super simple kimono top!

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Two rectangles of silk crepe de chine become a kimono-style top in about an hour.

This has to be the most simple, straightforward top it’s possible to make. I found amongst my stash (whilst looking for something else but I can’t now remember what!) two different-sized rectangles of beautiful silk crepe de chine, all drapey and lovely. I’ve had it so long I can’t actually recall where it came from or why it might be in two pieces…a mystery.

Anyway, finding the fabric coincided with also finding a rolled-hem foot that fits on my machine, I didn’t buy this either and I’ve no idea how I came by it but it seemed a perfect opportunity to use it on the edges of the silk. If I neatened all four edges on each piece I could join them at the shoulders and do something with the sides to create a sort of kimono-shaped top.

a rolled hem foot. You can see it has a little curl on it, this is where you slot the fabric and the curl then rolls the fabric as it goes under the needle to be stitched.
a rolled hem foot. You can see it has a little curl on it, this is where you slot the fabric and the curl then rolls the fabric as it goes under the needle to be stitched.

The pieces were fairly regular in shape across the full width of the fabric although one was about 15cms longer than the other. Crepe de chine is one of those fabrics which tears neatly so I cut a small slit in each raw edge and then carefully tore the fabric across the width. On one edge I had to do this a couple of times because it was wonkier than it looked so the tear didn’t go all the way across the first time. The selvedges were intact so I didn’t need to do anything with them.

Once all the edges were straight I used the rolled hem foot to neaten them. This foot takes a little bit of practice because there’s a knack to feeding the fabric carefully through it as you sew-too much fabric and it bunches and gets thick, lumpy and unattractive, too little fabric means the raw edge isn’t enclosed and you’ll see it.

the foot in action. You have to judge how much to slide through the curl according to the thickness/slippery-ness/stiffness of your fabric. This takes a bit of practice!
the foot in action. You have to judge how much to slide through the curl according to the thickness/slippery-ness/stiffness of your fabric. This takes a bit of practice!
hopefully you can se that in the top half of the picture I didn't get it quite right and there's a raw edge showing, by the bottom half I got it right!
hopefully you can see that in the top half of the picture I didn’t get it quite right and there’s a raw edge showing, by the bottom half I got it right!

The foot should save you the time of making a pin-hem (which you have to fold and stitch once, trim, then fold and stitch again. It gives a good finish but can be time consuming on long edges) not take longer because you have to keep unpicking it!

Once I had two neatly hemmed rectangles I needed to join them along one long edge to form the shoulders. I pinned them where I wanted this to be and popped it over my head to check I liked where the join was. I’d decided already that apart from the small joins I didn’t want the shoulders closed over but, in the end, I decided to make a small join at the lower edges too so there was essentially a ‘hole’ over my shoulders in wear and the fabric didn’t flap about. I should add that I left one piece longer than the other and that formed the back.

Clearly I couldn’t just wear a poncho of silk without my undies showing so I stitched in two vertical lines straight up from the hem so that it gave a loose fit on the body and allowed sleeves to form.

Not a great picture but you can just about see the vertical line of stitching for the sides.
Not a great picture but you can just about see the vertical line of stitching for the sides.

And that is basically it! I added some buttons from my stash to the shoulders which tied the whole thing together. I think the fabric and the pattern on it lent itself to the overall kimono look, I don’t know why it took me so long really.

Greeny-black vintage buttons-I think they may have come from my Mother-in-law's button box
Greeny-black vintage buttons-I think they may have come from my Mother-in-law’s button box

I left the edges straight because I couldn’t be faffed to shape them but you could round the edges off (so that it formed a kind of semicircle) for a softer shape. I left the shoulders quite open but you could also sew these up completely except for a gap for your head to go through (which could be left as a ‘slash’ or shaped slightly) What about shaping the ‘sleeves’ into a batwing or Dolman shape too? For such a simple garment there are so many possibilities…let me know if you have a go yourself, you could tag me in posts on Facebook or Instagram (susanyoungsewing) I look forward to seeing them.

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Side view (modelled by Doris) showing the difference in lengths and the way the sleeves drape.
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