How to Hem a Kimono

One of my customers has more than 60 vintage kimonos in her closet. She loves them!

Each one is so unique.

Most of them are made from a solid colored pure silk fabric with gorgeous embroidery on them.

This one is different. It is a multi colored fabric with no embroidery. Most of the kimonos she owns are too long when she buys them and she doesn’t know how to hem a kimono.

So, she brings them to me.

Here is one that she wanted hemmed:

full shot of kimono to hem, IMG_7680

As you can see, it is fully lined.

(I will talk about the lining later in this post. Pay close attention to the details on it or you might ruin the kimono, like I almost did!)

My customer wanted 5 inches taken off the length, so I put a pin in the kimono 5″ above the current hemline to begin the process.

If your customer does not know how much hem they want taken off, have them try the kimono on and pin it up to the desired length.

In the photo below, you can see that I put a pin in the kimono 5″ above the bottom edge of the hem.

seam gauge to measure how much to hem a kimono, IMG_7681

On the lining, I put a pin 5 1/2″ above the bottom edge of the kimono.

That is because I want the lining to be shorter than the hem of the outer fabric.

Let’s take a time out from this tutorial for a side note…a field trip, if you will…..

I want to show you the incredible stitching on this kimono.

The entire kimono was stitched by hand!

There is not one stitch done on a sewing machine.

That is common for many vintage kimonos.

Can you see the small white stitches down the center back seam on the lining and then some along the edge of both sides of the opening on the kimono fabric?

center back seam of kimono, IMG_7683

Look at these tiny stitches!

tiny hand stitches inside kimono, IMG_7685

Here’s another view:

close up of tiny black stitches inside kimono, MG_7686

And now look at the knots! Aren’t they beautiful? They look like flowers.

hand stitched knots inside kimono, IMG_7687

Here is an example of some mending done at some point in the life of this kimono:

mending stitches inside old kimono, IMG_7690

What a treasure to be able to see someone else’s hand work from decades ago.

Now, let’s get back on track and resume the tutorial here…

Let’s talk about the silk next.

Silk is a natural fiber so you don’t have to worry about the fabric having a “shine” when you press it, like you would a man made fiber like polyester or nylon.

But, it also demands a very low temperature iron, so please be careful and start with a low temp, slowly increasing the temp until you get the desired effect. That is a good rule of thumb on any garment where you don’t know for sure what the fabric content is.

Because I want a 5 inch hem on this kimono and I want the finished hem to be 2 inches total, I will cut off 3 inches from the bottom of the kimono.

Does that make sense?

In other words, because I want to have a 2 inch hem in this kimono, I will trim off  3 inches. 2 + 3 = 5″ total.

You can make your hem any length you’d like.

If I wanted to make a 3 inch hem on mine, I’d just cut off 2 inches. You can make your hem any length you like, but don’t make a hem less than 2 inches on a garment like this. It won’t hang well or look professional.

Do you see how I have trimmed off 3 inches in the photo below?

trimming off fabric to line hem of kimono, IMG_7688

You can trim the outer fabric and the lining fabric at the same time.

Here’s another look at it once the fabric has been trimmed off:

fabric trimmed off of hemline of kimono, IMG_7691

As you can see, the facing fabric is pink and the lining fabric is white.

One observation I have with all the “every day” kimonos I have hemmed, is that the makers of kimonos were generally frugal with their fabrics, often piecing several different fabrics together for the lining. I’m guessing they didn’t take off their kimonos much in public.

Once the bottom edge is trimmed off, take out the stitches necessary up the center front openings. You will be separating the kimono fabric from the facing fabric on this step.

Take out about 4 to 5 inches of stitches on one side of the garment. It doesn’t matter which side. You’ll be using this “hole” to turn the fabric right side out later when the hem is sewn.

ripping out a section of hemline to stitch a new hem in kimono, IMG_7704

Now, measure up 2 inches on the hem of the kimono being sure to keep any fabric together and press with your iron:

using ruler to measure 2" to hem kimono, IMG_7703

Next, trim off 2 inches on just the lining and facing fabrics only.

As you can see, I had trouble trimming exactly on the pressed edge of the lining fabric (in the photo below). As long as you are close to the pressed edge, it won’t matter if it is a little off.

DO NOT trim off any kimono fabric! You already did that in an earlier step.

trimming off lining fabric for kimono,  IMG_7705

Here is another look at the hemline at this point:

hemline after fabric and lining are cut, kimono, IMG_7706

Next. press up 1/2″ of the lining fabric all around the kimono. If you have facing fabric, include that as you press as well.

pressing up lining fabric to hem kimono, img_7697.jpg

After you’ve pressed it up, you can see how it will lay on the kimono once it is finished. This is just a peek at what it will look like, not the actual ending just yet:

a peek at what the kimono hem will look like, IMG_7707

Now, place the kimono fabric right sides together to the lining fabric matching all seams and pin it if necessary. The raw edges of the kimono fabric and the lining fabric should meet as you sew. I separated them just a bit in the photo below so you could see them:

stitching lining and hem together of kimono, IMG_7708

Stitch all the way around the hemline.

stitching around hemline of kimono, IMG_7709

Once you are finished, it should look something like this from the lining side:

hemline inside kimono before turning right side out, IMG_7710

This is what it should look like from the kimono fabric side:

hemline after it is stitched wrong side out, IMG_7711

Now, pull the lining out through the “hole” in the side seam. It should now look like the photo below.

Stitch that “hole” closed.

Now let’s talk about the lining again.



Ask me how I know.

I touched the iron to the lining and it melted immediately.

It happens to all of us sooner or later. And I should have known better. In fact, I told my self to remember that when I started this project. Ugh. I was able to piece in a new spot to fix the problem, thankfully.

Linings made before say 1970, were mostly acetate linings.

Acetate is very heat sensitive.

You might even choose not to press the lining and it would be a very safe choice!!

hemline of kimono after it is stitched, img_7712.jpg

Hand stitch (with a tack stitch) the lining to the kimono fabric at the seam line on the seam allowance, so that they stay together when the garment is turned right side out. In other words, you are going to tack the lining to the kimono fabric on the inside, matching all the seams so that the lining stays put while the kimono is worn.

hand stitching kimono hem to seam allowance to hold in place, IMG_7713

I can’t believe I forgot to take a photo after I finished the hem!

But, just imagine this kimono below with 5 inches taken off.

The hem lies just below the exterior looking facings in the photo below.

finished kimono hem, IMG_7680

I hope you enjoyed this process.

It’s not difficult to do.

I’m hoping to show you soon, how to alter a kimono that has embroidery in unusual places on it.

Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page, if you have any questions.

I’d love to know your experience in altering kimonos!