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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  1. wow, great review and that fabric is to die for :)

  2. I have been thinking of getting this book since I got the stylish skirt book. I think your top and the review has made up my mind. I love how you incorporated the ribbons. I need a good ribbon stash! Also must check out the website where you got that fantastic fabric­čść

    1. Ha! Maeve you're being slowly converted to Japanese pattern books ;-) I'm glad you like it and I'd highly recommend a ribbon stash, pretty to look at and cery useful for shortcuts!

  3. The design of your 'orange is the new black' top is so neat! I love how the neckline looks.

  4. Thanks Cindy :-) & it seem like the asymmetrical look is still in!

  5. Wow!! It seems this book have lot of fabulous dress patterns. I would definitely try to get this book.