DIY: Kaftan Top

kaftan post title2

Hello dear blog readers!

This is part 2 of the two-part summer kaftan mega-post: need a reminder? click here.
Today I am going to walk you through sewing a summer chiffon top with lining, yup – lining!
Chiffons and/or linings are something I’ve never sewn before, so this is something we’ll learn together. But fear not, I’ve made quite a research online to avoid any pitfalls!

Brace yourselves, because we are going to cover:

  • Making a lining
  • Curved rolled hem
  • Waistband casing
  • Handling chiffon
  • Narrow rolled hem
  • Connecting curved lining necklines
  • Narrow french seams

Are you excited? Let’s get this party started!

You’ll need:

The measurements are the same as the ones I’ve posted in the previous post. And because we have a lining, also measure your shoulder width from the center of the collar bone, then reduce that number by 3.5″.
We are using this pattern:

Pattern with lining

Don’t worry about the lining showing up at the bottom, because we are going to sew the waistband casing there, which will shorten it by 2″.

If you want to use this garment as a cover-up for the beach, or if you’re using a fabric that is more opaque, use this pattern, without lining (notice the difference in length):

Pattern with no lining
Pattern with no lining

Draft it onto paper. I recommend using a french curve. Next, make sure you pin the pattern pieces nice and steady on the chiffon fabric, even use whatever weights or books to keep it in place, because boy does this fabric like to shift around!
Then cut both lining and chiffon fabrics. This is the hardest part!
Mind that the notches should actually be marked with tailors’ chalk, whether than cutting.

If you want to use this pattern as a cover-up for the beach, you can skip this lining part. Instead, you hem the bottom and neckline, french seam the shoulders together, and skip right to the part about sewing the sides and adding the waistband casing.
But if you want it as a top, like I am making here, you would probably want to make a lining, so your bra doesn’t show.

 Making a Lining

We’ll construct the lining. Apparently, the thing with linings is that you have to finish them, leaving only the shoulders and neckline unfinished, before connecting it to the outer garment.
Also, linings face with the pretty side towards your body, and the not so pretty side towards the outside. With that being said, do not get confused when I saw things that might sound weird (like right side facing wrong side). I wrote it on purpose.

So, iron out any wrinkles. This will make it easier to work with.
Finish the side and neckline edges with an overlock seam or a serger.

Sew down the sides, right sides facing each other, using 5/8″ allowance. Stop sewing 6/8″ before the bottom, so we can have space to sew the curved edge. Back-stitch. Press to one side.



Curved Rolled Hem

Roll hem armholes and the bottom – fold raw edge to wrong side for 3/8″, press, sew closely to the edge. Back-stitch.
Cut excess edge, careful not to cut into the thread or the fabric. Then fold a second time, press and sew on top of/near to the first row.  Back-stitch.

Curved rolled hem
Curved rolled hem

This will help to keep that nice curve, and you’ll end up with one row of stitching on the outside, and two rows on the inside.
Cool, huh?

Top stitch to secure the side seams. This is how it looks like on the inside when it’s finished:

curver hem

Waistband Casing – Part 1

Now we’re going to handle the waistband casing.
Our waistband casing is going to be in the lining.
From the bottom, fold over to the waistband marking. Press.

Measure 1″ from the edge, and mark on both sides.

Fold under from the 1″ mark. Press carefully, not harming the previous press line. Pin in place.

How to fold for the casing
How to fold for the casing

Top-stitch all around the upper side of the fold. With your left hand, carefully guide the bottom layer, so it will sew nice and even – trust me, you DO NOT want the seam ripper to be the star of this show! Back-stitch.

Pin 2 pins 2″ apart, on whichever side of the folded casing. This will mark the opening for the elastic.
Top-stitch the bottom side from one pin to the other, leaving the gap between them unsewn. Back-stitch. Set aside.

Pin, sew top, leave 2″ at the bottom
Pin, sew top, leave 2″ at the bottom

Handling Chiffon

Since chiffon is a light-weight fabric, it requires a thin needle.

I wish someone had told me all of what I’m about to tell you, before I started sewing and pulling on my fabric, but you’re luckier than me 😀

After quite some trial and error I can conclude – the key here is really sewing with the right combination of thread tension, stitch length and sharp new shiny thin needle!
The stitch length should be short, and the thread tension should be lower than what you’d normally sew, otherwise it’ll cause the fabric to pucker and ladder.
Here are my sewing machine settings: thread tension is 3, and stitch length is 2mm.

Note: From now on we’re using only the thin needle.

Keys for sheers – stitch length, thin needle & thread tension

Also, I found the fool-proof method is to sew with tissue paper underneath.
The stitches come out very nice and even, not pulling or puckering the fabric.
Try to start stitching not right from the edge, but a few millimeters into the fabric. This will help it not to get stuck.
Another helper is my faux straight stitch plate from this post here. This nifty trick will make this baby slide through your machine like buttah.

Seriously guys, the moment you master the non-pucker method, a whole new world of sheer fabric possibilities will open up to you! Bye fear of sheer!

Narrow Rolled Hem

Chiffon fabric is see-through, so 1″ hems will be obvious. We’ll need to finish the bottom hem with a narrow rolled hem, it’ll give it enough weight to drape beautifully. This is very similar to what we did on the lining.

After trying to do this with a rolled edge presser foot (and failing 😦 ) this is the method that worked best for me:

Fold over the seam allowance for 5/8″, and put some tissue paper underneath the fabric. Sew a row of straight stitches as close as you can to the folded edge. Pivot at the corners.
I gave this my best shot, and it wasn’t as close to the edge as I’d like. But practice makes perfect, so I’m not too bummed about it.
You can do this either with an edge stitch presser foot, or just ironing the fold in place.
Then, carefully trim the excess fabric, not cutting the seam or the fabric.
And lastly, again with tissue paper, fold that row of stitching again and sew that in place. Tear away that tissue paper and presto!

Narrow rolled hem
Narrow rolled hem

Connecting Curved Lining Necklines

Turn the lining pretty sides out, and put on top the compatible chiffon layer, wrong sides out (the one with the hem rolled toward you).
Using a short straight stitch, sew the neckline together, with ¼” seam allowance, pivot at the corner.
Do the same for the back.

Nip small V shapes around the curves so it won’t bulk.

Turn everything, so the chiffon is right sides out. Top-stitch a short length stitch about 1/8″ from the edge to secure the neckline in place. Pivot at the V. Back-stitch.

Curved lining
Curved lining

Narrow French Seams

I read online that the final seam will be the dominant seam, so I’m doing the shoulder seams last.
With the chiffon’s right sides out, pin shoulders and sleeves together all along.
Sew a straight line all along the shoulders and the sleeves, with 1/4″ seam allowance.

Trim closely to the stitch row. Getting old, huh?

Turn the garment inside out, and sew about 1/8″ from the sleeve seam. Back-stitch.

Turn the garment right sides out again and top stitch that row to one side. This will make it nice and flat.

Narrow french seam
Narrow french seam

I do the following now before the fabric is all bunched up from the elastic:
Lay down flat the kaftan, and pin from the chiffon’s armhole mark to the end of the lining, (1″ into the lining’s armhole mark, the elastic is going to make the lining shrink so the sewing won’t make the lining bunch up). Sew a straight line of stitching, careful not to sew onto the lining. Back-stitch.

To secure the armhole: place the needle at the armhole mark and sew a second parallel line, about 1/8″ into the allowance and 3″-4″ long. Back-stitch. Repeat on the other side.

Side seam markers
Side seam markers

Waistband Casing – Part 2

With right sides out, pin in place the waistband casing to each side. Mark the elastic enterance point.

This is a bit tricky, so take your time and make sure you guide the layers evenly.
The stitches of the casing in the layer below form a little bump, so sense them with your left hand and top stitch along that ridge, leaving out the 2″ gap.

top stitch casing

Take your waist measurement and reduce it by 4″. Cut an elastic as long as that number.
Using a safety-pin, insert the elastic. Be careful not to swallow the other end in the casing.

Sew the elastic sides together, with a box stitch and a diagonal, or using a zigzag stitch repeated several times for reinforcement.

Sew the 2″ gap of chiffon and lining to close it, not sewing over the elastic.

sewing waistband

This is optional – I’ve sewn by hand about a ton of beads around the neck, to give it more chic. If you have a pretty trim, or applique, you can add that instead. Beading should take you a couple of hours, but the result is so worth it.


And there you have it!


Until next time,



4 thoughts on “DIY: Kaftan Top

  1. For a self defined “amateur sewer” , You rocked this tutorial! Im making a kaftan for my mother in law, and wanted to go beyond the whole “sew two rectangles together and hem” style. Chose an extra see through chiffon (I guess all chiffon is!) , so also bought fabric to line it with. Will be following these insructions to a T! Thank you!


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