I didn’t mention it in my About Me page, but I am a HUGE fan of pretty much all things Asian. Like, really huge. It started in grade 5, when I had a teacher who had been to China, teaching English, and told us all about it. I started doing my own research, and have admired their drawing and painting styles, their unique clothing and architecture, their beautiful gardens, their “zen” approach to life, and well, pretty much everything ever since. That admiration and appreciation has only grown over the years, and I have expanded my love of all things Chinese to include Japanese, and then virtually ANYTHING Oriental. I even wanted to have an Asian-themed wedding. My parents (who were paying) didn’t allow it, thinking that it would be weird for a family of white people to do such a thing (but not in a racist way). I eventually got what I wanted in the form of my 10th Anniversary Party, but that’s a story for another post.
Today I just want to share one of the ways that I have found to enjoy a modern version of the Japanese classic: the Kimono. This one isn’t a tutorial per se. It’s more like a plug for what may just be my favourite sewing pattern of all time: the Kimono Wrap Top by Habitual. The creator of this pattern will not allow me to post it here on my blog, but she WILL happily share it with you. Just go to her blog here and follow the instructions. The kimono is sized for children ages 6 months to 8 years, can suit boys AND girls (depending on the fabric you choose), and is VERY easy to sew. Her instructions are detailed and clear, and what’s more, the pattern is free!
I have now made three of these tops for my girls, and I’m seriously thinking about drafting a pattern big enough for me. That is my adorable four year old in the picture above, though she was three when I made her that top and took these pictures. For the sake of her privacy, I’ll just call her A on this blog. While you can use a modern graphic print for the kimono shirt, my personal favourite is to use cottons in Asian prints that are based on actual historical kimonos! My local fabric store carries nothing of the sort, so I turned to the Internet. EBay has a number of good offerings and an ever-changing selection, but my personal favourite is Etsy. The sellers on Etsy are very nice people, for the most part, and I have found them to be more trustworthy than most EBay sellers. If I had to pick just one favourite Etsy shop for Asian fabric, it would be KimonoMomo. KawaiiMeow has some cute prints, Asian Fabrics has lovely traditional fabrics, and so does Atelier Lia San.
Kona Bay is my favourite Asian fabric-maker (and KimonoMomo carries a whole bunch of their fabrics). Only a couple of other manufacturers even come close to producing such gorgeous fabrics, and they don’t offer such a broad selection.
Isn’t she adorable? Just look at how happy little A is with her new top. And it goes so well with the skinny jeans that are in style these days! I did make a couple of minor modifications to the Habitual pattern. In addition to using bias tape on the neckline and for the ties, I also edged the sleeves and hem. I just liked the way it looked. I would love to try making one of these reversible, with a different fabric on the inside. This would also serve the function of making the top a bit more sturdy, since the Asian cottons tend to be fairly light-weight. On the other hand, it makes a perfect breezy top for a hot summer day!
Tips: The Habitual pattern is not super-specific about exactly where to put the ties. Make sure you attach them right up under the armpits, no matter what size of garment you are making. Having them too low can result in gapping at the neck when the top is worn. You may also want to make the neck opening just a bit smaller if you have narrow and/or sloping shoulders. This can be accomplished by lengthening side F on the pattern by an inch or so near the neck.
I did purchase extra fabric so that I could place the pattern exactly where I wanted to. The designs can be quite large on the Kona Bay fabrics, repeating only every half a metre or so. I also made my own bias tape from some coordinating tone-on-tone patterned fabric for this kimono top. On the other two that I made for my daughters this year, I just used solid-coloured extra wide double-fold bias tape from the store. Making your own bias tape may add to the cost of this project, but I think it’s totally worth it because it’s so unique! My daughters seriously get compliments on their kimono shirts every single time they wear them in public.
So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Habitual, get the pattern, and get sewing!