DIY Kimono: The lazy sewists guide to the art of distraction

After recklessly compiling all my holiday into the months of June and July I’ve been out of the DIY game a little bit lately but, to ease myself back into normality (and remind myself I’m not nocturnal), I’ve come up with a quick and easy draft-it-yourself kimono that requires minimal brain power for maximum gratification. Ideal really.

If there’s one thing I learnt having spent half of the down time rolling around festival fields in the English countryside is that no one will notice that you have been wearing the same clothes for the past 5 days if you chuck something big and gaudy over the top. It tricks people into believing you’ve made an effort (i.e. washed your body) whilst the drapey fabric helps to waft away any undesirable aromas in the local area (or from your person - I’m not judging). If, however, your summer adventures are just a little more sophisticated than mine though, kimonos are an excellent way to brighten up an LBD, channel the boho vibes at a summer wedding or take it on your LOLidays and pop it over your cossie and pass it off as getting ‘dressed’, then pat yourself on the back for having such a productive day. Whichever way you choose to wear it there is no denying the kimono is the perfectly practical and endlessly versatile summer staple.

What you’ll need :

  • Tailor’s chalk
  • A ruler
  • Your fabric - something drapey like viscose works best, and you’ll need a piece double the length of how long you want your kimono to be plus 4cm for seam allowance. For example, I want my kimono to be 78cm long when finished so I’ll need 160cm of fabric.
  • The usual sewing supplies - sewing machine, pins, shears and matching thread.

First things first is to take your fabric and fold it in half lengthways, so that the selvedges match up and the fold runs across the full width of the fabric.

As this is the lazy sewists guide to self drafting we’ll be drawing directly onto your fabric with tailor’s chalk so here’s the sort of shape your kimono should be taking. The measurements shown are what I’ve used for an oversized and forgiving shape (generally speaking I am our size 12) but you can easily alter them to fit you if needs be!

So, starting slightly away from the selvedge, the first line we are going to draw on is the sleeve opening (in my case 32cm / 12 ⅝”), followed by the underarm seam (25cm / 9 ¾”) as can be seen marked in pink on the diagram below. From where your sleeve opening line starts (on the fold) - we are then going to mark the full length of your sleeve to the neckline (45cm/17 ¾”).

Then, from this marker, measure half of your neckline opening, for example, this neckline opening is 16cm / 6 ¼” wide so I will mark 8cm / 3 ⅛”. From this point mark out the same distance again (i.e. 8cm / 3 ⅛”). Now, from the point marking half the width of your neckline, draw a straight line (parallel to the selvedge) all the way to the raw edge - this is the line marked in grey on the diagram below. Take your ruler and draw the diagonal line from where that straight line ends at the raw edge, all the way back up to the mark representing either edge of your neckline opening (as shown in blue). Still with me? Phew. Okay here’s the diagram…

Next thing we’re going to draw on is the side seam. From the central marker on the raw edge measure the half hem width (so 35cm / 13 ¾” for me) and from this point, draw a diagonal line up to where your underarm seam finishes. This line is marked in purple below:

All the fiddly measuring done, we need to cut this bad boy out! Start by cutting out all the outside edges so you’re left with something like this…

Now it’s easier to cut out that neckline opening, making sure you only cut through the one layer.


It’s time to start finishing off some of those raw edges, so, start by pressing in the raw edge at your sleeve hem and the entire neckline opening by approximately 1cm / ⅜” and then again by 1cm / ⅜”. It can get a bit tricky when it comes to the corner of your neckline opening but don’t worry, it will work with a bit of convincing/heavy handed pressing and pinning/tactical aggression. Use a straight machine stitch to secure the edges down, sewing as close as you can to the fold then press.


Turn your kimono inside out, match up and pin the underarm and side seams then stitch with your usual 1.5cm / ⅝” seam allowance.

Snip the underarm curves (no more than 1cm / ⅜” so as not to snip your stitches!) then press the seam open and finish the raw edges.

All that’s left now is the hem! Just as before, press up the raw edge at the hem by approximately 1cm / ⅜” and then again by 1cm/ ⅜”, stitch as close as you can to the fold and press.


Done! Who needs showers anyway...

  • Victoria Elliott
  • By Hand styleDIYinspirationseamssewingsleevessummer

Comments on this post ( 15 )

  • Sep 16, 2016

    I have made two using rayon sarongs. They are fabulous, if a bit slippery. I don’t mind the rearranging when I get inside a coffee shop etc.

    — Jen pickard

  • Jun 16, 2016

    Hi Kirsty, if you’re having trouble hemming the neckline, you could try finishing it with bias binding which would prevent the puckering. Hope this helps!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Jun 13, 2016

    Arghh help me, I am a novice! The neckline by the shoulders all puckered so I’ve unpicked it. Do you have any more tips on how to to sew this bit? Thank you.

    — Kirsty

  • Apr 25, 2016

    Hi Sarah, yes you’ll be fine with fabric 112cm wide. And a drapey knit would work nicely! Just as long as your fabric has some body, but isn’t too stretchy, you’ll have yourself a lovely kimono. Hope this helps!

    — Elisalex

  • Jan 04, 2016

    I love this tutorial! So easy to follow. I’ve been given a sewing machine for Christmas and I’m looking for easy projects to get me into the swing of sewing (haven’t sewn since GCSE textiles some 15 years ago!)
    I’m going to give this gorgeous kimono a try, the moment my fabric arrives. xx

    — Tinuke

  • Dec 30, 2015

    Great tutorial, thank you! I have two questions though – how wide does the fabric need to be (selvedge to selvedge), would 112cm work? And, can you use knit or woven, as long as it is drapey? Or does it have to be one? Thank you so much! Happy New Year.

    — Sarah

  • Nov 18, 2015

    Hi Tessa, we used a drapey viscose rayon, but a soft cotton lawn would also work very well. Don’t be afraid to try new fabrics, and as long as it’s not too lightweight and slippery, rayon makes an excellent transition away from stable cottons. Hope this helps!

    — Elisalex - By Hand London

  • Nov 18, 2015

    i love it. It would make a brilliant Christmas present. What material are you using? I’m new to sewing and I find choosing material for a project really difficult. I haven’t ventured away from cotton yet. Tutorial looks brilliant, even I might be able to follow it!

    — Tessa

  • Jun 02, 2015

    Love this!! One of the easiest tutorials I’ve found! I’m having trouble with my neckline….did you hem the very top of your neckline (where the fold is) or leave it? Thank you for this!!!

    — Lee lee

  • Jan 03, 2015

    Just made one with your tutorial. Took me almost 2 hours and its absolutely fabulous! Definately wanna make more of these.

    — nantje

  • Nov 12, 2014

    Love this! I’ve got some Asian fabric which will be perfect for this. A great idea! Thanks

    — Karen

  • Sep 11, 2014

    Jackpot! I’ve just moved to singapore and this will be perfect for teaching in. With something on underneath, obvs…. X

    — Mimi

  • Aug 17, 2014

    Love the simplicity of your tute, and a pretty print makes it such a fun garment. Thanks!

    — Maris Olsen

  • Aug 16, 2014

    Hey perfect timing. I have been trying to plan my next few sewing projects with summer in mind (I’m in South Australia) and this seems like a good airy, cover-up which is really needed on the super hot days we get here (upwards of 38°c!)

    — Sundari Carmody

  • Aug 15, 2014

    Love it! I need one of these!

    — Ginger

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