Here is my first attempt at an Indian kurta for Diwali, using raw silk. I find the traditional clothes sold in Little India or other Indian stores in the GTA either too bead-covered, too synthetic, or just too floweryfor my taste. A couple years ago, I first saw the decent Indian fabric collection at Asiyans in Scarborough. So this year I actually got my act together and
sewed myself a kurta for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. I chose a vibrant, turmeric-coloured raw silk. Dress F from Yoshiko Tsukiori’s Stylish Dress Book makes for a simple kurta pattern with a ribbon-tied open 3/4 sleeve, which is a delicate detail. Here, here, and here are examples of what other crafters have done with the pattern.
I prewashed the raw silk by hand in a bucket, using some Woolite and warm water. I was extremely gentle but in hindsight, could have hand washed a test piece with some more vigour to test the limits of the integrity of the silk and colour-fastness. As usual, I hung the silk to dry and it dried to a crisp astonishingly fast (1-1.5 hours in the sun).
The pattern and Japanese Dress Books
Stylish Dress Book has the features of other Japanese dress books published by Tuttle Publishing. Interesting designs but beginner beware:
- Seam allowances: No seam allowances added to the pattern itself; you have to refer to the instructions in the book know that most margins are 3/8” but the neck line is 1/4″ and the hem is 1.25″. I actually traced the patterns once, and then realized I’d omitted the allowance. And redid them. Sigh. Oh well, patterns are forever, right?
- Pattern Jungle: You have to be caffeinated or alert enough to extract your pattern from this jungle
- I’m a big kid now: Instructions are simple and they expect you to know things like, if the edge is curved, you need to clip and trim allowances. Sometimes the order of construction doesn’t seem intuitive.
So, here is my short cheat sheet for working with these:
- Select the pattern. Fantasize about the 15 different versions you will make. Buy material.
- On the diagram showing the cutting layout, write “ADD SEAM” in pencil over the bigger pieces. Hopefully this will remind you to add seam allowances while tracing out the pattern.
- Find all the pattern pieces. Take stock: did you find them all? Maybe one is hiding in the corner of a different sheet. Trace out, adding seam allowances. Remember to trace the correct-sized pattern.
- Cut out the pieces. Serge the edges. Raw silk frays quite dramatically.
- Read the instructions through before starting. This is true in general but particularly I find of these books. If you need to change the order, mark it in your book now.
- Sew as any other garment.
Sewing the Outfit
This pattern suggested first sewing shoulder seams, sewing arms separately, and then joining shoulder to arm. I suggest first joining the front arm to front torso, the back arm to back torso, and then connecting the two via the shoulder seam. The neck piece was straightforward to make (remember to clip curves). I suggest making the bias strips 1.5 inches instead of 1 inch, giving more room to fold the strips.
View of the finished neckline, with the bias strip edge.
The arm sewing took me a while to figure out because of the non-standard shape. The “bell”-shaped edge of the arm needs to be hemmed, which wasn’t really obvious to me; just turn in as close as you can to the edge (1/4 to 1/ 2 inch). Here is what the arm looks like after it’s assembled.
Here is a view of the finished arm. You can see the hem at the top edge, and the bottom seam.
Here is the inside, with the hem and serged ends. Ribbons get attached on the inside.
Finally, I had to give the body some shape. The Stylish Dress Book has no real contours, no darts, no waist definition. I learnt that even if you just want to take in a mid-section, you have to make the seam continuous all the way down the side. Otherwise the fabric bulges in an, er, unseam-ly manner.
Got some helpful tips from Karyn and the great workroom staff, for the construction. I skipped an inner lining layer recommended by the Asiyan’s staff, in favour of wearing a slip inside the kurta. workroom also suggested using a premade ribbon for the ties, instead of cutting fabric strips and turning them inside out. They introduced me to the awesome store Mokuba in the Fabric District. Great selection of lace trim among so much else, but you pay for what you get.
Here are some views of the finished kurta.
This is a good shot of the drape and the flare of the sleeves.
Good for some variety in design in the wardrobe; maybe after Christmas sewing (aha) there will be a few more versions.