How do you make a silk kimono robe?

The kimono -- a traditional Japanese garment -- is made from one single bolt containing 12 1/2 yards of silk fabric. These high-quality fabrics are made with colorful designs and intricately stitched patterns. In 2010, Americans discarded 21 million tons of textiles. Rather than toss out unused kimono fabric or throw away a kimono that's never been worn, you can reuse the fabric to give it new life and purpose. Time to sew!

Tools and materials:

  • Fabric: 1 meter or a little over a yard
  • Lining
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Marking chalk
  • Sewing machine

1. Measure and mark the fabric

Fold the fabric in half. Then fold that half in half again. Measure 100 cm X 75 cm or 39 inches X 30 inches. Add the bottom of the open folds. 

Measure 10 cm or 4 inches from the bottom upward. Mark with a ruler and chalk. Cut that piece away and reserve it for later use.

Mark the top of the fabric at the top folded area 3 cm or 1 ¼ inch from the top. 

From that edge, mark 8 cm or 3 inches down. Join those two measurements with a small curve.

At the bottom, measure 21 cm or 8 inches from the folded edge. 

From the top fold measure 35 cm or 14 inches. Connect these 2 measurements. Continue the 35 cm measurement all the way around to the other end of the fabric. Mark with a ruler.

Check to make sure it is 21 cm. Check at the top of the curve that it is 28 cm and from the top down that it is 35 cm. Once the measurements are confirmed, cut the fabric along the lines.

2. Cut the fabric

Cut the small curve at the top and the larger curve.

Trim the top area by 2 cm or just under an inch.

Take 2 of the shorter cut pieces. Fold each one in half lengthwise. Fold again in half widthwise, matching it to the shorter cut end that is 21 cm. Cut the piece. Do the same for the second piece. These will be the cuffs for the robe. Set aside once they’re cut.

3. Make the kimono

Unfold the fabric and completely open it up. There will be a hole in the center. 

Fold it the other way so the shorter ends are at the bottom and the long ends are horizontal.

At the V-shaped hole, measure 25 cm or 10 inches. Mark a diagonal line at the top. Mark evenly down the fold and then cut along the fold and down at the angle. 

Lift up the fabric and arrange it into a robe shape.

4. Pin the kimono

Pin the side seams and under the arms with the right sides facing in.

Take the reserved long piece and fold it into half lengthwise. Pin it around the robe opening including the next and collar. 

Use the other reserved fabric for the belt.

5. Make the cuffs

Iron the cuffs with the lining. 

The cuffs should be about 20 cm X 42 cm or 8 X 16 inches. 

Fold the cuff in half with the right sides facing in. Sew the open side of the cuff creating a loop.

6. Sew the robe

Sew the side seams of the kimono using a straight stitch. Match the seams of the cuff loop with the robe. Keep the robe wrong side facing and insert the right-facing cuff into the sleeve. Pin in place and then sew.

Iron the robe edging together with the lining. Fold in half lengthwise and sew directly to the robe with the right side facing outward.

7. Sew the belt

For the belt, use the leftover fabric. At the top, fold the raw edge downward. Then, fold the raw edges lengthwise inward. Sew the top across and then sew lengthwise, constantly folding the raw edges inward. Sew the bottom. Then, sew the other side lengthwise.

Hem the bottom of the robe by folding down the ends twice and sewing it in place.