Japanese sewing book – She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada – a review

Hi,

I hope you’re enjoying your spring – or whatever season it is in your part of the globe. Have you embarked on any seasonal sewing projects? I finished a dress for the Spring for Cotton sewalong organized by Rochelle of Lucky Lucille. At the same time I began flipping through the Japanese sewing book, She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada, subtitled “Easy Sew-it-Yourself Fashion with an Edgy Urban Style.” The English translation was just released by Tuttle Publishing, which publishes several Japanese sewing books (link to book on publisher’s site, Amazon affiliate link). They sent me a free copy to review – and they’ll send a free copy to the winner of the giveaway on my blog. Warning: This is a really long post, which ends with photos of the top I made from this book, plus details on how to enter the giveaway.

I’m not sure that I would characterize the designs as “edgy.” I guess it depends on how you define “edgy.” For me, “edgy” would be on the outer limits of what someone would wear in public – maybe not as far out as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons but definitely “out there.” Maybe the subtitle is a result of the translation from Japanese to English. Or maybe it’s because there aren’t any typical feminine touches here – no ruffles, lace, or frills – so maybe that’s why it’s “edgy.” Then again, the book was originally released in Japan five years ago so maybe back then, this was “edgy”?

She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book (Tuttle Publishing)

She Wears the Pants features 20 designs, from a coat and jackets to tops, dresses, and pants, many of which sport a boyish look. There are patterns for woven and knit fabrics. Contrary to the title, it is not a book chock full of pants (trouser) patterns. Though the title certainly gives me a chuckle. The book follows the format of many Japanese pattern books – photos of a model wearing each  garment in the first section of the book, info on the patterns, some fabric and sewing tips, and then the instructions with detailed diagrams. Full-size patterns are in an envelope attached to the inside back cover.

In the book’s brief section on working with fabric, I learned something new – when you prewash woven fabric, before it’s fully dry, clip the selvage and then iron it “as it often warps and pulls the rest of the fabric.” There’s an accompanying photo of some scissors clipping the selvage at a 45-degree angle. Interesting. Do you clip your selvages or do you just cut them off?

Tracing the Patterns
The patterns are printed on both sides of the paper so you cannot cut them out, plus the lines for various patterns overlap each other. You can sort of see this in the photo below. If you are new to Japanese sewing books, please be aware that you must trace your size.

Tracing these patterns is a bit of a pain because all the lines look the same. Other patterns (Big Four, indie patterns) will use different lines for different sizes (dots, dashes, dots and dashes) but this is common in Japanese sewing book patterns. Some might use two different colors but this book just uses black. Warning: It can be a bit of a challenge hunting for each pattern piece in She Wears the Pants. I used an erasable highlighter to go over the lines of the pattern I wanted to make. It’s easy to make a mistake and trace the wrong line. So really scrutinize the pattern lines for your size so you trace the correct size and pattern.

Pattern pieces traced - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

Also, pay attention to when pattern pieces are cut on the fold, and mark it accordingly. On these pattern pieces, the fold is indicated by line with long dashes (no arrows, arrows only indicate the grainline). All other lines are solid and unbroken. Look at the cutting layout to make sure you didn’t forget to mark a piece to be cut on the fold.

Add Seam Allowances
Seam allowances are not included so you must add them to the patterns – 1 cm (3/8 inch) in most cases – hems will usually be 2 cm or 7/8 inch. The cutting layout diagram shows the seam allowance measurements. I traced my pattern pieces with two drawing pencils I put together with a rubberband – my low-tech solution to avoid drawing each line separately (see above photo).

Cutting Fabric
The author also recommends folding fabric with the wrong sides together before cutting and points out that when you cut through two layers of fabric, “the movement of the blades may cause the material to shift out of place.” She advises you to cut the top layer first and “then use that piece as a template to cut the second layer.” I haven’t tried that before. I’ve cut one side on one layer of fabric and then flipped the pattern over to cut the other side. How do you cut two layers of fabric?

The Designs
Here’s a look at a few of the patterns – these images are taken with my phone. They look better in the book but even in the book, the photos don’t necessarily provide a lot of detail because there’s usually just one photo of the garment  (so you only see the front and side but not the back) and the lighting isn’t so great. You can see more photos on this Japanese Sewing Books post, which reviewed the Japanese version of the book. The photos on this site look better than the ones in the book. I wonder if the photos in the original Japanese book were re-photographed from the book’s photos (as opposed to using the original art) for the English edition.

This is pattern No. 8, the Sarrouel Trousers – the one pattern that I would call “edgy” – with an odd dropped crotch and a rather baggy look (not quite my style, plus I don’t think it would look so good on curvy figures).

Sarrouel Trousers - She Wears the Pants - Yuko Takada - csews.com

Only three patterns in She Wears the Pants fall in the pants category: the Sarrouel Trousers, the No. 13 Tapered Trousers, No. 14 and No. 19 Semi-flared Culottes, which look like shorts to me. Aren’t culottes supposed to be longer? There are two versions of the Culottes – one with a bow (No. 19) and one without. The book counts each one as a separate pattern but it’s the same.I don’t know if I’ll make any of the pants.

Tapered TrousersSemi-flared Culottes - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - csews.com

I really liked the striped knit top on the cover. (Photos of my version are towards the end of this post.)

I like these two patterns, the No. 12 Draped Mini Dress and the No. 15 Draped Cardigan. I bought a deep violet knit fabric to make the mini-dress. I wouldn’t wear it as a mini-dress though. I’d wear it as a tunic, with pants. Kirsty of the blog Top Notch made the Draped Mini Dress a couple of years ago. She used the Japanese version of the book. You can see photos of her version here.

The Draped Cardigan is interesting. I like the pockets but there’s a seam in the lower center back that seems a little odd. You can’t really see what it looks like in the photo.

Draped Mini Dress - She Wears the Pants - csews.comDraped Cardigan - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

Here’s the line drawing of the Draped Cardigan in the book. I don’t know what that seam in the lower center back will look like. The photo in the book is a bit dark so I guess it adds a bit of drape back there. I’m not sure I want that around my backside!

Draped Cardigan - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

I also liked the Square Top, which Sew Busy Lizzy blogged about (and photographed) in her post on the Square Top. She has also reviewed the book and made the Gathered Blouse, pattern No. 17, which you can see about in her post on She Wears the Pants. Kirsty of Top Notch also reviewed the book on her blog.

Japanese Pattern Sizing
In She Wears the Pants, the patterns go from size XS to L. Don’t be alarmed when you read the measurements for these sizes. Japanese patterns tend to include a lot of ease. As I learned from my most recent experience with Japanese pattern books and from EmSewCrazy of Tumbleweeds in the Wind, you must measure the pattern pieces (see my post Japanese Pattern Sizing,which explains this in more detail).

For my first project, I chose the Top with Epaulettes, pattern No. 4, because I love stripes and I love boat necks, and I liked the 3/4 sleeves and their slightly flared design. Plus I had a couple of yards of this black-and-white striped knit in my stash. It’s a tightly woven medium-to-heavyweight cotton with lycra jersey. (I made a Hummingbird top with this fabric.) I left off the epaulettes on this pattern. I didn’t think they added anything to the top.

I made size L, which, according to the book is someone who is: 5′ 5 1/4 inches (168 cm) tall, with a 35 1/2 inch (90 cm) bust; 27 1/2 (70) waist; and 38 5/8 (98) hips. Heheh, right. Those are not my numbers at all. I’m 5′ 8″ (about 173 cm), bust: 37/38-inch (94-96.5); waist: 30/31-inch (76-79); hips: 42 inches (106.6).

I looked at my ready-to-wear knit tops for something similar in style and compared the shoulders and hip area to the pattern pieces. I concluded that I could trace the pattern pieces exactly as they were except for adding a little more ease (about 1 cm) to the hips. I decided that because I was sewing a knit, that I would leave the shoulders as is. On some patterns, I need to do a wide shoulder adjustment. For comparison, I’m a size 16 in Vogue patterns, a size 10 bodice for the Christine Haynes Emery Dress (my Emery dress), a size 12 US/16 UK for the By Hand London Anna Dress (my versions here and here), a size 12 Bluegingerdoll Winifred Dress (my Winifred version).

Pattern pieces cut - She Wears the Pants - csews.comOnce I traced and cut my pattern pieces, I carefully placed them on my black-and-white striped fabric, lining up the pieces so the hems lined up with the same stripe. This top has 6 pattern pieces, not including the epaulettes: front, back, sleeves, front/back neck facings. Yes, it has facings, which you see here (interfacing and fashion fabric).

I wasn’t sure how that would look. I’ve done one neck facing with a knit fabric – my chevron Red Velvet dress. I don’t have a serger and on that dress, I knew that I didn’t want to have a seamline around the neck. So I just tacked the facing down at the shoulder and hand stitched it in a few places. For this striped top, I just decided to go ahead and make a facing, fusing some black interfacing.

After I attached the facing, I used my Kenmore machine’s straight stretch stitch – not very pretty because it goes over each stitch three (!) times – to topstitch it in place. I decided to approach it as a style element and use black thread. Here’s a closeup shot of the neckline:

Top with Epaulettes - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

If I had a serger, I would consider leaving off the facings, increasing the seam allowance of the front and back, and serging the neckline edge to clear elastic, fold it over and sew that down. This is a tip I picked up at the Bay Area Sewists beginning serger meetup last month. One of our members, Edina, demonstrated some techniques on her serger. You can see photos here.

I carefully pinned the front to the back to try lining up the stripes. But I didn’t bother basting because it was my mockup so if the side seams didn’t line up perfectly – no big deal. And when I sewed the side seams, there was a bit of shifting so they stripes got slightly off in a couple of places. It would have helped to use some sort of stabilizer – maybe some fusible tape.

Pinning stripes - csews.com

This is an easy-to-sew top that will be a wardrobe staple for me. If I make it again, I think I’ll add a little more ease to the shoulders. As you can see, the shoulder seam line is above my shoulder point. It doesn’t feel tight but I think it would fit even better with that slight adjustment.

This is a simple top so I decided to have a little fun with my hats for this photo shoot. I got the hat box from the Alameda flea market – officially known as the Alameda Point Antiques Faire. You can never have too many hats (or hat boxes).

This is a vintage felt beret I got at All Things Vintage in Oakland. I’m a sucker for berets. I took these photos (timer on my camera) in the mid-afternoon so the light was a bit harsh (so I’m squinting) but at least the are shadows behind me. I’m wearing some RTW pants here.

Top with Epaulettes - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

This is a white straw fedora that was custom-made for me by Elwyn Crawford of O’Lover Hats. I entered a drawing for the hat as a perk in her Indiegogo campaign. I had a hat fitting for it.

Top - She Wears the Pants - white fedora - csews.com

I think I got this black fedora for a few dollars at a charity shop. I don’t know if the fedora shape is really suited for my face. I’ve got two black ones and I don’t wear them very much. I wear the straw one more often.

Top - She Wears the Pants - black fedora - csews.com

In this photo you can really see the slight flare of the sleeves, which I really like. I got this vintage hat at a charity shop in Palo Alto several years ago. My husband calls this my “flying saucer” hat. I love this shade of red. Here I’m wearing the skirt I made from the Japanese pattern book Basic Black in this photo. You can read my post on this skirt in this March post.

Top - She Wears the Pants- red hat - csews.com

A back view of the top.

Top - She Wears the pants - back view - csews.com

And another shot with the beret – maybe this is bit too much, eh? Beret and striped boat neck?

Top - She Wears the Pants - beret - csews.com

Thanks for your patience with my hat indulgence!

If you’d like to enter my giveaway for a copy of She Wears the Pants, please comment below by Thursday, May 21, 11:59 pm, Pacific time (California). Anyone can enter! Tuttle Publishing will send a copy to the winner. [The giveaway is now over.]

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review purposes only. I am not being compensated to review it.

Striped top pattern from Japanese sewing book - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada

Tags: , , , , , ,

46 Responses to “Japanese sewing book – She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada – a review”

  1. Donna
    May 21, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    This book looks so interesting, thanks for bringing it to my attention. I love your shirt.

    • May 22, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

      You’re welcome! And thank you! I’m sure I’ll be wearing this top a lot!

  2. May 21, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    Thanks so much for this detailed review. I am working on a different Japanese sewing book and it’s been fun – and challenging. Do definitely get a “look” from these garments!

    • May 22, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

      You’re welcome! Yes, they are unique or at least a twist on more traditional garments. 🙂

  3. de
    May 20, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    Love your striped top! I want to make that cardi…the book looks fabulous…not as dress-heavy as most of the Japanese books.

    • May 20, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      Thanks! Yes, this book is quite a mix of patterns.

  4. Marilyn
    May 20, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    This is a great post! and helpful with things you would consider doing slightly differently on the next top. I think you go over details with efficiency, and appreciate that you are not long winded and overly chatty. So, for me, the post isn’t too long, just helpful with a touch of personality so it isn’t dry! …and the hats are always such a nice touch.

    • May 20, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

      Thank you! I glad to hear that the length of the post wasn’t too long for you and that it was helpful. 🙂

  5. tia
    May 19, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    Thanks for this honest and thorough review. That’s a lot of work. And your makes are really nice. I like Japanese sewing books even though pictures in then are kind of always moody.I hope I can win this book. Like that draped dress also some pants. Not the back extra piece of the cardigan though:)

    • May 20, 2015 at 9:41 pm #

      Thanks for acknowledging the work that went into this review. I spent quite a long time on it spread over over a period of days.

      Funny that you should mention the moody photos. During a recent discussion of Japanese sewing patterns at a Bay Area Sewists meetup, we discussed Japanese sewing books and someone pointed out that the lack of smiling could be cultural. I think she was right. I’ll have to rethink my response to those unsmiling photos. 😉

  6. May 19, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    Wow!! I ❤️ Your instagram and I would like so much to make my own clothes!! I am in the process of finding the proper 2nd hand sewing machine and as soon as I have that I will check the book for some projects

    • May 20, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

      Oh, thanks so much! Good luck with learning to sew!

  7. May 19, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    Your top is adorable and the book looks amazing! Love your hat box too!

    • May 20, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

      Thank you! It’s an interesting book. I’m definitely going to make a few more things from it.

  8. Maria
    May 19, 2015 at 12:10 am #

    I would like to make my own pants!!

    • May 19, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

      There are very different pant patterns in this book!

  9. May 18, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    Love your hats and this photo shoot!

    I never cut 2 layers of fabric. If something needs to be cut on the fold, I usually cut it out of paper (on the fold) first, then cut the pattern flat. I’m going to try the flip the paper pattern over next time. 🙂

    • May 18, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

      Thanks! I was able to fit three hats in my hat box. 😉

      I think I’m not going to cut on the fold any longer. You have more control that way. I hadn’t given it much thought before. It hasn’t been a problem except for a couple of times in the past. I guess I’ve been lucky for the most part. 😉

  10. TC
    May 18, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    The book sounds like a lot of fun. And I rather like the “flying saucer” hat. 🙂

    • May 18, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

      Yes, and for less than $20, it’s
      very reasonably priced. Amazon’s
      selling it for $11.37.

  11. Megan berka
    May 16, 2015 at 8:46 am #

    Thank you for reviewing this book. The title cracks me up! I would love to sew myself a copycat striped shirt- a perfect classic!

    • May 18, 2015 at 9:53 pm #

      You’re welcome, Megan! Yes, it is a fun title. I really like the striped top, too.

  12. Edina
    May 14, 2015 at 10:23 am #

    Great Blog! Not too long at all. I enjoy reading about your creative process. The book looks like it would be full of great inspirational material.

    • May 18, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

      Thanks, Edina! Glad it didn’t seem too long. Yes, the book has a range of patterns.

  13. May 12, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

    Thanks for the opportunity to win the book. You looked fabulous in your skirt, striped top and beret on Saturday at the meet up. I had no idea that you are so into hats, although, now that I think about it, your probably wore one to all the meetings I have attended.

    • May 18, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

      You’re welcome, Madelin! Glad you liked my outfit. 🙂

      Yes, I have a rather large hat collection. 😉

  14. May 12, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    Your stripey T was made for hats and I love that you’ve showcased many today! I’ve yet to try a Japanese sewing pattern…the patterns almost always have a unique spin on a classic look. I find myself cutting out my patterns single layer more and more, especially the bodice and sleeves. It’s with the intention of pattern matching. The skirts, I don’t worry so much about, but the ‘slippage’ point is something to be considered.

    • May 18, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

      Black-and-white stripes are versatile, aren’t they? Glad you liked my brief hat showcase – just a fraction of my collection. 😉

      I’ve only cut one layer if I was trying to match something but with knit fabrics or slippery fabrics I think I will now only cut one layer at a time. A few years ago I messed up a pattern piece by cutting a double layer. I had to buy more fabric.

  15. Katy M
    May 12, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    Love your red hat! Thanks for the chance to win x

  16. May 12, 2015 at 4:37 am #

    I love all these hats, especially the red. Please include me for the giveaway. I would be thrilled to own it.

    • May 12, 2015 at 7:57 am #

      Thanks! The red one is one of my favorites. Anyone who comments (and who doesn’t have a copy already) will be entered. 🙂

  17. May 12, 2015 at 4:22 am #

    I love your top, it looks so French!
    And thank you for your giveaway! I enjoyed reading your review, specially when you talk about Japanese sizes. I was afraid that they were too little for me, but your explication about ease reassured me!

    • May 12, 2015 at 7:55 am #

      Glad you enjoyed the review – and that you know that it won’t be too small for you!

  18. May 12, 2015 at 2:34 am #

    I love how this Japanese top looks so French!

    • May 12, 2015 at 7:53 am #

      Heheh – especially with a beret!

  19. Virginia
    May 11, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    Love your selection of hats! Would love to win this book. Thanks

    • May 12, 2015 at 7:52 am #

      Thanks! Glad you like the book.

  20. May 11, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    One of the first things i wanted to make from this book is this top, you did a good job.

    Also I need a pair of cool harem pants to sew!

    • May 12, 2015 at 7:51 am #

      It’s a nice design. Let me know if you make those pants.

  21. Emily
    May 11, 2015 at 6:09 am #

    I love that straw hat,it is so stylish. I would love this book, I am really keen to make those tapered trousers.

    • May 12, 2015 at 7:50 am #

      Thanks! I really like that straw fedora, too.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Fall sewing - Vogue patterns preview - C Sews - July 25, 2015

    […] I’ve always liked sailor pants. Here’s a version by Sandra Betzina – V1464. But I’d make the legs a bit wider. And I have the perfect striped top for it – the one from the Japanese pattern book She Wears the Pants (you can read my review of the book and see photos of my top here). […]

  2. Ahoy! She Wears The Pants (again)… No 4 Top with Epaulettes | Sew Busy Lizzy - June 14, 2015

    […] see: CSews, Very Kerry […]

  3. Me-Made May - 20 Days and 20 Hats - C Sews - May 26, 2015

    […] Striped top from Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants (fabric from Discount Fabrics) and skirt from Basic Black (black cotton pique from Stonemountain & Daughter), vintage black beret from All Things Vintage […]

  4. And the Winner of She Wears the Pants... - C Sews - May 22, 2015

    […] Thanks to everyone who commented on my book review! […]

  5. Draped Mini Dress - She Wears the Pants - May 18, 2015

    […] week I reviewed the Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants. I mentioned that I was thinking of making the Draped […]

%d bloggers like this: