Announcing the Japanese Sewing Book Series!

JSBS_button500That’s right!  I’m hosting my very first series here on you & mie and we’re going to be talking all about Japanese sewing books!

(pictures from Sanae Ishida)

Shortly after I started following sewing blogs, I started to notice that some of my favorite seamstresses were sewing gorgeous clothes from Japanese pattern books.  I was drawn to the classic, simple and beautiful style and aesthetic, but I didn’t understand how people could construct such elaborate pieces without being able to read Japanese.  Since most of them seemed like they were able to figure it out using the diagrams, I thought I should give it a shot too.  So I picked up a couple of books (and trust me, this is one of the harder tasks when you start looking at all the adorable choices that are out there!) and as soon as I cracked them open, I felt completely overwhelmed and lost.

photo 3I picked a simple garment, one that I could do even without directions, but left and right, I was faced with questions – what size should I make?  How much fabric do I need and will I need other notions?  Where do I find the pattern pieces I need on this crazy puzzle of a pattern sheet?  (OK, they fit pattern pieces for like 20 garments on one piece of paper, it’s intense!)  I have to add my own seam allowance!?  And so on . . .

photo(27)I clumsily worked my way through the directions and ended up with the tank top in the top picture.  It was way too big.  But it was an accomplishment and (now that it actually fits her) is one of her most worn tops.  I just wished I had someone to walk me through the steps and answer all my questions as I tried to decode each piece of the pattern and directions.

So that’s where this series comes in!  Like I said, there are TONS of amazing Japanese sewing books out there and I feel like they are a largely untapped resource – intimidating and not accessible to many of us.  So I’ve invited 5 friends to help answer some of the most basic questions about sewing with Japanese patterns and basically walk you through the entire process!  Isn’t that sweet of them!?  I think you’ll be pleased with my line up . . . I know I am!  The lovely and talented ladies who will be joining us from March 25-29 are:

Kristin from skirt as top
Sanae from Sanae Ishida
Meg from elsie marley
Frances from miss matatabi
Robin from nested in stitches

Between the six of us, we represent a pretty wide range of experience with Japanese patterns, from total beginner (me) to super advanced pros (umm . . . some of these other ladies).  So no matter where you fall, I think this series will have something for you!  Not only will they be sharing their knowledge with us, but also some of their own handmade goodies from Japanese sewing books to provide us with PLENTY of inspiration.

And to get us started with some inspiration, I’ve started a Japanese Sewing Book Inspiration Board on Pinterest that the ladies have helped fill up with beauties for your viewing pleasure.

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 4.12.29 PMYou should also check out Sanae’s blog post about her amazing Japanese Pattern book collection.  After you finish drooling over her books maybe you can even order a book or two now so you can sew along with the series?  And this flickr pool has tons of kids clothing sewn from Japanese patterns!

Next week, I’ll start off with a little “pre-party” and share some of the things I’ve made from Japanese sewing books.  So until the series starts in 2 weeks, please go check out all the gorgeousness on my guests’ blogs and the pinterest board to whet your appetite.  And stay tuned, because I have a couple of giveaways coming up too!  You really aren’t going to want to miss any of it 🙂

So tell me,
– Do you sew with Japanese patterns?
– What big questions do you have about sewing from Japanese patterns?
– Do you have something you’ve sewn from a Japanese pattern that you want us to add to the pinterest board?  If so, leave a link in the comment section!

Please feel free to spread the word about the series.  I really hope that this can become a great resource for seamstresses everywhere.  I can’t wait!

photo 6


85 thoughts on “Announcing the Japanese Sewing Book Series!

  1. I’m really looking forward to this series. I’ve always loved the style, but I’ve never come across a book in real life to flip through to even get a sense of whether or not I might be able to navigate it. Great idea! I’ll be diligently following along.

  2. CHERIE. you. so clever, so thoughtful. japanese books, patterns, fabrics, everything has me salivating, but i am totally petrified to even crack open a book for fear of failure. as a newer seamstress, i don’t trust myself to assemble something correctly when it’s also in a different language. i am SO EXCITED! yes!

  3. Oh yes…so excited!!!! I am in that super beginner boat, where I’m just noticing that Japanese Sewing Patterns seem to be so gorgeous, but wondering how so many sewers manage to actually make these garments without readable directions. This comes along at such perfect timing–thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. I am so excited. This is going to be good. I have been itching to use some of these patterns before my daughter grows out of the sizes.Thank you!

  5. Perfect timing! I have been looking at getting a Japanese book, but thought the same thing – what a pain to add seam allowances, how do I follow along when I can barely understand sewing language in English, but yet the garments are so stinkin’ cute. Thank you so much for pulling this together, I’m really looking forward to it.

  6. I love sewing from Japanese books! My daughter has narrow shoulders and is overall petite so American and at this point even European patterns need to be adjusted. I used to sew mostly from Ottobre patterns but at her current size of 120cm they fit terribly, I always need to combine sizes to get something decent. Unfortunately Oliver+S is much too wide on her. It is easier to take a Japanese pattern and have clothes that actually fit 🙂

    One thing I would love to know is which Japanese characters state which fabric to use. Sometimes the images are not precise enough to tell what type of faric was used. It is helpful to know when to use corduroy, woven wool, and when poplin etc.

  7. Love this idea for a series. I just started my first Japanese pattern recently and there was one step that I just couldn’t work out. Looking forward to it.

  8. This is going to be awesome! I have a few books brought back by a friend from Japan, but I’ve still been scared to try them! The instructions themselves seem fine, but its the pattern sheets that definitely intimidate me! I should really just invite my friend over… her being Japanese and all 🙂

    • Haha, having a Japanese friend is super helpful, but for those times that friend cannot be around, I’m hoping to create a resource that is easy refer back to 🙂 If only we could all have a little Japanese sewing friend in our pocket 24/7 😉

  9. SQUEEL!!! I was SOOOO excited to see your post today!! I purchased Happy Homemade Vol 2 a while back and I have been too intimidated to get started. I CAN’T WAIT to follow this series!!!!!

  10. I am thrilled you are doing this! I am a total newbie at sewing with Japanese patterns. I have only completed one item so far.

    I own one childrens book and one adults book and I think my real nervousness is about the adults pattern book. Maybe because I have no idea what size to make myself?!

    I adore the photography in the books and I want to get better at creating some of the beautiful things in there. I will be following this with interest. Thank you!

  11. I am very excited about this series! I am fairly new to sewing and have been drawn so much to japanese dress books and fabric! Right now I am mostly sewing for my best friend´s daughter (for example your circle skirt and the wonderful geranium dress) but I bought some japanese dress books translated to English to get started for myself and also the wonderful book from Uonca “carefree clothes for girls”. I will be following you and I am sure I will learn a lot! Greetings all the way from Germany!

  12. Thank you, thank you!! I bought my first Japanese book not too long ago, but I haven’t attempted anything yet. I am excited to see what you have in store for us. I’ve tackled European patterns, but I’m a bit nervous about the Japanese stuff.

  13. Oh Cherie – what a FANTASTIC idea for a sewing series! Seriously, I am incredibly excited by the subject matter AND the amazing line up of sewists you have. There is some serious talent in that group of women – wow! The Japanese aesthetic is so classic and enduring – it’s definitely worth taking the time to figure out those pattern books. I’ve been sewing with them for about 3 years now, and while I find them less intimidating now, completely understand the beginner fear! I find taking it slow – REALLY slow – helps to avoid mistakes. The diagrams are so well done that typically you can figure the steps out. I agree with the comment about knowing how to figure out fabric type. Hard to tell in the pictures sometimes.
    I have a bunch of projects in my Flickr account . . . do I link them up individually?

    • Hi Lucinda! Thanks for the comment, I’m super excited about the series too! It’s good to hear that it gets easier with experience and practice. I’ll definitely see if the ladies can help answer the question about fabric type. I’d love to add some of your projects to our Pinterest board. Can you either leave links here in the comments section, or you can email them to me at cheriemie ( Thank you!

  14. super looking forward to this! i’ve always wanted to attempt a japanese pattern but have been intimidated…i’m sure this will change everything for me!! 🙂

  15. Great idea for a series…look forward to it! Yes, I sew with Japanese patterns – in fact my daughter Isabella is pic number four on your photo display!! I have gotten by using diagrams but love Happy Homemade vol 2 because it is translated. I love the japanese books for their classic designs, fabrics and simple styling. You can have a look at the japanese tag on my blog to see the things I have made from japanese patterns:) Suz from sewpony (your newest follower)!!

    • Cool – we already have at least one of your outfits pinned! I’ll have to browse through your blog to check out more of your projects. Thanks for the comment and for following! 🙂

  16. Super! Looking forward to this! I’ve tackled some Japanese sewing for myself (eek! Pretty scary stuff seeing as I’m not a typical Japanese woman shape) but nothing for kids yet. The books I can find here are all in French so I have assumed that Japanese to English via French is just one step too far! Can’t wait for some inspiration.

  17. this is great! i was just looking at a couple of books yesterday and my concern left them unpurchased. looking foward to light on the subject!

  18. I love sewing from Japanese books. When I started sewing in 2008, I started with the “Girly Style Wardrobe” ( ). I remember I order it from amazon JP, paid quite a lot for shipping, and than had to pay custom fees above all. My family thought I was crazy.
    I didn’t have any issues with it, I guess I’m a visual person, and diagrams are my kind of thing. Trying to figure out the pattern sheet was the hardest for me. The first item I made was all sewn by hand, since I didn’t have a sewing machine yet… I was hooked… for life.
    I would love if you post some of my clothes on pinterest, I follow your board and I’ve quite a few favorites. My flickr page is: and i’ve posted all the japanese patterns I’ve sewn in the flickr group.
    Can’t wait for this series. Thank you :-)))

  19. I think I own more than 90 books or more, half or more than half are kids and the rest adult ones. I used to get so confused when following english instructions for sewing, but as soon as I discovered Japanese Pattern Books things got so much better and clear. Now I don’t use any other patterns, I’m a strong fan of Japanese Fashion and simplicity some times, so much better!!! I sew one piece or two if I have time in a day, mainly for my kids and sometimes for me. I just finished at least 10 pieces of clothing for myself and I’m wearing them all in a week from now. I’m taking my kids down to South America for three weeks and sew a whole wardrobe for the three of us!! I will take pictures in action of everything and post it on my blog, something I need to get better at, I’m a lazy blogger!!!! This is a great idea of yours!!!!. I can’t wait to see what you do and the other supermamas, I love their blogs as well very inspiring!!!

    • WHOA! I think that’s a record! It’s incredible that you sew that much clothing for both yourself and your kids! I just took a quick glance at your blog and the projects look beautiful! If you want me to add some of your favorites to the Pinterest board, feel free to send me the links to the specific posts. And I hope you chime in during the series with any of your expertise and knowledge! 🙂

      • Thank you Cherie! I will send you a link of my fave outfits to put them on Pinterest. I will love to share any tips or which are the best books for kids and adults. I will be traveling during this amazing event but I will have access to Internet. I will share images of my trip wearing my clothes and my kids wearing theirs, I can not wait. Every trip I’ve made to Latin America, people ask me where did I buy my kids clothes…to which I proudly answer…I made it myself!!!! Best feeling right? Besos from Canada!!

      • Thank you for commenting!! I will tell you and show which are my favorite ones! I need to put some lipstick and shower to look good in my outfits, so let me do that and I will love to share them with you! I just read your message and heading to see your stuff!

  20. I’m so, so, so excited for this series. I’ve put a few of these books on my “wishlist”, but I’m nervous about actually getting through one. This is a fantastic idea! Thank you!!

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  22. I will enjoy following this Cherie. We took a trip to Japan last year and brought back several pattern books. The styles are really fabulous for kids. I’ve had fun sewing some of them, Not so fun tracing them and finding the right pieces though!

  23. yay!! I’m really excited about this since Japanese patterns have been on my mind for some time. Just getting a book has proved to be one of the hardest parts so far, so I haven’t had a chance to flounder around with any of them. But I love Japanese style. The clean yet beautiful aesthetic suits me much better than a lot of the frillier stuff you find for girls. It’s not just their clothes too. Often times I will point something out that I like to my husband, dishes or decor or something, and he’ll say “Of course you like it. It looks Japanese.” hahaha
    I was hoping to find a book at Powells in Portland, but alas no luck there. A whole “city” of books and I couldn’t find any Japanese pattern books!

  24. What a wonderful idea! I’ve been making a few things from Japanese patterns since seeing some of the other creations from sewists named above, and I just LOVE them. It did occur to me that after nutting out a tricky bit I really should take pictures and “blog” it, but not being a blogger I never did. It’s wonderful that you’re all going to be talking Japanese patterns.
    If I may be so bold, I’ll invite you to my Flickr stream!

    Hat "q"
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  29. I’ve never sewn with Japanese patterns – but it has been on my to do list for long…I am sure that this series will give me a little push i the right direction. Can’t wait to see all of you work your magic.

  30. I am so excited for this series! I just bought 2 Japanese sewing books because I loved the simple, calm feeling of the clothes SO MUCH..I couldn’t resist. This will be so helpful! One of them is the one you pictured with the little girl and boy on the front, so I hope you make something from that one! Also, the best prices I found were through ETSY (Pink Nelie) or EBAY..although they do have them on Amazon as well. Plus, Pink Nelie offered to translate anything I needed if I was having trouble with the book I bought from her! So sweet. Anyway, i think this is an awesome idea! Thanks

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  33. What a brilliant idea for a series! I’ve just come across your blog and I’m amazed no one has thought of this before now!
    I have been sewing from Japanese pattern books since 2009 and love the styles. But what I love most are the sewing instructions, in the form of illustrations and diagrams. These simplify even the most difficult sewing techniques.
    I’ve blogged about some of the patterns I sewed- and I’ve also pinned them
    These are books that I have & would love to have!!!

    Also there’s a lovely helpful blogger who offers to translate patterns and blogs reviews of books – and she also has a Flickr group.

    I’m so looking forward to this series 🙂

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  39. When we visited Japan three years ago, four Japanese pattern books were my souvenir from the trip (baby clothes, bags and two women’s wear books). I haven’t made too much from them because the very loose style of the women’s clothing doesn’t suit my body shape (this top and some baby pants) but since I have reasonable sewing experience, the directions weren’t difficult to follow. I love just flipping through them, though–what gorgeous, inspiring photos!

  40. How exciting to have found this blog and this post. I am big fan of japanese books, and will go and read all the other blog posts in this series. Currently I am making lots of shorts from from happy homemade vol 2 and vol 5, and I blog about it here:

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