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Happi coat sewing tutorial

Like many JA’s, I was excited to finally get back to Obon in-person this year; that is, until I discovered that moths ate my kimonos. What a painfully fitting metaphor after 2 long years of Obon seasons sidelined by Covid: the moths in my vacant DC apartment feasting like kings.

I discovered this, of course, the night before Obon. But luckily I had some experience stitching up happi coats, and had lots of leftover fabric from the early mask-making days.

The two things I love most about this pattern are:

  1. It’s relatively low fabric waste and very easy to cut.Iif you’re following the original pattern, it’s really only 3 pieces, and the patterning can be done freehand if you can’t find a yardstick.
  2. Unlike any sewing pattern I’ve worked with, it's incredibly flexible and adaptable. Want a shorter happi coat? Cheat a few inches from the length. Want a more oversized fit? Add a few inches to the width and lengthen the sleeves. Pockets? No problem! You can even modify this to make a child sized happi coat.

I am including instructions for two patterns below, one that follows more closely the measurements from the tutorial, and a more relaxed/oversized version I like to make for myself (keep in mind that I am 5’10” and wear a women’s size 14). To eliminate fraying, you can use pinking shears on the internal seams, or use a serger if you have one.

For reference, the original pattern and tutorial can be found here and here

Original Pattern:

Length: 29” finished (30” pattern)

Body Fabric: 1.75 yards

Neck Band Fabric: 10” x 44” (or whatever width fabric you purchase; cut in half so you have two 5” pieces)

Steps:

1. Fold the fabric in half, right sides facing lengthwise; then fold in half widthwise making sure the corner with no raw edges is on the bottom right hand corner of your workspace.

2. Patterning & Cutting:

  • First Cut: Assuming you’ve had the fabric cut to the exact length measurement above, you can just clean up the cutline on the left hand side to make sure it’s straight. If you want to cheat the length, this is where you can modify the pattern to make it shorter.
  • Second Cut: Working on the corner with no raw edges, measure 2” from the corner widthwise and 4” lengthwise; draw a slight curve to create the neckline (see drawing).
  • Third Cut: Measuring from the bottom section nearest to you, measure 13” and mark (this will be the width of your coat); from the left side measure 13”; create a rectangle with these measurements and cut (see drawing below).
  • Fourth Cut: From the edge of the 4” measurement, draw a line all the way down to the bottom of the garment. Lift the top layer of the fabric and cut along this line. Note: You should NOT be cutting through both layers of the fabric, only the first.
  • Fifth Cut: Using your neck band fabric, cut two 5” strips.

You should now have 3 pieces of fabric. 

3. Sewing the neck band: 

  • Place the two pieces of fabric right sides face and sew together to make a long strip of fabric, then fold the fabric right sides facing and sew until you’ve made a large, inside-out tube; using a safety pin, invert the fabric so that the right side is facing out and press with an iron

4. Sewing the Happi Coat: 

  • Fold the fabric so that the right sides are facing and line up the arm holes and sides of the happi coat; stitch along this line to enclose your garment (optional: Using pinking shears to avoid fraying).
  • Hem both arm holes.
  • Matching the center seam of the neck band to the center of the garment, pin in place so that the wrong side is facing the inside of the garment; stitch to attach and trim any excess along the bottom.
  • Hem bottom of the garment.

Oversized Pattern:

Length: 35” finished (36” pattern)

Body Fabric: 2.5 yards (this includes 18” extra to add to the sleeve length, 9” on each side)

Neck Band Fabric: 10” x 44” (or whatever width fabric you purchase; cut in half so you have two 5” pieces)

Steps:

1. Fold the fabric in half, right sides facing lengthwise; then fold in half widthwise making sure the corner with no raw edges is on the bottom right hand corner of your workspace.

2. Patterning & Cutting:

  • First Cut: From the left side of the folded fabric, cut 9” off for the sleeves and set aside.
  • Second Cut: Working on the corner with no raw edges, measure 2” from the corner widthwise and 4” lengthwise; draw a slight curve to create the neckline (see drawing).
  • Third Cut: Measuring from the bottom section nearest to you, measure 18” and mark (this will be the width of your coat); from the left side measure 30”; create a rectangle with these measurements and cut (see drawing).
  • Fourth Cut: From the edge of the 4” measurement, draw a line all the way down to the bottom of the garment. Lift the top layer of the fabric and cut along this line. Note: You should NOT be cutting through both layers of the fabric, only the first.
  • Fifth Cut: Using your neck band fabric, cut two 5” strips.

You should now have 5 pieces of fabric. 

3. Sewing the neck band: 

  • Place the two pieces of fabric right sides face and sew together to make a long strip of fabric, then fold the fabric right sides facing and sew until you’ve made a large, inside-out tube; using a safety pin, invert the fabric so that the right side is facing out and press with an iron.

4. Adding material to the sleeves:

  • Taking one of the 9” pieces of fabric, pin the long side to the happi coat sleeve right sides facing together; sew and trim off excess; repeat on the other side.

5. Sewing the Happi Coat: 

  • Fold the fabric so that the right sides are facing and line up the arm holes and sides of the happi coat; stitch along this line to enclose your garment (optional: Using pinking shears to avoid fraying).
  • Hem both arm holes.
  • Matching the center seam of the neck band to the center of the garment, pin in place so that the wrong side is facing the inside of the garment; stitch to attach and trim any excess along the bottom.
  • Hem bottom of the garment.

Parting Notes: Enjoy!

Here are a few photos of the oversized happi coat I made. To ensure as little fabric waste as possible I also made a few hair scrunchies :) 

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