「和裁」Wasai – The art of kimono sewing


Last year in October I started with Wasai (和裁) – traditional kimono sewing by hand.
I am being taught by a sensei which has been a professional kimono tailor for over 50 years.

My lessons are once every week for 5 hours to learn the art of kimono sewing.
To be honest – it is quite tough!

One wouldn’t think how many hours, days and week go into making a kimono from scratch. All hand sewn with partially and very time consuming hidden sewing techniques.




My first project was to sew a yukata (summer kimono) from a cotton fabric bolt.
That apparently is the easiest to start with as cotton doesn’t slip around as much as silk would.

A kimono fabric bolt usually has about 12 meters of fabric which first need to be measured and marked according to the sizes you want to achieve.
Without cutting you have to imagine and arrange the kimono design so it doesn’t look weird when sewn. This process is called “gara-awase” (柄合わせ) aka arrangement of the patterns.
I find this and the whole measuring and marking process the most difficult and unpleasant. (haha)




The sewing part actually is really fun (apart from the hidden stitches, those are killing me..)



Once the long fabric panels turn into some kind of shape its a really amazing feeling.




The finished yukata!!
I still didn’t wear it properly because its too cold right now but I am looking forward to.
Aren’t the fishies cute?



The next project was a thick wool kimono for Winter.
For this hitoe kimono I actually used fabric meant for western clothing and partially sewed it with machine due to the wool fraying too much.

Here some snaps from the work process again:





All the tools you need..



This kimono I carried to Germany to wear it on Christmas. (You might have seen the pictures on my previous post already..)






It is super warm and snug! Success!
(I have to admit that I shed some tears when I repeated sewing the sleeves wrong sided onto the kimono.. No pain no gain. LOL)

At the moment I am still thinking of what kind of kimono to make next so I took the time to also learn how to widen and adjust too small kimono.
This is one of my favourite antique kimono and it always has been too small actually..




Actually I can’t do anything about the too small length but at least the width is extendable.



I hope to create many unique and new kimono from now.
Also this is a great way to understand the kimono even more in depth. It isn’t always easy but I am grateful to be able to pass on the knowledge onto the next generation.

Do you like sewing? Let me know if you are interested in learning more about this topic.




19 Responses
  • Eleonora
    February 8, 2017

    This is really interesting… I’ve learnt hand sewing thanks to my mom, but I have used it just for dolls clothing (measuring and cutting fabric is the thing I dislike the most too! XD): I find it quite relaxing even though it takes a lot of time and effort! Obviously it’s different from a proper sewing course… I wish so much I could learn sewing and adapting kimono!
    Can’t wait to see your next works! 😉

    • Anji SALZ
      February 8, 2017

      Hi Eleonora,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I am always happy to hear from my readers.
      It’s true – sewing feels quite relaxing. You never feel the urge to sew clothing for yourself? 🙂

      Have a great week,

  • bebemochi
    February 8, 2017

    I look forward to more articles about sewing in the future.

    • Anji SALZ
      February 8, 2017

      Oh yay! I will keep that in mind and might share some more insights later than!

  • Aby
    February 9, 2017

    I love it. I’m always interested on posts about sewing and kimono. I want to learn how to make kimono one day, so this is perfect for me. Are you learning in a school or with a private teacher? Are there tips you can share? Any advice for someone who wants to learn outside of Japan? (Want to go there one day but its not possible for now)

    • Anji SALZ
      February 24, 2017

      Hey Aby,
      sorry for the late response!
      I am learning in a quite private environment, yes.
      Well, Tipps to share would probably fill a whole blog entry – also depending on what you are looking for haha.
      I hope one day I’ll be able to show some steps on how to sew the kimono.

  • Béné
    February 9, 2017

    I would be so interested by sewing a kimono/yukata but the article was very interesting. I would love to create a pattern for my very own yukata.

    • Anji SALZ
      February 24, 2017

      Hey Bene,
      Thanks so much for the comment and excuse my late response!
      I hopefully will be able to give some guidance on how to make that happen in the future 🙂

  • ladyD
    February 9, 2017

    I have been sewing for a few years now and started with hand sewing but now I machine sew and hand finish. I attempted my first yukata using western fabric and it ended up to short as I didn’t allow for the fold at the waist.
    Now I’m trying to sew kimono in taffeta but it is taking me ages. So much hand sewing. And the fabric I tricky.
    I think I will stick to cotton in the future.
    Would love to see a post with any tips for sewing kimono especially the collar and making it lined.

    • Anji SALZ
      February 24, 2017

      Hey LadyD!
      Oh wow you have been sewing much longer than me then 🙂
      Yeah it is terribly time consuming and depending on the fabric a pain. I hope I can give some tips later for collar and else. I am not yet touching the lined kimono though 😉

  • megsz._
    March 10, 2017

    This article was fascinating. I don’t know how to sew at all! But I love the kimono and its history, and seeing its future shaped. I’m very interested in all aspects from the design/motif on paper to the sewing and assembling to its being worn.

    I can only imagine the immense fulfilment you have wearing a a kimono you made yourself, all that hard-work and discipline creating something beautiful. Thank you for sharing. :]

    • Anji SALZ
      March 10, 2017

      Hey 🙂
      Thanks so much for your comment!
      Yeah it is satisfying when its finally done and wearable but its a tough road haha.

  • Kristina
    April 16, 2017

    Ich find das Wahnsinn das du die Kimonos mit der Hand nähst. Das ist so toll. Ich habe jetzt einige Jinbei und zwei 浴衣ドレス für meine Tochter genäht, allerdings mit der Maschine. Wenn ich mir vorstelle das mit der Hand zu nähen. 😱 Finde deine Leistung bewundernswert und möchte gerne noch mehr darüber lesen 😊

    Liebe Grüße

    PS. Mich würde auch interessieren wie du deine Kimonos aufbewahrst und welche Tipps du hierzu vielleicht hast.

    • Anji SALZ
      April 20, 2017

      Hey Kristina,
      entschuldige meine astronomisch späte Antwort! Und danke danke fuer dein Kompliment!
      Bei einigen schwierigeren Stoffen nähe ich aber die geraden Nähte mit der Maschine (also und der Rest muss aber trotzdem alles mit der Hand gemacht werden :'(

      Oh danke fuer die Tipps! Ich hoffe ich kann bald mal zeigen wie meine Kimono aufbewahrt sind 🙂

  • Tran
    June 29, 2017

    Where do you get your lessons from I would like to learn myself and how long would it take to sew a Kimono

    • Anji SALZ
      June 30, 2017

      Hey Tran,
      I am learning rather privately from a woman who has been sewing kimono all her life ^^ It isn’t in the center of Tokyo so probably wouldn’t be of much help.
      How long it takes to make a kimono depends on the level of experience and what kind of kimono. A yukata for example takes me about a month – but I am not sewing every day.

  • Beth
    July 30, 2017

    Hi Anji

    Can I enquire who your teacher is? I’m living in Tokyo and have been looking to learn Wasai and would love to learn from someone who has been recommended. If not, can you tell me where I could find other teachers?



    • Anji SALZ
      August 3, 2017

      Hi Beth,
      Actually my teacher is quite far out in a local area where I live (Saitama Pefecture) and it is a little private circle I am afraid. I am not sure about other wasai places, but searching online should bring up quite some sources in the city, no?

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