Japanese Sewing Books: Some Useful Tips

I have recently bought two Japanese sewing pattern books (in Japanese!) by the talented pattern and fashion designer Asuka Hamada. I was hesitating to buy a sewing book in a completely foreign language at first, but the amazing designs in the books convinced me in the end! I gathered some tips and experiences on how to work with Japanese sewing books if you have absolutely no clue of the language and some photos of the designs in the two books below! However, as I just saw, translations are in the works (at least for German and French), if you can wait longer than me…

Some insights on how Japanese sewing books are made and how to use them:

  • Japanese sewing patterns usually use lots of illustrations and charts instead of written instructions.
    Our luck! If you are not a complete beginner, the detailed drawings already give away most of the sewing instructions. This can look a bit minimalistic at the beginning, but do not hesitate to look for instructions on more complicated things elsewhere, and then applying it to your pattern pieces (for example the attachment of a collar etc.).
  • Numbers are written in arabic characters.
    This means the most important information like the body measurements in the size chart, finished measurements and the required amount of fabric is very easily accessible for non-Japanese speakers.
  • Patterns are usually given in one to three sizes.
    This can make an exact fitting a bit hard. However, if (like in the books I bought) the style of the garment is more relaxed or oversized, fit might not be the most important point. It might be useful, however, to learn more about fit adjustments in general. Sewing a Japanese pattern might just require a bit more effort…
  • Usually seam allowances are NOT included in the pattern.
  • Use the Google translate App!
    For my adventures with Japanese sewing patterns, the Google translate app was an enormous help. It’s easiest when you select the photo function in the app: This allows you to take a photo of the Japanese text, select the parts that need to be translated in the app and receive an automatic translation. The results I got were definitively not great, but it made it possible for me to gain a rough understanding of the instructions and descriptions.
  • There are many helpful websites and articles:
    There is a whole blog and website full of resources about Japanese sewing books, including book reviews and very useful tips on how to use them.
    The Twig and Horn blog gives a useful introduction on how to read and use Japanese knitting patterns.
    Another helpful introduction on the Purl Soho Blog.

And as an illustration – some photos of the Japanese sewing books I own:

Asuka Hamada’s book PIECE WORK features modern and interesting designs using classical patchwork techniques.





Asuka Hamada’s latest pattern book features two styles of each garment: one in a standard fit and one in an oversized look.



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