An accidental backwards cowl neck bias-cut Kimono top

WTF? What the Kimono?

I know, for a simple top, there’s a hell of lot going on there, right?

A bias-cut, cowl neck, Kimono sleeve top in a lovely fabric from Atelier Brunette

Let me start from the beginning!


This kimono top is my first ever attempt at a self-drafted pattern. Well, kind of.

Actually, I’m not sure what are the technical requirements for calling something self-drafted.

I didn’t start with a pre-existing pattern. I did, however, take major inspiration from a RTW kimono top. So it’s not like I just took some measurements and sat down with a blank piece of paper.

Even though this probably doesn’t count as being really self-drafted, it’s still the most self drafting I’ve ever done.

So I’m pretty proud of that…

And, even though it was, in many ways, a sewing fail, it was my sewing fail. And they can’t take that away from me…

J’adore Atelier Brunette …

But there was no fail on the fabric choice, so let’s start there!

In Atelier Brunette’s recent summer sale, I scooped up a few remnants, including this lovely “Blossom Coral” viscose. It has a quite sturdy feel for a viscose but it is still very fluid and a pleasure to work with.

I love it!

Whenever I have a fabric this beautiful, every ounce of my being wants to turn it into a dress. But, I have recently decided to sew more separates, in the aim of having a simpler but more flexible wardrobe. Alas, I forced myself to give this “coupon” a different fate…

(but, trust me, it was really hard…)

Kimono knock off…

I was trying to both replicate and modify a plain white kimono top that I purchased in Japan. It is extremely simple, having only a front and a back piece. There are, however, a few things about it that make it visually interesting. In particular, the entire kimono sleeve (i.e. both the front and back of the sleeve) is part of the front piece of the top.

When I tried to transfer this idea on paper,  it made for a very strangely shaped front pattern piece…

Pattern pieces for my self-drafted Kimono top

So Lesson 1: Drapey does NOT necessarily equal bias cut

So, in trying to create this top pattern, I made one key (massive, enormous, instrumental!) error.

The RTW kimono top I was trying to recreate was super flowy and drapey. It seemed to skim over the edge of my body, rather than cling to it, in a flattering way. So, I could have sworn that it was bias cut. It really behaved like other bias-cut items I have worn before.

So I created my pattern to be cut on the bias.

Well, it turns out (I think) that the exceptional drape and hang of my RTW kimono top was simply a matter of the fabric. Because, the shape/form of my cut fabric pieces turned out nothing at all like my RTW top!


Official sewing level: Idiot intermediate

This mistake got me to thinking about how I would classify my level of sewing prowess. Evidently, I am beginner enough that I couldn’t properly recognise a (non) bias cut top when I saw one.

But, I like to think of myself as advanced enough that I think I could still figure out how to make it work …

Problem solvin’

I had to do quite a bit of fiddlin’ around to ultimately make this top wearable. I know that’s not a very technical explanation, but I think you all know what I’m talking about.

First, I decided it worked much better backwards. I had wanted to extend the length of the top at the back only, compared to my RTW kimono top. When this was cut on the bias, it translated not into additional length but into a slight fluttering effect which I found flattering. In addition, since the print is busy enough, I didn’t think it would be too obvious that the sleeve seam is now at the front.

So, backwards it is.

(For the record, this is not the first time I’ve salvaged sewing projects by wearing them backwards. Check this one out…)

I finished the neckline just using a rolled hem. I’m not sure if this will prevent stretching over time. Since the additional waves of fabric from cutting on the bias created a cowl-neck effect which I didn’t dislike, I wasn’t sure how to draft a facing or use another binding  method without interfering with the drape.

I’ve never actually made anything with a cowl neck before. How are cowl necks usually finished (in woven fabrics)?


So let’s talk sleeves.

Self drafted bias cut Kimono top with a cowl neck in Atelier Brunette fabric
Kimono sleeves: Go or No?

This baby is my humble little contribution to #sleevefest2017, the brainchild of the lovely Helen from Valentine and Stitch and equally lovely Diane of Dream Cut Sew.

I have recently joined Instagram to try to get properly acquainted with the online sewing community and these two ladies seem like two of the nicest people out there!

The #sleevefest2017 initiative appealed to me because I have a love-hate relationship with sleeves. I get so much more wear out of garments with sleeves because, well, I live in Northern Europe. It’s cold almost all the time.

But, at the same time, deep down, I still think I am that little girl running around in the Australian sun who doesn’t actually want to be wearing sleeves.

So I need sleeves, but I’m often disappointed by them. I find them restrictive. I feel frumpy.

The technicalities of sleeves also scare me.

As soon as circles get involved, the geometry gets complicated. I don’t feel confident doing anything other than the most basic modifications.

In addition, I was also a little scared by the whole saga with the Elisalex sleeve over at By Hand London. If even the experts can make mistakes with sleeves, what chance do I have?

So #sleevefest2017 played into one of my weakest areas of sewing. But, at the same time, it’s an area where I am desperate to improve.

I want sleeves that I love. I really, really do!

A bias-cut, cowl neck, Kimono sleeve top in a lovely fabric from Atelier Brunette

Does a Kimono sleeve even count?

So I know that it could be legitimately argued that a Kimono sleeve is so simple that it shouldn’t really count as a sleeve. Indeed, this entire make only has a few seams in it. I’m the first to admit that I’m skating by on simplicity.

But there is just something about kimono sleeves that are really talking to me lately. Their fluidity seems to give off an air of effortless cool (or at least that’s the air that this frazzled Maman likes to imagine herself giving off…).

And it is a great garment feature when you want to be simultaneously cool in the summer heat, but still covered up.

In any event, I’m not the only one loving on kimono sleeves at the moment. The Bettine dress by Tilly and the Buttons, Charlie Caftan from Closet Case Patterns and Kochi Kimono from Papercut Patterns are on my side too…

My position is that a kimono sleeve technically passes as a sleeve and I’m sticking to it!

Having said that, I am very much looking forward to seeing all the #sleevefest2017 entries from real sewists who actually know what they are doing!!

Oh and the best thing of all: free sewing!!!

Finally, I’m very excited by the fact that I had enough fabric leftover to make up the Polly top by By Hand London in this gorgeous fabric.

A free top made out of leftover Atelier Brunette fabric using the free downloadable Polly Top from By Hand London


Of all the free, stash-busting, downloadable top patterns from the major indie labels, the one I love most is Polly. I find that curves on the front, mimicking a princess seam, really flattering.

This is my second Polly top made out of leftovers. My first Polly top is still going strong even though I have long since ditched the “main” make from that particular fabric!

This particular version has come out slightly too big which is odd because my previous version is slightly too small. So I hesitated as to whether to retrace the pattern in a bigger size. In the end, I was too lazy to put much effort into an “extra” make and just stuck with the same slightly too small pattern pieces and this one came out slightly too big!

I guess the fabric makes all the difference!!

But I still really love this Polly and what it really comes down to is:

Free Downloadable Pattern + Leftover Fabric = Free Sewing.

‘Nuff said.

It doesn’t get any better than that!!

So, the verdict…

All in all, my first foray into sewing without a pre-existing pattern didn’t turn out as planned.

But, I will still wear this top. That’s largely due to the amazing fabric (let’s face it, you could wrap this around you and it would still look good). And the fact that I’m all kimono loving right now.

So, all in all, the day has been saved, as far as I’m concerned.

And, until next time folks, stay stitching…





2 thoughts on “An accidental backwards cowl neck bias-cut Kimono top

  1. I loved reading this post, Beck! Made me laugh out loud. The finished result is so pretty, and I really enjoyed your honest account of how it got to be where it is. So pleased you’re entering this top for Sleevefest, and thank you so much for your kind words! Very happy to have connected with you in the virtual world 🙂

    1. Thanks so much! It’s been great seeing all the entries in sleevefest. Not frumpy at all!! I’ve been totally inspired to try to lift my sleeve game!

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