How to Make a Kimono

Written by HL Claire Shayhan

Introduction: conventions for this pattern.

Kimonos do not have to be closely fitted. The same size works well on many people. I use 2 yard lengths because they work well for most people. I use 1/2"" seam allowance, it is easy to calculate. (Seam allowance is the fabric that is between the actual stitching that holds the garment together and the edge of the fabric. It should all be tucked to the inside and never show.) Everything you will cut out for this pattern will be a square or maybe a triangle. All straight lines. You will need to do some ironing. Not a lot but the little you do is very important. Just do it.

Lining: You do not have to have a lining. If you do not want one you can skip this step. If you want a lining: make a second Kimono, just like this one, but leave off the collar. This makes your lining shell. Before sewing the collar on the outer shell, turn the lining and the outer shell inside out and match them up at the shoulder seams. Then sew them together at the hems and edges (except the edges where the collar will attach) with the seam sides facing out. Turn it right side out, and iron the hems smooth. Then attach the collar to both shells at the same time as if it were a single piece. This will become clearer after you have executed the rest of the pattern. (BTW, the piece you would have used for the collar makes a great belt for the finished outfit!)

Fabrics

Silk, of course. Choose a charmeuse for lining and light weight kimonos. For a heavier silk, use shantung or dupionoi or a silk jacquard. Linen, use shirt weight or shear/handkerchief weight, not as heavy as Judy's linen. Satin, use bridal satin or heavy weight satin, do not use "costume satin", it is to bright, too shiny and does not hold up well to even a little wearing. You may use moiré satin. Cotton, not a common fabric in period but you can get some great cotton quilter's cloth that has some great designs already on it. For more warmth, line it in fur, too expensive? Line it in fake fur.

To Start: Sizing

Take your largest around measurement (hips, waist or bust). Divide this number by three. That is the minimum width for your panels. For many of us, we will be able to get two panels out of standard 45" fabric. Each panel will be about 22" wide.

This kimono will be made of four panels all the way around plus a little more, however, the width of that fourth panel gives you room to move and layer and have seam allowances. Take the minimum circumference to be equal to three panels just to calculate the width of your panels. After that, all is based on four panels around.

A standard kimono takes 6 yards of 45" fabric. This will produce a kimono that is approximately 6' (2yards) from floor to shoulder and has 22" wide panels and sleeves(allowing for selvedge). If this is not sufficient, you will need to make your panels wider and or longer and you will correspondingly need to buy wider fabric or more yards. If you needed wider panels you could get 12 yards of 45" fabric or 6 yards of a 54 to 60" wide fabric and enough extra yards to make the kimono the desired length.

*Do not worry overly much about the sleeve length. If it is the same width as the panels you use for the kimono, the proportions will all be right. Trust me.

These instructions will define the most efficient way to get a kimono out of 3 lengths or 6 yards of 45" fabric. If yours needs to be a different size, make each panel wider or longer accordingly (or shorter and narrower for a child). Remember, for each inch you add to the width of your panel, that adds four inches (actually a little more) all the way around, but only three inches to your minimum required circumference. It is okay to call this measurement very close. It is just an approximation.

Next: Preparing to sew

First select your fabric. Wash it all and iron it, (yes this one is necessary). Trim the ends and square them off. If it is silk or a fine weave you may rip the fabric to get a true square edge. If the fabric does not tear straight easily or is not a square weave, just cut it as straight across as you can manage.

Now the fabric must divided into three lengths and each length divided in half lengthwise. You may cut/rip it in half length wise first then divide each panel into three equal pieces or cut it all into three even pieces then divide each of them in half. Either works fine. Whatever works with your sense and space.

For the standard kimono this gives you 6 panels, each 2 yards long and 22+" wide. (YMMV). Four of these panels will become the main body. We will sew them together first so we do not loose the other little pieces. But first we have some more prep work to do.

First make sure that if the decorative pattern of the fabric has a right side up that you make sure to match them. Decide which is the top of each panel and mark it.

To mark it: If the fabric is dark, mark it with an up arrow drawn on the fabric on the wrong side with either a white fabric pencil or a sliver of soap.(yes, bar soap, like that sliver in your bath tub that is too small to use!). In any case, you could use a pearl headed pin or even use safety pins. Just pin them to the fabric about 4" from the top edge. Each panel needs its own pin. Or put a cross stitch in it with a contrasting thread. -Just mark it with a temporary mark that you can findagain.

Now finish off the edges so the fabric does not unravel. Don't have a serger? That's okay. You can over cast them. Take one of your panels to the sewing machine. Set the machine for the longest, widest zigzag stitch it will do. Now zigzag stitch over the cut edges of the material. That's right, just on the edges. One side of your zigzag should just miss or almost miss the fabric while the other side sews through the fabric. All of this zigzag should fit well inside the seam allowance. You do not have to overcast the woven or selvedge edge of the fabric. When you have done this to the first panel, do the same to three more. Leave the last two panels for later.

Sew the body

First sew the back pieces together. Leave a small gap at the top of the seam, about 2" where the neck will be. If you feel the need you can cheat and leave a slit about 12" long at the hem to give yourself more room to walk. So, select the two panels for the back. Place them right sides together and pin them. Sew them together with a straight stitch of medium length. Start about 2" from the top, leave 1/2" seam allowance and sew the whole length or to just about 12" short of the end. Now open it up and iron the seam open flat.

(Did anyone ever tell you sewing was an exact science? Well when I say about I really meant about. Don't sweat the small stuff! But do sew in a straight line). 

Next sew on the front panels on at the sholders. With the back panel now open, pin one front panel to each side at what will be the shoulder, keeping wrong sides together and matching up the top edges. Match the panels up from the outside edges towards the center or neck. (if they do not match exactly do not sweat it! But they should be very close). Measure from the top of the front center edge of each front panel down about 10" and mark it. Measure from that same point in towards the shoulder about 3" and mark it. Draw a line between these two points. Cut along that line. Sew each front panel on with a straight stitch and 1/2" seam allowance. You should be able to sew on each front panel without sewing all the way across the neck opening. Open up these panels and iron the seams flat open. (If you were to put on the kimono now, you would essentially have a side-less vest.)

Sew the sleeves

Now lets make sleeves. You have two panels left. Take one of them and cut it into two panels of equal length. Set the other one aside again. That should now make two panels approximately 22" wide and 1 yard long. Mark the right side up on the second of the two panels you just created. Over cast the cut edges as you did before. Fold each sleeve panel in half, right sides together to make a rectangle 22" wide and 1/2 yard long. This makes two sleeves. Mark where each sleeve is folded. (You do remember how to mark fabric?)

Take your main body and turn it right side out. Do one sleeve at a time. Place one panel on one shoulder right sides together. Make sure the bottom edge of the sleeve faces the front panel to keep the pattern right side up. Match the fold of the sleeve to the seam of the shoulder at the outside edge of the body. They will match up at the edge away from the neck opening. Starting 4" from the bottom of the sleeve and stopping 4" from the other end, sew it onto the body with a straight stitch and 1/2" seam allowance. Repeat the process on the other side for the other sleeve. Then open up and iron the seams flat open. (Observation will point out that the fabric pattern on the sleeve will be right side up on the front side of the kimono but upside down from the back side. Yep, that is just the way the cookie crumbles.)

If what you are making is a lining, then you are through with this shell until you are ready to sew it into the outer shell. If you are making an outer shell or a kimono with no lining, please proceed.

Make collar and gores

Take your last panel. Rip/cut it in half length wise. Take each piece and fold it in half to create a rectangle about 1/2 yard long and about 11" wide. Mark one piece on the fold and set it aside (that piece is now the collar). Mark the other piece on both edges and on both sided at a distance 1/4 of the folded length from the fold. (On the standard kimono that will be at a distance of 1/4 yard from the fold). Open that piece back up and lay flat so that you can see all four marks. Draw a diagonal line between two of them. Cut along that diagonal line. This creates two pieces that are rectangles with a point on one end. These will become the gores. Overcast all cut edges on collar and gores.

Notes for Patterned fabric only: Follow these actions if you have a fabric that has a distinct right side up to the pattern or print. Otherwise, please continue at the next step.
* Collar: take this piece and mark which way is up or top on both sides of the fold. Cut in half at the fold. Turn one piece end for end and sew them back together so you have a seam where the fold used to be and both pieces now point up to the seam. Do not forget to overcast the cut edges and iron the seam open flat.
* Gores: Layout the gore pieces so the you can see the right side of both pieces and the points are at the top. Cut the triangle off of the tops at a right angle. Turn the one "upside down" rectangle so the pattern is right side up. Sew the triangles back on to both pieces. Do not forget to over cast the cut edges and iron the seam open flat.
(Observation will point out that this will leave one of the triangles "upside down". Yep, that is correct.) Now proceed same as the rest. 

Sew the gores

Work with one side at a time and one gore at a time. Each gore goes onto the front of the kimono on the center edge at the bottom of each front panel. The longest side of the gore should attach to the front panel of the kimono on the center, opening edge, not on the side. The short square end of the gore should line up with the bottom hem of the front panel. Place it on with the right sides together and sew together with a straight stitch and 1/2" seam allowance. Do this for each gore. Iron the seams open flat.

Sew the sides

If you are attaching a lining, now is the time to sew it to the outer shell on the edges all the way up to but not across the angle on the gores. Turn the kimono right side out. Fold it at the shoulder seam and match up all corners and edges and pin together.

To sew the side seams together, match up at the underarms and pin. Starting from 4" below the underarm sew the side together with a straight stitch and 1/2" seam allowance all the way to the hem or for more walking room, stop 12" from the hem. Do the same for the other side.

To sew the sleeves, match them up at the underarms and at the corners. Starting 4" below the underarm, sew a straight stitch with 1/2" seam allowance all the way to the corner. Sew the same all the way from this corner to the end of the sleeve. Now either hem the sleeve or sew the front edge of the sleeve closed from this corner to 4 or 5" from the top of the sleeve, leaving a hand hole and just hem the hand hole. Use a 1/2" hem.

(Observation will point out this leaves a gaping hole in the arm pit. Just hem it with 1/2" hem all around and leave it there. If it really bugs you, just make the opening smaller, say 2 or 3" instead of 4".)

Press all seams open flat. Turn kimono right side out and iron seams flat.

Sew the collar

Pick up the collar; the last piece. Fold it in half lengthwise, right side out and iron it flat. Now open it and iron a 1/2" hem around it. Fold it in half right side out with the hem folded to the inside. Find the center point. Match this to the center back of the kimono. This is where the 2" gap at the top of the back figures in.

Sandwich the neck opening of the kimono inside this collar matching from the center back as far around and down the front sides as it will go. Try to keep a smooth line and at least 1/2" of the exposed edge sandwiched into the collar (a little more at the points of the back panels). Pin in place liberally as you go. Getting this smooth is difficult. Be patient. It always looks better in end than you think it will. When you get to the ends of the collar, be sure to turn back the 1/2" of hem. Do the same for the exposed edges of the gore. Sew it all down as if it were one seam from the bottom edge of the gore around the sandwiched edge of the color and down to the bottom edge of the gore on the other side. It may require a short seam to close the ends of the collar. Iron the seams you just made flat.

If you did not line the kimono, you now need to turn up the hem on any exposed edges. Turn it up 1/2" and sew it down. Iron the hem.

Congratulations: Your kimono is now complete!

How to wear your kimono.

Copyright ©: 2001. Elizabeth Crouchet
Revised: 01/17/01