Friday, August 25, 2017

Charlie Caftan in Silk Charmeuse

There are certain fabrics that say luxury to me. Perhaps top of that list is silk charmeuse. It just feels so luscious when you wear it, like a gossamer but has that substance and depth of color that is found in silk.  I just clicked the dictionary to make sure I spelled charmeuse correctly, and it says "from French: feminine of charmeur, "charmer" to charm".  Well that seems apt, it is a feminine and charming fabric that can be sewed up into so many different things.

But when your friend goes shopping at Mood and brings back a stack of very disparate fabrics some of them get set aside until inspiration strikes. Thus this very bold silk charmeuse print was purchased by my friend Heather in July of 2015, but we could not come up with an ides of what to make with it. It really is a panel print, which repeats about every 5 feet, and had a 2" geometric border on either selvedge that I didn't use. There are some good size pieces remaining which might make perfect sleeve linings for a hidden touch of whimsy in a plain coat or jacket.

But one day I happened to be showing her some various patterns online and she caught a glimpse of the Charlie Caftan pattern and said "that's it!"

silk caftan H front view2

A bold choice but I think she was right. It turned out perfectly for lounging around at home or perhaps wearing during cocktail hour at some beachy resort. (doesn't that sound great and we all wish were there at said resort right now!)

We will have to make do with photos in my backyard but you get the idea. The caftan is definitely loose fitting and doesn't have a lot of shaping. Before I cut into this unique fabric I made a muslin using an old sheet. Which very much resembled a hospital gown. And needed some additional shaping for sure.

silk caftan H side view

On the slightly side view you can see some shaping which I achieved by adding a bust dart. It's not difficult to do on this pattern but if you have a full bust or just want it to be a little less block-y here's what I did.

Caftan pattern pattern alterations copy

This is the order that I made these adjustments, and if you are interested I suggest you make a first muslin, work out the dart and then you will be good to go.

  1. Sliced pattern horizontally perpendicular to the center bodice seam. I added 2.5" of length which is shown by the aqua section.
  2. Created a bust dart, shown in pink. I made the width of the dart equal to the amount I added in the horizontal section, so that the front would stay matched to the back. I ignored the arm opening when adding the dart, deciding to adjust that later.
  3. Note that the dart points upwards slightly. I marked the bust apex on my first muslin (the one with no adjustments, and angled the dart from that point downwards slightly to the side seam. (Few things bug me more than completely horizontal darts - to my eye they look jarring and like something on a kid's crayon drawing). 
  4. Armhole opening - the blue line drawn through the side seam is the original pattern, the sleeve opening was quite low (and is even lower on the other version in the pattern envelope) So with the dart and just for comfort I raised that about 1 inch. 
  5. Shortened the sleeve by 1/2". It's not really a sleeve, more of a cut-on sleeve but in any case it seemed a bit long. Note if you shorten the sleeve you have to adjust the hem allowance, see that angle at the outer edge, it needs that for the turn back of the hem.  Same change on the back piece. 
  6. No other changes except I lengthen the dress by two inches. It is very mini to start with so if you don't want a mini you might have to add. What is mini on tall people is knee length on the rest of us :).  I outlined the front pleat here in black but I didn't make any changes to any other portion of the pattern. 
Here's a look at the pattern piece before adjustment, you can see the bodice area is going to be a bit square-ish which is fine if you don't need any shaping.

pattern view caftan

Charlie Caftan pattern envelope image

Here's the pattern in case you haven't seen this one. This is the first Closet Case pattern I have sewn and I don't really have any feedback - didn't really look at the cutting layout or instructions except to check how I was doing the pleat in the front. A pattern with this many sizes is both beneficial in that the size range is wide but distinguishing between all those lines gets a little hard to see. I found the same thing on Sewaholic and Jalie patterns but I suppose that is the trade off for getting all the sizes.

Here's a look a the dress on the form so the bust dart is visible, but not really noticeable, if that makes sense. It does it's job but is not really obvious. Also note the dart point is a good 2 inches away from the bust point, another pet peeve, bust darts that are too long and end up looking a bit headlight-y.

bodice close up silk caftan

A look on the dress form. This is one of those garments that look so much better when worn than on the form. You can see the fabric a bit of a puzzle, and I didn't want any bullseye effects so I was really careful with the print placement. As it happens the busy part with the squares is across the bottom so that worked well.

silk caftan front on formsilk caftan back on form

Sewing detail,actually cutting details, I cut everything out in one layer and did all the marks with tailor's tacks on each piece before I picked up the pattern piece to move it and cut the mirror image. It might seem like extra work but actually when everything is flat it is easier to mark rather than move the pieces and then have to lay flat, try to match up two pieces and do the markings.

silk caftan cutting out

I am so glad to get this fabric sewn up and a glamorous version of the caftan was a perfect idea.

silk caften H front view

Now I just need to make a dent in some of the fabrics I brought back from Mood in October of 2016! I have a few ideas percolating and autumn is approaching.

Up next, some late entries to the summer sundress wardrobe,  plus doing some pattern testing for a coat for which seems crazy as it is supposed to be over 100˚F for the next 7 days in a row. !!! Oh well I need to enjoy it because summer is on the way out. But we will hang on until October here in N.California and pretend we have endless summer. Well, we almost do 😎 thank goodness, I couldn't live in the frozen tundra (talking to you, Minnesota).

Happy end of summer sewing, 

today's garden photo, a yellow dinner plate dahlia. Not quite a dinner plate, but a good 8" across. 
Plus plenty of blooms - this one is a keeper. 



  1. Impeccable work!! I think the fabric placement alone worked out so well, and your friend ended up with a beautiful caftan that looks great on her!

  2. Perfect match between fabric and pattern. Looks like a lovely fit for your friend.

  3. Thank you so much for explaining the details of how you altered this pattern. I admired Karen's version of the dress (Did you make that? blog) but could not imagine how to make it fit me. Now I can. No wonder your friend looks so pleased, it's lovely on her.

  4. Beautiful use of the print. Your friend looks lovely in her caftan!

  5. Fabulous caftan. It looks so nice on your friend. Perfect style for that lovely fun fabric. And I am sure that the silk charmeuse feels so luxurious when worn.

  6. The bust shaping was very helpful. I disagree about the use of the dress as loungewear/resort wear. I think it's lovely and could be worn anytime.

  7. Thanks for the tip on the dart - what a genius alteration! Will definitely use it when making this dress.

  8. Really it was October of last year I saw you? Doesn't seem that long ago! Can't wait to see what you do with your Mood fabric purchases and the caftan is fantastic!

  9. Gee, I like this! It looks so very nice on her. She is beaming from ear to ear and rightly so. Lovely work, Beth. Thank you for sharing how you laid it out, made alterations, and sewed. And your yard? It's always lovely, and I thoroughly enjoy seeing it via the modeling.

  10. This looks great. Love that print. Really nice job. Love seeing the details on how it was laid out. Home run on this one.

  11. That is a great marriage of fabric and pattern! Whenever I see a large print like that I can never picture what could be made from it. I live in MN and after living in Phoenix for four years I can tell you I much prefer frozen tundra to endless summer.��

  12. Oh my goodness, this dress is very lovely! She looks beautiful and happy:) Bravo!

  13. Your friend looks wonderful in that dress. The fabric is gorgeous! I so much admire your sewing skills and your generosity in sharing with us. California is my favorite place to live also even though I now live in the PNW and only get to visit. 😏

  14. What a nice use of pattern/fabric. Thank you for sharing how to introduce more fit to a pattern like that. I Also think this dress has more potential than lounge wear :)

    With regards to the pattern, did notches etc match up?

    Looking forward to your new coat project...

  15. Great tutorial, and your friend looks thrilled!
    I think adding some bust shaping is a great idea. Alternatively I think one could add the dart (angled of course because horizontal dart=yuck) without the additional length in the front. Because there is no side shaping you could handle the length difference in the back. This way the little band insert would stay higher?

  16. Wow, that fabric is indeed utterly stunning! and your friend looks justifiably thrilled with her new dress. Beautiful work, Beth!!

  17. Your friend looks fabulous! This could easily look like a sack on women with large busts; your fitting works really well and the fancy fabric is really an interesting choice for this pattern.

  18. I thought I had remembered that you added a dart to this pattern. I am making it long distance for my dd for her honeymoon. She is slender but has a 32DD cup size and I was trying to decide whether or not to make an fba and add a dart. I realize that besides her vertical bust point I also need her bust point width. Sigh. Now I have to explain to her how to measure it.