top-halfs wardrobe

In the Folds x Peppermint Magazine Peplum Top - in the folds peplum top

There’s a store in Portland called Cargo that carries a variety of home and decorating goods from around the world. Their offerings range from hand-carved furniture from India to petrified wood sinks to paper lanterns and garlands from China to various textiles from all over Asia. It’s easy to walk in with no agenda and to walk out with enough supplies to decorate a party you haven’t even dreamed of yet. It’s tucked between a freeway off ramp and SE Industrial, and as a spot I drive by often, I just as often have to convince myself to not find a parking spot and peruse their ever-changing goods.

Which is, of course, not what happened just a few days before leaving Portland this last time. I had already packed and vacuum sealed a 37 pound bag of fabric to bring over to this Woven Fabric Desert (otherwise known as Germany), and for the last month or so before leaving I had been talking myself out of making “one last stop” at Fabric Depot, Mill End, Josephine’s and the like. I had packed plenty of fabric to last me several months and I didn’t need yet another yard.

I was doing so well with this self-imposed ban on fabric shopping, but I think Cargo was able to sneak in under the radar because, while they source and supply some really beautiful textiles, they aren’t technically a fabric store. And I was already in the neighborhood. And I had time to kill. I swear.

So, while I somehow convinced myself I was going in to look at some non-fabric nonsense, I very casually made a half-hearted attempt to look at some floor pillows (that would never make the cut for a suitcased move to Germany) before making a beeline for their fabric wall.

And this is where I found a scant 1.5 yards of this Kimono silk Chirimen crepe. And scant it was, because this Kimono fabric was just 33cm wide. - in the folds peplum top - in the folds peplum top - in the folds peplum top

While Kimono sleeves and Kimono robes have made their rounds of popularity in the last few years, I don’t think actual Kimono are popular enough for most people to be familiar with how they’re constructed. So:

Kimono fabric is traditionally woven at a maximum of 36cm wide and sold in bolts of 11.5 meters in length. Rather than being cut with curves and seamed together, the bulk of the fabric is cut into four main lengths (one per sleeve and one per bodice side) and folded to create the sleeves and robe. Thus, the selvedge is entirely preserved, as well as long cuts of the fabric. The fabric is then folded and hand-stitched in such a way that creates the structure of the garment. Because the entire 11.5 meter bolt is used for a single Kimono, the fabric can be re-used and tailored to fit another person in the future, and this method of cutting and construction also allows the seams of the Kimono to be taken apart every time it’s washed and hand sewn back together. (It also allows for great upcycles and refashions since when you source an entire Kimono, you are essentially getting a barely cut 11.5m bolt of fabric.)

While the construction of a Kimono is simple, it also requires a great deal of skill and patience. Further, putting on a Kimono can actually be a production in itself, involving very specific tucks and folds that create shape, drape, structure and the appropriate length. I have only ever been “dressed” by other people in Kimono, never having mastered the skill required to gracefully put one on myself. And wearing a traditional Kimono is much like wearing a corset; between all the layers of fabric and how tight the ties and belts must be tied around your waist, it feels as posture “correcting” and limiting in movement as the western undergarment.

Back to the fabric though, this specific weave of Kimono fabric is called Chirimen. It’s a type of silk crepe that features little waves of texture in the fabric itself and is created by twisting the weft threads around themselves as it’s woven. This one is a yarn-dyed, which is obviously why I had to have it, but interestingly, I think it’s a combination of the Chirimen weave and the yarn-dyed warp that makes this particular fabric appear out of focus in many of the photographs. - in the folds peplum top - in the folds peplum top - in the folds peplum top

The Pattern: Peplum Top by In the Folds
The Fabric: Kimono silk Chirimen crepe remnant from Cargo + yellow silk waffle weave remnant from Mill End
The Size: A
Adjustments: shortened the peplum by 1-2cm
Alterations: Added patchwork at the sides to account for fabric shortage and removed the side seams

I started with my very limited amount of the Kimono silk, knowing full well I’d have to make something on the small side. I happened to have a 1/3 yard or so remnant of a pretty yellow silk waffle, which I picked up to use as detailing for a Thread Theory Fairfield shirt for John, but decided the colorway was just too good to not use as the other fabric in this patchwork (sorry John, you’ll get a button up shirt from me soon, even if it doesn’t use this luxurious Easter yellow silk). I really love the contrast in the slightly out-of-focus yarn-dyed Chirimen and the crisp yellow Waffle.

Knowing I’d have to play with patchwork to make this fabric work and having wanted to make an In the Folds pattern for some months now, I decided to go with one of Emily’s patterns that has built-in color blocking, a freebie released through Peppermint Magazine. - in the folds peplum top - in the folds peplum top - in the folds peplum top

This Peplum Top has a built-in blocking at the shoulder, but due to a lack of fabric, I needed more color blocking than just that and added more blocking into the sides.

I decided to play with the maximum width of the Kimono fabric as a feature, and made the center front panel the natural width of the fabric (33 cm), and each back center panel half the natural width (since it has a center seam), 16.5 cm. The remainder of the pattern piece was filled in with the yellow waffle, and because I added seams into the front panels with the color blocking, I was able to ditch the side seams entirely. The contrast lines between the Chirimen and the waffle extend down into the peplum as well. Due to the width of my Kimono fabric, I did have to shorten the peplum by a cm or two, but considering my short torso, I would have had to do that anyway. - in the folds peplum top

I used the selvedge-to-selvedge yarn-dyed weave design to my advantage and used the selvedge in place of hemming in both the back V-neckline as well as the peplum bottom. Using the selvedge as edging in the back V-neck though meant I had to end the bias binding early, and save for tucking some knotted thread tails into seams (which allows you to avoid back-stitching on edge-stitches), that was the only hand-sewing I did on the entire garment.

I did debate for some time about how to finish the inside of the gathered peplum, and finally landed on making some extra bias binding out of what little Waffle I had left. I was afraid it would end up a bit too bulky, but after pressing the fabric (and with the amount of ease this garment has), it really didn’t end up being an issue at all.

As a silk blouse with playful patchwork, I wanted to keep this blouse from being too serious, so I used fell seams throughout, with the edge-stitching somewhat camouflaged on the yellow waffle. I also debated on visible bias binding for the neck and arm holes, but I was afraid the blouse would end up looking too Scuba (the underwater activity, not the fabric) and kept them on the inside as instructed. - in the folds peplum top

As far as the pattern goes, I’m thoroughly impressed with the quality and detail, the fact that this is a freebie pattern notwithstanding. Emily not only marks out the cutting lines for fabric including a standard 5/8” seam allowances, she also marks out the seam lines. This, to me, is a mark of a thoughtful pattern, because it takes into account the fact that most people have to make at least slight alterations to a pattern to make it work for their individual bodies, and alterations to patterns are infinitely easier when you alter from the seamline rather than using the outer edge of the seam allowance as the starting point.

Furthermore, I’ve always been impressed with Emily’s attention to detail in the construction and finishing techniques of her garment patterns, and how she uses her patterns as an opportunity to teach sewing and construction techniques. One of my favorite tutorials to date is her french-seam inseam pocket technique that she shared in her Rushcutter dress sew-along. Similarly, this pattern calls for self-made bias binding and finishing techniques to make it pretty on the inside. - in the folds peplum top

I’m very happy with this blouse. I’d made it several weeks ago and was holding my breath for a sunny day to take photos, but the weather did one better for me; it was sunny enough to wear for an entire outing to a nearby castle ruin. I know this blouse will be in regular rotation during the warmer months, and I’m happy to finally add this into my regular me-made wardrobe.

Well, I hope everyone is having a beautiful spring so far. Until next time… - in the folds peplum top

11 Comment

    1. Thanks so much Kelly! You know, sometimes you just have to impulsively buy fabric and not feel bad about it :p or at least that’s what I tell myself…

  1. Such interesting snippets about kimono fabric! This is lovely on you and such a clever use of the fabric. I’m glad you didn’t leave it behind!

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