Saturday 8 September 2012

How to Sew a Kaftan Dress or Gown


I have finally been able to complete a tutorial for the Sistren - something very simple yet elegant that suits all occassions.


2 yards 58 inch Jersey/heavy knit fabric
Polyester thread in matching colour
90/14 or equivalent ball point machine needle
Sewing machine
Yard stick

If you have a overlocking machine or serger, even better, because I certainly find it a bit rough to sew with jersey! As you can see my lines arent so perfect but hey! Wear what you sew and be proud! :)

To make a kaftan is very simple – the easiest, most conservative yet most versatile style you can begin to sew with. It was the first dress I taught myself how to make, before I discovered the many tutorials and sewing blogs online(which inspired me to start this blog for RasTa Sistren). This kaftan can even shorten to make a shirt or a shorter dress. It can have a high split or two, it can have the side flaps or not. This tutorial is for one without the side flaps,which is more of a long tee shirt – I call it a gown.

This size I am making is a small- medium. It will fit a Sistren with hips up to 41 inches. This will give a loose fit, but the width can also be 2 inches smaller if a closer more body-hugging fit is desired. This method can be used on a dress of another material, but if it does not stretch like jersey sure to keep the 4 inches seam allowance for the hips and to also zigzag edges and make all the hems.

Measurements and formula:

***NEW Measurements for neckline!!***
Neckline = 6 inches wide by 6 inches deep (you can make it a higher or lower but this is just perfect)

Armhole length =8 inches

Length of Dress = desired length (from shoulder down)+ 1 inch

Or use the entire 58 inches if you are 5 ft 7 or taller or want to make a dress that buffs.

Width of Dress = Hip divided by 2 plus 4 (36/2 = 18 + 4 = 22)

Rectangle to cut is 58 inches long by 22 inches wide.

1. Fold the fabric right sides together, flat down and cut out at width and length. Pin in place.

2. From the top mark down ½ inch and draw a line straight across the top of the rectangle at ½ inch. This is the shoulder seam.

3. From the ½ inch line mark 8 inches down on either side, Then draw a line ½ inch in from the side edge of the rectangle to mark where the armhole and side seams of the dress will be. Draw these side lines down. Make a little curve under the up-sided down L shape at the armpit.

4. To mark the neckline, fold the dress in half side to side, chalk lines facing up. Measure 4 inches across the ½ inch shoulder seam line. Make a cut on the edge of the fabric where the 4 inches stops.

Unfold and make two dashes on the line under the cut.

From the shoulder seam line measure down the neckline depth and draw a short line across to mark the depth of the scoop.

5. Make sure your pins are where they need to be, and that the pattern is matched up if it has stripes or a border. Time to sew up the kaftan.
Using a wide straight stitch sew the ½ inch shoulder seam line first, making sure to reverse stitch over the two dashes where the neckline will be cut.

6. Sew up the sides seams next, making sure to reverse stitch at both ends. Don’t try to start at the very tip of the fabric, start a ¼ inch in, reverse stitch first, then go a little way until the curve starts. When the curve starts, leave the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot and shift the fabric to the left so that the needle can continue following the curve on the line. I usually repeat this step when I am about to start sewing straight down the sides.

Note: Because you will be sewing on the curved line for the armpit, you have the choice to either start sewing from the hem and go up to the armpit, or start at the armpit which is what I did in the picture. It is just a matter of stopping and lifting the presser foot.

7. Next fold the dress in half again, with the chalk lines facing up and connect the neckline width to the depth line in the curve desired. Remember this method cuts both back and front the same, hence why it is important to decide how deep you want your neckline to be from the start.
(I made mine too deep in my dress.)

remember my neckline was too deep. the 6 inches will not look like this which more 8 inches

8. Fold and pin ½ inch hems on the neckline, armholes and hem.Using a wide straight stitch again, sew them in place. 


 You have the option to leave the heams undone, as it is knit. But if so, make sure to reinforce the neckline, and to also clip away the excess seam allowance from the edges of the neckline, sleeve and hemline.



A thin belt, a wide belt, no belt! A vest, a jacket, a beautiful bag! The possibilities are endless.

no belt as a gown (my personal preference since I cant find my wide belt)

 thin belt with high waist and slight buff:

with a bigger buff:

Blessed love!

Here it is in all black!

Be royal Sistren! Love thyself



  1. I need to get a sewing machine now. now, now, now! lol Thanks as always sis. soooo inspiring :)

  2. Yes I Q!It is a part of self-sufficiency no? I hope you will get one! I really hope that in the new year Roots Dawta can start having sewing classes with the tutorials and other DIY projects for the home also.

  3. Love your channel,....thanks for sharing!! Definetely going to place in my favorites....Going to make my first Kaftan Peace sister.
    Shamarah of TheDaughtersofSarah/

  4. Amazing tutorial. your work is really very good. i will try this in next!!!!!!!!!
    african fabric wholesale


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