Having lived in Taiwan for quite a while, I am very familiar with Japanese craft books of many kinds. Half the craft books on the shelves in Taiwanese bookstores were originally published in Japanese. I can usually tell without even looking at the publishing information just by the quality of paper and the style of the photography. One of the best features of these books is just how visual their instructions are. I have seen them in both Japanese and in Chinese here, and although I can't read either I own quite a few in Chinese (which are more plentiful here and cheaper than their Japanese original counterparts) and even a few in their original Japanese. They are hands-down the best books I have seen when it comes to needle felting, and I have learned a lot of fun stitches from the amazingly visual charts of both knitting and crocheting motifs. Embroidery and doodling are mostly about the designs anyway, and I have a few on making various stuffed animals and felt toys. Often they will highlight a few techniques each book in incredible detail with a step-by-step photo tutorial, and you can usually extrapolate how to make the other designs from there.
The one thing I haven't been brave enough to buy is their sewing books. I just don't know enough about sewing to be able to figure it out without any language. Plus, I mostly want to sew for little girls, and most of the sewing books here are either for quilted bags or adults. So when I discovered that Amazon is now selling several Japanese sewing books for children, translated into English, I just knew I had to try them. I found a wonderful English website from a woman in Singapore that reviews Japanese sewing books (both translated and not) and found that there are basically six English books available for girls' clothes at the moment. After endlessly poring over both the Amazon reviews and the ones on the site, I ended up going with all six because each had several things I could see myself making. Besides, Vivienne is three now and it's the perfect age for these books. She's still in the smallest or second smallest size in most of the books, and she's young enough to look cute in about anything so I don't have to worry about embarrassing her with my homemade attempts and my old-fashioned fashion sense.
If you Google around and search through blogs, you'll find that sewing from Japanese patterns is a thing quite a few bloggers are into, but until recently English speakers had to look at diagrams, bring what they already knew of clothes construction to the table, and guess a lot, it seems. Now, with the English books, a fairly beginner seamstress (like me) has no excuse. All but one of them do assume you know something of what you are doing, so it's a good thing I made a few PDF tutorials from American sellers that walked me through basic garment construction step-by-step, but I am surprised at how little you actually need to know.
These are the books I bought:
Both on-line and when I first bought them, they seemed to meld together, but once I started using them they began to distinguish themselves from one another and I'll be listing them out separately in the next post (or so). As similar as they are, I don't regret buying a single one. I am definitely going to get use out of all of them as I embark on my mission to teach myself to sew. Unfortunately, Vivienne's wardrobe is pretty full of character T-shirts and leggings and shorts with pockets which she is content wearing every day, so I am going to end up making way more than she can use. Really, I can't see myself doing all that much sewing for the boys (though mastering a few simple shorts patterns will come in handy). I don't know what I am going to do with all the results, but I'm going to work through the books anyway and by the end of it, I should have a pretty good idea of garment construction, fabric choices, etc. Who knows where this will lead -- but at least I can fulfill one aspect of my childhood dream of living in the olden days (albeit, thankfully, with an electric sewing machine and an internet full of tutorials for when I get stuck.)
So, if anyone is reading this blog and is interested in sewing little kids' clothes, I thought I would attempt to walk through a few of the projects I am making to give you a little feel for the experience. (Feel free to skim -- I don't have time to sew AND to edit blog posts to nice succinct summaries!) I might possibly even write up some reviews or comparisons of the different books in case anyone is interested in giving Japanese sewing books a try. (Not everyone is as obsessive as I am and wants to dive in with six at once, but I totally recommend giving one or two a try.) I'm not going to try to reinvent the wheel -- go to japanesesewingbooks.com for complete reviews -- but I thought I might have a different perspective, being relatively new to both sewing in general and the Japanese sewing book scene in particular. Also, if people start leaving comments to show that there's some interest, I may even do a give-away from Asia somewhere near the end of summer, just for fun. I have some ideas kicking around my head. (Yup. My love language is definitely gift-giving.) Yes, I'm blatantly begging for comments. I try to talk about this stuff with my husband, but he's just not a very satisfactory conversation partner when it comes to discussing the advantages or disadvantages of including seam allowances and whatnot.
If you are my Facebook friend (and since I am terrible at both updating and promoting a blog, I'm going to guess that most readers are) you may see the outfits well before the blog post. There is definitely going to be a bit of a time delay on this series. Then again, I have a pretty big time delay for posting to Facebook as well. (I have to admit I've already finished four projects before this was even written up, but immigration issues must soon be tackled again so I'll be slowing down the pace.)
|A sneak peak of Vivienne in the first shirt I made from the books since this has been a pretty text-heavy post and needs a bit of cuteness.|
So there you have it, and away we go!