Newborn Kimono Shirt

My mother is now retired, but for most of my life she was the head designer and co-owner of a children’s wear company called Sweet Potatoes. Growing up I would occasionally find some of the very first clothes she made for me carefully tucked away in a trunk. I always marveled at how tiny the newborn sleep sacks, jackets, and dresses were. I couldn’t believe I had ever been that small! Inspired by one such sleep sack, edged in bias tape and made for me thirty-three years ago, I designed this Newborn Kimono Shirt for my own little one who, as I write this, is due very soon (but who may have been born by the time you read it!). I realize that newborn clothing doesn’t fit fast-growing babies for very long, but I love the idea of showing her just how little she was! For the body of the Kimono, I used natural Essex Linen which has a beautiful, timeless heirloom quality. And for the binding, I used Nani Iro's adorable new Bias Tape. I love its subtle but playful polka dots, especially because I think they work equally well for a baby boy or girl. The Kimono's construction is very simple but with attention to important details, so it doesn’t take long to sew, but it will last a lifetime! --Molly P.S. In case you all are wondering, YES, Molly had her baby!  Guadalupe Raquel was born on June 17, 2012.  Both Mom and Baby are doing great!  Congratulations Molly!  xoxo - Purl Bee  


To make one newborn sized kimono shirt:

You will also need:



Following the directions on the pattern (which is available for free download here) cut out one back panel and two front panels. If you are using a fabric that has a right side and a wrong side make sure to cut the front panels in different directions as instructed on the pattern. Press the pieces flat.

Sewing the Shoulders

Note: The shoulder seams of this piece are French seams which means that they are sewn right side out at first and then sewn again wrong sides out to completely encase the seam. It can be a bit confusing to start sewing with the right sides of the garment out but it will make sense shortly. Pin the two front panels to the back panels along the shoulder seams with the fabric's right sides facing out. (The shirt is now right side out even if your fabric doesn't have a clear right side and wrong side as in the example.) The front panels should be facing different directions and overlapping in the center of the shirt as shown above. Sew the pieces together along these pinned edges with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam. Open up the pieces along the sewn seams. Then press the piece flat into a shirt shape, right sides together, so that the the piece is wrong side out. Press the shoulder seams flat and pin them together along the top. Sew the pinned shoulder seams together again a 1/2-inch from the top fold thus encasing the previously sewn 1/4-inch seam. Open up the piece again so that the back and front are separate keeping the wrong sides of the fabric facing up. Press the shoulder seams towards the back panel and pin them down.   Edgestitch the seams down towards the back panel, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam.

Sewing the Side Seams

Encase the raw edges of the sleeves with the bias tape. Leave an inch or so of overhang along each side. Edgestitch the bias tape on and then trim the overhang. Keeping the wrong side facing out, press front back together and pin the raw side edges together. The sewn down shoulder seam should be facing towards the back panel. Sew these sides seams with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seams. Snip a notch into the seam at the underarm at each side. Zig zag stitch along the raw edges of this seam in two sections, before and after the notch. Turn the shirt right sides out and press it flat with the side seams pressed towards the back panel.

Attaching the Bias Tape

Open up the shirt from the front panels making sure to keep the side seams pressed towards the back panel. With the right side of the shirt facing out and starting in the middle of the bottom of the back panel pin the bias tape over the bottom raw edge. Leave a 3-inch tail of bias tape at the beginning. Keep pinning along the bottom until you reach the corner. To create a mitered corner open up the bias tape and fold the bottom of it into a 45-degree triangle as shown above. Then fold the bias tape back on itself to create a neat corner as shown above. Since this is bias tape it has some strech and give. When you get to the curve of the front panels pull it along the curve so that there are no folds or creases. Stretch it again as you pin it along the curve of the neck. Use as many pins as you need to get it to go smoothly around the curves. Pin the bias tape on in this fashion all the way around the raw edges until it meets back up with itself at the bottom of the back panel. Leave a 3-inch gap unpinned at this bottom edge and trim the end of the bias tape to have a 3-inch tail. Edge stitch the bias tape onto the shirt. Make sure that you catch both sides of the tape and the fabric at every point paying special attention to the neck curve. Backstitch at the beginning and end of this seam. Trim the tails to 2-inches. Lay one side of the tail down along the raw side. Finger press the end of the second side 1/4-inch toward the wrong side. Then pin the folded side over the first side. Edge stitch along this section of the tape.

Attaching the Snaps

So now the shirt should have no raw edges and look neat and finished along all the edges. Press it flat. You'll need to decide which way the shirt will close. I liked the way the (wearer's) left side of the bias tape looked so I had mine close with the left side on top. This is traditionally the boy direction to button a shirt. I'm making it for a girl but I didn't think it really mattered. However, if you'd like to make a "girls" version you'll want the wearer's right side to lay on top. Place the male halves of the snaps on top of the piece perpendicular to the curve of the front panel as shown above. Make sure they are straight. Using your fabric marker mark the 4 open holes of the snaps as small points. Then remove the snaps (as shown above) and make sure the markings look straight. Sew the male halves of the snaps to the top front panel with the embroidery thread and  a tripled cross stitch. Use the markings as your guide. Mark the opposite front panel at the points directly across from the male halves of the snaps. Sew the female halves on at these points using the embroidery thread. You don't have to use a cross stitch for these halves since the sewing won't be seen. Instead, sew them on according to the directions on the snap package. Snap the shirt closed and make sure it lies flat and you're all done!

19 Responses to Newborn Kimono Shirt

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  1. Floozie says:

    This is a must make, in fact I can hardly wait to get started but as it is 2am I guess I better try to get to sleep and be fresh to do it.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful free pattern for me to make for my first grandchild due in a couple of months.

  2. Blake @ salt, teak & fog says:

    beautiful! heading straight to the top of my make-for-baby list! I really appreciate the bias tape images — clearest explanation I've seen. Thanks and congratulations on the little one!

  3. Patricia says:

    What a blessed baby to have you as her mommy!! Congratulations!!!

  4. Anne So says:

    Merciiiii !!

    Thank you soooo much for this detailed article ! All these images, it's so usefull !

  5. Victoria says:

    I love the pattern. How do you think it would work with knit fabric and bias trim?

  6. purl bee says:

    Victoria… I think it would be just lovely with a knit fabric. Let us know how it goes!! -Laura

  7. Linzee says:

    Congratulations on the baby! I used to dress my daughters (now 30 and 26) in Sweet Potato clothes. I loved them and their factory outlet sales were my favorites.

  8. katie says:

    Thank you for this sweet pattern! I think I will make a set of three…

  9. Amanda says:

    This is just the cutest thing ever! A friend made one for my sweet little nephew and now I can't wait to make one for my friend's new baby… I'm just a little worried about the sizing (want to make sure it still fits by the time they get it!), any tips or tricks for enlarging the pattern? Thanks!

  10. purl bee says:

    Hi Amanda-

    You can just blow the pattern up on a copy machine by 20% or however much you like.

    Thank you for your question and please let me know how it goes!


  11. leny says:

    Thank you for the pattern. I love it very much. Ii had som trouble with the French seam, but it looks perfect.
    I made also a nice trouser in combination with the skirt.

  12. Annyn says:

    Thank you for this nice and useful pattern. Beautiful for my two new grandchildren (one in sept. and the other in nov.) I always make 10 presents for the first 10 days of a new grandchild in a giftbasket. And this pattern is nice to use for it. Thank you.

  13. Anna says:

    Ooh, I like this idea! I'm going to have to make one for my not-yet-arrived baby. Perhaps out of flannel…

  14. Dee says:

    I am teaching myself to sew, and I made this for my mom-to-be friend. Thank you very much for the simple to follow instructions.

  15. Phyllis says:

    Thank you for the lovely little pattern and the beautifully-written tutorial. I'm planning to make a stack of these from cotton, cotton knit, and flannel to send to a birthing centre in the Philippines, where destitute mothers have nothing at all in which to dress their babies. I have about 3 weeks, and I can't wait to get started! Thank you for your help with my project!

  16. Vicky says:

    I'm super late to this party! Wonderful pattern though, thank you so much for sharing. I love how mine turned out.

  17. Cheryl says:

    Thank you so much for this adorable simple unisex pattern! It’s exactly what I was looking for, for a baby shower coming up! I’m hoping to make it out of fleece. fingers Crossed for me!

  18. iFarmer says:

    I’m excited to make this! Are the seam allowances included in the pattern, or do I need to add them when I’m cutting it out?

    • Molly from the Purl Bee says:

      Hi iFarmer-

      The seam allowances are included in the pattern.

      Thanks for getting in touch!


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