Hi Readers, thank you for visiting! Posted here for your pleasure are fabric and cutting details for the South Asian kurta. If you’ve missed earlier posts about it, you can read them here and here. Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section!
Measurements: the only two needed measurements are shoulder width and desired length of kurta. Let’s use the following since I’m making this simple, bare bones kurta for my mother who is 88 1/2 years old, and is short …. and shrinking:
Shoulder width: 15″
Kurta length (to the knee): 33”
Seam allowances are 1/2″ and the hem is 1″ (double folded to a finished 1/2″ hem)
Fabric: make your first kurta with stable but soft fabric, either cotton or linen. Voile or lawn are good choices. I’m using 45” wide soft quilting cotton from Joann Stores for my mom.
- Determining the fabric needed is simple. Front length + back length + hem allowances + seam allowances. Example: 33”+33”+2”+1”=69” (let’s round it up to 2 yards. You can add another 1/2 yard if it makes you feel better).
- If short on fabric, making “kalis” (side triangles) from a coordinating or contrast fabric can “make it work”.
- Do your usual fabric prep like pre-washing etc.
- Important: The fabric should be perfectly on grain. See picture above.
- Remove the selvedge from both sides.
Cutting: The layout illustration below shows pieces of the kurta as they are cut. Click on it to enlarge. Since these are geometric pieces there is no need for a pattern. I’ve added a key below the image to the numbered pieces in the illustration.
1 – Kurta Front (the blue thing indicates the neck opening and placket)
2 – Kurta Back
3 – Sleeves
4 – Gussets
5 – Kalis (triangular sides and yes, there are four of them)
The choice here is for you to follow the self explanatory layout picture above and skip my words below ; or you can read my lengthy cutting description and keep referring to the same illustration.
- Lay out the yardage in a single layer. From the left side of yardage, cut one continuous piece for front/back. If you prefer to add the shoulder seam, cut apart in the center to separate front and back, making sure the ½” seam allowance is included in each piece. Width of front/back piece = shoulder width measurement plus seam allowances. Length = desired length from shoulder plus hem allowance. My front and back pieces, therefore, measures 34.5 long and 16” wide. Yep, I added a shoulder seam.
- Sleeve width/armhole can vary with individual figure and preference. I used 7” for this kurta. This means we need a sleeve piece which is 14” wide plus seam allowances. Length usually ends at the wrist bone. (The kurta sleeve is on the crosswise grain). Keep in mind that this is a loose garment. Mark the shoulder point halfway on sleeve width. When attached, the sleeve will be 7” from the shoulder down on each side of front and back.
- The narrow end of each side triangle (“kali”) is 3” plus seam allowances. The wider end of the kali is the hem. The wider end is determined by default when you cut out the 4 kalis as shown. Therefore each kali on my kurta measures 7” at the bottom. See illustration. The length of each kali is length of kurta minus the sleeve width. Therefore each of my kalis measure 27” long on the straight side. There should be four kalis. Each one has one long straight side and one long bias side.
- This is how to cut out accurate kalis – easily: From the shoulder point of the kurta, measure down 8″, and square off a straight horizontal line to the right end. The kalis will be cut from this rectangular section. Draw a vertical line with chalk marker or disappearing ink pen to divide this section in half. Mark off 4″ at the top left of one section, and 4″ at the bottom right of the same section. Connect the two marks. Repeat this on the right section. Can you see the 4 kalis now, two up and two down? Cut apart at the markings.
- If using a napped fabric or one way print, you will need more fabric equal to the length of “kali”.
- Cut two 4” square pieces for the underarm gusset (i.e. a gusset which will be 3″ when finished. These two small pieces are important to the kurta. Skipping the gusset is tempting but the armhole will be wonky at the underarm.
- Mark and cut out the jewel neck and opening for the placket. You can use any jewel neck pattern as a template, making it larger if you wish. I used this handy tool to mark off the neckline!
- For the front placket some preplanning is necessary. Placket instructions are the same as any shirt or sleeve placket. You also have a choice of making a bias bound slit neckline treatment instead of a placket. It is not traditional, but is much easier.
So this is how you cut out a kurta. You may find other ways for the cutting step in kurta construction as you go along; feel free to share with other readers. Meanwhile, the following two images show how the kurta pieces go together! The picture is hand drawn, and the image below it shows the actual fabric pieces laid out on my dining table.
Do you have any questions about the cutting process? Or any other thoughts about it? I would love to hear from you. Watch for the kurta sewing post which will be up here to complete our project!