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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