Folkwear 113: the kimono, or as the Japanese call it, clothes*

*Not just being sassy here, the patterns notes explain that the original meaning of kimono was “something to wear”. Also, I have just alluded to a FRIENDS quote. You are officially cooler than me now,  forever. 

the pattern: Folkwear 113 Japanese Kimono, copyright Folkwear 1977


I don’t know how I ended up with this pattern, but I do know that every time I’ve flipped past it while looking for something else, I’ve wondered what exactly is in it.
If you’re familiar with Folkwear patterns, you know that they come in a big ol’ envelope, and if you’re familiar with kimonos, you know that they don’t even need a pattern, just a cutting diagram. As in: a kimono is one of those brilliant traditional garments that uses (almost) all of the available fabric. So, rather than laying a bunch of giant paper rectangles onto your fabric and trying to cut around them, it is much easier to refer to a diagram, adjust for your fabric’s width, make some chalk marks, and cut.
So, what exactly is in there? It’s a huge, full envelope, there’s definitely something…
The answer, in my case, is everything is in there except what’s supposed to be in there.
There is a collar facing from another Folkwear pattern.
There is a cutting lay-out and instructions page from a Butterick bathrobe.
There is a cutting diagram for a men’s hakama and a women’s under-kimono (which, ok, it was me who stuffed those in there, I made some photocopies because I thought they were so cool when we made some at work)
Oh, Used Patterns, how you give us the lols.
Also in there are a bunch of instruction for shibori dye and stuff, and, like, if someone told me to dye them up some yukata fabric or else, I would first say no and then probably try to hit them and run away, but finally if forced to I might refer to these instructions because Folkwear tends to be thorough and well researched but not too scary.
But mostly I would just hit them and run away. This is a traditional art, people! Not something to be trifled with!

the fabric
This is definitely real, for reals, yukata fabric. I can tell because it’s 14 1/2″ wide.
And this fabric totally took me to school. I went in with a bunch of Western, Pro-Technology, Pro-Twenty-First-Century, Pro-Industrial feelings about this fabric, such as, “This super-narrow fabric will be super-annoying to use.” “Omg, the piecing,” and even, “Oh, Ye Olden Weavers of Yesteryear, I bet you guys were pumped when you figured out how to build a normal sized loom,” and then I totally got learned, thing after thing just blew my mind at how perfectly suited this fabric is to this garment, they fit together like nothing I’ve ever seen in a fabric/garment pairing before.
Such as:

  • Like I was saying before, this garment uses the full width of the fabric. What I hadn’t realized was that this means all the seams fall on selvage, except for the neckline which is enclosed in the collar band. Which means no seam finishing neccesary. It’s self-finished by the self-edge. Amazing. I mean, there’s the hem, but, like, even the sleeve is finished with selvage, you don’t even have to hem that!
  • The design is printed right to the edge of the selvage, so you don’t lose any width trying to avoid a big ugly white selvage with a designer’s name printed on. 
  • The traditional designs feature strong vertical emphasis, meaning there are no horizontal lines to worry about matching at the seams, which means no waste,
  • And yet, the vertical emphasis has no obvious “up” or “down” to the patterns, which allows the body to be cut with the same piece going up the back, over the shoulder, and down the front without suddenly appearing to be upside down. Same with the sleeve.
  • Most amazingly, the dye method is equally strong on both the face and backside, which means you don’t have to stress about which side is the face. 

The fabric itself solves so many of the usual problems of cutting and construction. It…just….dang. I’m filled with impressed-ness and embarrassed at the arrogant attitude I started out with.
Ok, lets see some pictures!



The living close their kimono left-over-right. Just a little something to keep in mind.

what did I change?
Cut it short and pleated the back, and applied a grosgrain tab and curved the hem up toward the cf to make it as jacket-like and as not-robe-like as possible. You can find lots of great examples of this sort of pleated-back kimono jacket online, just google Alexander McQueen, I know I did.

Sew It or Throw It:
Sew It. Once you’ve done all the figuring, these things go together really fast. 


6 thoughts on “Folkwear 113: the kimono, or as the Japanese call it, clothes*

  1. I love the pleated back, I love the graphics and font on the pattern (so indie for 1977!), I love that you had an epiphany whilst making and, I can’t lie, there’s been a lot of rerun watching at Chez Tragic and I’m going to just say it. I love Friends.


    1. Folkwear is a pretty indie bunch, really. I was just reading their About Us page, sounds like after being bought by a series of different publishers, they are now back to being independent and woman owned, just like they were back in the 70’s when they started out.
      Ha, FRIENDS. Ha ha.


  2. Another illuminating and very stylish post. I have “make a kimono” on my bucket list (maybe I have it in mind for being buried in?). I was thinking of printing or painting the fabric and making a full length one (they are all made the same length apparently – not yours of course – but traditionally), and the tiny ladies have to have more folding and bunching around the waist so they don’t trip up. Anyway yours in lovely, and looks splendid with the pleated dress. Excellent outcome.


    1. Oh! I’ve heard that! About folding up at the waist to achieve the correct length. I have somewhere a magazine with some helpful instructions for filling in your waistline with padding to achieve the cylindrical shape that best wears the kimono. So opposite to every sit-up and wardrobe choice I’ve ever made in my life…
      They are really satisfying to make, I bet you could easily make a practice one in an afternoon before breaking out the dye pot for a special one. If I were more of a robe wearer I’d be making a bunch more right now.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, do! My pleats are stitched down in the area that is covered by the tab, and then the tab itself is stitched all the way around to keep everything nice and flat and controlled. So the tab is decorative, but I think helps explain to the eye what is going on, like gives a reason for all that pleating.


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