A monthly box of sewing goodies, delivered to your door

Gemma’s Charlie Caftan

Gemma received the Luxury Box in July and used the Art Gallery Fabrics “Saltwater Stream” to make the Closet Core Patterns Charlie Caftan

It seems summer may finally be here in the UK, and despite having an abundance of dresses I still feel the need to make another one. When I received this month’s box, I fell in love instantly with the fabric – a cotton in a deep blue colour that has a pattern of circling shoals of fish. I find the print mesmerising, and personally a big difference in the kind of prints I usually gravitate to – it’s almost grown-up for me, a more muted colour palette and definitely a lot less of a bold print! That makes me love it more, as it is always nice to mix things up a bit and try something new.

As I had a good amount of fabric I knew I could go full length dress wise, and pondered over what to make. I have a fair few long length dresses saved in my inspiration folder, and although I could have played it safe and gone with a tried and tested pattern, I really wanted something a little different. Because I wanted a maxi length dress, I initially was going to make something tiered, which is still a big trend at the moment, but there was something niggling away at me that that idea wasn’t quite right.

Although not a heavy cotton, I felt like it needed to be something that had a little structure to the design, almost a fuss-free kind of look. Scrolling through The Fold Line one evening I happened upon a great looking pattern that I instantly knew would be the one – the Closet Core Charlie Caftan. It ticked all the boxes I needed: a simple, fuss free style in a maxi length that would be great for summer. The pattern itself actually has a choice of several skirt lengths, as well as two different options for the front: both feature a plunging V-neck with version A having pleats under the bust, and version B having a gathered bodice and optional waist ties. It of course has in-seam pockets and there are also two sleeve length options, so you really are getting plenty of variation with this pattern!

I chose to make version B in a size 18, high sleeve maxi option, and I have to say, making this caftan was very interesting! For the most part it is a very simple construction – attaching front and back, pockets and creating side slits at the legs. However, one thing I did pick up on when reading the reviews was the front panel feature, which gives the dress its visual interest but can be quite head-scratching to figure out! The pattern pieces for the front seem a very strange shape when cutting them out and you have to fight the urge that they are wrong somehow. 

Having created a row of gathering you insert a panel in a similar way to creating a welt pocket – sounds more complicated than it is, but as long as you follow the stitching lines and give it a good press (whilst being brave enough to clip ALL the way to the stitching!) it isn’t that hard. It is one of those techniques that you don’t quite understand how it works until it is finished and voila, look at that magic! 

I actually found attaching the facing panel more complex: had I hand stitched it then it would have been a breeze, however I am not a fan of hand stitching, especially if I am already sitting in front of my sewing machine, and so choose the machine sew method. I couldn’t quite work out which way to attach it, and did not find the instructions clear enough. Luckily a quick search online found a very helpful YouTube video, and is actually quite simple once you realise which way to attach the facing. It is quite fiddly to sew and I really recommend taking it slow so you can fully work out how to do it – I did have to unpick once or twice where I had either caught part of the dress in the stitching or it wasn’t sitting flat enough. That said, now that I’ve done it I really like the technique and the way it looks – it definitely adds a nice construction detail.

Once the panel was in the rest of the dress was plain sailing – I definitely think this could count as a relatively quick make once you’ve mastered that front panel. I did have to take a good chunk off of the length as I’m a lot shorter than it is drafted for, I think around 10cm. I love the added waist ties, as I feel my style and shape needs that little bit of definition.

The pattern does recommend lawns and viscose as well, so I would love to make another one in one of those fabrics and compare – I know I will definitely make a shorter version and see how the pleats under the panel/bust compare to the gathering. I also think this piece would lend itself well to being more of a ‘feature’, such as colour blocking or mixing prints, which is very up my street!

I’m really pleased with this dress – a good mix of simple yet interesting to learn new construction methods, making it a very enjoyable sew. I would highly recommend giving it a go, it is really comfy, and I love the fabric choice for being a bit different for me. I can see myself wearing this quite a lot when the weather doesn’t quite make up its mind: that typical humid but grey British summer time!