Sunday, 18 September 2016

Looks Like I Made it, Self-drafted Zohra Kimono

I was lured into River Island on a trek through town by something subtly unusual. Straight through the door hung a cropped, tie-waist, narrow sleeved, fasten-up kimono that seemed to solve all the problems I find with a standard T shaped kimono. The tucked in waist makes for a flattering shape. I automatically knew narrow but long sleeves would suit me much more than the usual billowy affair that always seems to look fab on others but never quite right on me. The shaped neckline added a hint of elegance, as did the splits in the sleeves. I stopped in my tracks then went to investigate.

I took a load of photos, excited by my own understanding of the construction. A french seam down the centre back, interfaced neck and front band, the body gathered into the waistband. The more I looked the more I recognised this item as something I could totally make. At this point the security guard is looking at me funny and asking if I need any help. I just smiled like a child besotted and said no, I was just fine.

That night I didn't dream about usual themes of lost love and nuclear war, but instead the cropped kimono was whirring around in my sleepy head, and when I woke up I knew I couldn't be without it.

So I went back and bought it from River Island with the intention of drafting my own pattern from it. I figured if it was special enough to enter into my dreams, it was special enough to fork out for. I picked up a few meters of Calico and it was that night I had another vivid dream about making the kimono. With that I dedicated my Bank Holiday weekend to drafting my first ever pattern.

I don't know if there is a right and wrong way to go about making your own pattern. This was absolutely my first attempt at anything like this. I laid out RI kimono on the kitchen table and drew around the main shape of the body. I squared off the bottom to make allowance for the gathers and added a 1.5cm seam allowance around all sides. Using this front shape I had drawn, I traced the centre front line and drafted a front band that would follow the curves perfectly. I was really happy with my dedication to shaping here, as it wouldn't have been awful to have just made a long straight band to go around the front and back. As the band was shaped I had to cut a front and back as separate pieces and sew them together. I think the seam here really helps add to the structure of the garment, making it look dead professional!

The back of the kimono was the same as the front only obviously without the neckline. I added extra width to the back to make up for the diameter of the front band, plus some for the seam allowance (not usually a fan of centre back seams, but think this looks like a really great design feature on the RI version).
The waistband on my shop version is cut all in one piece so I decided to do the same. I didnt bother to make a paper piece for it, just made note that the measurements were 53cm + 73cm + 53cm for the tie, the band then the other end of the tie. The width of the band is 5cm, so I doubled and added 1.5cm on each side. So the total measurement of the band is 1.79m x 13cm. When it came to cutting out, I halved the width and cut this on the fold.

The hardest part to draft was actually the smallest piece- the back neck band. I found it really hard to get the angles and width right where it joins the front band. It is really really important that they do though! When making my calico toile I found I'd cut the angles wrong and there was ONLY JUST enough fabric to reach the front band at the right angle. I amended the pattern but found when making my proper version it was still a bit tricky. I think in future I should cut both the front and back neck band a little longer so I have more to play with.

I noted down my construction plan as I went along with my toile so I could refer back to it when I made my proper one. I found it is really important to consider what order to do everything in so as to hide all raw edges without getting in a mess! At this point I was getting really into this pattern making thing and decided it would be super cool to make my own little pattern envelope for all my bits. I typed up the instructions and did a few nifty illustrations. Named my patterm after the gorgeous Zohra Atash of Religious To Damn/Azar Swan fame for being so mystical... Loads more drafting to do if I want a pattern for all of my girl crushes.

I'd spotted some lovely silky fabric on the market at Crystal Peaks less than two weeks prior, at only £2.99 p/m there was no doubt. I nipped out to buy some now that I knew what I was doing- finding it came in two colourways, black and pink and black and blue. Hearing my dad's voice in my head- a firm believer of 'oh, just buy them both', I did just that. If patternmaking went well, I could well just make two.

Pattern- check. Toile- check. Fabric- check. Good mood- surprisingly yes! Nothing to stop me.

It was pretty early on that I realised even with my increased self-confidence that weekend (we had a gig and it went well, I'd made my own pattern and my hair was looking good), this fabric was going to be a bit of a mare! It was stretching and slipping around all over the show! Finding the grainline was a pain! I used a shedload of pins and my rotary cutter (can only imagine the disaster if I'd used scissors!), but it was tough going. After cutting out I detached the pattern pieces then re cut any ends that seemed to have gone slightly wonky. Despite things looking a bit dodge at this point, I knew that it was possible to stretch and manipulate the fabric to some degree to get it sitting where I needed it to.

Though that said........ I started out with a french seam in that centre back, but it WOULD NOT sit flat! Typical, the one straight seam in the whole garment and it was being a total arse. Throughout construction I kept thinking it would sort itself out. I'm not sure what planet I was on. It ended up being one of the last things I did- unpicking at the neck and waist then unpicking the french seam! I put it back in as a standard, overlocked seam and even this took a few attempts to get looking flat! I can only assume the fabric had been cut a little off grain and it was not liking being told when to do. I like to get what I want though and I was not going to let this be an exception.

As expected, the join on the shoulders was a bit of a pain, what with my paper pattern being less than accurate, but after much fiddling I seemed to ace it! The front/back neck band were the only bits that I interfaced, and I boy I'm glad I did! For once I am totally in love with what interfacing did for my fabric- giving me structure right where I needed it, and also making the fabric about 1000000x easier to work with. Such I shame I couldn't interface the lot!

I was dreading sewing on the hook and eye tape as I'd never had a go before and hadn't practiced on my toile, and even the RI version was a bit lumpy... It turned out great though! Once I realised to line up the centre front on each side with the centre of the tape it was really easy. I used my zip foot so I could whizz around the edges then also in between the hooks and eyes so it wouldn't pull out of shape when it was done up. So happy! The only thing I should have done is started the tape a little lower down- I have a little gap before the hooks start just above the waistband knot. Agh! So close! I think I'll definitely be using hook and eye tape again now I have got to grips with it. Much less risky than buttonholes and much easier than sewing on individual hooks and eyes!

My other fear throughout sewing up was that the waistband would go dodgy and not match up when I came to sew it on. I was really careful with this. I folded the band and put in LOTS of pins. I stitched outward from the 53cm point in the centre towards the end so that if the presser foot pushed any fabric out of place at least it would push it away from the centre (does that make sense?). Then I made sure I used exactly 1.5cm s/a when stitching the band to the bottom of the kimono so that when I turned out the ends and folded over 1.5cm of the remaining edge- it all matched up perfectly. Phew! Relief! Last job was hemming the sleeves which was a breeze after all that! Nice one.

Having started from scratch with just a shop bought item for reference, I really do think this is my proudest make to date. I've learnt so much, before I'd even picked out my fabric! I've tried new things and proved to myself I can do it! So cheesey but so true. I'm so proud that I could make dream kimono a reality...

Now, to release her into the wild and see what damage we can do................
Let's break some hearts Zohra.


Currently listening to: Interpol, Pioneer To The Falls
Location: Mam Tor, Castleton


  1. well done, its really lovely and you did a fine job. I know when I work on flimsey fabrics I will spray starch them loads before the cut and I will weight it down well and then do a load of chalk parallel lines for grain - it doesn't take too long and pays dividends! the stiffened fabric is strange to work with as you have to wait till the end to rinse it off, but its a lot easier than curving seams! congratulations on the drafting

    1. Thank you so much! I'm going to keep an eye out for spray starch! Sounds like it's just what I need! I have another couple of meters of this fabric left so will have a go xox

  2. Looks pretty cute! You're damn good at this clothes thing. 🙃🙂🙃🙂

    1. Thank you so much!! This one was a big deal for me! Gave me a boost when I felt like giving up on everything. Love my Zohra! Sometimes I sit in my room and talk to her... But errrr, pretend I didn't admit to that....! xox