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Kabuki Tee Pattern Review & Nui Shibori Tee Off

The Kabuki Tee by Paper Theory Patterns is a pattern that I've had my eye on for a while. I do not own many patterns for woven tops, and its design ticked off many boxes for me.


The kimono sleeves are a big draw, but the most eye catching details of this top are the right angles that join sleeves to bodice at around the bust line. Such a simple detail but so effective. The angular lines created by the right angles give the boxy shirt heightened geometric interest, and provide an illusion of shaping at the bust point. This loose-fitting shirt directs the eye to our feminine curves at the chest. Genius!


The pictures show that I've paired up my Papao Pants by Ready To Sew with my Kabuki Tee. It's a winning combo, and I love how the blues of the top and bottoms match so well together.


Sizing for this top come in two ranges: 6-20 and 16-28. Judging by the body measurements, I should be a size 8, but I followed the advice of other reviewers and decided to size down and made a size 6 instead. That turned out to be a good call because I think I would be swimming in a size 8.

Made up of only 4 pattern pieces, the top looked like it'll be breezy to wear, and breezy to sew. The former is true - the roomy cut makes it incredibly comfortable to wear especially during hot summers - but I sweated buckets in my attempts at sewing these 4 right angles at the front and back bodice.


I reckon that it is not the fault of the pattern but it was just a bad sewing day for me. There's even an extremely helpful tutorial provided in the Paper Theory blog explaining how to sew up these tricky right angles. So my excuse is that I was suffering from a bad bout of CFS - Clumsy Finger Syndrome. This coupled with a slippery linen-viscose made sewing the right angles a disaster. I probably should have stay-stitched the sleeve openings of the bodices to minimise shifting and stretching at these crucial points, or I should have taken a break till the CFS subsided.



Next time, I will use a more stable linen or cotton to ensure a more accurate (and less sweaty) sewing experience. In order to sew the right angles, the seam allowances at the angles of the bodices need to be snipped into. At one point, I snipped a little bit too much into the fabric, beyond the seam allowance. Urgh!!!!! That caused a mild panic attack and near total meltdown. I didn't have enough fabric to cut out for a redo, so I had to fix this however I could. The advice in the instructions to reinforce with interfacing at the right angles were a saving grace. This kept the fabric from fraying while I did my best to salvage the situation. I managed to do it in the end but not without some agonising hair-pulling to begin with. The result is slight puckering at this particular corner. The dye-work of the fabric hides this fault, so I kind of got lucky there.


As a contrast to unfortunate sewing, I got amazingly lucky with my first nui shibori or stitched shibori dye experiment. I stitched up 3m of fabric, and all 3m turned out with super results for garment-making. Now you must be thinking how I couldn't find enough fabric to correct the Kabuki Tee mistake with 3m of available fabric. And that's because at the point of sewing, I had already cut up the fabric for a Kabuki Tee and a Charlie Caftan by Closet Core Patterns.


When I was in the process of dyeing the fabric, I had a very different idea of the garments that would come out of this dyeing experiment. What I had in mind was to make a matching pair of pants and top, but when the dyeing was completed, the fabric started talking to me. You know how that happens - when a piece of fabric whispers into your ear to abandon your plans so that it can truly be what it was meant to be. Actually, it wasn't really whispering, it was shouting to me that it should be a Charlie Caftan and a Kabuki Tee.


The fabric was right. These two patterns show off the dye-work perfectly. So I'm really glad I tuned in psychically to the fabric and listened.


Let's segue into a little tutorial of this particular stitched shibori technique that created these patterns on the fabric. I think this technique is called horse tooth or horse's teeth because the resulting pattern looks like what it's named. First, the stitches are done on the fold with the folds spaced out about 3&1/2'' apart. The folds were made parallel to the grain-line and I find it helpful to iron on the folds to ensure easier stitching. The stitches are basically running stitches 1/2'' wide sewn on 1/2'' from the edge of the fold.

I used doubled-up regular sewing polyester thread and started each sewing row with a stopper of gaffer tape to make sure the threads stay locked in place when gathering up the threads in the second step when all the rows are stitched up. Next time, I will use stronger thread like Extra Strong Gutermann to ensure that the threads don't break when gathering them up and pulling strongly to secure the tightest gather possible. None of them broke off while I was doing it, but it kind of made me nervous and the extra strong thread will give me better peace of mind in the next try. After gathering and tightening with strong knots on both ends of the rows, the fabric looks something like this:


The tight folds of the gathers form the resist pattern on the fabric. And this is the first technique that I used for the first piece of fabric:


The second piece of fabric was created by folding parallel to the crossgrain with accordion folds spaced out 3&1/2'' apart. The stitch length is 1/2'' and also sewn on 1/2'' away from the edge of the fold. After the rows of stitches were tightened into gathers, I added an extra row of resist by wrapping string tightly in between the stitched folds.

This yielded a pattern with horizontal lines:


After the fabrics are stitched, gathered and bound, then it is ready to be dyed according to hand-dyeing instructions for synthetic dyes or natural dyeing techniques. Make sure you follow the instructions for pretreating the fabric before stitching and the instructions for rinsing and washing the fabric after the dyeing process.


The dye that is available to me right now is a synthetic dye that can also be used for washing machine dyeing as well. It is the Marabu Fabric Color in Deep Blue. This product comes with a colour fixer that is added on at the end to ensure that the colour stays on more lastingly and effectively. Other dyes like Rit Dye and Dylon can be used as well. These dyes have to be modified for hand-dyeing for the resist dyeing to be successful. I doubt that the resist dyeing will work in the machines. Make sure that the fabrics used are made up of natural fibres like cotton, linen, viscose and silk.

The most time-consuming process of stitched shibori is stitching up the fabric, and then gathering them up and carefully and tightly tying up the knots at the ends of the rows. The stitching becomes a meditative process that needs patience. It is all worth your while to make sure that the fabric is gathered tightly and tied together securely for better resist results.

I am really digging this whole journey of dyeing fabrics and making garments out of them. It really gives clothes an extra personal touch. The stitching gives a certain control of the resulting patterns on the fabric but there is always this element of the unexpected that comes with shibori dyeing. What cannot be controlled is just as beautiful, or maybe even more beautiful. This feeling of the unknown and a sense of surprise when the dyed fabric is unbound and revealed is so thrilling. This rush of endorphins makes shibori highly addictive. You've been forewarned!


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