I made a cover-up. Better known as a caftan. We have some major (major by my standards, anyway) dance performances coming up and my instructor was giving me a rough time about my habit of throwing a tablecloth over my shoulder and calling that a cover-up. Sheesh. But it’s not as if I don’t have plenty of fabric in stash already earmarked for just such a project.
I got the fabric from a friend who quilts; someone brought it back to her as a souvenir from India, but of course although cotton, it’s not at all a quilting fabric. Her loss. ;) It’s a very crisp, but thin and sheer fabric—I’ve never seen a cotton organza in the threads, so to speak, but this might be something like that, though maybe a bit heavier than organza ought to be. It’s a shot cotton, with warp threads of gold and weft threads of purple (or is it the other way around? Too lazy to look up my weaving terms right now, sorry), with a darker purple print overlaid on top, and I absolutely adore everything about the iridescent, multi-hued look that gives it, right down to the golden selvedges. I actually have a gloriously-70s caftan pattern, but it involves somewhat shaped side-seams, and I couldn’t bear to cut those gorgeous golden selvedges. So this one is made of whole cloth.
Not all forms of dance have the concept of a cover-up—an easy-to-remove, all-engulfing piece of clothing that hides (or at least obscures) the costume before and after performance. Maybe because not all forms of dance have you, um, baring quite so much skin as bellydance can. Being a high school drama alumnus, I like to think of it as our version of “not breaking curtain,” since only rarely do we have a show with an actual backstage where we can hide before performance. Ideally, a cover-up is great to look at, without being so eye-catching it detracts from another performer.
It’s the simplest form of clothing construction after the toga—fold in half, slit one half up the middle for a front opening, widening into a space for the head. I finished the neck and front opening with bias-tape, since I had some that was the perfect gold to match the selvedges. It’s a bit heavier than I might have chosen, but when else am I ever going to use harvest gold bias tape? I attached it with the “applique” stitch, and then got cocky and figured I’d add another row of applique stitch with the meandering vine in between (I have a very limited array of decorative stitches that aren’t strictly zig-zag based). The White did not like doing the applique stitch along the outer edge of the bias tape, and whenever I got too close to it the stitch dissolved in a mess of edge-wrapping and skipped stitches, and I’d probably be picking them all out except that I’m pretty sure trying to match up those stitches would look just as bad (and it’s a costume so theoretically no one is looking closely anyway. Right? Right? K, I’m glad I’m not being graded on this. My gorgeous Indian cotton deserves much better, I know. *hangs head in shame.*
My biggest fear, when it came to the bias-tape finish, was that it would be too heavy and end up puckered or stretched out and just ugly-looking. While it’s far from perfect, I think I managed pretty well (helped in no small measure by the lovely, crisp cotton), and while I didn’t have the foresight to try to pre-iron my neck-surrounding portions into shape, a bit of stretching and squishing while sewing, plus a little more than a bit of steamy pressing after sewing, and it’s all lying a lot better than I thought it might, really.
For the side-seams, I marked a point under the arm (12″ down from the shoulder-fold and 10″ out from the centre, for those who might find such minutiae useful), and then angled out to the bottom corner. This gives me more width in the “skirt” at the botton, and something vaguely resembling trailing half-sleeves at the top. So it works.
I tried to get a closeup of my hem (I used my rolled-hem foot on the regular sewing machine, with a long, wide zig-zag for a soft effect), but none of the photos seem to have made it onto this computer, so you’ll have to live without. No one in the real world will be looking at it, either.
I still love this fabric (which is good, because I don’t love caftans in general), though, and now I will get to use (wear) it, while also not getting accused of wearing a table-cloth. Win!