It’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
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!
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).
I 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!
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):
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 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.
For 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:
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!
Thank YOU, Kristin! While you’re over at skirt as top, be sure to check out all of her amazing and inspirational projects!
And 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.*
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