I decided to just go for it. Sleeves, silk charmeuse fabric, elastic thread…BRING IT ON!
This is my first attempt at the Kimono dress with obi sash from Weekend Sewing .
Weekend Sewing Kimono
The fabric I chose is a gorgeous cream silk chartreuse fabric with ladybugs and flowers.
Kimono ladybug fabric
The fabric was given to me by my good friend Mary, who, in her more ambitious sewing mind, had hoped to use the fabric to make an oriental top and skirt for me. When she realized that it was just a sewing fantasy, she gave the fabric and pattern to me. I had never worked with silk fabric before, and the pattern was a little ambitious for me. When I saw the kimono dress, I thought this fabric would be perfect. It was very painful to make that first cut, knowing there would be no turning back, and that all was lost if I did a miserable job, or if it looked miserable on me. But, I made myself dive in, and started cutting.
Now, I had done a little research first. Prior experience with projects in this book has told me that not only are some of the directions wrong, but sometimes there are inaccuracies in the pattern, and that there were issues with how the final product turned out. So, I decided to read a few blogs by people who had done this project, and TRY and learn from their mistakes and tips. But, it also had to be tempered with my inexperience at adjusting patterns or garments, and my impatience to actually get projects finished IMMEDIATELY. My sewing class doesn’t start up again until the week of October 4th, and while this was a perfect project to have the guidance of my sewing teacher, once I’m ready to sew something, that’s it. I can’t wait.
Here’s what I learned from other blogs and other people’s notes on this pattern. Elastic thread can get old, and if it gets old, it doesn’t work as well. On this dress, the bodice tended to be very big and roomy. I also read that if you want the sash to be as long as the one in the picture, you would need to make the sash much longer.
I decided to start with the sash, since I was using 2 different cotton materials for the sash. The main fabric had a white background, with many red labybugs throughout. The facing of the sash was a red fabric with black polka dots. The directions called for double sided interfacing, which I had already bought in preparation for this project. I had never worked with it before. NOTE TO SELF – don’t just rely on pattern directions, read interfacing directions as well. I thought I knew how interfacing worked, so I didn’t read the directions. Well, for double sided interfacing, you adhere one side to the fabric, THEN PEEL OFF THE PAPER, which leaves an exposed interfacing to adhere to the other fabric. Needless to say, my first sash has the paper still inside of it. On the plus side, it’s made it a fairly stiff sash. I had read that the sash should be longer, and I added a couple inches at each end. I don’t have a tiny waist, and it fit fine, but was nowhere near long enough to drape like the one in the picture.
Obi sash first attempt
So, on to sash #2. I decided to use the white background ladybug fabric, but to have that as the facing, and on the main side use the same fabric as the dress. I added a few inches to each side of the sash, and the resulting length was very nice and drapey. This time I did remove the paper from the interfacing, but because I was using 2 different fabric textures for the sash (cotton and silk), I was not able to get a perfectly smooth sash, and there are now some permanent wrinkles/creases in the sash. However, once the sash is tied, none of this is noticeable, unless I proceed to take off the sash and show someone each time I wear it (which, knowing me, I’ll do at least once).
Onto the dress. The kimono itself is only 4 pattern pieces. I paid attention to some tidbits that said when working with delicate and slippery fabrics, it is sometimes easier to use a rotary cutter to get the clean lines. Done, and while not even, pretty decent. As to the statements from other sewers that the bodice was too big/roomy, I didn’t know how to fix that on the pattern, so I figured I would just sew it all, and make adjustments after. You can make something smaller, but rarely bigger, so I figured I was safe in making it as directed. I traced the original pattern onto pattern paper, and used that to cut out my pieces. All went well with the cutting.
It was a little tricky lining up the pattern pieces for sewing, as the fabric was very slippery, but it seemed to line up pretty well. The sewing went much easier then expected, and without any hitches. Heming the sleeves was trickier. Doing the 1/8” hem twice, was quite an effort in folding, ironing (and steaming), and folding again. I think I have a few steam burns, but not too bad. You also have to be careful when folding that you don’t fold on a slant, as then you will have some lining up issues. My edge stitching was not too clean, but on a 1/8” hem, as long as you’re within the fold, it’s barely noticeable.
With the bodice sewn, I was able to try it on. Without having the skirt attached, it is hard to tell exactly how it would fit, and if it would gather. I was at least able to determine that it would fit me. I never seem to be able to tell whether something will fit me until it’s finished. During the process half the time I think a garment will be too small, and then too big, and back and forth until it’s finished, and thankfully usually fits. Sewing the side seams on the skirt was easy, and it seemed to fit comfortably after it was sewn.
Working with elastic thread, and attaching the bodice to the skirt. Not so scary as I was lead to believe. I had hand wound the bobbin, and made sure to use the elastic thread in the bottom bobbin only. I pinned the bodice to the skirt. Here’s the tricky part. Had I been more knowledgeable and more patient, I might have tried securely pinning it, flipped it to the correct side, and seeing how the bodice would drape once attached to the skirt. I think this is probably the stage where you can correct any problems with how the bodice drapes. I didn’t do that, and forged ahead. The sewing went very easy, and I checked my sewing as I went along to make sure that the fabric was gathering. It was. The sewing actually went rather quickly, and I was almost surprised when I was done, how decent the dress was turning out. I tried it on, and saw the gathering problem that most people have had with this dress. I’m fairly ample up top, and in all fairness, most wrap dresses I have I end up having to pin them at the bust, so that’s pretty standard for me. The dress fit me pretty well there, but at the waist is wear one of the flaps had a big gaping gather. It is very difficult to try and alter or adjust something while you have it on, but I didn’t have the patience to wait for class to get help. Since the bodice was already sewn to the skirt, trying to take that out, and adjust, seemed to difficult for me (I worried I would rip the fabric). Instead, I was able to do a small fold in the overlapping bodice (like a dark), and sew right on the hem to keep the fold in place. I also added a few stitches where the bodice meets in the front, to eliminate the need for a pin. Both adjustments turned out very well, and did not hinder the drape of the dress. The waist seems a bit high, which affects the placement of the sash (any higher, and I would have belted my chest).
The hem. I find it odd that a book about sewing, written by someone who sews, and which includes patterns for dresses that are recommended to be made out of fabrics like silk, mentions that for these kinds of hems, she takes the dress to a seamstress to do the hem correctly. I mean, if even the author doesn’t do the hems, how is the average sewer expected to do a decent job. If I’m going to pay someone else to sew, then they can sew the whole thing, or I can just make something that is less difficult. She also recommends trying the dress on with heels, to help determine the correct length. I think that tip can be helpful, but I chose to just wing it. I noticed that the length was pretty decent on the dress, and it seemed to already hit me just below the knee, and a little above my calf. So, instead of trying to pin it while I was wearing it (the fabric was just so slippery to work with), I just decided to give it the minimum hem. I figured I could always shorten it later. The folding and ironing was a little easier, since I was working with a wider edge. I quickly sewed it up, and tried it on. I got lucky. The hem looked pretty even (on a drapey fabric, I think uneven hems aren’t as noticeable), and it hit my leg in just the right spot. Phew.
Kimono and obi sash
Wearability. I wore the dress for Yom Kippur Break Fast (which I hosted at my house). It helps to fast before wearing any kind of clingy fabric. After an evening of sitting down, getting up, serving, and general hostess duties, I was able to get through the evening without any seams coming undone, without flashing anyone, and surprisingly, without getting too wrinkled.
Tips for people who want to make this dress:
If you like a longer sash (like the one in the picture), add at least 4 or more inches to each side of the sash. You can then pin the sash together, and do a practice tie, and cut to the desired drape you want
- If you want to mix fabrics for the sash, be very careful when you iron and fuse the sash
- Try on bodice while pinned to the skirt to sewing the bodice to the skirt, to see if you can make any adjustments to how the bodice gathers
- Don’t be afraid to work with silky fabrics, but maybe it shouldn’t be your first project
- Use new (not old) elastic thread
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