I’ve had this beautiful Japanese pattern book for a while, but have been scared witless at the thought of making anything from it.
I spent hours swooning over the classic, elegant clothes and stroking the lovely, thick creamy paper before deciding a skirt would be the easiest thing to make for a first attempt.
Before I started I read up on the subject. There's an excellent article in issue 25 of Sew Hip magazine by Florence of Flossie Teacakes. It's really well written and a pleasure to read. If you're thinking of sewing from Japanese pattern books I'd highly recommend trying to get your hands on a copy as it's a great introduction. After reading it I was filled with confidence about approaching my pattern. Also, by happy coincidence, Kate from M is for Make is running a Japanese Pattern Book sewalong at the moment. Although I’m not officially sewing along (I think I’ve had my fill of sewalongs for a while) I am scouring each post for tips and advice, of which there are many. Here's a big, giant, enormous tip - if you’re thinking of buying a Japanese pattern book, get it from M is for Make. No, I’m not on commission, but as well as having a fantastic selection, each book comes with translation sheets of sewing terms which Kate herself has put together. I can’t tell you how useful they are. Even if (like me), you only manage to decipher a few, it will make all the difference.
So here’s the skirt I’ve chosen to make.
I love A-line skirts and fancied making one with some detail to it – I like the little pleat at the front. Mine won't be as long as this one, as anything too full and too far below the knee starts straying into frump territory on me. Going by the size chart, my waist size just squeezes into the largest size (13), phew.
Expert linguist that I am, I worked out which characters translate as ‘front’ and which were ‘back’. I then tried to translate lots more of the Japanese on the page. Bad, bad idea - I’m not joking when I say my head was physically hurting after about twenty minutes. So I changed my approach. I think as long as you can work out essential translations such as ’front’ and ‘back’ etc, you can piece the instructions together just from the illustrations, which are very clearly drawn.
For instance for the skirt pattern, I only really need the instructions for the front pleat - the insertion of a lining, zip and waistband I know how to do myself.
Next, I had to find my front and back pieces on the pattern sheet
Looks terrifying doesn't it? Luckily all pattern pieces are numbered according to which pattern you're making, so it's pretty logical once you've got over the initial terror. I just had to trace them onto tracing paper and voila – I had my pattern pieces. I made a quick muslin, in case there were any fitting horrors before cutting into my nice Goldhawk Road fabric (see first picture). Good job I did because it didn’t do up at the waist (ahem), so I added a bit of width to the top section of skirt and started following the instructions.
So far so good, next time round I'll show you how it turned out... x