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Constructing Japanese Clothing

Layout for Kosode on 5 yds of 45" wide fabric:

Layout for Hitoe on 5 yds of 45" wide fabric:

Constructing Kimono (Garments that hang from the shoulder and have a cross-wrapped collar):

  1. Mark the the shoulder fold on the edges of each body and sleeve piece with chalk or pins (fold piece in half to find midpoint).

  • Sew the two body pieces together lengthwise, stopping about 2 inches before the shoulder fold.

  • Attach the sleeves to the body, matching the marks for the shoulder fold. Remember to stop the seams if the bottoms of the sleeves should be unattached for the garment you're making. (NOTE: if the sleeves have selvedge edges, place them towards the wrist so you don't have to finish them later)

    • Attach one overlap piece to the front of one body piece. Do the same on the other side. (NOTE: if the overlaps have selvedges, place them away from the body so you don't have to finish those edges later)
    • Pictures from here on with only depict half the body, with the other half greyed. Do everything on both sides so the garment stays symmetrical.


    • Figure out where you want the collar to wrap to on your body. This will usually be about at where your hip bone sticks out. Measure from your shoulder to your hip bone (on the same side of your body). Measure the same amount down from the top of the overlap piece and mark the endpoint "A".


    • Lay your fabric on a flat surface, right side up. From the point where the back seam stops, draw a 2" line out from the back seam towards the sleeve. Now draw a line from that point straight down 4". Connect that point to "A" with a straight line.
    • Cut out the striped area, leaving 1/2 inch seam allowance and slightly curving the corners. (NOTE: Do not lift the fabric up after you cut this out - leave it on the same surface until after you have pinned the collar on or the diagonal part of the collar will stretch)
    • Figure out how wide you want your collar to be (usually 2-5" wide with wider collars on outer layers). Multiply that by 3 and add 1/2 inch for seam allowance (i.e. for a 3" wide collar (3"*3)=9 + .5"=9.5"). Cut your collar piece down to that width.


    • On an ironing board, fold one long edge of the collar up one collar-width (3" in the above example) and press.


    • Fold the collar up one collar-width again in the same direction. There should be a 1/2 inch edge sticking out for seam allowance.


    • Find the midpoint of the collar and mark it on the seam allowance. Place the collar on the kimono without turning it over. Match the center of the collar to the back center seam of the kimono. The seam allowance of the collar should meet the seam allowance of the neckline.


    • Pin the collar to the back of the neckline, down the side and down the diagonal line to "A". Let the excess collar hang free. The corners are tricky - allow the seam allowance of the collar to bunch up so you can make it around the corner. Do the same on the other side. (NOTE: If the overlaps did not have selvedges, fold the edge over twice before pinning the collar) (Once the collar is pinned on, it is now safe to pick up your kimono.)


    • Sew the collar to the body, being careful not to accidentally catch the folded part of the collar. Smooth the fabric as you sew the corners so it doesn't bunch under the sewing. It can bunch as much as it wants on the fabric just on either side of the seam, just not in the seam itself. After sewing the collar, clip the seam allowances at the corners to release the bunching and stretching.


    • To finish the ends of the collar, leave the first fold of the collar in place but fold the collar inside out along the line of the second fold. Fold the seam allowance towards the collar. Sew a seam directly across them (NOT angled) starting from point "A" where they meet the overlap.


    • Cut off the excess and clip off the corner. Turn right side out.


    • Once you turn the ends right side out, you'll notice that the folded part of the collar will naturally flip to the inside. Tuck the seam allowances in and hand-sew the fold of the collar along the seam with a blind stitch.


    • Fold the whole kimono at the shoulder and sew the body pieces together along the side seams, then the sleeves together at the bottom. This will be two separate seams if the bottoms of the sleeves are unattached (as for hitoe). Also, if the sleeve bottoms are unattached, stop the side seams approximately where the sleeves would start if they were attached. 


    • For any raw edges (openings of sleeves or body, bottom hem) turn twice and hand-sew using a blind stitch. If you did not french seam, finish inside raw selvedges with a machine zig-zag,  serger, or whip stitch.


      Congratulations, you're done.... try it on!!


    All content copyright the author, Jennifer Munson munson.jennifer@gmail.com The author makes no guarantees for instructions and recipes on this site; neither does she accept responsibility for their outcomes. Verbatim copies may be made for educational purposes only provided they contain original copyright marking.

    This page created August 4, 2002

    Last updated August 02, 2005