Making a Kimono

sketch of a kimono
generic pattern (no measures)

As Japanese fabrics are traditionally only 30-35 cm wide, a kimono is made up of strips of that width: two widths sewn together lengthwise for the body, and two more strips for the sleeves. The additional width necessary at the bottom of the garment is made up of another strip, less wide than the rest (c. 15cm, i.e. a halved strip) and the collar of yet another. The actual width of the garment and sleeves is adjusted by wider or narrower seam allowances, the length simply varied by using longer or shorter strips. A kimono is by about 5-15cm longer than ground level, depending on the height of the wearer.

The pieces are first sewn together along the centre back, then a horizontal pleat, about 1.5-2 cm deep, is folded to the inside and down at roughly the middle of the back, above the waist. It is sewn closed, then hand-stiched down through the upper fabric. BTW, kimono are entirely hand-sewn wit realtively loose stitches but for the cheaper varieties, where certain lining seams are machined. A kimono entirely machined, with seams ironed flat, won't look right.

Now sew on the sleeves for about 25cm on both front and back of the shoulder. The rest remains open. Now fold the whole thing double along the shoulder line and close the side seams, but stop about 5cm from where the sleeve seam ends. Close the bottom and outside seams of the sleeves. Now you have the basic shape of the garment.


Make a horizontal slit along the shoulder line for the neck. Attach the gored front extensions. For the collar, three strips of fabric about 20cm wide are used: A middle part and two end parts, about 30-40cm long. They are sewn together by hand with outwardly visible stitches. Stitch it onto the outside of the kimono from the end of the gore along it, from the top end of the front extension straight to the end of the neck slit, around the back, and down the other side. Fold it double and fix it on the inside with hidden stitches.

Clean up the hem and open sleeve seams - finished! If you want the kimono lined, make the lining up the same way and fix it (before attaching the collar) very closely along the hem, the wrist and back sleeve opening. In case of a female kimono, a coloured lining can also be made to show in these places by letting it stick out a few millimetres. Looks particularly good in red.

kimono seam

double-lined tomesode - the lower part of the lining is usually made up of fabric more or less different from the top of the lining. The seam is clearly visible here. In this example, the fabric is the same thoughout, but an additional lining of double-folded fabric has been attached along the top/lower lining seam and left to hang loose. The collar, too, has got this kind of loose double lining, visible in the upper part of the pic. This is a relatively rare lining method only encountered in tomesode.



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