Starting at the Very Beginning
One of my favorite projects in all my years of teaching K-12 Art was a “Design a Kimono” unit that I developed for my 5th graders. Among the reference materials that I put together were vintage kimono fabric pieces that I found on eBay. It was important to me that my students could see and feel silk fabrics first hand.
After I retired, the samples got stashed with my fabric collection (comes with the territory if you sew or knit). But it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something with them.
Three years ago, I also bought three yards of Raw Silk also known as Silk Noil from Dharma Trading Company, a fiber art supply company that has been around since 1969. Finally, last July, I came up with the idea of combining my silk noil with one of my samples.
Patterns & Fabric Decisions
Having vintage kimono material, I was leaning toward a looser type style that looked Asian inspired. The problem was that I only had about 1/3rd yard of light green vintage kimono silk with stylized flowers, creating a focal point but not much else.
Two patterns from my stash worked with my idea: Simplicity S0300 for the pants and Vogue 1437 for the top.
Simplicity S0300 was discontinued when I discovered it a couple of years ago. Luckily, I found it on eBay. It’s in one of their AmazingFit patterns and comes in two leg widths. Another important feature is that it has versions for different body types. I’ve made pants for both my daughter and I from it. I really like this pattern. You can still find a copy of it here and there on ETSY.
Vogue 1437 is a Ralph Rucci three piece suit pattern. Unfortunately, if seems that Vogue has dropped all Ralph Rucci patterns from it’s collection. That’s so sad. But, of course, for a price you can find it on ETSY.
Making the Patterns Fit
The first change that I made to the top pattern was to add bust darts. This is something I do because I find that woven tops look much better on me when I have darts. Pattern companies, for the most part, stopped putting darts in their patterns years ago, so it’s a pattern drafting skill I’ve learn.
I didn’t make any major changes the pants pattern. I picked the version for my body shape and made a muslin (practice copy) to work out any fit problems.
Where To Put the Silk?
The top pattern design already had a back yoke, making it perfect for my vintage silk. I then cut a matching front yoke. I could put one of the flower designs on one side went with a solid green background on the other; saving the second cluster for the back yoke.
I divided the back yolk into three sections in order to center the second flower cluster pattern. It was that or not use it at all.
Using selvages in My Sewing
My first technique inspiration came from an article in the now deceased Vogue Pattern Magazine. In “Selvage Smarts”, Linda Turner Griepentrog discussed the history and possibilities of using selvages in sewing. My raw silk had a wonderful fringed selvage and I decided to incorporated it along the edges. Carefully cutting the selvages off and sewing them in the seams was time consuming. But it was fun and I love the special look it gives my top, especially how it acts as a frame around the flowers on the back yoke.
Using Nylon Tricot For Seam Bindings
The second new technique that I used was one that I saw on a Threads video. Daryl Lancaster demonstrates how to apply a lightweight and bulk-free seam finish, using bias-cut nylon tricot binding in 15-denier. I usually use French seams (and did on some in places on the top), but for some parts of my top I wanted a much thinner seam finish but one that was encased.
The right weight of tricot was a bit hard to locate, but I found it at Uptown Fabric on ETSY. I bought some in white and ivory, I’ve not bought anything else from Uptown Fabric but they have a good rating and I need to get back there and seriously look around.
There might be one problem with tricot, however. I think it would melt at higher iron temperatures, so I don’t know it I would use this technique on a 100% cotton or linen fabric. Knowing me, I would probably do a little damage
Finishing It Up
Making the Ties Special
Wanting to use as much of my silk as possible so there would be none wasted, I made the end of my ties silk just one of those little elegance touch.
There were also ties on the inside but they were just left alone
Under It All
I thought the raw silk was a bit on the thinner side for pants but at the same time, I wanted them to be summer friendly. I decided to line them just to a boxer short length. I just used some 100% cotton from the stash. This has worked out great. They have been comfy in warmer weather but I haven’t had to worry about seeing lines or anything underneath.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to think last summer when I looked myself in the mirror with these two pieces on. When you create something there is always that question of it turning out as great as that vision in you mind’s eye.
My creation isn’t trendy, colorful and certainly not a showstopper. I was having a difficult time putting it in a category (but is that even necessary, I wonder). Was it, leisure, dressy or casual? Could I wear it to my favorite wine bar? Did I even like the total look? My daughter Michelle took one look and loved it and told me I was crazy for even having doubts so I decided to sit on it for a few months.
The whole idea of what I did fits with my basic fashion philosophy: up-cycle and refashion when I can and try to have the least waste (there were only a few scraps left of each fabric when I was finished) when I make something.
Today, I like it. It fits my current lifestyle. It has a very calming spirit about it and after this Covid-19 mess is behind us, I can’t wait to wear it and put it on Instagram; “my slightly inspired Asian up-cycled creation”.
That wraps up today’s post. If you don’t sew, thanks for bearing with me. Sewing and knitting are just a big part about who I am and I have to post about them once in a while. But for now, here’s some more photos from last summer of me wearing my pants and silk top out and about.
Has this post made you interested in trying your hand with needle and thread? If so, you need to check out my People To Read & Places To Go page. I have, among other things, links to forty independent pattern companies. Their designs have skill levels to absolute beginner to intermediate. And I like the idea of supporting individual makers.
Take care everyone and stay safe
When I’m not incorporating vintage kimono silk pieces into new creations, I like wearing the real things. I use Hoaris as jackets and kimonos for leisure.