Making one's own Kimono [Men's], etc

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[In the below post, I am referencing Men’s kimono, although I am also interested to hear the experiences of Women who have made their own kimono]

I have recently bought my first kimono, hakama, haori, etc while in Japan (the most affordable and washable polyester versions, of course).  However, while this is well and good, I will be wearing the kimono every week for nigh on the whole day for about 2/3 of the year.  I think the kimono should be fine for now, especially since they are are polyester, but I think that such constant use and, consequently, washing will lead to significant wear on the kimono.

Instead of buying fresh kimono and paying an arm and a leg for shipping on top of the cost of kimono itself, I wonder if anyone has tried their hand at making their own kimono.  I imagine that this would be good only for casual or keiko kimono, leaving the more formal ones to the professionals.  In addition to the obvious cost savings, this would be easier for me than finding a kimono as well- I am 194cm with a yuki (裄) of around 78, 79 cm- other than the cheapest factory-made awase kimono on Rakuten, it is difficult to find an affordable kimono.  It would be nice to choose a breathable fabric, or make hitoe/natsu kimono as well.

If you’ve tried your hand at making kimono, how did it work for you? Was it exceedingly difficult, and was the result usable?

If it worked for you, how would you suggest learning how to put the kimono together (ie the shapes to cut, measurements, stiching styles, etc).  I have two cheap awase kimono to look at as reference (but I cannot take them apart, as I need to use them).

Thank you all for your help!

宜しくお願い致します、

Jaden

  • Marius Frøisland
    I used to have a book in English that explained how to make a kimono. Never did try it out though. I’ll see if I can find that book again.
  • jadfre
    Thank you all for the helpful advice! I’ll look into the books and patterns mentioned here. I likely won’t be able to stitch one for some time, but I think keeping this thread open to gather everyone’s favourite books/resources for kimono making would be useful for others as well
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Hi Jaden,

I’m most of the way through sewing my own hitoe kimono. I’m not quite your size but it doesn’t matter, kimono doesn’t have a pattern, the dimensions are calculated to measure and cut. There are no angled or curved cuts or really anything other than rectangles.

There is a good book, How to make your own Japanese Clothes by John Marshall. He includes a good number of men’s garments with fairly detailed instructions.

The book theoretically should have everything, but it helps to own an actually hand tailored garment to see how everything was finished by hand. With awase kimono, you cannot see any of the seams which complicates things. Hitoe kimono are cheaper and easier to make, and can be mostly machine sewn except for a few blind-stitches here and there. If you know how to use a sewing machine and are willing to learn a few needle techniques (there are nice DVDs available in Japanese and rather mind-bending figures in the book mentioned above), you’re quite set.

The main challenge I found is actually choosing and cutting the fabric. With western fabric you frequently have the entire back be one piece with a fake seam put in. Cutting a piece that size without a clean floor to work on and some way to get the fabric to lay flat and take straight lines is pretty hilariously difficult. I bought an 8 yard bolt of linen which I have on hold until I finish a muslin (I’ll dye that one and use it for practice if it works out). I had to wash and iron the linen before cutting, and ironing 8 yards of wide linen took me two hours. Cutting took even more time.

I’d say it’s not a difficult or impossible prospect, it’s just time consuming. I also wasted a ton of time measuring seam allowances off my existing kimono. The next one I make I will already have measurements for the important parts and will probably just use whatever seam allowances are convenient (big ones make nicer seams, except for say the sleeve opening which is finished with a tiny roll for example).

If you decide to go ahead and you don’t have a nice hitoe for reference (you could even buy a crappy recycled one that’s completely the wrong size just to look at the stitching and finishing), I can take a picture of any bits that are giving you trouble.

If you use the book above, be careful with the physical measurements. I don’t particularly know what counts as say, the top of the solar plexus. When doing the calculations, look at a reference picture of a Japanese man wearing a kimono, and try to guess where to measure from or at least verify. An example is the front overlap pieces. They need to go pretty high actually. When you’re working, watch out for other random measurement details, like the fact that the collar, which goes on right at the end, needs to end right at the midpoint of the garment length for men. That tells you how long the collar needs to be, and also sets the diagonal angle (no pattern, again). It also ensures the end of the collar is adequately tucked under your kaku obi. These things are different for women so don’t accidentally cut a collar short.

Sorry for rambling, I hope the answer is a bit helpful.

 

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There’s a kimono sewing pattern as part of the Folkwear line that’s available for purchase online at sites like Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy as well as Folkwear’s web site. It does say it’s sized for men and women up to 6 feet (183 cm) tall, so you’d probably have to add some length for it to fit you, but I think that should be straightforward enough. I haven’t personally sewn a kimono, but I have sewn a haori from another pattern in that series, and it turned out fairly well.

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