Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Sewing from Japanese books - part 1

I've been meaning to write a post on sewing from Japanese craft books for a while now. They can, on first inspection be a bit daunting, (they're in Japanese you know). And Japanese isn't like French, or German that you can remember a few words from school, or figure out after a bit of googling.

The books are beautiful, quite aspirational I think, picture beautiful people hanging around beautiful places in clothes you could, and want to, make. When I first bought one of these books I opened and closed it in frustration many times as I couldn't figure out what on earth was going on.

They are quite like pattern cutting in a way, you have your basic shape, a top or skirt or trousers and by making a few thoughtful variations you can create simple, stylish garments. The instructions are clear, mostly pictorial, and actually quite easy to follow with the help of translations for some of the key terms. All books from 'M is for make' come with a set of translations.

The book I am using is 'Sweet Style for Kids' (shown at the top) I chose this as the clothes are pretty and simple and I can imagine adding some pretty details to them, Boden style, here is the top I want to make.

Where to start? When I made myself some clothes from Autumn / Winter wear for women, I wrongly presumed I would be a size 'large' but as a UK 12, I was actually a medium in that book. Had I taken the time to read the measurements chart, I could have saved myself some sewing time. Here is the size chart from this book;


Because I know what kind of words these are going to be, they were fairly easy to translate (I have put the english translations in above). The other measurements? well I have no idea what they are, but with the bust, waist and hip known, I could pick out the size I needed, 120cm for a 5 1/2 year old. However, because I haven't made anything from this book before and I'm unsure of how it will fit, I am going to run up draft version of this top before making it in the proper fabric.

First of all I want to find the right pattern on the full scaled pattern sheet which is included inside the book. This can be quite confusing, as not all the patterns are included on the sheet. This is because they give you the basic bodice pattern and show you how to adapt it - pattern cutting made easy! Looking at the instructions where I have circled the text in red it shows the number 4 in the same colour as the pictures of the garment.

Looking at the pattern sheet, I can clearly see these pieces have a 4 on, and it makes sense, they look like the top I want to make.

Next time, I'll write about drafting the pattern from the instructions. Let me know if you need any more info or detail and I'll see what I can do!


  1. Thank you so much for doing this, I brought the winter wear one from you and although I managed to translate all the intructions ok I got a bit stumped when coming to draft the pattern. I love the designs in the book.

  2. I'll try and post the next part today or tomorrow on drafting the pattern.

  3. This is really useful, thank you! I really want to buy one of the Japanese books from your shop, but I don't know which one to choose. Which one would you recommend? It'll have to wait until next pay day though :)

  4. I'm just writing up the next post now. It is hard to choose, do you want to make specifically dresses or skirts, or all different kinds of garments?

    I have Spring and Summer books arriving next week and some new dress books which look really lovely. I'll email you when they arrive and help you pick the best one for you!

  5. I don't really know what I want to make, which is part of the problem... I shall sit and wait for even more exciting things to choose from :)

  6. read your post today and decided to purchase a book from you, I am very excited. Thak you for all of yourtips;)