There are loads of great Japanese sewing pattern books, but if you don’t speak Japanese (and I don’t) they can look a little daunting. However, because most of the instructions are shown as diagrams you can generally work out what to do without understanding a word.
Finding and buying Japanese sewing books
The best places I’ve found to see what people are making are:
- Japan Couture Addicts
French group blog showing clothes that people have made from Japanese sewing books. Very comprehensive with lots of pictures from the most popular books. The blog is in French – and while my French isn’t great, it’s a lot better than my Japanese.
- Crafting Japanese
Another group blog where people have posted the things they’ve made. It’s not updated any longer.
For buying, the best two options are:
- Simply Pretty Japanese Beads Books eBay shop
A huge selection of crafts and clothes books with good pictures of the patterns. Prices are in UK pounds. I was impressed with the service when I bought a couple of things a while back.
- Amazon Japan
Not that easy to find your way around as a lot of it is in Japanese, but you can look inside many of the books.
Japanese patterns tend to be on the small side – in fit and in height. This is great for short people like me, but you will probably need to lengthen patterns if you are taller.
There are size tables in the sewing books or on the pattern printouts. This is the table from my book ‘everyday tops‘:
Japanese patterns don’t have seam allowances added to them – you need to draw them on yourself. Look at the layout diagram to work out how much seam allowance to add as it will be labelled there.
These are the steps I took when I sewed a camisole top from the Japanese sewing book ‘everyday tops’.
- Work out what size to sew
- Trace the right pattern pieces from the printed sheet that comes with the book. Transfer any notches and other markings and label all pattern pieces.
- Study the layout diagram and work out what seam allowances to add where. Sketch a new layout diagram for my fabric and label seam allowances.
- Add seam allowances to pattern pieces and label with values.
- Study the diagrams that show you how to construct the garment, and write a set of instructions for putting the pieces together. I just work from the diagrams and the fabric, and don’t bother trying to translate any of the instructions – my method might not be quite what the author had in mind but as long as it works OK, I don’t think it matters too much.
Good sources of information
- Step-by-step guide to Japanese sewing patterns by Kuky on label-free
This is fantastic. There are 6 posts covering where to start, sizing and supplies, tracing, cutting, sewing and a finished dress – there’s lots of information and pictures. These posts answered most of my questions when I made my camisole top.
Some other useful guides are:
- Understanding the patterns in Gosurori (pdf, 863kb)
Guide to making a garment from a Japanese pattern plus a glossary of Japanese sewing terms. It’s written for Gothic Lolita patterns but applies equally well to any style of clothes.
- Japanese sewing and pattern terms on Moving Hands
Translation of common terms from Japanese into English