Sew a Caftan Without a Pattern
What better time of the year than the winter to escape from the weather and visit somewhere warm? And while you’re there, you’re probably going to want a caftan, because they are comfy, stylish and effortlessly chic. Recently I vacationed in Palm Springs with my two best girl friends, and I whipped up these easy-to-sew caftans for the three of us to lounge in while on holiday. Little did I know that we’d be in them nearly all day and all night!
This style of caftan is an easy sewing project to make, so you can channel your inner Angelica Houston or other glamazon of your choice in no time flat.
Here’s how to whip one (or three) caftans up for your next retreat!
I chose elegant silks to make our caftans, but you can pick anything that is equally flowy. If you want a gorgeous border on the sides like ours have in the photos, choose a fabric that has a border print on both selvages.
It doesn’t matter if the fabric is 45” or 60” wide, but know that the width of the fabric will be going across your shoulders and down your arms, from wrist to wrist, so the wider the fabric, the further down your arm the fabric will hang.
The amount of fabric yardage entirely depends on your height and how long you’d like the caftan to be. Measure from your shoulders to the desired hem, then double that amount. Add 5” to the measurement for the hem allowance and the seam allowances at the shoulders. This style of caftan looks great at any length!
After determining your desired length, fold the fabric in half lengthwise and cut in half so you have two pieces of equal length, one for the front of the body and one for the back of the body.
Fold the cut end for the front hem ½” and press the fabric with an iron.
Fold another ½” and press again. Pin in place to prepare for stitching. Repeat this fold and pinning at the opposite end of the cut piece that will be at your shoulders.
Sewing as close as you can to the inside of the fold, stitch the fabric in place with a straight stitch. Repeat the hemming steps on the other piece of fabric, so the top and bottom of the caftan front and back are both finished with a double fold hem.
After stitching, press all the hems nice and flat. Be sure to press according to the fabric content.
If your selvages are pretty and do not require cutting, you can leave them as is. If you’d like to trim off any writing and such, simply repeat the double fold hem process on each of the four sides left unfinished on both the front and back of the caftan.
Place the finished front and back pieces right sides together and pin along the top edge. Sew the shoulder seams together from the finished edge to the desired neck hole width using a ½” seam allowance. This will be finished like a boatneck style and the neck hole opening can be as wide or narrow as you like. My version has a 14” wide neckline. Test your desired width. A neck hole too narrow won’t get over your head, and a neck hole too wide will fall off your shoulders.
After stitching the shoulders, turn the caftan right side out and topstitch the seam allowance from the original hem along the neck hole opening in place so it stays flat. Be sure to back stitch!
To close up the sides, you want to leave an opening for your arms and sew from the bottom of the opening to the hem of the caftan. I chose to start my stitch 7” down from the shoulder seam, and 6” in from the selvage edge. This again has much room for interpretation, so feel free to make your sleeve openings as long as you like! Just know that the lower the sleeves are, the easier it is to see in them, so if this caftan isn’t meant to be sheer, take that into account.
Open your caftan so it is wrong sides together and right sides out, as if you were going to wear it. Pin the sides of the caftan in place on either side of the stitch line.
Draw a line with a water-soluble marking tool where you want to sew.
Stitch along each side of the caftan, starting at the bottom of the sleeve and ending at the hem. If you prefer a vent at the bottom, simply stop short of the hem your desired amount.
And that’s it! We wore ours as swimsuit coverups, but there is a long history of sassy ladies rocking caftans as dresses, so go crazy! I can tell you that after wearing it for a bit, you’re going to want to wear caftans everyday!