Sewing A Silk Kimono Cardigan

Kimono CardiganI recently bought nine metres of silk for £25 in a sample sale. It’s liberating owning silk that costs only £2.70 a metre – you get adventurous. Enter the Kimono Cardigan, after I saw two versions on a friend’s blog.

I’ve felt ambivalent about this summer’s trend for kimono tops. I truly love the aesthetic, as it sits with my lifetime obsession with The Great Gatbsy and all things flapper. But I never have enjoyed the athletic figure to make me a true flapper girl and kimono tops are not as flattering as we would wish their drapes to be. Drapes which hang from the widest part of a figure. For anyone with a sizeable chest, this means that your waist line is not only hidden from view, it’s exaggerated.

Making this top – beautiful though I believe it to be – did nothing to change my opinion. I’ve photographed it as day wear, but I intend to use it as house wear, with jim jams and loose tops. But what very beautiful house wear. Who could possibly complain?

Kimono Cardigan iiFor the first time in a long time, I used French seams on every detail. I honestly don’t think I’ve sewn a French seam since I bought my overlocker. Overlockers are great for speed, but I did feel sad to realise it had been sooooo long since I’d indulged in this touch of quality that speaks only of care and time taken.

Kimono Cardigan iiiThere are loads of free kimono top tutorials on the web, but I was taken by this one because extra care was taken over hem bands and a graded front seam that gives a waterfall effect. If you use the same tutorial, please be aware that seam allowances are added further into the video – don’t take first measurements as sacrosanct.

It’s easy to think, Kimono? It’s just a bunch of rectangles. Well, yes. But this does mean that you’ll want to take so very much care. As you can see from the above, every seam will easily fall out on show.

Silk fabricIsn’t this silk fabulous? What is that print? Amoeba?! It was a devil to get a needle through. Even my teeniest, finest Japanese hand sewing needle did not want to penetrate that warp and weft. A sign of quality? Can someone let me know? I have about eight more metres to use up.

For a fascinating history of the kimono, visit the V&A here. And here‘s one of the best sewing blog posts I’ve ever read, about making a wedding dress out of vintage kimono silk.

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36 Responses to Sewing A Silk Kimono Cardigan

  1. sewchet says:

    Perfect for a touch of luxury around the house – I, too find loose things unflattering. Gorgeous fabric though; can’t wait to see what you do with the rest?

  2. I bought some material for a kimono this summer but never got round to it, maybe ill do it for next year. love your material looks good on.

  3. scruffybadger says:

    Fabulous!!! I am chuckling to myself that you followed the same tutorial!! Well done. You describe it as house wear, but clearly it’s glam house wear. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you draw on it next summer as a glam cover up for the cooler evenings, or on holiday perhaps, because it’s just so lovely. Silk. Drape. Flowy arty creative wear. A worthy use of your wonderful silk. I think you look lovely

  4. There’s no doubt, it’s an absolutely beautiful make – so elegant. Please can you tell us more about such amazing sample sales? As for the issue of drape & us well-endowed ladies: it’s such a tricky one. I often feel it’s so unfair that an attribute that many women would wish for makes is feel so much bigger all over than we actually are. Not fair!

  5. Lovely fabric and great, quirky detail close up. I’m with you on the fit of these tops as well, though I have seen some great ones around, including yours. Very glam lounge wear, might make a great beach cover up too?

  6. beautiful, you are SOOOOO talented. i’ve made perhaps a dozen kimonos: chrysanthemum printed cotton for my kids, chiffon and satin for my daughter when she became an adult; printed silk with matching shorts for my spouse; silk for my daughter again; silk and sating for my son… all using Folkware 113 or Folkware 136. the silk kimonos i made in a tube. i rolled the whole thing up, sewed the facing and then pulled it right-side out again

  7. I love your kimono and the fabric does look lke ameobas but in a very good way. What a bargain! Lovely. Xx

  8. NancyD says:

    I know what you mean about boxy shapes – as a brick I usually try to have some shape to my garments to make up for my lack. But in this drapey silk this style looks great on you! I say take it outside to be admired!

  9. I love you kimono jacket! I just made my first one and I can’t wait to make another it hasn’t been off my back since! I love that you can dress them up or down! It was my first time using French seams , so I was glad I made the right choice!

  10. kikucorner says:

    That is a beautiful kimono! I am obsessed with them too, but having the same bust issue as you, I have them exclusively for inside the home. I love how you’ve cropped this one!

  11. liza jane says:

    Awesome! I just made a linen kimono that I have worn non-stop already. Very glamorous in silk!

  12. Kathy Lynch says:

    Well done Karen, it’s gorgeous…as are you, despite your reservations! As for the rest of that luscious silk: how about a pair of palazzo pants?! I know Autumn is setting in over there but Summer is approaching here in Brisbane….you could send them here! 🙂
    By the way, what size needle did you eventually use? Cheers, Kathy.

  13. Jacqueline says:

    The kimono looks wonderful on you! The shorter length is very flattering – I hope it will spend plenty of time outdoors… Thank you, also, for the great links you so often provide in your posts: I enjoyed reading about the kimono fabric wedding dress project this morning: it’s so inspiring!

  14. bimbleandpimble says:

    Oh wow! This is seriously radness! I hear your kimono top concerns- I seriously love them but am scared it may just look like a sad muumuu on. This length is great- a little cropped and with the contrast tee underneath you can still see your teeny waist. Clever thinking 99!

  15. Wow. Love the fabric. I am one of the busty hippy type of women and don’t dare make baggy designs. I stick to tshirt fabric for tops, cotton sateen for pants. That’s it as living in Florida makes it difficult to look cool as sweat drips down your back. Ughhh. You have inspired me to try venturing out and try. Will try a silk tank to begin with.

  16. What a fabulous fabric find! Love the color and print!
    I have passed on the kimono trend for the same reasons you described. Fab housewear nevertheless. I imagine those dramatic sleeves make you instantly feel glamorous!

  17. thewallinna says:

    I always associated kimono-looking garnets with rick housewives. So I am still not quire sure whether I’d like to get one myself. This print makes me think more about dogs paws than amoeba 🙂

  18. anothersewingscientist says:

    I think it’s the shorter length that makes it look modern and flattering. Oh, and pst! Those are paramecia 🙂

  19. Amanda says:

    It looks beautiful! I love the idea of lovely house wear too…..can’t you tell Downton is back on!

  20. Amoeba printed silk… That’s amazing! It looks really good on you too by the way!

  21. I just remembered that I happen to own two beautiful vintage WW2 Japanese kimonos. One is purple with red birds and the other is black with gorgeous green and red embroidery. I’m going to pull them out, photograph them and them post on my oneseamatatime.wordpress and Corina Should be posted by this Friday. Would love for you all (yes, I’m a Texas gal) to see them.

  22. What a bargain find and it is beautiful too. Very glam house wear. I love it.

  23. Raquel Moncada says:

    Oh what a fabulous fabric! And the kimono is gorgeous, very glamorous! Something is going on with my computer, I cannot access the links. Would you tell me the name of the video or website? Thanks!

  24. Emma Jayne says:

    Best of both – see the first Sean of a French seam in an overlocker and it trims it for you at the same time!

  25. jocolumbine says:

    Love the kimono and agree that it doesn’t make you look wand-like – however don’t agree that this is a bad thing! Wish we could all agree that ‘looking slim’ isn’t the be all & end all. The silk is wonderful – bias cut evening dress – a touch of the Vionnet?

  26. redsilvia says:

    You look lovely in that cropped length of kimono. It works really well so don’t write if off completely as outside wear.

  27. What a bargain. i am making a silky top from Gerties Vintage book – the portrait blouse. That fabric would be brilliant for that, if you are planning another make. Jo x

  28. LOVE the print! What else do you have in mind?

  29. creatinginthegap says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing the tute link, I have been looking for a nice Kimono pattern.

  30. Sheree says:

    Thanks for the link – have lots of projects I am trying to complete, but feel very tempted to make one. I am probably of the sort of shape that you and others have questioned the suitability, but having bought a RTW one in the summer, I have no qualms myself. I certainly don’t think you should have. Would you be happier if you made one in a printed chiffon perhaps. I know they have been everywhere this summer, but I do hope they are still fashionable next year as they are lovely to wear.

  31. sewmanju says:

    Have you tried sewing with a microtex needle Karen? I have used very fine betweens needles for hand sewing silk.

  32. Liz says:

    I made a kimono-style dressing gown and added a belt, which helps with the shaping.

    I love French seams! Since I tried them out on my second skirt, I have sewn them in almost everything.

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