Make your own abaya! part1

12 02 2009

As the muttawa have been confiscating abayas with colour in Riyad, I would like to support my friends over there by posting some very simple abaya designs. Any idiot can make these πŸ˜‰
Besides, I’m getting a lot of search-engine terms on ”how to make abaya” and I don’t want to disappoint. For those visitors; don’t look too much at my other posts, you might be shocked…

So, three dead-easy abaya designs, very suitable for your own decorations, which will be in the next part. When everybody is happy and confident (and feeling likeΒ  wanting to wear something more fitnah-ish) we can try the more complicated design of the fitted abaya. That is the one I use for my wintercoats.

One big advantage of making your own clothes is that you can use better and more healthy materials as the synthetic ones so often used for abayas nowadays. If your surroundings are not very hot, you can get away with a good cotton, or even better, a nice linen. Linen is ideal, it can retain far more moisture as cotton, therefore it will be feeling cool. In a really hot environment a light silk would be the best choice. Silk is usually very expensive, but that is a market mechanism. To buy in bulk, a decent silk doesn’t cost much more as a good cotton. So do shop around! Because of it’s luxury reputation, the shops put a much larger margin on it, making it more expensive. It might also be a good idea to buy a cheaper undyed material, and dye it in the color of your choice. With delicate materials it is best to try a small piece first. Dupioni silk is usually fairly cheap, but it looks a bit stiff. I do like the rough texture though, and you can get it in all sorts of colors, and in pretty changeant weaves too.


You can use snaps, hooks, zippers, buttons or velcro, it is your own choice. Velcro may sound easy, but has spelled doom for many a pretty delicate shayla. I think the easiest option is buttons, and, instead of making the quite complicated buttonholes, make a loop, use a bit of nice ribbon, or cord. If you use a different color it will be a decorative feature.

Measurements of the patterns:
I can’t give exact measurements on these designs, you have to find out your own measurements. The measurements you need are in the drawing underneath. Instead of experimenting on some beautiful material, I suggest you buy some very cheap cloth, like an unbleached cotton, and stitch it loosely, or even just pin it together, try it on and make changes as you like. Once your try-out is to your liking, you unpin or pick out the stitching, and you can then use the pieces of material for your own perfectly fitting pattern.

If your pattern is precisely cut on your finished dress/abaya, make sure you allow an extra 1,5 cm for stitching and edging the material. I would not line an abaya, because you use it over your clothes in mostly hot countries, so to add even extra material would be even more suffocating. If you add a lining for effect you could choose to only line the bottom of your abaya or sleeves.


Above you see an example on how you could lay out the pattern on your material. lay out your pieces, and move them around until you have them placed as economically as possible. Note down how much material you need, handy to know, especially if you plan on buying an expensive material next time. Most cloth comes at a width of 1.50 meter. Some more exclusive materials are only 1,20 wide. In that case you can’t slip in the sleeves at the sides, and you need 2Γ— your length, #5. And 1Γ— your sleeve length, #2.


These are the measurements you need, work them out for yourself, and make a trial-abaya which you can unpick, or cut up, and use as your personal pattern. Draw the pattern on your real material with special tailor chalk. The sleeve on pattern #1 is a wide sleeve, but if you draw the line to the seam you get a fitted sleeve. This also shows how you can make variations, once you have a good pattern. I only use basic patterns myself, and chance them when drawing them with chalk on the material for the design of a specific garment I’m making.

Pattern #1 and #2 have an overlapping front. You can easily adapt #1 so it won’t overlap. If you use an overlapping front, you nee to put in at least two extra buttons or snaps on the inside, to keep the bottom layer of cloth from sagging down. On pattern #1 you can see three light doth which are sugestions for the inside buttons or snaps.

This second pattern is really a Japanese kimono. This is a vΓ©ry simple pattern and should be well in reach of everybody who would like to try and make something. Simple forms are also a nice canvas for your own decorations.


With the kimono pattern, you don’t have to be careful with the shoulder seam, it’s supposed to slip from the shoulder a bit. You can make a much wider kimono, by cutting the front and back-panels for a much wider shoulder, and then create three folds which you stitch for about 25cm.


Pattern #3 is a very simple basic traditional butterfly design. Not handy in daily life, but very pretty. You can decorate the sleeve cuffs, or even make them of a different material. Like a Chinese brocade.
Once you have tried making one of these, experiment with different cuts, or try your hand at adding some nice decorations. In part 2 I will give some ideas for decorating your abaya. (or anything else)




42 responses

12 02 2009

Fabulous post, with excellent images and instructions (not to mention the social service dimension of promoting the value of one’s own designing and sewing whether fitnah or not).
I would only add that in terms of sizing, if you already own one in a similar style you could take “its” measurements and add the seam allowances , or if it is old take it apart and use it as a measurement guide, or a pattern.

12 02 2009

Thanks for the detailed diagrams.

The butterfly is the one I love the most but I’m afraid with my very Pakistani proportions, these make me look very bottom heavy.

I’m looking forward to part 2 with bated breath!

12 02 2009

They look easy enough that I could sew them. But I’m also quite happy that I don’t have to.

Anyhoo, Aafke, here’s a heads-up. The Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show is being streamed live from now til Feb. 22 for free. Most days, it’ll be three separate arenas. It’s at, and it runs for fairly long hours over the span of the show. Starting at 8 am Arizona US time. You can let Google do the computational math. πŸ˜‰

12 02 2009

Chiara, I would not recommend using another coat as that can be really decieving. It’s much better to make your own pattern to your own size.

Specs, the butterfly one will make you look like a butterfly! nothing else! πŸ™‚

Rhonda, let’s count our blessings πŸ˜€
Thanks for the tip! I had the osthepath in today for the Tarq. Just the yearly check up, but he was a bit stiff in the back. Serious training has started again, so I’m looking forward to see how he’s moving tomorrow!

13 02 2009

Aafke–I was thinking not of a coat, but of a thinner cloak, but you know best. πŸ™‚

13 02 2009

Looks like one need not go for abaya dress-making class for a fee when we have Aafke! I’m amazed! I even might try…..just not good at sewing.I’m looking forward to part II.I’m a liitle more interested in curtains though.
@ chiara
I did try using my own dress as measurement.Somehow it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.But I believe it’s my poor sewing skills.:(

13 02 2009

Nice! Now if only I could find the time and space to put my sewing skills to work…its embroidering bling unto some sari blouses that occupies some of my down time which I happily pack up and go do while sitting at a Hindu friend’s shop on some Saturdays…my Hindi is super rusty but the English words thrown in once in a while helps me keep up! Listening- can’t get the gumption to answer 😦

Aah diversity in dress -just love it…thanks again Aafke for the instructions!

13 02 2009

“Any idiot can make these …”

Whew!! At least now I know Im not an idiot πŸ˜‰ …cause I cant sew to save my life. Last stitch I had anything to do with was when I came up the stairs a little too fast… 😦

13 02 2009

Wonder how I’d look in one of those..
It would cover my bald head

13 02 2009

I like this very much! Thanks for sharing.

13 02 2009

Nice detailed diagrams – I’d sew one if I wore abayah’s; theres a market for tailor made abayah’s in the UK I believe as the store bought ones are expensive.

13 02 2009

Tarq must be using muscles that have been dormant for a while. πŸ™‚ Here’s hoping he’s feeling better. Of course, if he is, he’s liable to come up with new mischief for you. πŸ™‚

13 02 2009

Chiara, I don’t think it works well, unless you want to re-create the garment in question. What does work is having a basic simple pattern with your own measurements, and adapt that for anything you can think up!

Lat; Everybody can sew. there’s nothing to it. πŸ™‚ curtains are even easier!!!!

Inal, Blinging it up is part 2! πŸ˜€

Coolred, You are sΓ³ domestic! πŸ˜‰ Tripped on the stairs over your abaya?

13 02 2009

Tony, I’m sure you’d look lovely. And I’m sure we could make it in brown πŸ˜€

Achelois, πŸ™‚ you are welcome.

Sumera, and do you think that a tailor-made abaya by me would be cheap? πŸ˜‰ Better start saving up!!! πŸ˜‰

Rhonda, It’s just a yearly check up, he was pretty stuck, but she told me it’s normal, especially with the stuff Tarq is pulling in the meadow.
So it will remain a yearly visit.
And yes, he was in great shape today! We were trotting at ”Ludicrous Speed” and it seemed that he was only touching the ground every now and then just to keep from taking off! πŸ™‚
And he did some pretty slick moves today, but I remained put! πŸ˜€

14 02 2009

Hehe, reminds me of the sewing projects my mom and aunt always had …
I am also no idiot, its not that hard but certainly not as easy as you make it look πŸ˜‰
Just one thing that I think may be useful for people who have not done this before, and I’m talking from experience, this took me a VERY long time to understand. When trying to fit the pieces on the fabric you can’t just arrange them in any random direction, you have to take the grain of the fabric into account. You can’t even rotate them 90 degrees, the length of everything has to be parallel to the length of the fabric.

Btw, I’ve found you through Suroor, and I really like your blog and I also live in Holland.

15 02 2009

Hi Sara, welcome to my blog πŸ™‚
yes, that’s right, with many fabrics you have to keep in mind the direction of the weave. You know that is so logic to me that I forgot to mentio.
There will be other things, anybody who is trying one of these and hits a snag can always ask me and I’ll see if I know the answer…

2 03 2009

I have been looking all over for information on how o make an abaya, I’ve tried a couple patterns for kaftans, but they don’t turn out nice at all and look very sloppy. Now after finding your blog and this post, I’ll try again. Thanks for posting this, it’s really helpful!!

2 03 2009

Melissa, You can also look up a patternbook in a haberdashery shop, and choose any simple coat or dress pattern, and just lengthen it foe yourself. Practise in cheap materials.
Good luck with it!

10 08 2009

Asalaam alaikum, Came across your link when searching how yto make an abaya.Very helpful Im going to give one of your patters a go inshaAllah.It would be great if you could post pictures of the abayas you have made from your [patterns and also a tutorial video maybe posted on youtube would be so great to watch step by step how its done.I searched for videos on youtube to make abayas there are none at all.
thanks for sharing

10 08 2009

isra, welcome to my blog πŸ™‚ and I’m happy you enjoyed the post.
I have one abaya photographed, and I will post some more if I make them in the future. I will keep your idea of a video in my mind.

11 09 2009

Asalaam alaikum,
Came across your link when searching for some patterns for abaya’s. I have to sew 8 abays’s, that is 6 for my 3 daughters and 2 for myself this blog is really
very helpful Im going to give some of your patters a go inshaAllah thanks for sharing. Btw, i totally agree with Isra about the video.

19 12 2009

Wow! Your drafts are wonderful, clear and unambiguous. Wish I could draft this good, mine look like a 3yo’s scribblings, hehe… Thanks for the free patterns, πŸ˜‰

1 08 2010

I would like to thank for this. I am going to try it and then I can let you know how it turns out. You say anyone can try but we shall see. smile

29 09 2010

Hey Aafke,

seeing your name I was like erm, the name Aafke sounds so Dutch. Untill I read in the “about-page” you actually are Dutch!

Just came across this blog while looking for simple abaya patterns. Thanks for posting!

13 03 2011

Thank you dear Sister for sharing this! Assalamu alaykum.

20 08 2011
Zaaynab Le'Von

As Salaamu Alaykum wa Ramadan Mubarak. May Allah reward you for this – it is exactly what I’ve been searching for … I’m about to make this now. Thank you!

1 09 2011

As salaamu Aaykum ramadan mubarak. may almighty allah bless you.i am realy intrested in coat style abaya with a bottom.i am realy thankfull if you can show some of that..thank you!

13 10 2011

I love them all. Thanx for sharing n for the motivation to sew and make them

25 10 2011

Assalaam alaikum . Barakallah feek ; this is just what i was looking for alhamdulillah !

21 12 2011

JazakAllah khair for this.. Pls do you have more designs or maybe even more details.. Cant wait 2 try this..!

6 03 2012

jabeen(ummu zain) dear sister assalamu alaikum.ur drafts r very helpfull&wonderfull.thank u for sharing

2 04 2012

Jazak Allah khair for this extremely useful post.

16 04 2012

Omg , I’m soo excited to make the kimono :p

9 08 2012

Yea I wanna make the kimono

15 10 2012
Faranaaz Ziervogel

Jazakallah very empowering and useful..GREAT STUFF.!!!!!!

30 12 2012

i think we shouldnt wear kimono abayas- our clothes shouldnt look like clothes of people other religion .
except this kimono thing, i like everything ! this will help me a lot; i wanna make my own abaya ^^ thaaank you, may Allah bless you πŸ˜€

30 12 2012

The abaya itself is from Judaism. In the time of the propet only the elite Jewish women veiled themselves. So if you feel you need to wear an abaya, enjoy the post, but don’t have these hangups about other cultures. The basic shape is so simple anyway that people from all over the plan et and all cultures have made clothes which are similar.

The beauty and artistry of kimonos can never be emulated in an abaya anyway.

22 01 2013

Peace and Blessings Sister. I like your pattern, very simple to read and follow. iIn your illustration, you may want to mention that from the waistline, you must measure 9″ down to create the curve of the hip…so you get a nice fit on your bottom.

Also, I am from the house Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. (No, NOT Jew-i-s-h) To respond to Sister Aafke-Art’s post on 30-12-2012 that the Abaya is Judaic, however, If you research this, the abaya was worn by all Eastern people long before The Creator promised Abraham the birth of the nation of YsraEl. Remember, Abraham’s firstborn son Ishmael was Egyptian (Hagar) and his second wife Keturah was Egyptian also.
Love and LIght.

17 02 2013
umar faruk

nice tips especially for young designers like me. I’d try them out.

1 09 2015
Mumtaz Noormahomed

Slms jazakallah for part 1 I am very excited waiting for part 2 please can u tell me more or less when will u post it

7 02 2016

This is a wonderful post! But i just wanted to find out what is the name of the fabric used to construct abayahs? So i know what to look for at the fabric shop.

7 02 2016

You can use any fabric, it’s your own choice, so look for something which is suitable for the climate you’re in.

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