To make your top, you’ll need a few shirts. If you look at the diagram, you can see that the pattern is actually very simple, and consists mainly of rectangles, which are easy to cut and sew. There’s a top part with overlapping sides, a collar, a bottom part, sleeves (plus possibly binding for sleeves), and a long wrappy belt (if you want). You’ll need one t-shirt for the top part, one for each sleeve, another (or possibly some scraps) for the bottom, plus another (or scraps) for the collar or sleeve binding. You could estimate about one t-shirt for each part of the kimono. Once you’ve picked out what you need, lay the shirts out as in the photo.
This way you could pick out the colors and see what the finished kimono might look like. You might remember me saying that gray and purple don’t go together… well you can forget about that :) As for the sizes of the shirts, you’ll need one that fits you well or is slightly loose for the top part. The length and width of the sleeves is easily variable.
Before passing onto the tutorial, let me tell you some things to avoid, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
1) Don’t use a knit that is too heavy for the sleeves. I used some, and the sleeves came out a little too heavy. Pick a lighter knit that will look good falling in folds. The sleeves are a key part of a kimono, they have to be wide and long. If they come out too heavy, they will stretch out the shoulder seam and be uncomfortable to wear.
2) In the book Generation T, the author talks about different types of knit that t-shirts are made of: there’s the kind that rolls up on the edges if you stretch it, and the kind that doesn’t. For the belt, it’s better to use the kind that doesn’t, otherwise your wide belt will roll up into a little string
3) In traditional kimonos, the left side goes over the right, so by European standards, like in a man’s shirt. They put the right over the left only when dressing a deceased for burial. So, in my first kimono, the overlap is worn as if I’m dead. I found out about this accidentally (thanks to the user breath_only_me), and it upset me. One would think that, being interested in Japanese clothing, I would pay attention to such a detail. That’s what happens when you deal with traditions of another country. Traditional clothing doesn’t have meaningless details – everything has a certain meaning. Even though my kimono isn’t real, I still imagine Japanese people seeing my photos on the internet and making fun of a silly foreigner. Of course, this is silly, but I did get a little upset. So, you could follow this rule or not, it’s up to you, I’ve done my part in telling you.
So, if you’ve already picked out your t-shirts, you’ll also need a measuring tape, scissors, a ruler, a marking tool, pins, and thread.
1) Wearing the shirt you want for the top, mark a line under your chest where you want the seam. Take it off and cut along the line. The bottom can be kept as scraps. Cut off the sleeves.
2) Using a ruler, mark the center front (point A) and two points (B and C) on either side of the neckline. Connect point A to both B and C, and cut along these lines; you should end up with a V cut neck. [Translator’s note: Russian people are big into geometry]
3) Lay the front flat and, using the measuring tape, measure the length of the neck. This will be the length of your collar (x). The width of the collar can be determined to taste (y).
4) For the collar, you’ll need a long strip of fabric, so you might have to make this part out of several scraps. Good things to use are sleeves or pant legs from items made of knit. The collar resembles trapezoid, if you look at the first diagram. The edge the collar that is sewn onto the shirt is longer than the parts left to the outside. You can make a strip that’s longer than your collar length, pin, and just cut off the extra. Or, you could try and cut a trapezoid right away.
Cut a strip of length x+(10 to 15 cm), and width 2y. Fold the strip in two widthwise right-side-out and iron. Pin or baste raw edges of collar and neck together and sew. Iron out the seam.
5) Try the top on in front of a mirror, overlap the sides, and pin. Try to take the top off over your head – if it’s hard, adjust the overlap.
6) If you’re satisfied with the top part, set it down, leaving pinned, and measure the width of the bottom edge. This will be the width of the bottom part of the kimono, length can be variable.
7) The bottom part of the kimono is just two rectangles sewn together. The width of each is the width you just measured in step 6 plus seam allowances, the length is at your will. If you want a belt, cut two long strips of fabric (not necessarily knit), and pin the ends into the side seams. Make sure to orient the belt so that, once you make the seams, the belt fabric will show right side up. Sew the two side seams.
8) You can make the top part even without a belt, because a contrasting bottom by itself will imitate the traditional obi. You can just take the bottom of any properly-sized shirt and sew it onto the top. If you do this, use any shirt and make a horizontal cut under the underarms.
Take the resulting tube, put it over the top part of the kimono with right sides and raw edges together, matching side seams, pin and baste.
If the top is a little wider than the bottom, you can gather it to fit. It will look like a wide kimono tightened at the waist by a belt.
9) As I’ve said, the sleeves are just rectangles whose length and width you can make whatever you want. If the shirts from which you’re making sleeves are too small, you can lengthen them when you add the binding. If the width of the sleeves is greater than of the arm openings on the shirt, don’t worry – that’s how it is in actual kimono. You can also make cone-shaped sleeves, widening from the shoulder to the wrist.
10) After you’ve cut and made the sleeve, pin it to the arm opening with right sides together, and matching the lengthwise sleeve seam to the shoulder seam. Pin and baste the sleeve, being careful that nothing gathers. Try it on, and sew together.
11) After you’ve sewn in the sleeve, you’ll have an open sleeve edge under the armpit. Sew it together and turn the sleeve right side out.
12) You can add binding to the edge of the sleeve. Just cut another strip of fabric of length equal to the circumference of the sleeve (+ seam allowances), and of width twice of what you want the width of finished binding to be. Sew the binding into a ring, iron, pin to the edge of the sleeve with raw edges together, matching seams, and sew. Iron out the seam. Alternately, you could just hem the edge or leave it raw.
Now you’re done! You can put on your kimono and tie the belt. I have three strips sewn into my side seams, and I wrap one around my waist, cross the other two over the front, and tie in the back. But you can also tie it in the front, or not at all and pin it instead. Or not have one at all.
On this site you can see various traditional ways of tying the belt (it’s all in Japanese, but at least there are pictures)http://yukatalism.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=11
In making this kimono, I was inspired by clothes by the brand Takuya Angel, as well as this collection of Russian designers, http://www.osinka.ru/Moda/Defile/2008.01.31_JKB/all-1.html and especially this colorful kimono http://www.osinka.ru/Moda/Defile/2008.01.31_JKB/018.html. I found another one on the Internet, from Kenzo that also resembles a kimono from knit http://www.luisaviaroma.com/ecnew/Collections/SchedaProd.aspx?Outlet=False&CodStagione=47I&CodCollezione=D12&CodArticolo=7
I hope these are useful.
Thanks a lot to my friend Rita for all the fitting and modeling, to johnny_eck for the translation and to you for all the positive responses on my last post and for reading through to the end of this! Bye!