Kamis Pattern

Kamis, Gomlek, Entari, Yelek, Cote, etc.
Halima al-Rakkasa, GoA


This is the undergown/tunic that is worn against the skin. Ideally, it is of a finely-woven, highly washable fabric; cotton absorbs perspiration well, but linen will also allow it to evaporate; veil-weight wool will also work, if you can tolerate it (find the longest fibre in virgin wool that you can). Wash these garments often! They will last longer if washed soon after wearing, as the body salts don't have much time to break down the fibre.

The above photo shows a fine worsted wool on the bottom; I chose to ignore the care instructions, so I washed it in soap and water after every event. The color has lightened considerably, but this is my sleeping garment; the upper body is lined with a fine, recycled silk. The next kamis is 5 oz linen (color called Bluebonnet, which is much like a natural indigo); it doesn't lose much color anymore and I'm pleased with its current color. The last kamis is my first one made maybe five years ago; I wear this the most. The color is called TA Red, more of an orange-tomato red, and has lightened a bit over time. All of these were put through a commercial washer and dryer on hot before cutting out; all are worn at every event, washed by hand afterwards, and hung to dry overnight.

I bought my linen from Fabrics-store.com , and I am extremely pleased with all of it.

Veil weight linen is 3.5 oz (IL020) but don't use the "optic white", as it looks wrong; this is rather sheer, and is best used where modesty is not an issue (that is, when other garments will go over it). For kamis or tunic , choose something around 5-6 oz. I use the 7 oz (so-called "canvas" weight) for my outer garments; the heavy weight makes the skirts flow nicely. (Note that the heavy fabric tends to be slubby; I have taken a little time to pull out coarse tow and excessive clumping wherever it lies close to my body or where the visual effect needs improvement. A more expensive fabric shouldn't need such treatment.)

More on preparing your fabric later...

This particular pattern uses less fabric than many other styles. All pieces are straight cuts, except for whatever fiddling you do for your preferred neckline. I fuss with my patterns so that I get the most use out of the fabric; in this example, I had a purpose for the size and shape of scraps left over.

This pattern may be made into outer garments. Sleeves may be long or short, tight to the arm, or wide with an armpit gusset or widen at the wrist like angel-wings. The body may hang to the knees or the ankles. Make size adjustments for the under layers, and ensure enough room for walking.

How long did I take to make my kamis? Well, I press seams as I go (mostly because they're so small), finish every seam wherever and whenever I can, top-stitch everywhere possible, add a little rolled-hem here and there, and it takes me a couple of days of puttering along. Your mileage will be different!

Now to construction...

Measure your back across your shoulders, from point to point. This is the body width (A).
Measure your desired length, from top of the shoulders by your neck, down to where you want the hem. If your back length is different than your front length, according to your personal bumps, write both of those measurements down, along with which is which (B = B1 + B2).
Measure around your body at its widest point; deduct twice the body width; add ease (maybe six inches); divide by four [ (## - (2xA)) /4)]. This is the narrow end of your side panels (C).
Measure from your shoulder point to the bottom of your elbow, with your arm bent. This is the upper arm (D1).
Measure from your elbow to where you want to end the sleeve. This is the fore arm (D2).
Adding these last two will give you your absolute minimum sleeve length. It will feel too short. Add another inch to the upper arm. Or more. Or lots more, for ruching room.
Measure from the top of a shoulder point, down through the arm pit and back to the top. Flex your arm and shoulder to get a larger measurement. Add another inch. This is the armscye (E).
Measure around your hand, with your hand shaped the way it must to slip into a tight sleeve. This is the wrist measurement (F).

To all your measurements, add a seam allowance. (All the measurements in the drawings are mine. Use them at your risk! I stand about five foot two, and a little over a hundred pounds.)

Pre-shrink your fabric by washing in hotter water than what you will later. And run it through the dryer. Maybe repeat that. In short, abuse the fabric now, and be nice later.

Measure your fabric; I lost about ten inches in length with the fine cotton, and maybe an inch-ish with the linen. It will vary more than you expect. You did buy a half-yard more than what you thought you needed, yes?

Make a couple of sketches to see how the pieces will best fit your fabric. (Ideally, you will have little waste.) On the right is my layout.
Kamis Layout

Mark the body pieces: A by B. If you are lucky, you will be able to lay the two pieces out as one; if you do, deduct the shoulder seam allowance, and chalk where the seam would be. Also mark which is the front piece (where front and back lengths are different); I use masking tape on the fabric back.

The sleeves will be rectangular through the upper arm. Then from the elbow point to the wrist, sleeves will taper. E by D is your basic area; on one end, mark the wrist F in the center of the edge. That means six sides to the piece.

The side panels can usually be placed head to toe, so that each rectangle produces two angled sections. Mark one end of a rectangle with the narrow side panel measurement; the remainder will be the hemline width of the second panel. (You may want to measure your hemline width at the height/length you want your garment; I usually sit cross-legged to get the maximum width of the bottom. Deduct the doubled body width and divide by four; this is your minimum number without slits.) The length of the side panels is body section minus half-armscye: B1 - E/2; and B2 - E/2.

You may notice that there is no allowance for armpit gussets. I find that the sleeve is snug enough that it has not been an issue. However, you may wish to cut a couple of five-to-six inch squares for the purpose.

(Any scraps can go into sashes, headgear, napkins, or whatever works with the material you have left. I especially like linen pouches for feast gear and for personal effects.)

In joining it all together, I now try to finish each edge as I proceed, rather than leaving it all to the last minute. You may need to make a few of these before you can see where it all happens.

Attach one side panel to each armpit edge of the sleeves.

Sew body pieces at shoulder, if not in one piece. Cut neckline and finish as desired. Do it now. While it is flat!
Kamis before the last seams are done.
Sew sleeve-side combinations to body. This is my favourite place for the flat-felled seam.

If using gussets, sew one side of the square under one side of the arm, and around the corner of the square onto the body.

If you are machine-finishing the wrists, do that now. On the left is the look of the garment before the last seams are sewn.

Sew along the underarm, starting at the wrist. For finishing purposes, I don't stitch over the seam allowance when turning down the body, but start a fresh thread. And I usually go part-way down the body, because I like the look of side-slits.

If using gussets, be sure that the other side of the sleeve is sewn to the square gusset, then into the pit, and down the body.

Hem the bottom. Finish the wrists, if needed. Embroider at will.

Red Kamis showing sleeve and neckline embroidery.


Blue Kamiseh showing sleeve and neckline embroidery.


Fabrics-store.com