The Baby Leopard Kimono

This is one of those rare occasions when I seem to have jumped on a trend bandwagon (last seen with the Cleo dress). Kimonos are everywhere this summer, and I’ve been growing increasingly annoyed with my selection of summer cardies. In the past I’ve always gone for bolero styles, often with a tie front, but they don’t necessarily look right with the clothes I’ve been wearing this year. Or maybe I was just bored with them. Anyway, I’ve been hankering over something loose and flowing to go over my close-fitting clothing. Hence the kimono. And you know what, I reckon it’s exactly what I was after! Read on for more…

In a Nutshell:

A versatile summer layering cardie, which can also be used as a beach cover-up. That was the idea, at any rate. And it’s kind-of animal print. Abstract animal print, at any rate. I’m calling it that, anyway. It’s my kimono so I can name it whatever I like ūüėõ

Pattern:

This is a self-drafted kimono, following the instructions in Portia’s¬†excellent tutorial. Those who’ve followed this blog for a while might remember I made one of these last year, using a striped hacci knit. I do still wear that one but I’m always wishing for a bit more width at the front to wrap it around me, so for my second version I widened the body piece by 2″ at the back and 1″ on each front piece. This extra 4″ in width allows me to wrap the kimono fully at the waist, which in my mind is a must for a beach cover-up!

Hacci animal kimono 8

Fabric:

The Black/Mauve Scattered Spots Baby Hacci Sweater Knit from Girl Charlee UK. It’s described on their site as “light weight with a soft hand and nice stretch”, and I can’t argue with that description. In fact, it’s even softer than the last hacci knit I bought from them, which I guess is why it’s called a “baby”¬†hacci. It’s a polyester/cotton blend but because it’s so light and loosely knit, it doesn’t feel sweaty like some poly fabrics can.

Construction:

Honestly, sewing this thing up was a doddle on the overlocker. I deviated a little from Portia’s method as I prefer to set sleeves in flat, then sew the side seams from wrist to hem. I’m guessing for a knit newbie or those without overlockers this fabric could present more challenges, in which case I’d recommend the Craftsy class on Sewing Fashion Knits for loads of excellent advice on dealing with tricky knits like this.

The only bit that didn’t go smoothly for me was the cutting out. OMG, this fabric was a nightmare on the cutting table! I’m finding that’s usually the case for the type of knits I love wearing, though. This was shifty, hard to keep on grain, and just wanted to grow in every direction. Eventually I managed to get my main pieces cut, but then discovered I didn’t have enough fabric left to cut my sleeves. I’d planned it all perfectly but compensating for the fabric shifting just left me with a narrower piece than I needed.

After scratching my head over this one and avoiding it for a couple of weeks (yes, that cutting out experience left me with some serious project-aversion!) I plucked up my courage and decided to cut the sleeves in the other direction, and a little shorter than I’d originally intended. They worked fine. There wasn’t enough fabric left for cuffs, but I reckoned I could always just hand hem the sleeves.

Hacci animal kimono 5

In the end, after trying the partially finished kimono on I decided my original length was comical (I’d cut the panels 42″ long) and so I trimmed a few inches off, then used this fabric to make the sleeve cuffs. Yay!

The only other thing to note was that I decided to hand hem again, using a faggoting stitch. Beth at Sew DIY has a great tutorial on this, if you don’t know what I’m on about. I would have machine topstitched the hem but the fabric gathered horribly when I tested it on a scrap. I suppose I could have continued to experiment with interfacing to stabilise it, but honestly, I don’t mind a bit of hand hemming from time to time. It’s strangely relaxing.

Time taken: 1 hour 11 minutes, plus however long it took to hand hem. Sorry, didn’t time that bit!

(time taken¬†is the time to sew, which will include pinning, stitching, pressing, etc, but doesn’t include time spent planning, tracing patterns, cutting out fabric, setting up the sewing machine, puzzling out instructions, trying things on, etc. So in other words, it’s not actually the total time I’ve spent making something, but it’s a rough guide at any rate. Just don’t come complaining if it takes you longer to make something!)

Overall verdict:

I’ve been wearing this so much! I knew I needed another lightweight cardigan layer and was after a loose style to wear over more close fitting clothes, so this fits the bill just perfectly. It’s warm enough to give a bit of extra cosiness on summer evenings, or can be used during the day on more typically British summer days. Of which we’ve had many this year. I’m not a fan of cool summers, but it has meant I’ve been able to wear this more often, so I suppose there’s that to be grateful for.

Anyway, a few more pics to prove how much I love this kimono:

 

Hacci animal kimono 2
Lottie insisted on photobombing me!

Hacci animal kimono 4Hacci animal kimono 6

 

And a couple more retaken in not such good light to give a better view of the back and side, because I realised none of the shots from my main shoot had worked quite as I wanted them to:

My only regrets about this kimono is that the print is so busy and high contrast (that mauve looks pretty much white against the black background) I can only wear it with solid colours underneath. And I don’t have enough of those in my summer wardrobe. I think I either need to make another kimono in a solid (black or a deep red, perhaps?), or make more summer tops and bottoms in solids. Oh, how I wish I found plain colours as much fun to sew as prints!

Changes for next time:

I’ll definitely be drafting more kimonos in the future, but I think next time I might try a different sort of fabric. I’m wondering about using a lightweight¬†woven, and making some sort of belt. I’m drawn to the designs of Helen’s Closet Suki Kimono, and the Sew Over It Kimono Jacket. I love the waist tie and pockets on the Suki and the silhouette of the SOI kimono, and I’m feeling reasonably confident that I could draft such a simple project myself. In an ideal world I’d save myself the bother and buy the patterns, but since I’m exceedingly strapped for cash I’m going to be doing more of my own drafting in the future. I’m doing my best to think of this as a positive, learning experience rather than a drag. So far… I’m reasonably optimistic ūüôā

Costing:

Pattern: £0.00

Fabric: £7.16

£8.95 per metre, plus a 20% discount. Used 1m.

Notions: £0.00

Thread from stash. No other notions required!

Total cost: £7.16

Total bargain! I love it when I get a make I know I’ll wear loads for such a cheap price.

One last silly pic for luck:

 

Hacci animal kimono 3
Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care!

 

So, are you into the kimono trend? And if so, do you wear yours out of the house?!

Disclaimer: some of the products linked above use affiliate links, meaning if you follow the link and make a purchase I will receive a small referral fee (at no added cost to you). Any extra income to help fund my sewing habit is greatly appreciated, but rest assured I only recommend products I love and think you might find useful too¬†🙂

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