Sewing Sarongs

Balinese Sarongs
Balinese Sarongs
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Blue Kimono
Blue Kimono

What to Make With Sarongs

by Susan Neall

If you are like me you probably tend to pick up a new swimsuit and sarong each summer. The elastane suit tends to suffer the assault of sun, chlorine, salt and sand far more quickly than anything else in the wardrobe and generally refuses to hold any more body bits in place after a season or two. But the sarongs live on. 

Sarongs are generally 165 – 185cm long by 115 – 120cm wide and 100% rayon. This is a very useful length of cloth.

So what else can we do with a sarong or two? 

The advantage of the sarong, over rayon by the metre, is that there is usually a great border design, or two, or even four! That lends itself to creative border placements and trims and adds an instant designer touch to your outfit. Rayon is a fabulous ‘natural’ fibre that is extremely comfortable to wear, drapes softly, resists pilling and static and has an attractive natural sheen.


Rayon was created in 1891 by a Frenchman, Count Hilaire de Charbonnet. His goal was to create a ‘silk-like’ fabric at a fraction of the cost of silk. He succeeded in creating rayon from wood pulp from the mulberry tree. 

Here are a few tips to get you started.

1 ALWAYS pre-shrink rayon. Shrinkage will depend on the grade or quality of the rayon. 1st grade rayon will shrink about 10%. Wash gently in warm water and dry in a warm dryer.

2 Sarongs are often Batik dyed or screen printed and not always on grain. Cut as a single lay of cloth so that you can manipulate both sides of the pattern for the best placement and match-up.

3 Use a soft, drape able interfacing to reinforce buttons and buttonholes and stabilize the under collar. I prefer the iron-on Sheerweft.

4 Sew as normal with your general purpose foot and a stitch length of 2.5 – 3.00mm. Use a size 70 Universal needle and a good quality polyester thread. 

5 Seam finish is a personal design decision, but I prefer a French seam, a Run & Fell seam or a Double Felled Welt seam; because I love it when the inside is as impressive as the outside.

6 Try to always press from the wrong side because Rayon tends to ‘shine’ with the iron. If you must press from the top side use a pressing cloth.

So with a few simple construction tips and design suggestions, you’re on your way – What else can YOU do with a sarong or two?

How to tie a sarong buckle Steps 1 - 4

Step 1 Place sarong around body, right side facing out. 20cm from the ends, fold both front edges back, to the inside.

Step 2 Pull the top of the right folded edge through the sarong buckle, from the inside, out.

Step 3 Pull the top of the left folded edge through the sarong buckle, from the inside, out.

Step 4 Pull both folded edges through the holes until the sarong fits the body comfortably. Tie a single knot.

Sarong buckles are usually made from coconut or kauri shell and come in various shapes and designs. They eliminate the heavy bulk of fabric, over the stomach and create a flattering cascade front on the sarong. If you want less leg to show, simply pin both centre fronts together, lower down, under the cascade.

Great Patterns to use with Sarongs

LOTUS SKIRT from The Sewing Workshop Collection

When I found this fabulous pattern it was as though the designer, Linda Lee from the Sewing Workshop pattern range, had used my four bordered sarong as inspiration. The ‘Lotus Skirt’ pattern utilized the complete piece and I was left with just a wisp for the rubbish bin. The border travels around the asymmetrical hem, up and over the front cascade and the last side border decorated the side back seam. There was just enough for the shaped yoke and I used a lining fabric for the yoke lining. The perfect pattern for the perfect sarong!

Available through Perpetual Patterns -

Blue Kimono

Two sarongs were used to make this summer kimono dressing gown. The border print, at either end of the sarongs, was used to great effect at the hem of gown and sleeves and on the ends of the tie belt. Any kimono pattern would be suitable. Try McCall’s M4672, McCall’s 3906 or Vogue 7637.


It doesn’t get any easier than this! The hottest fashion look becomes the coolest summer top with just two rows of stitching and a neckline facing. Fold the sarong in half, lengthways and simply sew two rows of machine stitching, on either side of the folded sarong, 20cm in from each edge and 30cm down from the fold. Use the neckline shape from another ‘tried and true’ pattern to mark the neckline shape that suits you best and face or bind the neck.


Make simple summer skirts from just one sarong


Make a classic long sleeved shirt from two sarongs

Shell Tops

Great shell tops and cami's can be made from one sarong and the border designs make each top unique