Sunday, February 11, 2018

Pattern Review: the Charlie Caftan by Closet Case

When Heather Lou of Closet Case patterns released the Charlie Caftan last June, it flew under my radar a bit. Of course, it was our Australian winter (her Canadian summer) so my mind was on wintry patterns. But once our Adelaide summer took hold the Charlie looked like the most appealing thing ever. Must Make Now.

If you Google the pattern you'll find heaps of lovely versions to look at, and many people rock the maxi version with gathers. I was more drawn to the simple-but-interesting pleated version. In fact there are multiple variations possible, with gathers or pleats, maxi or above the knee, two armhole heights and an optional waist tie. Both times I opted for a straight View A, above the knee and higher armhole.

For my first Charlie I used a sample of some lovely cotton poplin (actually close to a lawn in feel).

We are presently working on bringing you this fabric and more, soon, so stay tuned! I had a bit less fabric than required so I left out the side seam pockets. In fact I made this with the intention of it being a swimsuit coverup, but I love it too much to only wear it for that purpose. Into high rotation it went.

It's so cool and breezy, extremely comfortable but also, I think, a bit polished with its v-neck, pleats, inset panel and slightly tapered shape towards the hem.

So how was that inset panel to sew?

Yeah, a bit of a bugger. It's constructed in a similar way to a welt pocket, and I wouldn't say I've totally mastered those. It's one of those situations where you're torn between clipping further into a corner to straighten things out on the right side, and not wanting to clip too far in case it loses all structural integrity and you get fraying on the outside. However, I do love a sewing challenge and I really like the clean look of the end result. So I say go for it. There's a detailed blog post walking you through here. And if you have a few pull lines on the right side, even after a heck of a lot of steamy pressing, after a couple of wears you will forget all about them in your state of easy, breezy Caftan love.

Or... you could simply fold all the seam allowances of your panel under, pin or hand baste carefully, and topstitch the panel in place. No-one's going to call you a cheat and you may just save some stress.

I opted for the fully hand-stitched inside panel (which covers all the guts of that inset piece) because I don't mind a bit of hand-stitching, and the machine stitching instructions ... oh, I didn't even attempt to understand! But all power to you if you do.

I was pretty keen on making another Charlie, with pockets. When a piece of this Clark Gable linen sort of fell in my lap, it was decided.

I love the way the clever lines of the pattern interact with the lines on the linen. Pleasingly, the side seam pockets don't seem to add any hip bulk, whilst being wonderfully practical and capacious.

I cut straight into this washed linen at the shop, and its soft and slightly rumpled state, as well as the general nature of washed linen, has meant this Charlie has turned out a bit roomier on me. Next time I cut a washed linen I'll at least give it a good press first, if not a pre-wash also, in order to help prevent this 'growth'. That said, I'm not complaining about an extra-loose, soft linen Caftan on a 40 degree Adelaide day! (Okay, 38.7 degrees at time of photos.)
Skims over all those festive season indulgences.

PATTERN: Charlie Caftan by Closet Case Patterns
FABRIC: sample poplin, and Clark Gable washed linen, approx 1.8m
SIZE: 12 - NB if you sew View A, Hip is probably the most important measurement due to tapered shape - take note of Finished Garment Measurements
ALTERATIONS: none (except omitted pockets on first version due to fabric constraints)... yes NONE!
COMMENTS: This pattern has a lovely loose, forgiving fit, great if you're not keen on alterations and also (ssshhhhh...) if you hate making muslins. Let's just say it's the ideal project for a 'wearable muslin' from less precious fabric. Then move on to the 'good stuff' and you may well end up with two new dresses you love, like I did. Yay! The inset panel is the only challenging part of this garment, and it's definitely worth a go. Practice on scrap first if you're worried. I simply love the Charlie Caftan. We hope you do too.

Some other suitable fabrics:
Cotton lawns, voiles, rayons and soft shirtings (more Liberty in-store)
100% linens
Washed linen/cotton blends like this patterned natural, this vintage-look jacquard and this 'toffee apple' check
Double gauzes

- Jane & Fiona xx


  1. Great job! I love the polka dot version so much!

    1. Thanks Sarah! It's such a great pull-on-and-go dress, I've been wearing both versions heaps.


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