Charlie says “always tell your mummy before you go off somewhere”

OK, I am aware that today’s post is something of a blip – a hot weather garment when it’s currently hovering around freezing outside. We’ve just been on holiday, though, so it does make sense, really. Chris and I spent a week on Maui over Christmas and it was awesome. Chris hasn’t had any proper time off since we moved to the US so a week of relaxation in the sun was in order. We did some active stuff (ziplining, snuba diving, helicopter ride) but mostly there was a lot of pool and beach time. Someone brought you cocktails as whales breached off the coast. It was lovely.

I’m not usually one for sitting about for a week, so I don’t have a lot of beachwear. I hadn’t been all that bothered by the Charlie Caftan from Closet Case Patterns when it first came out, but it grew on me exponentially the closer we got to the departure date. If you want a measure of how useful it was, I’d say it was a third cotton, a third sunscreen and a third saltwater by the time we got home. I wore it practically every day.


That hat was a good buy too. Practically clamped to my head all week. 

And what better fabric for a beach cover up than this tropical cotton lawn? I originally bought three metres from the Village Haberdashery (looks like they still have some in) with the intention of making the Colette Penny dress, but never got round to it, what with all the other shirts and shirtdresses I was making this summer. It was fate, obviously. I fancied the idea of a maxi, but didn’t have quite enough fabric, so I went for View B (the short one with the gathered front) and added in the waist ties for good measure. I did grade out from a 10 at the waist to a 16 at the hips, but there’s so much space in there that I probably could get away with going for a straight 10 next time.


Now, this pattern looks simple, and for the most part that’s true, but it did have a tricky bit in the shape of the front panel. It’s an interesting construction – you complete the front bodice first by sewing up to the neckline, which creates a letterbox through which you have to sew the front panel. That’s a bit of a faff, but then you’ve got to face it/encase it on the other side with an inner panel. You can do it on your machine, but I – wonder of wonders – OPTED TO HANDSEW IT IN. It creates a neat finish, and it didn’t take me nearly as long as it usually does. I did struggle a bit with this part of the instructions (spatial awareness is not my strong point), but there is a tutorial on the Closet Case Patterns blog which explains it really clearly.

Front panel

The rest of it is pretty simple, though I would suggest that you finish the side seam and pocket allowances before you sew them together. I followed the instructions to the letter which has you finish them after sewing, which meant that I would have had a few sharp corners to negotiate with my overlocker. I ended up zigzagging them instead (not my preferred finishing method) so I’ll bear that in mind for next time.

Accidental shibori

Like every good sewist, I threw my finished caftan in the wash straight off the machine, along with a bunch of other things I needed to wash before going away. Unfortunately, there was a pair of brand new jeans in there too, and I discovered that they were not colour-fast. Oops. I normally don’t have a problem with this, but this time some of the colour transferred to my new caftan and there are a few blobs of shibori-type dying. Lucky for me it kinda works with the colour scheme and it isn’t all that noticeable. Anyway, let this be a cautionary tale for you all to buy colour catchers, or at least wash your new jeans separately!


Oops. That’s not the only bit, either. 

So as I’ve said, I wore this to death while I was away. I’m not sure when we’ll next be hitting the beach but I’m looking forward to warmer months when it may make an appearance on the roof of our building, which is a massive sun trap. Recommended for your next hot weather holiday!

And because it’s now stuck in my head, here’s some classic Prodigy from the early 90s.


11 thoughts on “Charlie says “always tell your mummy before you go off somewhere”

  1. Vanessa says:

    I made 4 of these last summer and still didn’t have the placket right. Yours looks much more polished than any of mine did. Something to work at improving when the weather warms up again. It’s such an easy wearing garment, I’m sure I’ll want more.

    • Jo says:

      It looks ok from the outside, but we’re not going to look too closely at the inside anytime soon!! The busy fabric also helps a lot! 🙂

  2. sewslowsarah says:

    It’s beautiful – what a gorgeous fabric too. Hope you had a lovely holiday. I’m heading to Greece in the summer and this pattern is high up on my to make list. I wanted to make it in a cotton lawn originally, but after reading the instructions I wasn’t sure there’d be enough drape – yours has convinced me that it’ll be fine – thanks 🙂

    • Jo says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I looked at the suggested fabrics and wondered why cotton lawn wasn’t included. It’s not crazy-flowy like rayon but it’s light enough to work nicely I think.

    • Jo says:

      🙂 For the amount of wear I got out of the Charlie, I’m glad I sacrificed the fabric! As it happens I had enough left over to make a Scout tee so I feel like I’m getting more out of this fabric than I would have done if I’d made the Penny.

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