Basic Black Book Review and Giveaway!

Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe features dresses, blouses, tops, a couple of vests, as well as jackets and coats – all in various black fabrics. That’s quite a few garments to squeeze into one 64-page book and one large double-sided sheet of paper. Yep – all the photos and instructions are in this deceptively thin book, and all the patterns are on one large sheet of paper, folded and tucked into an envelope attached to the inside back cover. The author/designer, Sato Watanabe, studied at Bunko Fashion College in Japan. This English translation was released last year.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Tuttle Publishing

You  can win a copy of this book – read on for details!

You can win your very own copy of Basic Black! This is my very first sewing book giveaway – courtesy of Tuttle Publishing, which contacted me last month about reviewing some of their recent or upcoming titles. I asked Brandon, their marketing guy, if they could send me a review copy of this book as well. (I was already making something from this book for the Japan Sew Along organized by Catrin, who hosted the sewalong at Tanoshii.) Details on how to enter are towards the end of this post. (Full disclosure: I am not getting compensated for this review – but I did get a free copy of the book.)

Like many other Japanese pattern books, the instructions are minimal but the diagrams are very informative with lots of little details, such as where to top stitch or place a dart. (See this post for the Basic Black diagrams of the A-line Block Skirt (pattern T) I made.) The book typically devotes two – at most three – pages of instructions and diagrams per pattern – and that’s it. One of the reasons this is possible is that none of the garments are lined and the designer assumes some sewing knowledge. For example, for the skirt I made the instructions didn’t say to press before top stitching. Clearly the designer assumes you will press as you sew. So don’t forget to warm up your iron and press those seams!

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - patterns - csews.comAnother feature of Japanese pattern books is that many patterns will be on the same sheet of paper, with many overlapping lines. This means you must trace the pattern in your size onto tracing paper. You cannot cut it out or you will not be able to use the other patterns. Plus, you must add seam allowances to the patterns. If you trace the patterns as is, it will be at least one size too small and likely shorter than you’d like.

Yesterday in my post about the A-line Block Skirt from Basic Black, I mentioned that each garment is assigned a letter of the alphabet; thus it goes from A to Z.

As you can see here, the patterns can be rather messy to look at, overlapping lines and in this case, two different colors, too. But don’t be intimidated – if you use an erasable highlighter to go over the pattern lines, that will make it easier. Just pay close attention to the labels so you mark the correct lines. In this photo below, you can see that the same pattern piece is used for patterns A through J, which are all dresses, shirts, blouses, or jackets.

When you trace the patterns, pay attention to the diagrams in the book, which will indicate when your seam allowance is more than 1 cm or 3/8″. For example, at the hem, the cutting layout may tell you to add 1 1/4″ or 3 cm to the hem but all other seam allowances are 1 cm or 3/8″.

I suppose you could characterize some of the patterns as variations on previous pattern. As you flip through the book, you’ll see some of the same pattern pieces in a different garment but with some slight adjustments to length, necklines, or other details. It’s an elegant economical use of pattern pieces.

Here’s a back cover image I got via Amazon, which uses an image from the Japanese version of the book. The back cover is the same on English edition.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe -

Clockwise from top left: Dress with Stitched Skirt (pattern S), Polka Dot Jacquard Dress (pattern N), Seersucker Shirt with Collar (pattern M), and Blocked Quilting Zip-up Jacket (pattern D).

The Dress with Stitched Skirt uses the same pattern as the skirt I made – but the waistline starts a bit lower and it’s shorter. Now that I’ve made my pattern adjustments to the skirt, I can easily make the dress. Yay! (You can read about my pattern adjustments here.)

As you flip through the book you’ll see some similarities are in the neckline or certain aspects of a dress or blouse but there’s still some variety in the patterns. This book features clothes that the Watanabe puts in one of three silhouette types:

  • Loose
  • Garments with darts and shaping seams
  • Fitted

She groups each pattern in one of the three categories. This will help you determine which patterns to make. I like the more fitted garments but I really like that dress on the cover, which falls in the “loose” silhouette. I’m a little worried it may look like I’m wearing a shapeless bag but I do have some black seersucker that could work really well.

If you are concerned about sizing, this book actually provides useful finished measurements in inches and centimeters for the bust, waist, and hips for each of the different patterns in sizes XS, S, M, and L. This means that people who are XL and above will need to grade up. Finished measurements for size L for the skirt I made are waist: 29 1/2 inches/75 cm; hips: 42 1/8″/107 cm. The waist was perfect but I needed more ease in the hips. If I used a fabric with lycra, it may have been OK but I used cotton pique. I usually need to grade up in the hip area anyway so that was not a big deal. Note: This finished measurement for the waist and hips only applies to patterns S and T. The other patterns have different finished measurements.

You should measure the pattern pieces – as I was exhorted by EmSewCrazy of Tumbleweeds in the Wind, in my earlier post complaining about sizing. That will help you figure out what size is best for you. Note: The ease will be different according to the silhouette type of the pattern. (See my post Japanese Pattern Book Sizing.)

Whimsical vest - Basic Black by Sato Watanabe -

Whimsical Vest in Corduroy

Besides the dress on the cover, I want to make the Whimsical Vest in Corduroy (pattern G). Though I’ll be making mine in some delicious black wool velvet and I think I want to line the bodice instead of finishing with bias tape. I think bias binding could get really thick and hard to sew through. This is a photo I took from the book. (The photo appears like this in the book – it’s not me cutting her off.)

The photos in the book feature garments in variations of black (solid black, polka dots, jacquard, seersucker, black lace, etc.), but you can certainly use any color you want. You don’t have to use black. The skirt I made, with its 16 panels, would be a great stashbuster. You could make each panel a different color if you want. I chose black because I really wanted a long black skirt.

MaciNic made a lovely polka dot blouse from Basic Black, blogged about it, and reviewed the book here.

I like some of the coats, blouses and shirts – though I’m not so sure about the loosely fitting dresses. It’s not a style that’s flattering for all figures, particularly mine. But at least I won’t need to grade up in the hips. 😉

All in all, Basic Black will make a good addition to your sewing library – and at just $11.87 (current price on Amazon), it’s a bargain. I’ve spent more than $20 on one indie pattern. So 26 patterns for less than $20 is quite a deal.

Here are a few more Basic Black things I like, such as Pattern B (excuse my iPhone photos):

Tiered Sleeveless Dress - Basic Black-


Pattern S: This is the dress that uses the same skirt pattern pieces as the A-line Block Skirt I made.

DRess with Stitched skirt - Basic Black-

Pattern Y – Cool coat!

flannel short coat - Basic Black-

If you’d like to enter the drawing for a copy of Basic Black, please comment below about your experience (if any) with Japanese sewing books and/or why you’d like a copy of this book.

This is open to everyone – regardless of location – because Tuttle will ship it to you! If you don’t want to enter the drawing and just want to comment, say “do not enter me” in your comment. You have until Tuesday, 17 March, 11:59 pm to comment. Then I will pick a winner via a random number generator and post the name of the winner on Wednesday, 18 March. If you are the winner and you live outside the United States, you’ll need to send me your mailing address and your phone number for customs. Good Luck!

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58 Responses to “Basic Black Book Review and Giveaway!”

  1. Patricia
    March 17, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    I don’t have any experience with Japanese pattern books and only recently learned about them. I think these designs are really beautiful and would love to try to make them. Thank you for offering the drawing!

    • March 17, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

      You’re welcome. There are a many books out there so you should definitely check them out.

  2. Audrey Middleton
    March 17, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    I love the Japanese style clothes, and would be delighted to win this book. Otherwise I shall buy it! It’s not often that I like every design featured in your blog on Basic Black – they’re amazing!

    • March 17, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

      There is certainly a lot to like in this book. 🙂

  3. March 16, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    What a great book – I’ve always wanted to try one of these Japanese sewing books but have worried about the sizing. With your interesting info I am sure I could make it out! You are right, this is very affordable — I might just go for it!

    • March 17, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

      If you’re not an XL or larger, you’ll have no trouble. In this book, the ease varies according to the pattern so there are plenty of options.

  4. March 16, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Great review! Unfortunately I don’t have any Japanese sewing books in my collection nor have I had the pleasure to browse through one. This would be an awesome opportunity to pop my Japanese sewing books cherry, haha.

    • March 17, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

      Thank you! Ah, you’ll need to add some to your collection!

  5. Jane
    March 16, 2015 at 10:17 am #

    These look wonderful. Have sewn a lot with Burda (magazine) and Marfy, so the tracing is familiar. As is grading up. 😉 I hadn’t heard of Tuttle Publishing; thank you for putting this out there!

    • March 17, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

      You’re welcome! Tuttle publishes several Japanese sewing pattern books. I will be reviewing an upcoming release of theirs She Wears the Pants – in May. 🙂

  6. Annette
    March 16, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    I would love to add this book to my growing library of Japanese sewing pattern books. I love the style! and many thanks for the opportunity!

    • March 17, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      You’re welcome – and good luck!

  7. Sarah Thomas
    March 16, 2015 at 9:40 am #

    I credit the Gothic & Lolita Bible as my doorway to Japanese fashion and patterns. Nevermind the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing! What mattered was my appreciation for the intricate designs and lines and the desire it brought forth to sew and emulate what I saw. Comfort and elegance are two words that come to mind with this collection. Well done! 🙂

    • March 17, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      True – the skirt I made falls into your description – comfort and elegance. I’m wearing it today and it feels great. 🙂

  8. Vivian
    March 16, 2015 at 4:36 am #

    I was gifted 7 rolls of kimono silk, and have been looking for something to try it out on. I have one Japanese pattern book, but it is not in English. This review makes me want to try this book.

    • March 16, 2015 at 9:11 am #

      Wow – 7 rolls of kimono silk! That’s some gift. English translations of Japanese sewing books are certainly easier to figure out. 😉

    • Annette
      March 16, 2015 at 9:58 am #

      I agree, wow, some gift, 7 rolls of kimono silk! I would love to see them. Are they each different from the other, or the same? Lots of luck, Annette

  9. March 16, 2015 at 3:56 am #

    For me black is a real challenge. I’m not used to wear this color, but I’m enamoured by people who choose to dress up only in black. I would be glad to see the effect of different layers and textures, and to learn which shapes blend turn out to be better in black.
    Furthermore I love Japanese sewing books! So I keep my fingers crossed, and thank you for giving us a chance to win!

    • March 16, 2015 at 9:08 am #

      You could make any of the garments in any color (or print) you want. Black is just a theme for the book.

  10. Lisa
    March 15, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    I have some Japanese sewing books and also some Saori weaving books but haven’t made anything from them yet. I’m looking forward to trying some of the patterns out soon.

    • March 15, 2015 at 9:47 pm #

      I’m sure you’ll enjoy exploring and making things from the books.

  11. Dora Horvath
    March 15, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    I like the clean, minimalist style of japanese sewing books. And the patterns are easy to follow. I’d love to win!

    • March 15, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

      Thanks for your comment and good luck!

  12. March 15, 2015 at 3:39 am #

    I’ve never sewn any japanese garment but I’m pretty curious to see how they work. Event though I’m not the typical japanese body type (way too tall for their standard!) I would like to win it and give a try to the beautiful coat by grading it! Thank you for this lovely giveaway!

    • March 15, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

      I think adjusting for height is likely the easiest adjustment for a Japanese sewing pattern. So if you win, you should be able to make something from it. 🙂

  13. Marilyn
    March 13, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    In high school (80’s)I was obsessed with Rei Kawakubo and subsequently Comme des Garçons. I would try to make things that looked (remotely) like some of the things I saw, but pre-internet it was difficult to find images. I’ve been thinking about getting one of the Japanese pattern/sewing books for awhile and would love a copy of this one! Little Black Dress meets Japanese design? Yes, please.

    • March 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      I’m sure you’ll like this one – though the designs aren’t as out there as Rei Kawakubo. 🙂

  14. Louise M.
    March 13, 2015 at 4:38 am #

    I have looked through Japanese quilting books but never Japanese sewing books. I would like to win to learn about pattern making for garments. Edgy designs sound good to me.

    • March 13, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

      I wouldn’t say they were all “edgy” but they all have interesting details.

  15. March 13, 2015 at 12:08 am #

    I have no experience with japanese sewing.. or sewing! But I made up my mind to start, I will buy a sewing machine and start learning. My grandfather was a tailor and my mother sews very well, I am hoping it runs in the blood! 🙂 To start with japanese sewing would be something awesome! I love the design, straight lines and so simple, but at the same time so feminine and so elegant! 🙂 I would <3 to be the winner!

    • March 13, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

      I don’t know how easy it would be to start sewing with this book because it does assume a certain amount of sewing knowledge. But I’m sure your mother can help you figure things out!

  16. MaryLou
    March 12, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    I have no experience with Japanese sewing patterns. The short coat looks so elegant.

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

      I want to make that short coat. I just need to get some fabric…

  17. March 12, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    Please include me, I’d love to have this book. I have made lots of clothes from Japanese pattern books this one looks really good.

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

      You should definitely add this one to your collection. Good luck in the drawing!

  18. March 12, 2015 at 1:02 pm #

    wow, i would love to sew some of these gorgeous garments!

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

      There are so many interesting details to the designs in this book.

  19. March 12, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    I have Pattern Magic: Stretch Fabrics by Tomoko Nakamichi. It taught me a different approach to working with knits, though some are not so applicable to sweater knits. I generally love the fashion aesthetic though.

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:48 pm #

      Oh, I didn’t know there was a Pattern Magic for stretch fabrics – wow. I’ve got Pattern Magic.

  20. Nancy Hilderbrand
    March 12, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    I have never seen a Japanese sewing book but I love the dress

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

      I love that dress, too.

  21. Kristine
    March 12, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    I’ve never used Japanese books before but would love to try. The quilted zip up jacket looks awesome!

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

      It looks warm and cute.

  22. Laura
    March 12, 2015 at 9:29 am #

    I don’t have any experience with Japanese sewing and would love to win this book to learn this art.

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:50 pm #

      It’s a unique experience figuring things out from the diagrams.

  23. March 12, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    I’ve seen from the drape drape books before and loved them!

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:44 pm #

      The drape drape garments look really great.

  24. Claire Ross
    March 12, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    I don’t have any experience with Japanese patterns but I’m always willing and keen to try new things!The finished garments look lovely so would welcome the opportunity to try the designs out.

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:43 pm #

      They instructions are different from U.S. or European patterns so you’ll find it in interesting experience.

  25. Sarah
    March 12, 2015 at 6:13 am #

    I used to live in Japan as a teenager, so I made things from Japanese sewing books in Japanese. The diagrams are wonderful. I recently got my first Japanese sewing book in English, Stylish Skirts, and have been drafting skirt patterns and love how simple they make everything. I would love to win!

    • March 12, 2015 at 8:09 am #

      Yes, the diagrams are really informative. The Stylish Skirts author also designed Basic Black. 🙂

  26. jan
    March 12, 2015 at 5:46 am #

    I love following you on ig, and seeing all of your wonderful creations! I would love to win this book! As have never used Japanese patterns before, but I would love to give it a try! Going now to put Basic Black on my Amazon wish list! I especially like your idea of the 16 paneled skirt in different fabrics. I don’t usually wear a lot of color( mostly black), but baseball season is upon us and I think that would be so fun to wear with even a crisp white shirt! Thank you for the opportunity to win and such a great review. You have sold me on this book! ~ jan ~ aka: SewSowinLove

    • March 12, 2015 at 8:06 am #

      Thanks so much for your kind comments, Jan! I enjoy your IG feed as well! I’m sure you’ll like this book. Good luck!

  27. March 12, 2015 at 2:52 am #

    I’ve never had a Japanese sewing book but the designs looks stunning. Thanks for the chance to win.

    • March 12, 2015 at 8:04 am #

      There are a lot of interesting designs in this book. Thanks for entering!

  28. cynthia
    March 11, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    I’ve made several garments from Shape Shape Two. I love them!

    • March 11, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

      I have the first Shape Shape book but only made one thing from it so far. I’ll have to check out SS2.


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