Step by step instructions to sew Salwar kameez -Kurta top
A Salwar Kameez dates back to the Romans. You donot believe me – check this article on
A fitting Kameez is a very flattering garment. You can wear it as a tunic with your jeans, make it very short and wear it with your skirt, or even wear it with shorts for a modern take. A sleeveless Kurta with Dhothi pants is my favorite lounge wear.
The word fitting is very important in sewing your salwar kameez or kurta because I have seen Kameezes worn with utter disregard for fitting and looking absolutely atrocious.
If you have decided to sew your own Kameez, make it to your size. I have given the pattern to make it here. Sew it in a muslin first. Adjust your measurements. Then stitch it with a beautiful fabric you adore and wear it with the panache of the ladies shown below.
Make your own pattern to stitch a Salwar kameez top (Punjabi suit)
Measure yourself first. The main measurements you need are bust round, waist round, hip round, neck depth needed, slit opening ( Where you want it) Length from shoulder to bust, waist and hip, Sleeve length. Checkout the post How to measure body for more details.
If you are marking directly on to the cloth Fold your cloth half way through width wise first ( along a-b of diagram) you can cut along a-b if you want now, then fold it lengthwise ( along c-d)
You can alternatively make the pattern in a paper (you can use brown paper rolls for this or join newspapers together for an easy recycled pattern paper ) and keep it for making it again.
The front and back patterns are marked similar except for difference in neck opening and armhole – so when cutting the pattern you mark the back pattern fully on the 1/4 portion of cloth ( as in the diagram).Cut everything out except the neck opening.( Look at this article to see which neck line suits you)
Then remove the back bodice, ( the one without any markings ) and keep it aside. this is the back pattern.
On the top piece you have now, with all the markings you have made, you should continue to make the front pattern – if you find my instructions confusing do whatever you want to do. 🙂
A-B = Full length needed + 2″
Mark A-D which is the armhole depth as per the table below
Bust measurement inches Armhole depth
28 6 3/4
30 6 3/4
34 7 1/4
36 7 1/4
38 7 1/4
40 7 1/2
42 7 1/2
Mark A-C Neck width as per the table below. This is a very conservative meaurement ie it is tight . If you want a loose neck you may increase this measurement as per your preference. (C-S which is front neck depth can be taken as per table or as per your preference . I usually like a 6.5 ” depth. Again this is preference of the wearer.
Do not forget to checkout ‘Draft the neckline of your choice‘. Here I have given a conservative V neckline but you can choose to make patterns for a number of necklines following instructions there.
The neckline width in this table gives a tight neck. You can adjust the neck width as per your choice based on a favourite tunic or kurta.
Bust Measurement Neck width ( inches) Neck depth (inches)
20 2 4
22 2 4
24 2 1/4 4
26 2 1/4 4 1/2
28 2 1/2 5
30 2 1/2 5 1/2
32 2 1/2 6
34 2 3/4 6 1/2
36 2 3/4 7
38 3 7
40 3 7
42 3 7
A-E = Length to waist
A-N = Length to hip
A-P = Length to slit
D-G = 1/4 of chest round+ 2 ” ( reduce this by 1/2 inch if you donot want too much loose here)
E-F = 1/4 of waist round+ 1″
N-O = 1/4 of hip round+ 1.5″
B-L = 1/4 of hip round + 2 “
A-H = Half of shoulder + 1/4″
H-I =1/4″ or 1/2″ down
Mark straight down to J
A-R = 2″ ( or as needed for back neck)
M-L = 1″ Draw a curved line joining B-L
Draw the armholes for front pattern and back pattern as per the diagram below
- From I Draw straight line down to line G-D to point J
- Calculate half of J-G
- Mark this from J-T diagonally
- Join I- G touching T in a curved line
- From J mark 3/4″ to K
- Mark 1″ from J to T diagonally
- Join I-G touching U in a curved line
Method to make sleeves for your salwar kameez top
Cut the two sleeve pieces 17 inches wide and your desired sleeve length plus 1 1/2 inches long
Keep the sleeve pieces Right sides together. Fold them and start the marking. Use chalk to mark the pattern
The line A –C is along the folded line of the cloth. The measurement from A to C is Sleeve length + 1 ½ inch
C-D Arm round where you want the sleeve to end
E – B & A – B Mark as per table given below ( this is based on your bust measurement )
Bust measurement inches Line A- B Line B -E
26 2 3/4 inches
28 3 inches 7 1/4
30 3 inches
32 3 1/4 inches
34 3 1/4 inches
36 3 1/2 inches
38 3 1/2 inches 7 3/4
40 3 1/2 inches 8
42 3 1/2 inches 8
Join D- E in a straight line and add 1/2 inch as seam allowance
Mark F as mid point of B-E
Make a straight line from F to G ; Join this line to line A-C in a right angle
Divide the line G- F line into 3 equal parts. Mark the points 1 & 2
Front Sleeve line
Join from A – E so that the line passes through point 1 -This is the front sleeve line
Back sleeve line
From A mark ½-1 inches to point 3 . From point 3 join the line to E through the point 2
Remember that both the sleeves (front sleeve pattern and back sleeve pattern), are marked on the folded sleeve piece on the top. First cut through all the layers of cloth the back sleeve line from I – A. Open the full sleeve and now cut through one half portion through the front sleeve line.
You can draft variations of the simple sleeve by checking out the instructions in the post on drafting different types of sleeves
If you want a different neckline draft it according to the instructions in the post on Drafting different types of necklines . Decide on the best neckline which suits you by checking out this post on 23 necklines – select the best one for you
You can also add yokes to this pattern following the tutorial to draft yokes and sew it up by following the directions given in the post on sewing a nighty. The yoke can be of an interesting patterned / printed fabric or an embroidered fabric.
Stitching the salwar kameez top ( step by step)
Step 1. Once you have made the pattern markings on the paper, cut out the bodice portion and the sleeves. Do not cut the neck openings now.
Step 2.Cut out neck facing fabric pieces – in two sizes a. 2 1/2 inch * 10 ” for back neck ( this can be cut on bias for stretch. ) b. front neck facing 10″ * 9″. If you want you can iron on an interfacing ( a lightweight iron on interfacing is preferable) to this neck facing pieces . I do. It looks good. Check out this detailed explanation of this step in How to sew facings
Checkout the post on Tips on sewing with Transparent and sheer fabrics if you are planning to sew it with a fine delicate fabric.
Step 3. Mark the neck markings on the facing wrong side. Make center notches on the bodice pieces and the facings.
Step 4. Align the front bodice and facing piece with the center notch.( both right sides together.) Pin in place
Step 5. Sew over the marking of neck you have made on the neck facing on the wrong side.
Step 6. Cut out the neck opening with a 1/4″ seam allowance from the stitching you have made.
Make small slits all over the seam allowance in the neck opening, so that when turning over it looks smooth.
(For more details checkout the post on sewing facings )
Step 7. Bring the facing to the other side. Understitch the neck facings so that they donot roll to the front.
Step 8. Shape the edges of the front facing in the shape of the neck. Complete sewing the back facing in a similar way.
Here I have finished the facings of both front and back patterns
Step 9. Join the shoulders
To join the shoulders keep the back and front bodice right sides together. Open the facings and align them also.
Turn both the facings to the front side and pin in place. Stitch everything together along the shoulder line.
Finish the edges of the shoulder.
Step 10. Join the sleeves to the armholes
Step 11.Join the sides till the slit marking.
Now wear it and see if it fits. If it is loose fitting either make darts or stitch the side margin accordingly. After the slit edges are stitched it will be difficult to adjust the fitting. A half an inch to one inch taken in at the side seams around the waist line will be all that is needed.
Step 12. Stitch the edges of the slit and the bottom hem edge
To finish the edges of the slit, turn twice the side edges of one side and pin as in the picture below.
Stitch as in the diagram. The red lines are the stitching lines.
You can finish the side slits by adding a different colored fabric strip to the back. This will look interesting as is shown on the picture below, though it is not visible from the outside.
Another option is to add ( stitch to the back of the slit) a piece of golden or silver ribbon to the back of the slit with a little projection so that it looks like piping . You can always do piping but this cheat piping looks good as well.
LINING – If you are planning to add lining to your kurta, it is usually cut as a replica of the kameez pattern. It is stitched as one with the main fabric. If you want, make some basting stitches along neckline and sleeves so that the fabric donot shift when you sew. The only difference is that it will be cut a little shorter than the kurta ( 1 inch – 2 inch) so that it doesnot hang longer. Turn under and stitch the hem of the lining before sewing it up in the slit. ( Checkout the different ways of hemming with a sewing machine and also hem by hand)
If you want to add a zipper to the back of your Kurta you can refer the article on 3 ways to sew zipper to the back of your dress. You can use the method to insert the zipper on dresses without a center seam. You can add plackets to the front of the kameez following the placket sewing tutorial here and maybe add some buttons or even make some pretty cloth buttons
Do you want to add a side seam pocket ( hidden ) for your kurta – checkout the tutorial on how to sew a side seam pocket. Sew this before you sew the side seams, ofcourse.
Embellish your Salwar Kameez with any of the fabric trims available or use beautiful embroidery designs detailed in this post ‘Indian Hand embroidery designs‘ as well as with any of the embroidery border designs and embroidered flowers
Another alternative to a Salwar Kameez is a Kaftan or a simple tunic. Checkout the tutorial to make a Kaftan dress and the post on how to make a tunic pattern.Checkout the fit and flare panel dress pattern for another option or an Umbrella Kurta
Perhaps you would like to make a pretty bolero jacket /shrug to go with the Kurta – checkout the free pattern and sewing instruction to make a bolero jacket.
Once you have sewn your salwar kameez it is time for you to make pants for them by following the instructions in the salwar kameez pants tutorial – Dhothi pants, salwar pants, chudhidhar pants, patiala salwars and parellel pants are popularly worn under the salwar kameez.You can also make a leggings to wear with the Kurta with this diy pattern for leggings
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