This is perhaps the tipping point for my love of DIY projects. Making simple kaftan scarf top with kimono sleeves from an old H&M scarf was such a fun experience. I couldn’t believe I almost throw this barely-used scarf away; it has such a pretty flower print and colors!

It started with a desire to do a simple DIY idea of refashioning my pretty-but-not-used-much-at-all rectangular H&M scarf into a kaftan top. I would create a hole at the center of the scarf for the neckline, stitch around the neckline with some bias tape. Then I would measure from the sides where I should stitch just several inches upwards, giving the loose torso definition. But the plan changed for the better once I was done with the neckline part.

The scarf is longer (lengthwise) than I thought, therefore a simple kaftan top would look really sloppy. I would look like a drowning dog in a lake of water lily pond in Japan. Pretty place, still drowning though. That’s when I decided to take the harder route and create kimono sleeves on the sides instead. And what a great decision that was. I am so proud of the scarf top with kimono sleeves…it’s probably my best work so far! This was my first time working with silky fabric and it turned out so good!! So excited to share the process and the finished garment with you all in this post :)

1. Making the Neckline

The large rectangular H&M scarf I was working with is 100% polyester, and later on (after I finished the neckline) I found out the length is about 58 inches, width 52 inches (this new H&M sarong scarf is a great candidate if you want to make your own scarf top like mine. It’s 51 1/4 inches x 59 inches).

The first step I did was searching for the center of the scarf. I basically folded the scarf lengthwise once, then iron it lightly. Then I folded again widthwise and iron lightly once again. Below is the picture of the center point I found on my scarf.

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I then created a simple neckline pattern. Basically, I fold a scrap of tracing paper in two lengthwise so that I’m working from the center and then just “mirror” the pattern on the other side to get a full neckline pattern. For the front neckline, I measured 12 cm from the center to side. Then I measured 6 cm top-bottom for the front, and 2 cm for the back.Then I hand drew the deeper front curve and shallower back curve.

Finishing up the “mirror”, I get this full neckline pattern:

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Then after I chose which side of the fabric is to be the front, I pinned the pattern, aligning it to the center (I used the fold lines created during the ironing to align this properly). Then I cut the neckline with a rotary cutter, cutting the tracing paper along with it. And because the fabric started fraying quite badly, I did not delay finishing up the neckline with some black bias tape.

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One thing I did not document is that after I was finished with the neckline, I tried it on and saw that the neckline did not lie flat. So I pinched and sew just a tiny bit from each curve points. It solved the problem for me.

2. Simple kaftan top? Nay! Let’s do kimono sleeves instead.

The drawing below should help explain what I did (a picture is worth a thousand words). I “consulted” my one and only Uniqlo kimono (I bought it at Tokyo, Japan in 2005) in terms of the length of the kimono “pockets”, and I marked where to start stitching the torso sides and how far up I want it when I was trying on the top in front of a mirror. Sigh, one of these days, I need a dress form!!!

Once again, I made a pattern for the kimono “pocket”. I made one for each side, and one more for safe-keeping. So I drew one and duplicated it twice. Based on your own body, your measurements will be different, therefore I’m just sharing the diagram above to give you the gist of the sewing path I was making with the pattern.

From the neckline fraying situation, I learnt that a simple top stitch for this won’t do. Therefore I decided to do french seams for these kimono pockets for a clean, secure, and more professional look. This was the first time I did it, so thank you Prudent Baby and Sew Mama Sew for the helpful tutorials.

I sew the tracing paper with the fabric so it’s stable (not to mention it made the sewing easier), and then I just ripped the paper afterwards.

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A beginner’s mistake. When this happened, I had to open the seams and then redid it. So make sure your fabric is laid flat and not bunching up in places.

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After I’m done stitching and ripping the tracing paper, I cut the a line in the between the two stitch lines located on the gap between the torso and the kimono “pocket”, careful as not to cut the U-turn curve stitch. With that cut done, the stitching line has a uniform 1/4″ seam allowance.

Now, the tricky thing for the second part of french seams is indeed determining the sewing allowance so there were no fabric “whiskers” getting caught when you get to sew the right sides together. I also put scraps of tracing paper to sew with at the beginning of the sewing path and the curves to help me stabilize the fabric.

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Et voila! One kimono sleeve down, one more to go!

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So I repeated the same thing with the other side.

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3. The result: Scarf Top with Kimono Sleeves

When I was finished with the last snip, I was happy and proud that I finished this new challenge of working with silky fabric AND doing french seams. But when I finished ironing the kimono “pockets” lightly and trying it on, I was blooming inside, just like the scarf print. I was (and still am) VERY, VERY HAPPY.

I mean, look at it! This is me styling the scarf top with kimono sleeves very casually with black H&M shorts (yup, I love H&M):

Then I was thinking, hmm, can I wear it to work? So I switched with a black cropped pants and tucked it inside. Yup, sure can! I really love the flow when it’s in motion:

What do you think? I’m 100% sure I will be wearing this scarf now that it’s no longer just a scarf, but a very pretty scarf top with kimono sleeves!

October 20, 2013 Update: I wore this top when we’re on vacation at Oahu, Hawai’i, and I have to say that this scarf top with kimono sleeves is PERFECT for late-afternoon / evening wear at the very easy-going Hawai’i vibe. Not to mention stylish too, as one Japanese lady (who sells kimonos!) complimented me on how good the top looks.

Thank you for reading, until next time,

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