I made this watercolor caftan towards the end of last summer (because I really needed something to wear to this pool party) and it instantly became one of my very favorite pieces. The cut is easy and breezy, with simple lines but the added detail of an interior-cinched waist to give it a little shape in the middle.
And the fabric? THE FABRIC! I ordered it from my friend Megan in Australia when I spotted it on one of her designs. I feel like this fabric might be my spirit animal. I love the colors, the abstract design, the watercolor feel, and the lightweight texture. This felt like a perfect application for it, and I still have a couple yards to play around with in the future. Hooray!
Unfortunately, this same fabric is no longer available, but I found a few similar feeling, really incredible abstract watercolor prints by heytangerine on Spoonflower that would make this beautifully. Order the cotton lawn ultra for a similar weight and breeziness. The v neck is finished with a 1/4″ bias tape, effectively turning the edge under without any added bulk. Then the arms and hem are a simple fold, fold, stitch. I got the idea to create the internal cinched waist from a caftan I bought two years ago, and I really love the way it adds a little definition while leaving the lines of the caftan loose and easy. I also leave it undone sometimes and it looks just fine.
I have been waiting to post this caftan until the summer started to roll around again, and got lucky enough to be spending this weekend in Palm Springs on a girls’ trip! The landscapes are incredible, combining all of my favorite colors of warm desert sand and pale and bright green succulents. Give me the choice of the desert or the jungle, and I’ll choose the desert every time.
Here’s the basic outline for creating the watercolor caftan:You’ll need:
2 yards of lightweight fabric
8″ of 1″ elastic
- Fold the fabric in half at the “shoulders” and cut to the circumference of your natural waist and as long as you would like. Mine is 28″, so my dress is 28″ wide, and just below knee length at .
- Measure 8″ from the corners of the fold and cut a V neck, mine is about 6″ deep.
- Cut the following pieces to create the internal cinch: 4″ x 6″ , two 24″ x 3″
- Fold and press the edges of the 4″ x 6″ rectangle down 1/4″
- Cut the elastic in half and pin each to the center of the long fabric strips
- Fold the top edge down over the elastic by 1/3, then fold the opposite end a touch, and fold it over up, wrapping up the elastic.
- Start stitching along the fold about 1/4″ then stretch the elastic along the inside of the tube as far as it will stretch, or about 7″.
- Sew while the elastic is tight, then when you get to the end, continue stitching the end of the strap.
- Fold the end over twice 1/4″ and stitch to close.
- Measure from your shoulder to beneath the bust and place the two straps and the rectangle piece down on the WRONG SIDE of the fabric, centered, at that measurement.
- Stitch around the rectangle, close to the edges, enclosing the piece and attaching the straps beneath it.
- Finish the neckline with 1/4″ double fold bias tape. Stitch to the RIGHT side of the fabric first, then trim the raw edge, fold and press flat then topstitch along the bias tape, catching the raw edge beneath. Finally, stitch as close as possible to the fold on the WRONG side of the fabric to finish the lines. For tips on sewing bias tape to a v neck, see this post, but note that is an exposed bias binding, and this caftan is an interior bias binding.
- Measure 16″ along the center shoulder of the sides of the caftan and fold 1/4″ twice then sew to finish the sleeves.
- Stitch along both side seams to the finished edge and backstitch. Finish the seam with a serger or a zig zag stitch.
- Hem the bottom 1/4″