June has been a funny old month for sewing. I feel like I might have said that already in another post. I’ve had a few slightly frustrating sews, where I haven’t quite finished the project or the garment didn’t quite fit right. All par for the course for sewing, but a little unsatisfying. I’ve also given myself a fair bit to do with various challenges and decisions. I enjoy these and they’re completely voluntary of course (so I only have myself to blame), but I have hit a little bottleneck recently.
One of the projects in this little fabric traffic jam was the #sewmystyle challenge for June, which was the Suki kimono by Helen’s Closet. Helen hasn’t been releasing patterns for all that long in the grand scheme of things, but she’s had some really great successes already – the Blackwood cardigan springs to mind as being a garment the whole sewing world seems to have sewn, and the Winslow culottes and Avery leggings aren’t far behind. I’ve been wanting to dive into one for ages and this project struck me immediately as a great early Christmas present project, and I had just the fabric I’d been saving for such a garment.
I got this gorgeous silky crepe-type fabric from LA Finch Fabrics maybe two years ago. I don’t know the content because it’s not on record any more sadly, but at $3.99 a yard, I imagine there must be some poly content in there. No matter – it is incredibly lightweight and delicate and feels very glamorous.
Of course, being me, I decided one garment wasn’t enough and that I had enough of this graphic rayon spandex knit to try a knit version at the same time, potentially for myself. It’s also very soft and lightweight, so I was interested to see how it would work out.
I made the full length version for both versions, but one is for my sister, who is 7 or 8 inches shorter than I am, so I took six inches off the length of hers. I was a little concerned that the proportions wouldn’t then be right, but I figured if you could get away with it on one garment, a kimono robe would be a good bet. Mine is a straight XL and hers is graded between L and XL. I’ve modelled it here because it was very hard to take pictures of the robe on a hanger, but it doesn’t look quite as good as it will on her I don’t think (hope).
I decided to use the original model for the woven version with the short kimono front bands. The pdf went together very nicely and cutting out was… interesting. I only had 2.5 yards for the woven version – way short of the recommended yardage – and even more so given the pattern and repeat on the fabric. Luckily, my sister’s petite frame came in handy and I *just* managed to squeeze it out of the fabric without compromising on symmetry too much.
I’ve seen comments about the quality of the Helen’s Closet instructions before and they were justified. Helen gives very clear instructions with good illustrations and plenty of options. She gives very useful highlighted beginners tips and I love the fact she offers options for construction details based on your sewing expertise or preference. For example, she gives you instructions for sewing on the sleeve bands with an exposed seam or a hidden seam, depending on how you want to/can tackle your fabric.
I was planning to use French seams for this garment given the sheerness of the fabric, but then realised that would be tricky with pockets and loops/ties lying along the seams. I opted to overlock in the end as the fabric is prone to a little fraying and it actually looks pretty good. In the end though I actually left the pockets out of this version, because of that same fabric sheerness – you could clearly see them and it spoiled the overall effect. Typical eh?
Helen says the corner turns on the kimono front band is the trickiest part to the construction and I must say I agree – it was quite fiddly. I didn’t get great corners, so I’d like to try them again sometime – but they’ll do!
As mentioned, I decided to also do a version in a knit fabric for myself. I had plenty of this rayon knit, so this was easy to cut, although I somehow managed to cut two backs instead of one piece on the fold. I simply wasn’t paying attention, but I actually don’t mind the resultant centre back seam at all – it adds a little visual interest.
For this version, I used Helen’s tutorial on changing the short front band to a full length front band, which makes the finishing about 300% easier – especially with a knit as you have a little stretch leeway. Another lovely thing about the Suki pattern is the level of design detail. As well as the pockets, which I kept on this version, there are inner ties, a hanging loop and front tie loops to keep everything nice and secure. I think that is GREAT – these are details that are often missed out on self-sewn garments.
Overall, this is a super pattern. It’s fairly involved – there are numerous pieces and some of the sewing needs to be very accurate – but it’s a really pleasant, satisfying sew. I suppose one robe would take you about 8 to 10 hours perhaps, including pdf sticking. There are also lots of great hacks and inspiration posts on Helen’s blog, including making a Suki dress and a Suki kimono jacket (I LOVE this one). Lots to check out! Next month I have to choose between the True Bias Lander Pants and the Blank Slate Forsythe Trousers – and it’s pretty hard! I don’t have time to make both – have you made one or the other? What did you think?