned in Back

I can't decide which way I like it best.  Maybe buttoned in back?  Though it creates a little bit of a weird dual-length apron look in the back with a much shorter hemline at center back.  I like the tamed volume in the front though.

While I was at the Gulf (in Fairhope, Alabama, for the curious), I wore it belted, which is always a safe bet.  I felt quite Ibiza, minus the strobe lights.

I actually like the caftan so much I'm almost considering making one out of opaque fabric to wear as real clothes for the Fall.  I think it would look cute with my jeggings...

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


cidell said...

Super cute!

Clio said...

Fun fun!!

Anonymous said...

This is so awesome, I love it! I really want to make one now, not sure if I can face working with chiffon though.

Kelly said...

Very cute, and a fantastic use of poly chiffon! I am so drawn to the beautiful prints, but I just can't get myself to buy it for fear of working with it.

Cennetta said...

Love it. Yeah, I can see wearing this with jeggings.

badmomgoodmom said...

So cute! And thanks for sharing your design process & rudimentary pattern.

Beth (SunnyGal Studio) said...

very pretty and not something that would occur to me to make but I bet you looked very stylish at the beach.

liza jane said...


McVal said...

Great idea on the fray check and the serger! Cute!

twotoast said...

Perfect! Looks lovely on you as well!

Peter Lappin said...

Love the caftan! I vote for "free-flowing" but the others are nice too.

Anonymous said...

Love it! Very stylish.

Adelaide B said...

Very cute! I love orange, but never seem to make up my fabrics in that color.

Marie said...

Looks great - love the button idea.

Vicki said...

Very cute. Thanks for sharing. i'll be pinning this.

Ngoc said...

This looks awesome! Thanks for the caftan pattern. I have a stash of poly chiffon but haven't sewn them yet so this may be my inspiration.

Linda said...

This is so cute and perfect cover up for the beach!!!

Faye Lewis said...

Love it! Gorgeous color too.

Kristy said...

I love your caftan, just perfect for a bit of coverage. i bet the Burda people are sitting back feeling justified for all their rectangular creations now!

gwensews said...

Very cute! It would definitely be nice made in a fall fabric and worn with leggings.

Mary said...

Make more-this is so stylish and cute on you. I like it tied in the back and did not think "apron".

Ripple Dandelion said...

Your rolled hems look sooo good--especially at the neckline. I'm deeply impressed at how sturdy the corners of the neckline appear.

The garment overall is great. Even though I'm not a big fan of billowing square things, I can see it being cute as a top in a "real" fabric. Buttoned in back looks wonderful!

Kyle said...

Thanks for the tip on how to remove bleeding color. I will have to try it if it happens again!

I like your caftan belted the best. :)

Joy said...


AllisonC said...

Who knew you could wear a caftan in so many different ways. Looks great and I now know I really must learn to do a serger rolled hem.