When summer time rolls around you can’t help but notice all the drapey, flowy kimono-style tops styled with tanks and jeans. Yet they’re pretty hard to find in winter, but not impossible. I was inspired by velvet kimonos at Nordstrom, Anthropologie and Asos. Like these here, here and here. Now every time I see a garment I like I ask myself, could I make that? and in this case, the answer is of course, yes! And you can too!
I found this incredible fabric at Fleishman’s fabrics in Philadelphia. It was the very end of the bolt and there was only 1.5 yards left but I knew it ticked all my boxes in regards to color, texture and print. I posted here about how to find your personal style by using Pinterest boards to create both an inspiration board and a color palette board. My color palette board is a life saver when I am shopping for fabrics. This fabric is a velvet geometric print in emerald green with black mesh which, as you can see from my color palette board on Pinterest, ticks all my boxes.
So let’s get started with the tutorial, shall we?
What you’ll need:
- A shirt or blouse that has a flowy and/or boxy fit (not something tight)
- Your back length measurement—or the distance from the base of your neck to where you want the kimono to end. In my case, I wanted to kimono to stop at my hips so I went with 29” but you could extend this project all the way to the back of your knees if you’d like. It’s all about personal preference.
- Your sleeve length—do you want the garment to stop at your elbow? 3/4 or full length?
- Fabric that has a nice drape to it and is about mid-weight. The amount of fabric you’ll need is completely dependent on how long you want your garment. To put this in perspective: I am 6ft tall, 38D bust and I wanted my kimono to land at my hips and 3/4 length sleeves. 1 1/2 yards of fabric 60” wide was JUST enough (had I had more fabric, I would have made this kimono longer).
- Sewing machine or serger/ overlocker
- Paper (optional)
The beauty of this project is it is ONE piece of fabric!
Step 1: Pick out your fabric. My fabric is a light to mid-weight velvet burnout knit with a very slight stretch. Whatever you choose make sure it has a nice drape to it and has a bit of weight to it. Something very light-weight isn’t going to drape properly.
I checked out some online fabric stores and found a couple interesting options for a fall/ winter kimono. I haven’t seen any of this fabrics in person, so it’s always best to order a swatch first if you’re unsure.
Other fabric ideas: Imagine doing this in a shibori print for a super casual look, or a vivid print for a mod look from girl charlee.Or if you want to make something REALLY special and feel like a million bucks, how about a sequin kimono in sequin stretch fabric from califarbics?
Step 2 (Optional, you could just wing it and put the shirt on the fabric and trace, but if you’re like me, you have no fabric to spare!): Create a kimono template using paper. I used Ikea art paper that I stole/ borrowed from my toddler. Using your boxy/ flowy tee generously outline the shape of your shirt on the paper up the sides and under the arms. The top of the arms and neck should be a continuous straight line (I’ll explain why in a bit). Check your back length measurement to make sure the kimono will hit where you want it to on your back/ hips/ bum.
Step 3: Fold your fabric in half. For my version I folded my project selvage to selvage which gave me 30” in length (neck to hip) and 50” in width (arm to arm). Make sure your fold is nice and smooth. If you wanted your kimono to be longer than this you could purchase a longer cut of fabric and fold your fabric hamburger-style this is OPPOSITE the selvage. To figure how much fabric you’ll need, determine how long you want your kimono and double that measurement to get fabric long enough. But keep in mind it will only be wide enough (arm to arm) as the width of the fabric. So if you’re fabric is 45” or 60” wide, that’s all the width you have to work with if you want to use one continuous piece (which will be enough for most people, I just have crazy-long arms).
Step 4: Lay your paper kimono template on top of your fabric making sure the straight line at the top of the pattern (the arms and the neck) are on the FOLD. This will ensure that you only have to make 2 cuts and 2 seams!
Step 5: Cut out your fabric. For cutting I use a rotary cutter as it makes cutting so easy and fast. You can also use a good pair of scissors without problems.
Step 6: Now you have a shape that looks like this:
Find the middle of your fabric at the top and the bottom. Mark the middle with a straight line and cut just ONE LAYER of fabric stopping at the fold. This is the front of your kimono. The back should be uncut.
Step 7: Right sides together pin along the sides and the underarm in one continuous line. Sew. For this project I used my serger but you could just as easily use your sewing machine. If you’re using a knit fabric you’ll need to use a zig-zag stitch and a needle appropriate for knit.
Step 8: If you’ve used a knit you don’t have to hem as the fabric will not unravel. In fact, as you can see in the picture, many knits have a tendency to roll in on themselves, which creates a nice affect on the neckline of the kimono. I did opt to hem the bottom and the sleeves using a roll-stitch on my serger. This video here is awesome for how to do a roll-hem on the Brother 1034D Serger. If you’re not using a serger you can fold once and put in a zig zag stitch with your sewing machine.
Step 9: Style it! I love the dressy nature of this kimono and how I can throw it on with a pair of jeans and fitted black tee and I’ve really taken the outfit up a notch. You could wear this with a dress, a jumpsuit, jeans, basically any outfit that you want to add a little sparkle to.
So what do you think? Will you be rocking a kimono style top this winter?? I really hope one of you does it in sequins—I would love to see that!
Happy sewing and styling!