Japanese Sewing Book Series with skirt as top

JSBS_button_KristinIt’s finally here!  It’s Day ONE of the Japanese Sewing Book Series!  I hope you’re as pumped as I am.  Today we are going to be covering some of the basics that you need to know before you even buy a book!  And my first guest is none other than the amazing Kristin of skirt as top.  Honestly, I could probably go on and on for days gushing about this girl – she really is an amazing person!

It’s hard to believe it was only a little over a year ago that she sent me that first email to congratulate me on my first guest post (how sweet is that!?) – and now, a year and literally hundreds of emails and texts later, I’m so honored to call her one of my very good friends.  She’s clearly got amazing sewing skills and impeccable taste – just check out this springtime ayashe, her washi dress (still my favorite), and her doily foldover clutch.  She is also a truly creative and original artist.  You know you’re not going to see something that’s already been done on Kristin’s blog.  For me, her sweet tartan junebug remix and sunshine dress really stood out to me as incredibly unique.

She’s always coming up with awesome new ideas and has great perspective – she’s my favorite person to brainstorm with.  Honestly, there is rarely a project that I haven’t consulted her on.  She is the co-creator and co-host of the ridiculously amazing, hilarious, and creative, not to mention, my favorite series, film petit.  I mean, if you haven’t been following film petit, I really have no clue where you’ve been – you NEED to check it out.  AND on top of all this, Kristin is really just a sweet, generous, humble and fun person.  And today she’s going to walk us through some of the super basic steps that will get us started with Japanese sewing books.  I’m honored to have her here as a guest!


Hi, You & Mie readers!  I am really looking forward to learning more about Japanese pattern books this week, and knowing about this series has motivated me to pull my books out again and be inspired!  I don’t speak Japanese at all (just a few phrases my husband taught me – he took it in high school and college), but I just love the aesthetic and sewing methods in Japanese pattern books SO much.  They’re simple but beautiful and I think the generally loose-fitting styles look really great on kids (this is one of my personal favorites).

I’m going to cover three topics today:

  • Where to buy Japanese pattern books
  • Sizing of the pattens / how to determine your child’s size
  • Basic structure of the books

japanese pattern books - the basicsWhere to Buy:

This was a big mystery to me when I first saw people blogging about Japanese pattern books a couple years ago – they weren’t sold in fabric stores or regular bookstores, so at a certain point I went on a hunt to find them.   Fortunately, Portland has an Asian grocery store called Uwajimaya that just so happens to have a bookstore in the back – it carries a HUGE selection of pattern books and it’s where I’ve gotten most of mine.  The actual bookstore is called Kinokuniya, and they have seven locations in the US .  They also take orders online (though their site is a bit difficult to navigate).  If you’re lucky enough to live near one, go check it out!  Really cool to see so many books all lined up and thumb through each pattern.
japanese pattern books - the basics

Amazon is also a great resource for the more common books – just search “japanese pattern books” and check out the titles.

You can also browse etsy – a seller named pomadour24 has a wide selection with good photos of the insides of each book, which is very helpful – you want to know you’ll sew at least a couple of the patterns before investing in the whole book, I think, since they tend to be a little on the pricey side, no matter where you get them.

For this post, I chose to make a project from Carefree Clothes for Girls by Junko Okawa, since it’s probably the most easy to find and accessible of the Japanese pattern books.  The style, format, and construction techniques are similar to what you’ll see in most Japanese pattern books, but it’s been translated into English (and inches), so it’s a really good one to start with.  If, even after this series, you’re dying to sew a Japanese pattern but are still intimidated by the language barrier, give Carefree Clothes for Girls a try!

japanese pattern books - the basicsThere are actually free PDF pattern pieces (no instructions) from Carefree Clothes for Girls here and a couple free full projects from book here if you want to see what you’ll be working with.


Before you buy your chosen pattern book, there’s something else you should note – and I think this probably applies more to purchasing them in person versus online, since you can see a pretty good description online – Japanese pattern books (like many other patterns) come in a limited range of sizes per book!  The size range is typically indicated on the front cover, and kid sizes are listed in centimeters (more on that later).

japanese pattern books - the basicsI bought most of my Japanese pattern books when my daughter was 2, and once I got them home I realized the sizes started at 4 (100 cm).  I tried to resize a few back then, but it’s so much easier to sew for her now that she is growing into the proper size!

japanese pattern books - the basicsSo be careful of that.

Sizing is typically in centimeters, since, you know, most of the world uses the metric system.  The primary size driver is height, and 100/110/120/130 seems to be a common range.  Some books are better than others about including chest, waist, and hip measurements as well, and Happy Homemade Vol. 2 even has a cute little chart for you (English labels are mine):

japanese pattern books - the basics

I put together a chart with some conversions and included the Japanese characters to help you guide your pattern size selection based on your child’s measurements –  as with all sewing patterns, it’s best to use your child’s measurements rather than age to determine sizing, and though I noticed the chest/waist/hip measurements correlated to the same height size in all three of the books I looked at, there could be some variation.  But hopefully this gives you a general idea what to look for – you can see how the Japanese characters in the chart below match the drawing above.

japanese pattern books - the basics

(Japanese characters from the dictionary of Japanese sewing terms at this indispensable site)

If you’re curious, here are some baby sizes:

  • 50 : newborn
  • 60 : 3-6 months
  • 70 : 6-12 months
  • 80 : 12-18 months

Japanese sizing seems to run a little smaller than American sizing in general. For instance, I usually sew a size 3 for my petite almost-five-year-old daughter in most American patterns, but I sewed a 4 for this project and it fits her perfectly. She wears a 5 in store-bought clothes.

Basic Book Structure:

Every Japanese sewing book I’ve seen starts with pages of beautifully photographed outfits, with letters/numbers/names associated with each photo.  Once you’ve browsed through the eye candy at the beginning, you get to a section usually titled “how to make” which is where the size chart and instructions begin.

japanese pattern books - the basicsFor the Apron in Carefree clothes for girls, the photo is on page 10 but the instructions are on page 45.  The instructions guide you to pattern B on page 1 of the pattern insert, which looks like this:

japanese pattern books - the basics

And how to make heads or tails of that spiderweb will be covered in the next few days by future guests!

Please add any stores, resources, and sizing tips you may have to the comments, and if you’d like to see the project I made from Carefree Clothes for Girls, visit skirt as top today!

japanese pattern books - the basics

Thanks, Cherie!


Thank YOU, Kristin!  While you’re over at skirt as top, be sure to check out all of her amazing and inspirational projects!

Kristin_collageAnd stop by tomorrow for a really great post about decoding all that essential information found at the top of each instruction page.  It’s the part that usually makes me sigh and close the book before I even get started.  But not after tomorrow!

*The Miss Matatabi Giveaway winners have been announced HERE.  Are you one of the two lucky winners!?  Thank you to all who entered.*


you & mie is an Amazon affiliate.  I will earn a small commission for Amazon purchases made through links provided in this post.


32 thoughts on “Japanese Sewing Book Series with skirt as top

  1. Lots of great information, Krisitn – thanks so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge! So excited about this Japanese book series!

  2. This is awesome. I just started with Japanese sewing books this year and I love them! I just discovered a few new ones being translated into English too: Girls Style Book, Feminine Wardrobe, and Stylish Dress Book- Simple Smocks Dresses and Tops. The Drape Drape and Pattern Magic series have already been translated into English, as well as a different Stylish Dress Book. I am looking forward to the rest of your blog series!

  3. Pingback: jackson pollock smock frock & japanese sewing books | skirt as top

  4. Pingback: Monday Giveaway! | Sanae Ishida

  5. Aw geez, Cherie, I’m blushing like crazy now. I’m a huge fan of yours and I’m so happy to help kick off your first series! Yeah girl! Thanks for inviting me and for your sweet words – your creative ideas are a huge inspiration to me too, and I love brainstorming with you! So glad we’re friends.

    Can’t wait to see what Sanae and Meg and Robin and Frances have to teach us all! 🙂

  6. I love, love, love sewing from Japanese pattern books, I think I have 4 or 5 of them 🙂 They are just such beautiful designs, and really are easy to follow! I did attempt an adult’s maternity top, but not having sewn many adults clothing anyway completely mucked it up!!! Thanks for sharing!

  7. This is very helpful information, especially about the sizing. I wish I had known it before starting to sew from Japanese books!
    In relation to buying Japanese Pattern Books, especially from Europe, YesAsia.com (http://www.yesasia.com/global/search/with-paper-pattern/0-0-0-bpt.48_q.with+paper+pattern-en/list.html) is very good (I left more details in a comment on an earlier post -https://youandmie.com/2013/03/22/a-simple-blouse-from-a-sunny-spot/#comments )
    and there’s an excellent selection here – http://stores.ebay.com/JapanBooks-TORON/CHILD-Baby-Clothes-Patterns-/_i.html?_fsub=3709750016&_sid=599345876&_trksid=p4634.c0.m322

    Other Resources:

    Looking forward to the rest of the series 🙂

  8. Holy crap – the store you buy your pattern books at has a location 6.4 miles from my work!!! Now I know what I’m doing at lunchtime tomorrow!!!!!

  9. Just LOVE this series idea!

    As well as Pomadour24, I’ve found on Etsy that JapanLovelyCrafts and PinkNelie both have a good selection of books and fantastic customer service too. Really helpful when I was looking for a particular one that was out of print.

    I’ve only sewn adult’s clothes from Japanese books, probably about 6 garments now, and they’ve all worked out great. I’ve generally used similar (fairly plain) fabrics to what has been used in the books – often lightweight linen/cottons – and I think that’s contributed to a nice outcome. I’m usually a size Small in Australian clothing but I’ve been cutting out a size Medium with pretty good results overall, although I’m yet to make anything very fitted.

  10. Another great place to buy some Japanese pattern books is Etsy site http://www.etsy.com/people/JapanLovelyCrafts

    I love the boys clothes too. So hard to find gorgeous boys things.

    It’s funny that you’ve said the patterns run large, because for boys shorts, I’ve found them to be very slim. I made a size 110cm for a friend’s (chubby) almost 3yo, and it was too tight around his bottom of thighs! My son is ridiculously skinny so the style of pants fit him perfectly ;P

    Can’t wait to follow this series, and sorry for my double comment leaving 🙂

  11. I nervously bought a book from Japanese amazon. Scary cause I couldn’t understand a single word on the whole page, but the picture looked right, and the price equated to only 27 cents! Your suggestions seem much safer! Great post.

  12. Pingback: Japanese Sewing Book Series with elsie marley | you and mie

  13. Oh thank you so much for this series, late last year I bought Ondori Boys’ Clothes in order to make uniform pants for my son, and alas, I didn’t have a clue how to start, figure out sizes and such! This helps so much! Now I know that I have sizes 4,5,6 and 7!

  14. By far the easiest way to search for a particular pattern book is to use the ISBN number. I don’t even try to ask for something at Kinokuniya without it, that number is always what they want. 🙂

  15. Pingback: Japanese Sewing Book Series Wrap-up! | you and mie

  16. First of all, I love this series! I missed it when it was actually running, I was caring for my newborn and enjoying lounging with endless amounts of uninterrupted snuggles! Second, thank you so much for the idea behind this series! I love japanese patterns, but don’t read japanese and have fumbled thru a few, more than a bit frustrated. I am super glad Kristen posted about where it buy japanese pattern books, as we have a Uwajimaya in Seattle and I got to thumb through many delicious pictures before selecting a gem to take home, in the bookstore. It was so nice to see all the patterns in the books in person, versus just seeing a few online. Thanks so much!

  17. I just recently reopened my japanese pattern books this week so I’m glad to have stumbled upon this. I’ll definitely read through the rest of the series but can you tell me how to determine the necessary yardage if you happen to have any of the happy homemade books. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s