Japanese craft books

Firstly, thank you so much for all you lovelies who have been over and voted for my top in the Spring Tops competition (or one of the others...because they're all lovely and I'm up against two of the tops that I'd picked out as being my own favourites right from the start, so I'm delighted just to be in the final alongside them).  There's still a little time left for voting and any votes for my top might just help me be defeated by a narrow margin rather than a gaping abyss! Thank you also for the excellent advice left on creating Flickr mosaics on my last post - I really appreciate it.

Anyway, onto those Japanese craft books that I'd started talking about recently. (I wrote about the top above which was made from a Japanese pattern book here). I look through one at least once a week and my mind is becoming increasingly dominated by their subject matter, so I thought that they deserved a whole post all to themselves, so that those who haven't yet discovered their wonderfulness, might be inspired to rectify the situation...and also because I have some links that I wanted to share. If you have any of your own then please do put them in the comments section - I'd love to discover more.

There's so much to love about these pattern books. The photography and styling is utterly gorgeous: minimal, understated, calming and utterly inspiring...I can't tell you how many times I look through them just to get lost in the pictures. But they're so much more than pretty pictures. They're insanely good value when you think about how many patterns are included. There are normally around 20 patterns, which for about £16 works out at roughly 80p per pattern...so much less expensive than a Simplicity pattern. What they lack in instructions (they're in Japanese) they make up for in pictures and illustrations, which are so much more explicit than any of the long-winded explanations that can be found in regular patterns, that one is able to start with a clear idea of the steps that need to be completed. They often show the finished garment with numbers labelling each seam to indicate the exact order that the pieces should be assembled in, which is fantastic as they make useful study books for understanding the best order in which things constructed. Every thing in their design is geared toward making them comprehensible without the need to understand any written words.

At the back there is normally one double-side fold-out piece of paper containing all the patterns. At first glance an intimidating spaghetti junction of pieces, but actually, that too is remarkably easy to fathom once you've studied it for a while - you simply peer around until you've noted all the numbered pieces that you need and then trace them off...and it's on lovely thick papery instead of scary whisper-thin tissue...and I write this as somebody who has held a long fear-based aversion to patterns...so really, if I can do this, then anybody can.

Anyway, let me share some resources with you - many of which you might already know of, but perhaps there might be something new and interesting in there. I could go into all the ins and outs of using the patterns myself, but Purl has such an excellent tutorial on this that it seems easier to direct you straight there: they cover adding seam allowances, tracing the patterns off and even translate some of the Japanese that it really is helpful to know (such as the symbol for front and back).

Until recently I've been buying my Japanese pattern books from Yes Asia, which has a huge variety. However, last week I nearly fainted with happiness when I accidentally discovered a lovely online shop based in the UK that stocks a really fantastic variety of Japanese pattern books. The prices seem no more expensive than that of Yes Asia, but thrillingly, come without the four-week wait for them to arrive! The shop is called M is for Make and it also stocks Collette patterns, Ottobre magazine, a couple of the much coveted Nano Iro prints and so many other lovely things. M is for Make's owner, Kate, also has a blog, which you can find here.

Another good place to visit is Crafting Japanese, a Japanese craft book resource. It features many Japanese craft books and beneath each has a list of links to items that have been made by people from that particular book. It's a fantastic way of getting a sense of the contents and style of the book before buying it...as well as coming across a lot of previously unknown blogs to add to your Bloglines and stitchery to drool over. If you've fallen in love with that and still want more then do go and have a look at Japan Craft Journal.

Over on Flickr there are also some group pools devoted to sewing from Japanese craft books: my favourite is Japanese Patterns on Adults because it specifically focuses on clothes and often helps me narrow down which book I really want by seeing what others have been making from them. Inspiring Images from Craft Books often seems to include shots from almost every page of certain Japanese craft books. There are several other groups too, such as Japanese Sewing, but one has to hunt out the clothing shots from in amongst all the other loveliness and in the midst of garment-obsession this isn't necessarily welcome.

Finally, Ana from Stash Avalanche asked me to talk about sizing. My experience with standard patterns so far has been that I've had trouble finding ones that accommodate my smaller frame, but not so with Japanese patterns: despite their often flowing silhouettes, the garments tend to be cut slightly smaller, for a typically Japanese figure. Using Japanese patterns is the first time I've ever found it unnecessary to lop a couple of inches of the bottom of the pattern piece so that I'm not swamped...and as I'm only 5ft 1 then I'm guessing that those above average height may need to add on a little extra. However, as the pattern pieces have no seam allowance included then this is incredibly easy to do without distorting the shape of the final garment. I've frequently read complaints from people above a size 12/14 saying that the patterns are just too small....and really, that does seem a little restrictive as those sizes are hardly large, but again, with no seam allowance included there's nothing to stop the patterns from being traced onto the paper and then made bigger.

The only other thing to mention is darts. I'm yet to come across a Japanese pattern that has darts at the bust, something that I feel benefits the shape of clothing for even a very small B cup. However, again, these are really easily added in. If you don't feel confident in adding darts or lengthening patterns then there are two books that have given me all the confidence I need to take patterns apart and make them just right for me. One is Cal Patch's book (which strangely omits bust darts, but once she's taught you how to create them at the waist the knowledge is easily transferrable for doing this in other areas, so that oversight doesn't actually matter UPDATED: Cal has now corrected me on this - she does actually cover bust darts while making a dress that I haven't tried out yet - p.93, basic dress - which means that this book really is completely perfect in every way - hurrah!), the other is a book that Mr Teacakes bought for me called How to Use, Adapt and Design Sewing Patterns, which focuses a little more on existing patterns rather than starting from scratch - it's very clear and packed full of helpful advice.

This is one of my favourite images...I love that the photo is so unmodelly and that her legs look just like mine would in the this length of dress with flat shoes on: a bit matronly. Inspiring and affirming!

Another clothes-making post next time...I've made my own trousers, from my own pattern (drafted with the help of the two books mentioned above). And they actually fit!

Wishing you a happy Monday,
Florence x


  1. I am totally in awe of you with these patterns and making your own pattern for trousers!! I did spot a top I would love in the Japanese book though. You are in second place with your top at the moment- fingers crossed! Onward with my peg bag... Jx

  2. Hi Flossie, thanks for talking about sizing in this post - very useful. Looks like I'll have to learn a bit more about pattern adjustment before I get stuck in to Japanese pattern books.

    I'll be interested in your trouser-making experiences too. I've made a few myself, but always from shop bought patterns.

  3. Thanks for tackling this subject - I've started on my first Japanese book project (Stylish Dress) and I'm going backwards fast already! I'll read this post later when I have some quiet time.

  4. Thanks for all the info, the Purl page was especially interesting. Hope your top wins.

  5. Superb post about one of my all-time favourite subjects. I now have a massive collection of these books because, as you say, they are so beautiful to browse through and the patterns are stunning. (The girls' patterns are fantastic too.) I am teaching myself to sew and am very happy to use these books despite the fact I can't speak Japanese but purely because the illustrations are so concise and with the help of a sewing manual it is usually quite straightforward. Thanks for all the links and here's one for you in return - Japanese Couture Addicts (japancouture.canalblog.com) is a French site devoted to Japanese sewing books. You can view garments made from each of the many books covered, just by clicking on the relevant book on the sidebar. Very useful to check out just before committing to buy yet another! Good luck with the top.


  6. Thank you so much for this post! It is so useful for me.
    Hope you win!

  7. I do so hope your top wins!
    Another great place for Japanese crafting books is Pompadour24 on etsy - she's in Japan, has fantastic prices and takes around a week to arrive. I've just got Girly Style Wardrobe from her and have already made a couple of things.
    P xx

  8. wow! i am bookmarking this post so i can reference all of this great info! i love the japanese books and have a bunch, but still have not made anything from them. and thanks for mentioning my book again and for being one of my greatest supporters! i would like to point out just one thing though, that i keep seeing over and over when people talk about my book, which is that i DO explain how to add bust darts in the Basic Dress (p. 93). perhaps for my next book i will write one ALL about darts ;n)

  9. Gosh, thank you for those website recommendations...I'm going to save looking at them until this evening when I have a proper half hour to spend looking at them.

    Cal - I'm so sorry! That must be so frustrating. I couldn't find the bust darts myself and then read someone else say the same thing and so just assumed they weren't covered in there. I will head over to page 93 later and check whether I've been doing it properly - thanks so much for correcting me (I've updated the post to give the proper information too).

    Florence x

  10. I am just dreaming of making some of those pieces! I have a loooong way to go before I can make my own adjustments on clothing that I sew. Fingers crossed that someday I'll have a tenth of your talent! :)

  11. Hi Florence,
    just wanted to say hello and congratulate you on winning our Japanese pattern book giveaway. Thank you for leaving your comment. Email me with your details and choice when you get a moment.

  12. Thank you for posting this and for so much information about japanese sewing books. I have used one before and managed ok but it is nice to have extra help.


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