It's hard not to love Japanese Pattern Books. They are filled with cute designs that often have several variations, and then modelled by edgy Asians that make the designs look runway-chic and weekend-casual all at the same time. I was first introduced to these books through Karyn who offers a class at her studio/shop The Workroom.
Over the years, I've developed a small collection of Japanese Pattern Books myself and picked up some really great skills sewing from the patterns.
It's amazing how many different patterns are crammed into one book (asians always manage to find a way to be incredibly efficient) but it means that there is always a little bit of deciphering required.
Years ago when I first took the Japanese Dress Books class at the workroom, the books available were only in Japanese. Karyn taught us the basics to trace the patterns and decode the pictures. Then we had the rest of the classes to sew away and pepper Karyn with questions about how to construct our garments of choice. It's actually a really fun, unstructured class to take since you sew at your own pace and tackle your own specific project!
Fast forward half a decade and I think I've got a pretty good handle of the patterns. It also helps that several books have been translated into English. I've seen dozens of these pattern books and they generally involve simple construction and comfortable fit. It does mean that you need to be mindful of your body type and choose patterns wisely -- unless, of course, you plan to get an edgy haircut and chew on a leaf, which is what some of the models in these books do to distract you from the odd proportions of the clothing.
The Winter Retreat this February has an Asian Comfort theme. We're beating the winter blues with Asian food that warms the body, and the optional sewing workshop will involve sewing something comfortable and satisfying from these fun Japanese pattern books.
Retreaters will be instructed to bring a couple meters of a comfortable fabric and we'll peruse the books together on Friday night, maybe between bowls of ramen, to find a good project. Then we spend the weekend drafting the pattern, cutting out fabric, and sewing up a dress, shirt, skirt, or even handbag!
My most recent project came from the I am cute dresses book that is available in English. It's actually a compilation of patterns that you draft yourself, using all straight lines. This makes for easy cutting and easy sewing. The dress I sewed was called "I am sweetly tied" (they all have cute names like this) but ironically, I decided to omit the tie at the collar.
These books are fun and inspirational. They teach a good lesson to sew outside the box. I'm excited to see what products come out of the weekend sewing workshop!