We've just had one of the coldest weeks I can remember in the UK and I have been wearing many layers of the warmest clothes I own. I feel the cold badly, so I am trying to cheer myself up by thinking about summer; holidays, sunny days and summer clothes. For me, last summer was the summer of the kaftan.
I love a kaftan. It's the perfect multi functional item.
Dress up for evening with some beads or dress down for the beach or garden with flip flops - tick
Covers all the bits you don't want to show (or get sunburned) but still cool and comfortable - tick
Rolls up into virtually no space in your suitcase or overnight bag - tick
Plenty of room for a big lunch - tick, tick, tick!
Before I got back into sewing again, my favourite places to buy kaftans were Boden and Accessorize (see pics). But for a garment that may end up shoved into your beach bag with suncream and sand - they don't come cheap. Expect to pay around £25-£35 in Accessorize and up to £70 (!) in Boden. Don't get me wrong - they are beautiful, but you can save yourself a lot of money (and get the exact look you want) if you learn how to make your own and then repeat in different fabrics over the years.
For an unstructured look you can start with a very simple style. This requires sides seams, hems and a neckline and you have a long or short kaftan to go. This approach is perfect for beginners and also for showing off beautiful fabric with a bold design (where seams would disrupt the pattern).I used 1.5m of a silk-cotton blend here and trimmed with some tassels.
For a more fitted garment, I love The Tunic Bible by Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr. This book is such a good idea. The book provides basic pattern pieces for a tunic (which you make according to your measurements and body shape) and a multitude of sleeve, neckline and length options so that you have all the components to construct an unlimited number of trendy kaftans without needing to buy more patterns. There are also lots of inspirational pictures by makers in the book (and many more shown online using the hashtag #tunicbible. I made 3 of these last year - and expect I will make many more in the future. This first example is made using a cotton double gauze (Nani Iro fabric purchased from John Lewis) with pom pom trim on the hem and sleeves.
I also made one in a green cotton (apologies for the creases it's been in my 'packed away until the next holiday' drawer!) and another in linen which was dress length and suitable for work (not pictured) which had a simple V-neck.
Another look I tried last year was a simple v-necked dress with an elasticated waist (below). I made it in a rayon (lovely drapey fabric made with natural fibres) that I got from Walthamstow Market. The fabric cost £3m/m and I used 1.5m. It's okay - but probably not my favourite make. I do like the trim though (I love pom poms!)
Sorry for all of the posey pictures - I was trying to show the kaftans off to their best but I am cringing as I look at them now.
Finally - my most recent 'kaftan style' is this dreamy white cotton top. I made it using the Megan Nielsen Patterns (an indie pattern company) Dove pattern. I LOVE THIS TOP! I made some pattern adjustments (full bust adjustment to get a better fit) and changed the sleeves from a circle to a gathered frill and I have created exactly what I had in my mind. The fabric was from the John Lewis sale just after Christmas and only cost £2.40/m (unbelievable value for such beautiful cotton). I used just under 2m for the top. Need some sunshine now!! (shame I can't make that!)
If you would like to learn to make a kaftan why not come along to one of my classes? You will surprise yourself at what you can achieve and hopefully have a fun time in the process. I am also very happy to teach you how to make a pattern that you provide yourself or to run 1:1 lessons or smaller groups. Just drop me a message to enquire.
Have a lovely week,