So a while ago I decided that before I cut into the fabric for my wedding dress I should practice making something with slippery silky fabric, as this is not something I have done much work with. About the same time I purchased the DK Sewing book, as a general all-purpose sewing reference guide, to have on my shelf (I know information about most things is available on the internet, but you can’t find things on the internet if you don’t know what to search for… in short you don’t know what you don’t know. I got a load of sewing reference books from the library and decided this was the best for what I needed). At the back of the Sewing book are some projects to give you some sewing ideas. Not many of these caught my attention, but one that did was for a Kimono style dressing gown which was made with satin type fabric. It looked good and simple and would give me the chance to practice using such fabric. I can’t say I had a desperate need for a dressing gown, but the one I own is an oversized thick fleecy one – this would give me something stylish to wear in those fitting moments when you are putting garments you are fitting on and off again to correct them.
So I went and found some fabric, and funky deep dark pink polyester satin, and a pink china silk with beautiful delicate flower pattern for contrast strips. Then these fabrics sat around for a few months. Eventually in February I got around to doing something about this project.
First I had to cut the thing out. It didn’t come with a pattern, but there are some diagrams and dimensions. First problem I encountered was that I had bought 45” fabric, but the layout was for 60” fabric. This caused a few headaches, but finally ( after buying an extra half metre of fabric the next day) I was sorted. Cutting out the china silk was also not easy – when I looked at it I realised I should try to pattern match it to some extent, or at least make sure the best of the patten is showing, but I hadn’t bought too much of this as it was expensive – some careful planning before cutting was required.
Cutting the fabric was a challenge as it was so slippery and moved around. A week or so later on the Great British Sewing Bee I saw someone using a rotary cutter to avoid this with silk. I immediately went online and ordered one (and a mat, and a klutz glove courtesy of Tasia’s recommendation), learning point #1 for my wedding dress. The china silk was also a bit of a pain due to its epic fraying. And I mean epic – weeks later we are still finding threads from that fabric all over the flat. I deeply regret not finishing the edges as soon as I had cut – major learning point for future use of fraying fabrics.
With everything cut out it was time to knock it together, a mostly quick process. However, although the instructions for this project look good, I found when I actually went to construct the garment they were all close ups of seams – no overviews to see how pieces went together. After some slight headscratching I figured it out, but I wouldn’t describe these instructions as beginner friendly. However, it was quick enough to knock together – just a few straight seams. When I got to attaching the front band things got tricky again – the instructions made it sound simple “centre the band in the middle of the neck. pin to the Kimono right side to right side. Machine in place.” however, there were corners to go around – the instructions had no advice about this, so I just sewed them quite simply assuming this was how they were intended to work (mistake: they still don’t sit quite right – should have trusted my instincts that this would not work).
Next was the obi sash. The instructions for this were even more opaque “cut two pieces of fabric 30x20cm, for the centre section. Shape as required” with no diagram of the suggested shape. So I guessed using the picture and cut one out, then attached fusible interfacing. Learning point for wedding dress #2: my china silk shrank hugely under the heat of the iron (and I was good and used a pressing cloth), the poly satin did not. I shall investigate pre-shriking the fabric for my wedding dress – I don’t want that happening with my expensive wedding dress fabric.
So my obi belt was smaller than intended. Sewing the wrap around arms was also a challenge, as in places the china silk had frayed so much that I had to swerve my stitching line inwards just to find solid fabric. In some places that was still not enough, and I had to go back and hand slip-stitch it to catch the edge, resulting in a distinctly wonky edge. Not my finest piece of sewing, but since this was an easy, simple, not for public view project, I decided I couldn’t be bothered to redo it (nor did I really have the fabric available).
So then I tried it on. At this point i discovered it was HUGE, and I mean HUGE – I think this might be a pattern intended for a sumo…. I know a dressing gown needs to be loose, but this was beyond the pail. In retrospect perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, as the widths were calculated by taking my hip measurement and adding 30cm ease/seam allowance. but when I started I decided as I had never made a dressing gown I would have to trust the pattern. Turns out the pattern was not trustworthy.
To fix this oversize issue I took 7cm off BOTH sides and sleeves. this prevented drowning in the fabric – it did somewhat ruin the line of the kimono sleeves, but at least they fitted. However something wasn’t right. I wore it for a while and then realised the problem – the neck was too big. Therefore my next fitting adjustment was to take a large dart of fabric out from the neck and down the back. I considered doing this properly and taking the contrast band off and then reattaching it when I had taken the excess out of the main piece… but it seemed like too much work when I could just take a dart out of everything. When done it looked fine. Somewhere along the line I also decided I didn’t like the obi bit of the belt, so I took that out and resewed the two tie pieces together to make one long tie.
So here is the end result. I can’t say the fit is perfect, and it is too short to wear without something underneath when in public. But I think the colours work. Having a long sash which wraps around twice makes a big difference in being able to successfully tie the silky fabric in place. So I am pleased with this in the end, but I would not recommend this pattern to anyone, and I am deeply distrustful of the other project ideas in this book.