continued – sari silk kimono

okay, now that i am finished writing 50,000 words in one month for nanowrimo, i can get back to finishing xmas presents and working on all the things i have let go because it’s difficult to write 50,000 words in a month and do anything else.

so here’s the work i’ve accomplished on this project so far. i’ve been taking progress pictures all along, since september, when the last post was put up, and i’ll post them all and tell you a bit about what’s going to happen next.

as you know (hahaha), i’ve made a few kimono now, with varying degrees of success, and they are worn, or not, by their various recipients. but i still make more, because it’s a cool thing to do, and they get better every time. i’m working off this book – make your own japanese clothes – which is the bible of kimono making.

because i’m using old sari silk, which isn’t fit for clothes by itself because it’s old and ripe and wouldn’t take the strain, i’m doing this kimono differently, making the lining first out of good strong raw silk, and then quilting the silk down onto it. actually i cut out the pieces for a kimono, then cut out the same pieces in silk and stitched the silk down onto the pieces, and then assembled it (and quilted it, which is the next part, to do)


this is what i chose for the front of the kimono. it’s particularly worn and fragile, and the kind of silk that catches to anything sharp. perhaps i should have used a smoother silk, but i really liked this one. you see it laid out to be sewn, the fringe still not cut away.


and here’s the back piece. it doesn’t go all the way to the hem, but the hem is another matter, and i planned to just hem above this line. you can see on the right where i’ve already sewn the back and front down to the lining at the shoulder seam.


here i’m pinning the front lining to the silk. the silk hasn’t yet been cut in the middle, tho the lining has. it starts out as 1 piece of silk for the back and front, and you just cut out the opening and the neck. so i’ve done that, and now i’m piecing the silk to the cut. of course this is difficult, because the silk slips around, so i had to keep smoothing it as i pinned it.


this is the sleeve. i liked the patterns at the border of the silk so much that i decided to keep it, which meant either cutting the length and sewing it shorter, or gathering and sewing the middle.


so that’s what i did.  i worked from the edges, sewing the silk down with straight lines every couple of inches.


then when i got to the middle, i ruched the extra fabric, running peaks and troughs along the edges and into the middle until the top silk fit evenly onto the lining. you can see the pins holding it down before sewing.



i still haven’t sewn the ruching down yet, but i pinned up the sleeves beforehand, just to see how it worked. the top of the picture shows the (wrong side of the) sleeve folded over into the middle of the kimono body, and the bottom of the picture shows the top of the sleeve.

for some reason i don’t remember at this point, i started the silk a half inch inside the lining. oh yeah, i remember now. it was so that i could use as much of the pattern of the silk as possible, knowing the last half inch of fabric would be inside the seam (japanese clothes use an inch of seam allowance, not the 3/8″ used in modern pattern sewing.


this picture actually skips a bunch of steps when i guess i didn’t have the camera handy (i’m also making paper in the studio downstairs, and documenting that (see future post)).

i made the sleeve. this involves not just joining the sleeve to the body, which is a straight line all the way from edge to edge, and not just matching up the ends and sewing around to the sleeve opening, but also a lot of fancy stitching, because you may notice a rounded corner on the outside bottom edge, and that means gathering on the wrong side of the fabric, and ironing down the gathers to reduce the bulk. the bottom edge doesn’t actually attach to the body, either, but turns in on itself and provides a pocketlike area inside the sleeve where you can stash things. it’s either that or find a place to sew a pocket, which i’ve done before, clumsily, on the inside of the chest panel. i’m leaving that until the next post.


there are gussets on the side of the body, so i used the same fabric as the sleeves (and the belt) and cut them out and sewed the silk onto them.


there’s no other reason for this picture except to show you the intricacy of the border of this fabric, which explains why i went to such lengths to keep them in the sleeves.


i liked it so much that i made the belt out of it, too. i must shoot a closeup of the finished belt. i quilted the elephants.


a word about ironing. in my daily life i wouldn’t touch an iron to anything i wear. i just don’t give a damn about being neat and pressed. my ex mother in law would iron the sheets and even the underwear, i just can’t go that far. but when you’re sewing, it’s essential to iron all the seam flat, and to iron every piece of fabric before sewing so that there are no surprises, no bunching, no sewing creases into the fabric, nothing like that. so i have an ironing board and two irons, and this is the only time i get them out. just in case you thought i might be a neat freak or something.


this is the gusset pinned on. unlike modern sewing, i’m not going to be sewing right sides together, but i’m sewing one layer on top of another.


this is the gusset sewn in. it is sewn in a triangular shape. most gussets are cut as triangles, but in this case, the japanese method is to work with rectangular fabric, so they sew the triangle instead. it makes the bottom of the kimono flare a little.


see, all nice and pressed. now it’s time for the hem – before attaching the collar. now i’m going to make up for all those lengths of silk on the body that don’t go all the way to the edge of the lining. the gussets are also short. the book says to make a fold of 3″ and then another of 5″ and then blindstitch. i don’t do it that way. the first fold is about an inch, maybe 1.5″.


the second fold is about an inch above where the gusset ends. and then, i’ll correct myself if i’m wrong, i folded it again to cover all those edges. else that or i sewed them all down. i’ll have to check.


and this is the whole thing, hemmed. you can see pin heads where i stuck the whole thing down to the board so that i could make sure of the hemline. the collar is being pinned at the top of the picture.


this is the collar. first there’s the lining, which doesn’t come as long as the body because of the complex hemming. you’re looking at the bottom edge of the kimono. and yes i can see where i folded the hem over again and sewed it down, because we’re looking at the wrong side of the fabric, and there’s the finished hem.


this is the neckline. the transition from gold to red fabric is the shoulder seam, and the triangle bits are the circular neckline cut into pie slices. the pins run along the sewing edge of the fabric, which is just above the sliced bits (except that i didn’t exactly follow this line, and ended up with a bit of slashed silk outside the collar. but since i’m quilting the whole thing, i figure i’ll just mend it then.


and now here’s jim modeling the kimono front and back. please excuse the mess. that’ll be tumbles and tripod on the bed, and sebastian on the floor. jim’s been sick, but he’s better now.


what’s still left to do is to figure out how to mess with that sleeve. the actual sleeve turned out way too long, so i had to fold and hem the sleeve opening rather more than was called for in the directions. and i don’t like how the sleeve hangs down and catches on things around the house, so i decided to fold it, one of the options they give you in the book.  but of course i can’t do things the way normal people do them, so i’m figuring out how to incorporate pockets. i’m planning on making the bottom of the sleeve the pocket, because it hangs down a couple of inches below the body/sleeve opening. but it might also be possible to make a pocket going diagonally down under the wrist opening. we’ll see. first thing is to turn the sleeves inside out and trim away as much bulk as possible, because i can feel it under my arms when i try it on.

i don’t think i want to have belt loops, but i could, depending on what the intended recipient thinks when she reads this.

and then i have to quilt it all over. i’ll be using red thread as a way of unifying the whole thing. and then i can send it off, probably not in time for xmas, but hey it’s the thought that counts, right?


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