japanese sewing pattern tips

How about some tips on sewing from a Japanese sewing book? First, the books do come with patterns, but the patterns are all squished onto a big piece of paper, which can be very confusing and disorienting.

pattern all.JPG
Basically, you just have to find the pieces you need for your item. If you want to make, say, pattern B, then you look for B along the edges of the sheet. You’ll need to get some pattern paper so you can trace the pattern for cutting out. I get the white stuff that looks like interfacing and has little red dots on it.
So the first step is to trace all the pattern pieces. Now, before you cut them out, remember to add seam allowances! You won’t need to add them to every side, however, because some of the patterns will use bias tape edging or be cut on the fold. So, you need to study the diagram for the particular pattern:
pattern top.JPGpattern top2.JPG
See how the armholes and the neck don’t have the seam allowances drawn in? That’s because those will be finished with a bias tape edging and thus don’t need any seam allowance. So study the diagrams and then add in the necessary seam allowances to the pattern pieces before cutting them out. I add 3/8″ seam allowances, but for hems I add about 2″. Also, you CAN just add the seam allowances when you’re cutting out the fabric, but it’s much easier and more efficient to add them to the pattern pieces (I’ve done it both ways).
Your pattern piece will look something like this:
pattern cutout.JPG

Some other things: many of the patterns use bias tape for edging. You can buy a bias tape maker, but I don’t seem to have one the right size, and I’ve been too lazy to hunt one down, so I just make my own. You can also just buy packaged bias tape. They even have bias tape with sticky tape on it so you don’t have to pin carefully. If you want to make your own, cut strips 1 3/4″ wide on the bias. Fold in half and press, then open the strip back up and fold in each side to the center and press. Also, you won’t find pattern pieces for the bias tape edging, so you’ll just have to study the pattern diagram and instructions to see if bias tape is used.
I guess that’s all I can think of for now. If you have any questions or your own tips, please feel free to leave them!

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23 Responses to japanese sewing pattern tips

  1. autum says:

    Thanks for the tips!!

  2. Kate says:

    Thanks! This will be a big help.

  3. marianne says:

    Yikes. Thanks for the tips. Or should I say warnings?

  4. Melanie says:

    Um, what about sizing?

  5. Siow Chin says:

    This comes in really helpful!

  6. Donna says:

    I haven’t been pressing folds into my bias tape when I cut my own and I wonder if that’s why I have problems with it lying flat. I just use old pattern tissue–I have lots that people gave me, things in styles I will never wear or make for my girls–for tracing the patterns. I use a colored pencil so the original patterns aren’t confusing.

  7. hello…
    Nazlı = Turkey

  8. kiyomi says:

    Thanks! I’ve been thinking about buying the book, but worried about how a non-reader of Japanese would handle it. This gives me the impetus to try it out.

  9. bidivadbob says:

    Thanks! I’ve been thinking about buying the book, but worried about how a non-reader of Japanese would handle it. This gives me the impetus to try it out.

  10. patti says:

    Oh excellent! I bought freezer paper for tracing…With the kids and the dog I thought it would be a good idea to have something sturdy.
    Someone else posted too, about sizing…Could you make a guess? I am thinking thre is probably not a size for me! But I am not afraid to alter a l+ittle….. Thanks!!!

  11. Annette says:

    Sticky-tape bias tape? I have to find it before I make another apron!

  12. Stacey says:

    what a process! I’m sure once you get used to it, it isn’t too bad – your sewing is wonderful!

  13. Michelle says:

    I too am wondering about sizing. I’ve heard that these patterns only accomodate small sizes. They look so doggone cute on you …

  14. Terry says:

    Thank you for the tips. (Hint, hint) MORE please! – maybe re figuring size, symbols – hmm kinda like the person who takes an inch and asks for more 🙂

  15. Lydia says:

    Wow! Thank you for the tips; they’re a BIG help!

  16. Leslie says:

    Mariko, you are a GODDESS!!! Can I tell you how since I discovered your blog I have been so inspired? (Look at my blog…I just did a J-town run this past weekend and look at all my goodies…)
    I had never thought to check out the bookstore for goodies, though the Kinokuniya stationary shop has always been a favorite of mine.
    When you say you bought your books at the Kinokuniya bookstore, were you referring to one in the Portland area? I’m in SF and have easy access to the one here in the City, just don’t get to it as often as I’d like (and which is a good thing, since I’d be even more broke!)
    You are a gem for sharing this info, since I am impulsive and wasn’t really sure how I was going to attack my new acquisitions–other than to use them for inspiration and dreaming.
    I’m a chubby gal, but know a bit about adjusting patterns, so I’m not as concerned about sizing as I am about drafting and executing!
    BTW, it was my birthday yesterday, so though you didn’t intend, you gave me quite a gift! What timing!

  17. lera says:

    thank you! it seems very intimidating! yikes!
    and where do you find your red polka-dotted pattern paper? is it with the interfacing?? i don’t think i’ve ever noticed it before.
    (i have a tip in general. my friend who has a degree in fashion design said that they used medical supply paper, you know the kind they put on the exam table in the drs office, for their patterns. **IF** you would have a source for that, it might be less expensive. I don’t have a source, though.)

  18. Sasha says:

    Yay, thanks for the tips! I just took the leap in the past week or so and made a few things from a Japanese sewing book for kids.
    My hint, the diagrams number the seams in the order they should be sewn, so it’s pretty easy to work out the construction.
    As far as sizing goes, there is usually a sizing chart somewhere in the book with measurement in centimeters, so if you can figure out which body measurement is which on the chart you are good to go.
    As far as adult sizes, one book that I looked at, I think it was called something like Skirt ala Carte, went up to Japanese size 15. If you Google Japanese sizes you will eventually find comparison charts. I think the 15 was roughly an American size 12.

  19. Liz says:

    I never knew they made bias taper makers! Of course, I looked for one locally with no luck. I’ll just have to order one.
    Where do you find your pattern paper? I’ve googled but I’m not finding anything…

  20. debbie says:

    eeek! you have the patience of Job!

  21. AmyB says:

    Great! Thank you for the specifics – I’m really looking forward to getting started.

  22. joy says:

    Love your sewing projects! I remember seeing a tip for making a long strip for bias tape, but I can’t seem to find the original. Here is one that is similar to the one I’ve seen before:
    It has some good diagrams too!

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