I have been sewing from Japanese sewing pattern books for a long time (more than eight years now), only having taken one semester in college of Japanese. I’m impressed by the sheer volume of us who love the look, the simplicity, and the styles enough to buy these gorgeous books from Japan without knowing a word of Japanese; simply because we know we can follow a good diagram. If you were familiar enough with garment construction, you could spot familiar vs. novel techniques — then choose any route to get to a finished item.
Once I figured out the difference between the symbols for front and back, and learned to trace patterns adding my own seam allowances, I have been pretty comfortable sewing from Japanese pattern books. That said, I’d never have managed to even get started without a LOT of help from online sources such as this and this one in french. Nowadays, we are so lucky because Japanese sewing books are being translated into English!
When I was asked to review Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids I jumped at the chance. The publisher sent me a copy of the book, but I’ve had this book for a couple years in Japanese already. I knew I could wholeheartedly recommend it without even reading the translated version, but I couldn’t have imagined how much more I like it now that I can read the words inside!
As is customary for Japanese Sewing Books, the first pages are laid out like a catalog. I LOVE shopping for looks this way. In fact, Sewing for Boys was inspired by Japanese sewing books – all the looks first, then illustrated instructions later.
Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids features 20 patterns for boys and girls, all included in the envelope on the inside back cover. The styles are simple kid wear, with bits of tailoring and finishing to make them special, too.
The pattern sheets themselves are printed on both sides, using nice thick paper, so we can trace again and again to make every size as our kids grow. They are spaced nicely as well; no need for a microscope to find the correct size line! (forgive the wrinkles, I usually press my pattern sheets, but have been stuck in bed with a back spasms for days and didn’t want to postpone this review any longer – yay for the iPad camera!)
Sizes are marked clearly, grainlines, too, and there are helpful notations as well.
In the past I would have recommended Japanese sewing books for intermediate to advanced sewists only, but Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids can truly be used by anyone willing to read and follow directions. You will learn how to fold and align fabrics, how to use directional vs. non-directional prints, how to place patterns for cutting, and even a bit about the properties of different fabrics. There are descriptions of handy tools, pictorial seam-sewing tutorials, and even a small section on threads. I have been sewing for 37 years, and I learned something new in the Sewing Machine Tips.
Remember the bit about adding seam allowances? We aren’t used to that here in the U.S., but I have to tell you I prefer tracing the stitching lines and adding seam allowances myself. Why? I like to vary the width of each seam allowance to suit my seam finishing preference (overlocked vs. french seams, choose my preferred hem allowance, etc.) without wasting fabric by trimming away seam allowances that I find should have been smaller to begin with. I think it allows for more precise sewing and helps me make garments more quickly. You can also make adjustments more easily for fitting challenges (like a toddler belly on a 7-year-old for instance) or for style changes (want a fuller skirt? add width! Then add seam allowances.)
Before you get nervous about adding seam allowances yourself, there’s no need to fret; you are guided by diagrams.
Under each cutting diagram, there are notes about seam allowance, measurement and symbols specific to each style. Measurements are given in inches (and centimeters) so you can use whichever feels most comfortable to your brain.
The instructions are succinct and the diagrams are clear. Each pattern begins with a simplified diagram showing the order of instruction.
Each numbered step is then shown as a set of instructions. It’s such a clear and elegant way to convey a complex process. I wish more sewing patterns employed diagrams in favor of lengthy descriptions. (Myself included!)
If you have never tried a Japanese sewing book before, there’s no excuse to keep you from them now. Give Happy Homemade Sew Chic Kids a try and let me know how you liked it!
Check out Tuttle Publishing‘s growing selection of other crafty titles while you’re there.