Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Japanese Pattern Books

Since it seems like most of the patterns I make these days are from Japanese pattern books, I thought I'd do a little post about some basics for using these great resources! Many of you have heard me proclaim in class how stylish and well-designed these patterns tend to be, and with a little patternmaking skill you - yes, you! - can partake in the wonderfulness. I'd recommend starting with a very simple pattern, possibly similar to a pattern you have already sewn - the trick here is that all the sewing instructions are in Japanese. The pictures are fantastic for the most part, though, so any seamster intermediate and up can generally figure out what's going on. A reference book like the "Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing" is also a great thing to have when you start winging it a bit! Overall, the fit is certainly curvier than one would expect, with bust darts and curved side seams - and it is also pretty roomy. For my own body shape - slim shoulders but a larger bust - the fit at the shoulder and sleeve parts of the pattern is unsurpassed.

Japanese patterns are not packaged like commercial patterns in this country - all the patterns in one book come on one sheet and they overlap each other. Plus, they do not include SEAM ALLOWANCES! This is pretty important to remember if you'd like your project to fit you! If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense - no seam allowances makes it much easier to adjust the pattern to fit you better on the sewing line, which is far more important than the cutting line. If you have taken our Intro to Fitting & Patternmaking class, this is just like your OAKTAG pattern.

The tools you'll need are the same as for any patternmaking project: pushpin thumbtacks, a mechanical pencil, and your needlepoint tracing wheel. A clear ruler is a must! I have a super fancy one that is metric on one side and inches on the other, but you can use your standard ruler if you remember that 3/8" equals 1cm. Oh yes - these patterns are all in metric! Which is more accurate than imperial measurements! (I really wish we had converted to metric in the 70's like we were supposed to.)  

 You will also need some pattern paper to copy onto, and it's super helpful to have a big piece of wood you can tack everything down to. Heavy cardboard will work in a pinch, but if you decide to d a lot of this, get yourself some wood! It's easy enough to slide it behind a door when you are not using it.

Today, I'm copying a coat pattern from this book, which my friend Mio says translates as "She Always Has the Natural Thing". I have made a few other things out of this book - the dress on the cover is one of my favorite dresses ever!

The "How to Make" pages at the back of the book is where we find all of our info. First, you'll spot a chart that looks very familiar - a measurements chart! I assumed that it was bust / waist / hip and it seems that was a fine assumption. I generally just make the largest size offered as I am a large in Japan! Some books offer four sizes, including XL. My bust is 93cm, so I'm fine with the largest size here.

Then, when you go to the page specifically for your project, it will tell you which pattern pieces you'll need , and sometimes where to locate them on your master pattern sheet. It will also suggest seam allowances and hem allowances, but of course you can pretty much add whatever you like as long as you remember what it is! I generally go with what they are asking unless my fabric is super ravelly then maybe a larger S.A. would be better so there's room to edge finish. Here's the layout for the outer fabric and the lining for my coat:

The first thing to do is find your pattern pieces and highlight them, along with any notches and grainlines. Make sure you have all the pieces! Necklines and arm edges are often finished with bias binding - these will not be pattern pieces but cutting dimensions will be shown on the fabric layout for your project.

Lay a large piece of pattern paper down on your wood table top, then place the master pattern sheet over it and tack it down through the top and bottom of the grainline. This will be really easy to see and draw in when you remove the master pattern sheet after copying - we would be lost without that grainline!

The next step is to carefully run your needlepoint tracing wheel along the pattern, all the way around. Trace curved lines in their entirety, but with straight lines you'll only need to mark the top & bottom of the line. Don't forget to mark NOTCHES, especially if you have sleeves! Continue tracing all the rest of the pattern pieces, leaving room to add hem & seam allowances. Remove the master pattern sheet - you'll see all your needlepoints on your pattern paper. Remember - this is the sewing line and now we have to add the seam allowances which will be our cutting line.

This is where my 1cm ruler comes in handy. I don't draw in the sewing lines (the lines you just traced) - I just draw in the seam allowances 1cm away, curving my ruler as necessary:

Add the recommended hem allowances:

Then you can cut out your pattern! There's no need to TRUE it like we have to do when we make our own patterns from scratch - the designer has already done that. I ALWAYS recommend testing your pattern by making a muslin to see if it fits the way you like. That will also give you a good idea of how it will sew up as well. Go go go! Happy pattern making! BTW - this method can also be used for European pattern books & magazines like Burda and Ottobre.

Next on the list: a post about coats. And why it's a good idea to make a muslin. Here's a sneak peek, front & back! I'm so in love...


Tereneh Idia said...

Love this! I make all my patterns from scratch but this makes my want to try Japanese and other patterns. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Glad you like it! I make a lot of my own patterns as well, but I can't resist the cuteness of these books. And I was happily surprised at the fantastic fit - now I'm addicted!

Unknown said...

Oh! I forgot to mention that you can find these books here in Los Angeles at Kinokuniya Bookstore downtown. Here's their Yelp page cause most of the website is in Japanese: http://www.yelp.com/biz/kinokuniya-bookstores-los-angeles

Unknown said...

Jeez, my brain today - the ISBN # is 978-4-579-11234-0 on this book. That will make it easier to find for those interested!

Ruby B. said...

By the way, I just saw English translations of two Japanese pattern books on Amazon. One of them won't be released until December but the other is available now.

Jen said...

Fantasitc blog. I enjoyed your instructions and have sucessfully navigated my pattern book!

Nobu Murakawa said...

Thanks for the instructions it will help me lot when i will sew my dress.