Week Two: Oriental T

Here we are...week two of our "month of woven T's".  Week one's inspiration was the humble tea towel.  For week two we decided to start with kimono fabrics.  So, 'oriental tea' if you will.

Rhonda graciously offered up some vintage kimono pieces for us to work into our designs.  

 Kimono are a series of fabric strips connected to make the traditional Japanese garments.  The fabric comes from a single bolt called a tan that is about 14 inches wide by about 11 yards long.  All of the fabric is incorporated into a single garment.  You can often find pieces of the fabrics that have been scavenged from worn out kimono... and that is exactly what Rhonda sent to me in an incredibly generous and inspirational package.

The gift included four different kimono pieces, an African print and an Indian stamped piece.  When I opened the package my brain immediately went into high gear.  The Kimono pieces were not big enough for a whole shirt so I started trolling around in the 'ol stash and went a little crazy pulling fabrics and making combinations.  I haven't had that much fun for a while and that was just the first step!  I know...I got a bit carried away!

I have been drooling over the work of a designer called Susan Eastman.  She uses Kimono and other Japanese fabrics to create simple, elegant garments.  I knew as soon as I saw the fabrics that this would be the perfect inspiration for my "Oriental T."

I have to admit that the package from Rhonda made me feel a wee bit guilty.  (...only after the squealing and gleeful giggling subsided!)  One of the piles on my table had a very definite blueness about it, and if you have seen my closet you know that blue is not a big component of my wardrobe.  I knew that would not be the T for me, but it felt an awful lot like Rhonda.  So the first Oriental T I made was for her...

Along with the blue floral print Kimono fabric, I collected bits of blue silk and linen, a silk and wool blend with an interesting weave, a couple of indigo/batik square patches that my husband brought back from a trip to Japan.  For a pop, I added a fuschia pink scrap.

I wanted a simple drop shoulder shape with a cut-on sleeve (a la Susan Eastman), but often with this style there is too much fabric that collects under the arms and makes the garment look sloppy.  I decided to 'tighten up' the design by starting with my woven T pattern with set in sleeves.  I added just enough to create the 't-shape' without the extra roominess that usually accompanies this style.

The white pattern pieces are my woven T pattern, the brown paper is my new pattern.  By continuing the shoulder line I created the cut-on sleeve that I wanted.  

I snooped around on Rhonda's blog and noticed that she works on a size 10 dress form, the same as I do...I hope that the size will be OK for her...I did shorten it up a bit!  🙏

I let the fabrics dictate the sizes of the strips that make up the shirt.  It was a bit like putting together a puzzle or a quilt.  I was careful to put the softest textured fabrics for the sides/sleeves so they would drape around the shoulders nicely.

I cut the last scraps of the kimono fabric into strips to use as the neck binding...just eked it out.

I popped the blue oriental T into a package for Rhonda...I was feeling inspired and having sew much fun...I moved on to my second T.  It was very hard to decide between the two remaining piles on my table, I really wanted to make them both...but having a deadline relegated one to the back burner...for now! (there will be another Oriental T post in the future!)

I chose the piece that has a deep raisin color that is one of my favorites.  I also liked the over lapping blocks and thought that would be a great element to work into my T.

The rest of the fabrics came from my stash.  I realized as soon as I thought about stitching the kimono fabric to anything that it would need to be reenforced to handle the stresses of a garment, so I underlined it with a silk charmeuse. 

 It's always a bit scary to cut into a unique piece of fabric...no going back to the fabric store for an extra 1/2 yard!  So I spent time trying out different arrangements on my dress form to get a combination I like.  As I started to cut and assemble the pieces, it became clear the I would have several 'panels' in the finished shirt and that too much stitching on the Kimono piece would not be a good idea.  I figured out ways to line and secure hems to the lining so eventually the only 'raw' seams on the inside were the sleeve seams.  It got a bit convoluted before I got to the finish line, and there were a couple of 'unsewing' moments along the way, but I'm pretty proud of the results!

The zebra print charmeuse is underlining the Kimono piece.  I self lined the silk stripe for the other parts of the top.  The striped sleeve I cut double with the hem on the fold so it is hemmed and lined all in one go.  
I liked the pop of color from the red silk at the front neckline and repeated it on the back neck and sleeve facings.  I used the overlapping block idea for the back embellishment.  I hope I did justice to the beautiful piece that Rhonda 'donated' to the cause!

My 'tea recipe' this time is crazy simple!!!

...that would be cinnamon sticks simmering in water.  Yep, that's it!  I was at a yoga retreat center last summer and the food was all vegan and amazing.  Every afternoon they would put out 'cinnamon tea.'  I couldn't get enough of the stuff!  I finally asked the chef how to make it and..."put cinnamon sticks in a pot of boiling water for a while!"  That's it!  (not only delicious, but the house smells delightful!)

I like it hot or iced, but my favorite way to have it is 1/2 tea, 1/2 milk(whatever kind you drink) a bit of honey to taste, over ice.  It's like an iced chai latte!  So yummy and refreshing.

P.S.  It fits!!!   Whew!  Rhonda received the package and the ninja bunny T fits.  You can see her wearing it HERE. 👍


  1. I LOVE your tee! Great idea on the sleeve shape. Much nicer to actually wear. I don't really get how you did it. Maybe you should do a post on that!

    1. Thanks...I'm not sure I could do it again either! There are always a lot of decisions made in the heat of battle!

  2. I'm so happy that you were able to use a piece of the vintage kimono fabric. Your top is lovely!
    I think you may have the chance at a second career as a private investigator ;)

    1. Thank you for the lovely pieces. The last one is sill in the 'mulling' pile.