Thursday, 3 March 2011

1. Sewing from Japanese Craft books - what you will need and an overview

So, before we start the sew along, here are a few things you will need;
  • Your book (and if you bought it from M is for make, your translation sheet)
  • Pencil, ruler, rubber
  • Masking tape
  • Paper suitable for tracing a pattern onto
(I use this paper from Morplan, but have a look on the comments from this post for some other suggestions. It needs to be transparent enough to see the lines of the pattern through and wide enough to fit your larger pieces on, or you can stick multiple sheets together.)
  • Some calico - we will talk about quantities later in this post
(roughly £2 a metre from the high street or some old fabric you no longer want such as a sheet or duvet cover.)
  • a tracing wheel to trace out your pattern (I prefer not to use these as I find it harder to be accurate and more time consuming)
  • a pattern master (not essential but really useful for tracing off curves from a pattern and adding seam allowances)

But first off, I thought I would give you a summary of the whole process so you know what to expect. I will cover all of this in more detail in the sew along.

An overview of sewing from Japanese pattern books


Japanese books tend to follow a similar layout. They start off with pages of beautiful photos showing the garments you can make. Then follows the instructions, and at the back, the pattern sheet.

On the pages with the photos of the garments, you will glimpse tantalising bits of English. Each garment is usually referenced with a letter and the page on which to find instructions. This garment reference letter will also be used on the pattern sheet. You can see the instructions for my party blouse are on page 51 (but there is no reference letter).

Summary page

When you get to the end of the photos and before the instruction pages, you will often find a summary page containing the size table (this can also appear on the individual garment page or at the back of the book, but it should be somewhere and look a bit like this). We will translate the measurements later.

Instructions page

Turning to the relevant page for the garment you want to make, you will find a simple picture of it, the reference letter/number (mine is C2), a cutting layout diagram, maybe some tables for sizing or fabric/materials list, some blurb, and then simple line drawings to show each step of construction. 
The cutting layout diagram includes useful information such as some seam allowances. It will also show you how much fabric you will need. When choosing your garment, spend a bit of time looking through this page, understanding the sequence of how it all goes together.

At this stage you can figure out how much calico you will need. I always make a rough version first to check I have the right size, make any fit adjustments to the pattern and practice making the garment. So from my book I can tell that I will need 180cm of fabric that is 110cm wide. The fabric in this picture is folded in half.

The picture of the garment will be numbered and each of these is the different steps in which it will be put together (in order). You should be able to reference the more detailed diagrams of individual steps against this picture. Not all steps, for example sewing together the shoulders or sides, will have a detailed picture as they don't need one.

Pattern sheet

The pattern sheet is at the back of the book, ease it out carefully or cut it off as close to the book as you can. Open it up and try not to be scared. Pattern sheets that contain multiple patterns overlaid can be very daunting. But don't be, once you have had a chance to understand it, they are fine.

You will trace off the required pieces of your pattern, label all the important markings and information (this will require some translation). Once this is done you will add seam allowances to your pattern piece as they are not included.

All done, then you will sew it all together as per the instructions.

So there is your overview, go off, get what you need and we'll meet back in (about) week to figure out what size to make and further understand the instruction page.


  1. Am I being completely blind or does the pattern book I have (Simple Chic) not have the numbered diagram showing what order to sew it together in?!! J x

  2. Oh this is going to be so good Kate. I won't actually be making anything this time as the orders are suddenly piling in, but I am definitely following it all and will use your posts for reference when thingsquieten again. Off to your site now for a quick browse! x

  3. hmmm, no Jane it doesn't, that makes it a little more tricky. Though after a quick look, on each detailed picture the steps are numbered in a tiny font, and I think the pictures are in order. So it may require more thought, and it would be worth going through it and writing a list of the steps in order before getting started.

  4. Oh, this is great, because I just bought one of the stylish dress books at your shop. I can't wait to begin :-)
    I wrote a post about the sew along in my little german blog.

  5. This is great, thank you. I might make something depending on time, but even if I don't I'll be following closely. Really useful!

  6. Kate, this is going to be brilliant. Can i ask, which pattern book is that Party dress from? Because I really have to make that...and so will need to buy the book...

  7. Hi Karen, it's Feminine Wardrobe, which I have just sold out of, but more are winging their way from Japan, and should be here next week which will be in time

  8. Thanks for that Kate, I think I'll be able to figure out the order but as you say, it may take a bit more time. I'll write a list (any excuse). x

  9. I have given you a stylish blog award! Check out my post all about the award here
    C x

  10. I'm tempted to choose the cover of stylish dress book one. I've never done a dart or set-in sleeve so this could get funny. I have all the materials so I'm ready :)

  11. Ooo - I'm so excited! I might skip ahead and trace my pattern this weekend...

  12. If anyone lives in the Pittsburgh area this is available in English at the library. Its a great pattern books!