We love a kaftan. Its the perfect combination of effortless summer style and practicality – loose, breezy and yet somehow classy! And quite frankly, if it’s good enough for Elizabeth Taylor, it’s good enough for us!
Last year we saw the release of the Charlie Kaftan from Closet Case, and this year we’ve had the TLC Caftan from Decades of Style. We love them both BUT we also love a super quick make!! And it doesn’t get any quicker than something you can knock up without a pattern! No printing and taping of PDFs, no ironing of tissue paper, no markings to transfer – just cut the fabric and sew!
Rachel has been living in her Vogue V9253 dresses and whilst making her latest one was struck by the idea that if there were ties at the waist, we could possibly lose the waist darts/pleats and create a similar shape with just rectangles.
Now, obviously it’s not quite as simple as that, and using just rectangles means you are stuck in a bit of a Catch 22 – make the skirt too full and you’ll have too much bulk at the waist and it’ll look you’ve just wrapped yourself in a piece of fabric BUT make the skirt too narrow and you’ll have no shaping at all and you’ll look like you’ve just wrapped yourself in a piece of fabric. So, as Goldilocks would say, getting it “just right” was the tricky bit. We think what we came up with in the end looks as much like a kimono as it does a kaftan – but Kaftan, Kimono, Pot-ay-to, Pot-ar-to…..none of that matters as long as you’ve got a floaty fabric, a deep V neckline and a nice roomy sleeve.
If you’d like to see the kaftan in more detail before you decide whether it’s for you or not, check out our YouTube video where we you can hear more about it and see lots our usual “prancy” pictures!
So, without further ado, let’s get into how you can make your own. It should take you no more than a couple of hours – even less if you’re a speedy sewist – so let’s crack on and sew some Kaftans!
Stitch Sisters DIY Kaftan
Fabric: You will need 2.5-4m of fabric. We used some lovely Batik fabric from Doughty’s. We had no idea how much we would use so we bought 4m each and both had over a metre left. (Batik’s are very narrow at just 110cm wide, so if you have a wider fabric you can probably get away with even less.)
Notions: You will also need 1m of bias binding. We used 1″ wide, single fold cotton bias tape, but you could just as easily make your own from the same fabric.
Seam allowance: 5/8″ (1.5cm) unless stated otherwise.
Sizing: 6-22 (see chart)…
The chart below shows the pieces you will need to cut for each size. If you have a one-way print, check the layout to help you figure out which way up to cut your pieces.
Step 1 – Shape the back neckline
With your back piece folded in half on the short edge (so that it is the same length but half the width). At the top of the fold, mark the measurements for your size. (For instance, for the size 14 mark 2″ down the fold and 4″ out along the top edge.) Now draw a curve to connect the two markings. Cut along this line to create your back neckline curve.
Step 2 – Shape the front neckline
Shape the front neckline in the same way except that you will have two pieces instead of one on the fold. This time you will be marking much lower down the front edge to create your V neckline. Connect your two markings with a straight diagonal line and then cut along the line. (You can make your neckline higher or lower to suit your style.)
Step 3 – Sew the shoulder seams
Place your front pieces RST with your back piece, aligning the shoulders. Stitch each shoulder in place and finish your seams as desired (we used pinking shears for speed).
Step 4 – Attach your bias binding
Open out one edge on your bias binding and laying it RST match the raw edge of the binding with the raw edge of the neckline. Start at the base of the V on one side then up over the shoulder around the back neckline and then down the other side of the V. Stitch in place. Trim your seam down and then press the binding to the underside of the neckline. Topstitch in place.
Step 5 – Sew the centre front seam
Matching the bottom of the V and then all the way down to the hem, sew your centre front seam.
Step 6 – Attach the sleeves
Fold the sleeve piece in half on the long edge and make a small snip to indicate the centre of the sleeve. Align this notch with the shoulder seam on your kaftan, making sure you are RST. Sew your sleeves to the kaftan body.
Step 7 – Prepare your ties
Fold your ties in half on the short edge and stitch one short edge and the long edge with a 1/4″ (0.5cm) seam allowance. Using a loop turner turn your ties so that they are right side out. Optional: you can topstitch all around the outside edge of your ties if you wish.
Step 8 – Baste your ties in place
Measure 14″ down from the shoulder seam on each side and position your ties on the outside edge of the front layer. The raw edge of your tie should be aligned with the raw edge of your side seam. Baste your ties in place. You may also want to pin them out of the way so that they don’t get caught in your side seams. (We wanted our ties to sit at our high waist as this is a more flattering silhouette for us, but you can position yours anywhere you like. If you are not sure, why not baste the side seam first and try your kaftan on before marking where you’d like your ties to sit. Then you can simply unpick a few stitch, insert your ties and then sew the side seams again properly.)
Step 9 – Mark your vents
Measure 22″ up from the hem and make a snip or use a marker to show you where to stop sewing your side seams to create your vents. (You can make your vents higher or lower to suit your style.)
Step 10 – Sew your side seams
Matching the seams where you joined the sleeve to the body, sew the underarm and side seams in one go. Start at the top of the sleeve, pivot at the underarms (this is easiest if you make sure your seams are pressed towards your sleeve) and then continue down over your ties and stopping at the markings you made. (You may need to snip into your seam allowance to release the fabric at the underarm and prevent puckering when you turn it through to the right side – to do this snip close to the stitches where you pivoted going up to but not through the stitch line.)
Step 11 – Hem your vents
Press under your 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance from where you stopped sewing to the hem. Then press the raw edge into the fold to create a double turn narrow hem. Top stitch in place starting at the hem on one side. When you reach the top of the opening, stop pivot and sew a few horizontal stitch before pivoting again and continuing down the other side.
Step 12 – Hem your front and back
To create your hem on the front and back, press under 1″ followed by a second 1″ and then topstitch in place.
Step 13 – Hem your sleeves
Hem your sleeves the same way as you did the front and back, with two 1″ turns topstitched in place.
That’s it, you’re done!!
Now try your kaftan on decide how you like to wear it. Rachel prefers to wrap hers around the front, then around the back, and back to the front to tie in a knot. Nikki prefers to go around the front and then tie a bow in the back.
We would love to see your kaftans! If you follow the tutorial please share a picture in the comments below. Or if you share on social media, please tag us (@sodburysewing @shesewsvintage) and use #stitchsisterskaftan
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Rachel & Nikki x