Saturday, 19 May 2018

My First Japanese Sewing Book Project - #SewingLeftovers Culottes

I may have mentioned in a recent post that I went to Japan, and that I did the cliched thing of buying a new suitcase to carry back all my goodies. Well, several of the more bulky goodies ended up being sewing books. It was seriously hard to narrow down what I wanted when out bookshopping; there was a lot of very charmingly photographed stuff I wanted just because I like the images, some books that focused in incredible pattern geometry, and lots of great casual stylish books. I fell hard for the latter camp and bought five, three of which are actually quite similar - they all feature a duster coat, tunic dress and pull on linen pants for example. But, I do not care. I love them all and justified my purchases by asking myself if there were two unique patterns I would make in each book.

I felt quite smug when the first thing I made when I got back from Japan (and still in the malaise of jetlag) was a pair of culottes from Blouse, Pants, One Piece. I made version B of the culottes; there is also version F which is just below knee-length and has pockets. Both culottes have the same back piece with lines for the length you need for the different views. I decided on view B to keep it simple, as finding your pattern pieces on the sheet (which is printed all in black and white and overlaid a thousand ways!) is actually enough of a headache without wrapping my jetjagged brain around even more pattern pieces.

The instruction illustrations are pretty good, but I decided to write in pencil what I thought they made just to have an at-a-glance guide. I used this brilliant resource from Japanese Sewing Books to decipher the pattern pieces after I'd traced them and make sure I knew which was the front and which the back leg! I also used the Google Translate app every now and then, drawing Japanese characters for the first time in my life clumsily into my smartphone.

So, while the making was in fact quite simple (and no fitting, hooray!) my brain definitely had a little challenge while working in translation, but I found it pretty fun. And if I can make it work jetlagged, the rest of the patterns will be a breeze, right?!

The only slight surprise I had with these culottes is that I made them out of leftover fabric from my Gertie Shirtwaist Dress and I didn't have quite enough for the full length, so I shortened the pattern by about 9cm. And funnily enough, that length looks like the book's photo - so these must be pretty much full length if made as drafted (unless I have very short legs? I'm 5 ft 5 for reference).

Wearing them, they are super fun. I thought they might be a bit clownish, but I think the fact they're voluminous enough to mimic a skirt helps guide the look into more sophisticated territory. The cotton is more structured than the linen they're meant to be made up in, and I'm annoyed I didn't get my centre front double pleats quite perfect - that was one part of the illustrations I winged without bothering to fully translate I'm afraid. And, if I'm completely honest I do wish I had pockets. And that maybe I'd made the elastic a little tighter (although it will be easy enough to adjust later if I decide). But my brain was so broken, I craved adventure, but also simplicity!

Overall, for a #sewingleftovers wearable muslin pattern translated from another language I'm pretty pleased. More fabric out of the cupboard and on my body, and experiment fulfilled and the joy of using things up!

FYI I also bought (all links to reviews from Japanese Sewing Books blog - so useful!): Atelier To Nani Iro, Clean and Natural, Shirts, and Shareable Wardrobe. The last was kind of purely for the styling and photography, but I am tempted to make a bit of an avant-garde style departure! There is a particularly cute jumpsuit I'm willing to take a gamble on...

PS if you're in Japan and looking for books go to Tsutaya Books in Daikanyama (Tokyo) if you get a chance (there are other branches but this one is so lovely). I followed this blog for the recommendation and it was my favourite bookshop - so beautiful - very architecturally interesting from the outside and inside each section beautifully curated and styled with an exhibition for each area of interest. The sewing book section wasn't huge but was comprehensive enough for me to spend an hour or so browsing and choosing - it's difficult to browse books from the spine when the format is quite uniform and the titles are all in a different language! Tsutaya also do tax free over a certain amount which Maruzen (also recommended in the blog and worth a visit) don't; they also had a decent selection but the bookshop near Tokyo Station was big and well stocked but a less charming atmosphere - you could visit Tsutaya and not buy anything and still enjoy the experience, but in Maruzen not so much.

I'll leave you with some goofy out-takes.

NorseOtter xx


  1. Beautiful culottes and your African wax print looks amazing. I'me an huge fan of Japanese sewing books and patters. I've made a few already but always have to do alterations due to size and length. They also use amazing fabrics and they are hard to find in Europe.

    1. Thank you! I'm very inspired by these books, I can't wait to make up another Japanese pattern! I'm holding myself back a little as I feel most of the designs would look best in a solid colour and I don't have any fabric like that in my stash.

  2. Wowsers! Your culottes are amazing, and extra bonus sewing points for using a pattern in another language!

    1. Sorry for the late response! Thank you so much, it was a bit of a challenge but the excellent illustrations really help. Looking forward to wrapping my brain around something a little more complex next time!