How to Sew a Yukata
Alright then, let's make a yukata!
If you don't already know, a yukata is a light summer kimono often worn at summer festivals and fireworks displays. I found some gorgeous fabric and decided to make one for my daughter this year. I will be using this book:
It's called クライムキのキッズじんべいとゆかた＋ベビー (Kurai Muki's Kids' Jinbei and Yukata + Baby) and it's a great resource with step-by-step photos and simple explanations. The thing is, it's only available in Japanese. In this series of posts, I will go through the process of making a yukata using this book with some commentary and explanations of the Japanese terms. If you want to skip to the sewing part, see Part 2.
I will be making the 100 cm size and that requires 3 metres of fabric...yikes!
Now technically, I don't really need to make a yukata for my daughter. There are plenty of lovely yukata in the shops but they are often pink, black, or a combination of the two. Some of the designs 'in fashion' this year are absolutely awful (see below.)
Since I am not keen on my daughter looking like an AKB reject, I have decided that a DIY yukata is the solution! I found the fabric below online (on sale - woo hoo!) and couldn't resist!
I loved the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle when I was a kid and my daughter loves it, too. She makes me read the Japanese version, then the English version, then the Japanese version again...you get the idea. It is also big at her daycare - they read the book and sing the song every day. Yes, there is a song. It's basically the text of the book set to a music with a mid '70s Gilbert O'Sullivan vibe. Hungry again, naturally.
Fun fact: The English and Japanese versions of the book are slightly different. In the Japanese version, one of the strawberries is upside-down and the caterpillar cries when it gets a stomachache. It cries.
Now on to the pattern tracing. I got out my trusty tracing paper [ハトロン紙 hatoron-shi] and got to work. There are just five pieces.to trace:
前身頃 - mae migoro - front
後ろ身頃 - ushiro migoro - back
衿 - eri - collar
袖 - sode - sleeve
ひも - himo - tie
Once that is done, we need to add the seam allowances [縫い代 nuishiro]. The curved dressmaker's rule (also by Kurai Muki) is indispensable for this part of the process. It has saved my sanity many times when adding seam allowances to patterns from other companies such as Ottobre. It's also a good idea to place some weights on top of the paper when you are tracing - a water bottle did the trick for me.
The book has a very easy-to-read chart on page 33 showing which seam allowances go where. After taking a good look at the chart, I realised that the pieces with half-circles on them needed to be mirrored (doubled) so I cut out copies of the sleeve, collar and tie and taped them into place, matching up the half-circles. I also sticky-taped the front to the back at the shoulder so it was in one piece.
So the seam allowances have been added, the pieces have been taped together and we are ready to cut!
OK, I admit it, I changed the cutting layout. Do you see the big pink quasi-Siberian expanse of nothing below? Well, I didn't like it either. Instead of wasting half a metre of fabric, I moved the sleeves down to the left-hand side. You can probably get away with it for the 90 and 100 sizes but nothing larger than that. The layout in the book is designed to make use of the selvedge but I'd rather overlock that bit than have a bunch of oddly shaped scraps. Now I have enough fabric to make a cute summer blouse. Hooray!
To someone used to western-style sewing, the construction of the yukata may seem a bit strange - there is no shoulder seam and everything is cut in one thin, narrow strip. There is a reason for that - traditional kimono/yukata fabric is only around 36 cm wide. Cutting 110 cm width fabric in this way makes the final product look more authentic.