Sewing without a pattern -
a Kimono Coat
The kimono, worn traditionally by men and women alike, is a loose, wrap-around robe distinguished by its wide, straight sleeves cut in one piece with the bodice, and by its sash. The word is Japanese, from ki, to wear, plus mono, meaning person or thing; the literal translation is "thing for wearing."
The kimono did not originate in Japan, however, but in China. Visual documentation dates back to the third century B.C., but it is probably much older. Known to the Chinese as a p'ao,it was worn by them until the end of the Ming dynasty (1644). The Japanese adopted it in the eighth century. Westerners have modeled countless bathrobes, lounging robes, and beach jackets after the comfortable kimono style.
Traditional kimonos were made of exquisitely woven and patterned silks, a textile art which the Chinese discovered and began to develop more than 4,000 years ago. The most beautifully decorated and colored Japanese silk kimonos date from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The kimono's style lends itself not only to silk but to any type of fabric that is supple enough to drape well, and even to some fabrics with more body.
The short kimono coat in the picture is made of machine-washable, drip-dry cotton with a bold, colorful stripe. It has a V-shaped neckline and a front closing with a generous overlap that is faced with the same striped cotton fabric as the coat. The sleeves stop short of the wrist and are also faced so they can be turned back. The striped pattern in itself provides an attractive border and sash. This design is only a starting point for many variations that you can make by changing the neckline, making the kimono longer or shorter, using other fabrics, binding it instead of facing it, or adding trimmings.
Kimono sleeves are cut at right angles in one piece with the body of the coat. To cut both back and front pieces from doubled 45" wide fabric so you have two of each, place the bottom of the back section in the space below the sleeve of the front section so they nest together.
To reduce the amount of stitching in the facings and sash, fold the material lengthwise and draw the front neckline facings (yellow) along the selvage side so the woven edges serve as the inside hem. Place the sash (green) along the fold so only one side need be stitched. Fit sleeve facings (blue) and back neck facing (orange) between.
This kimono was made for a man according to his measurements: width of neckline across the front = 10 inches; length of arms = 25 inches, less 3 inches for adjusted sleeve length; desired coat length finished = 42 inches. Before you start this project, take a look at this illustration to see how to measure accurately.
Body Measurement Guide
Neck- Measure around the top of the collar bone, past the pint where the neck joins the shulder, and around the most prominent vertebra at the back of the neck. The width of the neckline across the front is half of this total.
Sleeve Length: Measure the length of the arm from the neckline atop the shoulder to the place where you want the sleeve to end.
Bust: Measure under the arms around the fullest part of the bust and across the shoulder blades i back, then add 2 inches for ease.
Waist: Measure from the base of the neck to a point just above the bottom curve of the spine; then measure horizontally around the torso. Hold the tape measure loosely so the finished garment will fit comfortably around the waist.
A kimono of this length requires 4 yards of 45-inch-wide material to make the two front and two back sections and an additional 1 1/2 yards to make the facings and the sash. The fabric width is sufficient for small, medium, or large sizes, providing that you lay out the pattern pieces for cutting with a minimum of waste.
Cut off a piece of material 43 inches long for the facings and sash. Fold the remaining 4 yards in half across the width (for cutting two back and two front pieces), and pin the selvages to prevent the fabric from slipping while you are marking and cutting it. Be sure to include 1/4-inch seam allowances.
Starting in the upper left corner, measure for the V-shaped neckline (see illustration D, above) To find the sleeve length, measure along the fold from the neck point and mark off the length desired. Draw a line 16 inches long perpendicular to the shoulder to establish the depth of the kimono sleeve. Mark a second point 16 inches down parallel to it so you can rule off a straight line 12 1/2 inches long for the bottom of the sleeve. Next, starting at the upper left-hand corner, rule off 43 inches down the left selvage for the length, then 19 inches across the bottom for the front width. Connect the points for the side seam. The back is identical to the front of the kimono in all but two respects; the neckline is measured 5 1/2 straight across the base starting in the lower right-hand corner, and the bottom is only 15 inches wide. Cut out two of each piece.
The Facings and Sash
You can avoid sewing extra seams by the way you mark and cut the facings and sash pieces. Fold the remaining material in half, matching the selvage edges. (look at illustration E above) Take the front facings from the selvage side, letting the woven edge serve as the inside finish. Use the shape of the kimono neckline as a pattern for the facings, which are 10 inches wide and 43 inches ling. Pin the strips, right sides together, beneath the front pieces of the kimono, with their raw edges flush against the closing edge, and cut out the neckline ( look below at F). By taking the belt from the folded side, you will have only one long edge seam to sew later.
With right sides together, sew the raw edges of the facings to the front sections of the kimono. Turn the kimono right side out and sew another row of stitches 2 inches from the edge - to frame the front overlap and to keep the facings flat inside. Trim off the excess fabric.
To hem a raw edge by machine, fold in under 1/8 inch; then fold it again to make a hem of whatever depth you want, and stitch it along the inside fold.
Sewing the Kimono
sew the center back seam of the kimono (right sides facing as with all seams). If you are working with stripes, be sure to match them. Sew the front to the back at the shoulder seams, from neck edge to edge of sleeves. Join the front facings and back neck facing at the shoulder eams. Pin the right sides of the kimono and facing together. Sew a row of stitches all around the edge and trim the excess fabric.-- Turn right side out and sew a second row of stitches on the right side, 2 inches away, to frame the closing and to keep the facing lying flat on the inside. Face the sleeves with the 4 inch strips of fabric. Pin the right sides together, sew around the edge, and turn; then fold the raw edge under twice and stitch around the inner edge of the facing.
Match the angle of the underarms; then pin the front and back together completely before sewing the underarms and side seams. Carry the row of stitching from the edge of the sleeve to the underarm, and reinforce it by sewing around the curve over the first row of stitches before continuing all the way down to the hem. Turn up the hem, double roll the raw edge, and machine-stitch it. Join the belt strips with right sides together to obtain a length of 60 inches; then sew the raw edges together along the length, leaving an opening of 1 1/2 inches for turning it right side out. Iron the belt flat and stitch the opening closed by hand.