Monday, September 1, 2014

Basic Black - A Japanese Pattern Book Review

Basic Black is a book of sewing patterns by a Japanese designer Sato Watanabe. This is one of the more interesting and exciting Japanese Pattern Books that I have used, particularly because it includes patterns for garments that are designed with shape, rather than the usual loose fitting Japanese styles.


Unlike Sato Watanabe's Stylish Skirts book that I also reviewed, there is a lot less drafting, measurment and creation of pattern pieces in this book. Pattern sheets, which are printed on both sides, are included with the book.


What is most surprising about this book, is that the original publication date of the Japanese edition was 2005, but you would never guess that based on the designs in this English translation from Tuttle Publishing.


There are 26 patterns in the book - 7 shirts/blouses, 10 dresses, 8 coats/jackets/vests and 1 skirt in both loose and fitted styles. There is some minor pattern drafting needed, in approx half of the patterns. This involves adding length, facings, marking pleats, simple skirts & rectangular shapes.
The sizing is unlike most Japanese pattern books, in that the finished measurments of garments are shown. This means that when taking measurments to pick which size to sew, you need to consider how much ease you like and add this to your measurments before comparing them with the chart. This makes choosing a size awkward, but accurate. Taking this into account the largest size in the book is about the same as US size 16-18, but because the patterns are multisized, they could easily be graded up a size or two.
Garments are grouped into 3 different types of fit - those with shaping, fitted & loose, and there is even a fitted jacket.
Most of the patterns are at an advanced beginner level, with only 3 that I could identify as beginner.

Wanting to write a fair review the book, I sewed pattern 'w'. This is a pattern for a long sleeved knit top with an asymmetrical neckline finished with bias and an asymmetrical hem finished with ribbon trim.

In the introduction, Sato Watanabe writes about loving black clothes since she was a child. But I didn't quite keep to the colour ethos of the book .....

...... it's more of an 'Orange is the New Black' look! The orange jersey was bought recently from and the ribbons are from

The pattern indicated that the neckline should be finished with bias, but I chose to match the neckline with the same brown striped ribbon that I used on the front and back hems. As jersey tends not to fray, I sewed the ribbon directly onto the outside of the fabric with a long stitch.

The sleeves were cut in three pieces and slightly narrower than indicated because I had only 1metre of fabric. I added flat piping between the sleeve seams and sewed the sleeve hem with sage green stitched grosgrain ribbon also from Jane Means. The technique I used for sewing the sleeve hem is one I used before and described in detail here

There are quite a large variety of sewing techniques illustrated in the clear diagrammatic form that Japanese Pattern books are renowned for. These techniques include facings and bindings as well as collars and plackets among others. Each part of the technique is drawn in detail and diagrams are numbered to make them easier to follow.

The fit is exactly as it looks in the book picture, except that my sleeves are narrower. I also added about 5 cm of length to the front and back as the top seemed shorter than I preferred. Because only finished garment measurements are given in the book, I measured my pattern pieces against a RTW top to make sure I picked the correct size.

This book is beautifully presented and has an excellent selection of diverse patterns for coats, dresses, skirts and tops in loose, semi-structured and fitted styles. It took me ages to decide on a pattern to sew because there are more that I want to make, including a zip-up jacket, two dresses and a shirt.



(Tuttle Publishing sent me this pattern book free. All opinions are my own. I have been happily sewing from Japanese language pattern books since 2009)












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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fun Sewing for A Toy Wedding

Not having much time for big sewing projects over the school holidays, there are still ways and means of getting some sewing in....


When my 3 year old niece wanted two of her toys to have a wedding & I got a request for simple wedding outfits, I needed no further excuse to get back to my machine.

This McCalls pattern 6005 was bought quite a while ago and it was a complete surprise when I realised that I had already cut out and organised all the tiny pattern pieces. The patterns don't quite shout 'wedding', however the pyjamas top was easily transformed into a wrap-around wedding dress by adding length and layers to the skirt part. The patterns for the leopard print coat and trousers were used for the grooms suit.
The veil, bow tie and shirt collar piece were my own creations! The fabric and trims were scraps and small leftover pieces, chosen on the premise that anything lacy and sparkly would appeal to my niece.
The 'wedding' had all the trappings of a true Irish wedding, though on a smaller scale in my brother-in-law's house with a meal, dancing, a disco and finishing with the national anthem! Of course, everyone was also talking about the clothes...

As an extra surprise for my niece, I sewed tiny (teaspoon-sized!) aprons as 'housewarming' gifts for the 'newly weds', inspired by the aprons I sewed in this post.


The grooms apron is Parsons Gray laminated cotton with janemeans beige narrow stitched ribbon as ties and a headband.


The brides apron is an Amy Butler laminated cotton, bought from this Irish shop (Pippablue). It has a Liberty print fabric pocket, janemeans narrow slate stitched ribbon ties, as well as a matching headscarf. The elastic was added to the ribbon at the neckline with a simple zig-zag stitch, to ensure the apron would fit over the head.


These little aprons were kindly modelled by Mickey and Minnie, before being delivered to a very appreciative niece.




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Friday, June 27, 2014

Stylish Skirts - A Pattern Book Review & Make

One of the more interesting and unusual Japanese Pattern books, which I have seen, is written by Sato Watanabe a popular Japanese designer & author. This pattern book - Stylish Skirts, published by Tuttle Publishing, is an English version of the similar Japanese pattern book.

Most Japanese Pattern books have the patterns included, and others have a range of sizes which you use to draw pattern pieces based on your measurements. Unlike the other books from Tuttle Publishing that I have reviewed, Stylish Skirts, goes even further and intends that you use your own measurements to draw pattern pieces. That makes this book both a challenge and fitting dream all at once!



The challenge is that the book requires the patterns to be drafted. Some of the patterns require you to divide your waist and/or hip measurment by anything from 2 to 10, depending on the style of the skirt.

I decided the best way to review the book would be to sew up one of the skirts. I chose Skirt D which is a faux-wrap skirt and used a linen-cotton mix fabric.




Pattern instructions for each skirt are provided in the form of detailed illustrations with numbered sewing steps, a list of materials and cutting layouts with suggested seam allowances. Measurements are given in both inches and centimetres. For skirt D I had to use my waist measurement divided in 2 (for the main 2 pattern pieces - front and back). I decided to use my high hip measurement as that is where I prefer a skirt to sit. The front panel seemed to be missing a measurement, but I worked this out from the length of the fabric on the cutting layout.



The big surprise for me (a bit of a 'd'oh' moment!!) was how beautifully the skirt fit. (Yes, I realise I used my own measurements to draft it!)

I had a few minutes of mild panic when I held up my newly drafted pattern pieces to me and they looked too small, but I trusted my measurements and kept going.

Though the book mentions adding extra for a looser fit in "Tips for Making Better Skirts" p33, this could easily be missed, so it is important not to forget to add wearing ease when drafting a pattern from the book. Adding 3-4 cm as mentioned in the book, or measure a skirt you already own, will help you decide on the amount of ease.



The sewing instructions are listed in bullet points, which is similar to all books like this one. Many of these individual points are clearly illustrated (sometimes on other pattern pages) and so were straightforward to follow. I made some minor changes to the pattern. As I had a matching lace zip I used that instead of the invisible zip suggested.







The pattern lists a leather cord for the tie but I picked a matching striped ribbon from Jane Means, which worked just as well, and was probably easier to sew.









Simple seam finishes are illustrated in the diagrams for each pattern. The cotton/linen mix fabric, that I used, frayed easily, but I covered the inside seams with gingham ribbon, also from Jane Means to neaten the inside and strengthen the seam and fabric.






Altogether there are 23 skirts, of a wide variety of styles which are constructed from different recommended types of fabrics. The patterns range from easy gathered skirts to skirts constructed from trapezoid shapes and rectangles. I identified about 7 easy skirt patterns, 8 medium and 8 difficult patterns after reading through the pattern and sewing instructions.



Like all Japanese Pattern books the garments are beautifully photographed and I really wanted patterns for all the beautiful tops shown with the skirts! The descriptions of each skirt reads like something from a literary couturier. How could you resist this skirt for example? ........ "This unashamedly feminine lace skirt is lined with sheeting to give it body. It's flattering line is neat around the hips, with gores beginning below the hips and flaring out to a full hemline." p8



This book is not for a new sewist or beginner at sewing. Even the 7 easy skirts in the book use some symbols which would be more familiar with a little sewing experience. An advanced beginner with an interest in pattern drafting and who likes to visualise sewing techniques would enjoy this book. There are diagrams for some excellent techniques, including seam finishing, a welt pocket which is attached like a patch pocket, bellows/cargo pockets, zippers, elastic shirring, sewing buttons, sewing hooks & eyes and more.


I'm delighted that Tuttle Books are continuing to add to their selection of English translations of Japanese Pattern Books. They are also about to release (July 8th 2014) another (must have) pattern book Basic Black by Sato Watanabe.


(Tuttle Publishing sent me this pattern book free. All opinions are my own. I have been happily sewing from Japanese language pattern books since 2009)











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Sunday, May 18, 2014

How to Sew a Ribbon Hem

Sewing ribbon to the hem edge of a garment is an easy finishing technique. It adds an extra detail and can also be used to preserve the length of the hem. I regularly use ribbon to finish hems as well as sleeve and neckline edges, though I wasn't always confident in doing so. The soon-to-begin Belcarra Sewalong means that it's as good a time as any to show how I sew ribbon hems.







I sewed ribbon hems for the two Belcarra blouses from Sewaholic Patterns that I recently made. I liked the unhemmed length of the blouses, and didn't want to turn up a full hem. Also, the fabric in both was lightweight, so I wanted to add a little weight to the hems.









A huge variety of ribbons will work for hemming purposes. It is useful, but not necessary, to match the ribbon type with the fabric type. For the beige Liberty tana lawn cotton Belcarra blouse, I used a cotton stitched ribbon from janemeans. For the green AnnaMarie Horner cotton voile blouse, I used a polyester ribbon also from janemeans.

I would strongly recommend prewashing the ribbon in the same manner that you will treat the finished garment.

What you need:

-A sharp/new sewing machine needle

-Good quality grosgrain or cotton ribbon, the same length (+1.5cm overlap) as the hem

-Matching thread colour - matched to the ribbon colour rather than the fabric.

-Garment with side seams sewn & finished, ready for hemming



Step 1:

Place the wrong sides of the fabric and ribbon together. If the ribbon doesn't have a wrong side, choose one side as the wrong side.

Place the ribbon on the fabric so that the right side of the ribbon and the wrong side of the fabric both face up as in the picture

Ensure the ribbon overlaps the fabric edge by approx 1cm or up to half the width of the ribbon.

Sew the long left edge of the ribbon to the hem edge using a long stitch length. The line of stitching should be approx 2-3mm in from the long left ribbon edge.
Step 2:
When you have stitched all around the hem, cut the ribbon allowing for an extra 1.5 cm to fold under. Fold the end of the ribbon in by 1.5 cm and continue sewing. Backstitch when you have sewn the overlap. This line of stitching will become the lower edge of the garments hem.
Step 3:
Turn the garment so that the right side of the fabric faces upward. Fold the ribbon over at the stitching line, so that the ribbon covers the raw hem edge and the right side of both the ribbon and the fabric are facing up. Press the ribbon and fabric.
Step 4:
With the right sides of the fabric and ribbon facing upwards, sew along the edge of the ribbon, enclosing the raw edge of the fabric.




Step 5

When you reach the folded short end of the ribbon, sew across the ribbon width and backstitch to finish.

Step 6:

Press hem edge again.



This technique works perfectly on straight hem edges, but will also work on a slightly curved edge. If you wish to sew a ribbon hem on a circle skirt/dress edge, a narrow ribbon will work better.


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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Belcarra Blouse - So good I sewed it twice!

The newest pattern from Sewaholic Patterns is the Belcarra Blouse, and I had the opportunity to test the pattern before it was released.

The style is a looser silhouette than I usually wear, but what surprised me most about the pattern was how the 2d curved pattern shapes transformed to 3d without needing darts or other fitting techniques. Though it is a loose-fitting style, it works by also being shapely...or making the wearer look shapely!

The size I cut was 12 and this is what usually fits me best in Sewaholic patterns. Sometimes I have to shorten above the waist, but I didn't do that for the Belcarra, as my measurements of the pattern pieces in comparison to my body measurements indicated I didn't need to.

The biggest difficulty I had with this blouse was fabric selection I just couldn't decide what to use. I originally planned on a medium weight black and white cotton gingham but thought that the loose style of the blouse wouldn't be as flattering in a heavier fabric. So I picked Liberty of London cotton voile 'Toria' that I'm delighted with.


Tasia's advice on choosing fabric for this blouse is spot on - pick something special, because the lack of front and back seams and darts mean that the fabric gets the limelight!! Her Liberty of London version illustrates her advice perfectly.






I chose to sew View B mostly because of the tucks in the raglan sleeves. They are such a neat detail on this lovely simple design. As the print on the fabric is so busy, the tuck detail seemed to get lost, so I added some matching janemeans ribbon to the shoulder seam to help draw attention to the tucks.
Using the same stitched ribbon as I used to cover the shoulder seams, I repeated the ribbon detail at the hem. I liked the unhemmed length of the blouse, so adding ribbon meant that I could keep most of the blouse length.

As the voile fabric is so light weight, I wanted to ensure it would hang well. Another reason for sewing a ribbon hem is that it adds a little extra weight to a fabric like voile.

The second Belcarra blouse was a very quick make-not even a couple of hours! The fabric is also a cotton voile from AnnaMarie Horner. This version came about as a result of #misemademairt / #misemadem√°irt (general Irish to English translation = Me Made Tuesday). Three of us - also Maeve & MsMcCall - from Ireland have been wearing something we made ourselves for Tuesdays in Feb and March and posting on Instagram. This was my attempt to wear something me-made and green(ish) for St. Patricks Day.

For this version, I slightly adjusted the neckline. The neckline in the pattern pictures seemed wider than I prefer, so I made a simple adjustment by adding an extra seam allowance width to the top of the sleeve pieces and back and front pieces. I also measured the resulting neck opening and compared it to my head measurment to be sure it would fit! The length of the neck binding also needs to be reduced to fit the new neck opening measurment.



Even though the blouse is a simple style, there are some neat techniques in the pattern. The bias binding is sewn doubled over and this gives a nice flat finish. The sleeve cuffs are also well designed. I didn't compare my arm measurements with the cuff length, before cutting and sewing. The sleeve cuff fits, but I would usually wear it a little looser.

The blouse makes for a very easy-to-wear top and I love the raglan sleeves. Now that I know that the style fits in a flattering way, I would like to try it in gingham, with a bias pocket and tucks on the sleeves forming a neat design with the lines of the gingham fabric.



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Monday, March 31, 2014

When is a lunch bag not a lunch bag....

when it's a table mat?

when it opens flat?

or when it looks like this.....?



or this......?


When I need to take a break from dressmaking, or need something fun to get me motivated to sew, what usually works is sewing something crafty. I read about a craft competition on the LiveitLoveitMakeit blog. Hillary's (a company that focuses on window blinds and window dressing and are also established in Ireland) have been holding a Craft Competition, to make something from one metre of curtain/upholstery fabric. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to have a bit of fun. Hillary's provided a choice of 1 metre of their curtain fabric from a selection of 4 designs, free. All I have to do is show what I make.

Having 4 children who need lunches has made me very critical of the general design of lunch bags and how difficult they are to clean, so this is what I think will help.

It's a lunch bag that really is not a bag at all! It opens flat to provide a clean surface for eating. The fabric is 100% cotton so can be washed at 60 degrees. I prewashed the fabric at this temperature so that the fabric would preshrink. One of the versions I sewed has an acrylic-coated oilcloth lining which makes it both food safe and very easy to wipe clean.




The design is quite basic, and involves sewing ribbon, binding, elastic and hook and loop tape to rectangles of fabric. Small rectangles form side flaps and large rectangles form the main body of the bag. One metre of curtain fabric was enough to make two lunch bags, one with a different lining, and including handles.




Many useful details can be included, such as pockets in the side flaps to hold cutlery or napkins.




Or elastic on the side flaps to hold a drink when the side flaps are folded closed.

The Lunch Bags can also be sewn in so many different colour combinations with matching or contrasting binding. The binding I used for these lunch bags was cut from organic cotton fabric. The purple and green coloured hook & loop tape was leftover from when I sewed my waterproof raincoat.

Ribbons also provide another opportunity to play around with colour. Both the striped ribbon and the slate grey stitched ribbon are from JaneMeans and were added to the fabric handles to provide more structure. The ribbons were also sewn under the handles to prevent the handle tearing the fabric through usage.



I was planning to use these as gifts for the younger children's teachers at the end of the school year. I sewed the version with contrasting striped ribbon handle and striped binding first as a practice version, thinking that the colours wouldn't work as well as the second version with the matching grey ribbon handle and purple binding. I was surprised how much I like the contrasting version, and it seems I was ahead of myself when planning for teacher gifts. My daughter hugged it when she saw it, and has been waiting for me to take pictures so she could claim it.



If you get a chance to see what other bloggers sewed with their metre of fabric, be sure to have a look. There's a gorgeous waistcoat, a picnic bag, a chair covering, lampshades that are divine, and lots of more. I'm sure they will all be posted or linked to, from Hillarys website in the next few days and I will post that link here when they do.

 Edited 15/4/2014 to add: All the 130+ entries have been pinned to the Pinterest board, and they are all so creative. 

The lunch bags got an 'Honourable Mention' and wonderful feedback on the Hillarys Blinds blog

"Crafting a design that is eye catching, highly practical and appealing to children is no easy task, but Sewnbyangela cracked it with her pair of colourful lunchboxes. Beneath their stunning exterior lies a function-filled centre, with an easy-clean acrylic lining, plus pockets and slots for storing cutlery and napkins"

(Thanks to Hillarys for the fabric and a fun competition to inspire crafting!)


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