Japan Sew Along 2015

Japanese sewing books - Japan Sew Along - csews.com

Japanese sewing books - csews.com

I was on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and saw that @Sewbusylizzy (of the blog Sew Busy Lizzy) had regrammed an image from @stoffbuero about her Japan Sew Along, which just began. When I saw it, I thought, should I participate or not? I’ve got these four Japanese pattern books in my collection but only made one thing (not blogged) – from Shape Shape – and it was too small. It was my first Japanese pattern book and I forgot to add seam allowance and size L was too small anyway.

The blog Tanoshii features Japanese sewing books, at least from what I can tell. She blogs in German and hosted a Japan Sew Along last year as well. I didn’t know about that one. Her schedule for the Japan Sew Along are in German, followed by English translations posted in italics. You just have to scroll down to find the English. (The hashtag is #2015jsa.)

In 2013 I bought the Stylish Dress Book: Clothing for Everyday Wear because I wanted to make some everyday dresses BUT I didn’t realize until after I bought it that size large was more like a medium. The dimensions for Large are 36 5/8″ (93 cm) bust; 29 1/8″ (74 cm) waist, and 38 5/8″ (98 cm) hip.  And there was no XL. Too bad. I had pre-ordered it on Amazon because I was seduced by the photos. But who was I kidding? I have broad shoulders and at 5′ 8″ (1.73 m) I’m much taller than the average Japanese woman. So I haven’t made anything from that book yet.

I bought it because I wanted to make some “everyday” dresses because it seemed as if the dresses I was making were more for work or fancy occasions. In fact, I wrote a post back then about my desire for Everyday Dresses but since then I’ve only made one dress that really seems to fit that description – my Bluegingerdoll Winifred dress.

Before I saw Lizzy’s regram, I just happened to get a comment from Nobu Murakawa, an Etsy seller in Japan (JapanLovelyCrafts) who sells fabric, Japanese sewing pattern books, and craft supplies. She read my 2013 post about the Stylish Dress BookHips, “Husky” Girls, and Japanese Sewing Patterns, and commented:

I have read your blog. I am also a husky girl of weight 70+ . Why don’t you try one of these Japanese sewing books that helped me a lot to sew cute dresses for me.

She provided a link to a Japanese sewing book with larger patterns; it was described like this:

Large Size Clothing – Japanese Easy Sewing Pattern Book – Chubby Woman Dress Clothes – Blouse, Shirt, Tunic, Pants, Tops, Coat

OK – I admit the “Chubby Woman” description gave me pause but I thought it might actually be easier to grade down and do an SBA (small bust adjustment) than to grade up on the other pattern books.

In case you’re wondering what “pocchari” means, well, I looked it up. Apparently it’s Japanese slang for “chubby” but in a positive sense;  it’s also a fashion trend in Japan that’s more about celebrating a full figure rather than hiding it or being ashamed of it. So pocchari fashion is bold and colorful. You can read more about it in this Guardian article “Japan’s pocchari trend celebrates chubby women.”

I weigh more than 70 kilos (150 lbs.), but I’m not petite in height so I’m not exactly “pocchari” though I do have many days when I feel like I am!

I decided to take a chance and order the book ($25.50 + $8.50 for shipping) and it arrived last Thursday, less than two weeks later. (The seller graciously upgraded me on shipping at her expense, so it would arrive earlier than the usual 2-3 weeks for economy air. Thank you!). It was very carefully packed in a plastic bag and bubble wrap, plus she included a cute note along with a packet of Hello Kitty tissues. It was her only copy, which is why I didn’t include her link. (If you want to order it, I found a used copy on Amazon for $28.99 + $3.99 shipping.)

Pocchari girl's sewing book

I don’t usually order books from overseas because of the shipping costs. I tend to be a bargain shopper for sewing books getting them at used bookstores or on sale at Amazon. Of the books in the photo at the top of this post – the one on the far left was a $5 discovery at the San Francisco Public Library book store (proceeds go to the library), Shape Shape and The Stylish Dress books were discounted Amazon purchases, and Pattern Magic 2 about $10 at Half Price Books.

I’m thinking of making this blouse from the Pocchari book. I hope it doesn’t look like a tent on me. I’ll definitely have to make a muslin and do a major SBA. This could be fun in a knit fabric. Nearly all of the book is in Japanese so I have no idea what the recommended fabrics are. The only English text you’ll find is on the front and back covers and on the pages where the garments are photographed. Everything else is in Japanese. Maybe I’ll make a trip to Japantown in San Francisco to see if someone at Kinokuniya bookstore can translate for me.

Japan Sew Along - pocchari top - csews.com

I’m assuming the shoulders will fit. We’ll see…

Japan Sew Along

Have you made anything from a Japanese sewing book? How was the fit?

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Author: Chuleenan

Chuleenan sews, collects hats and shoes, and is a fabric addict. She is also the organizer for the Bay Area Sewists Meetup group.

13 thoughts on “Japan Sew Along 2015”

  1. Hello! I’m Isabel, a Spanish blogger living in Spain. I just came across your blog by chance and I love how you well explained what Japan-sew-along is and the issue with the sizes. It happened to me the same but with a children’s Japanese sewing patterns, they are so small and for the thiniest kids ever. I’d love to participate in the Japan sew along 2015 too!


  2. Thanks for explaining their word for chubby. It’s a much nicer definition. I have sewn a couple things from Japanese sewing books. I’m 5′ 10″ and have a 37″ bust. The biggest thing I can say is MEASURE THE PATTERN!!!
    I cannot emphasize this enough. They tend to wear their patterns with much more ease than we do and not being so “ethereal” we look like we’re wearing tents. So making the L size often works for me I just have less style ease than the pattern intended but I prefer that. The last dress I made in a woven that had sleeves so the broad shoulders came into play, ended up working well when I took a smaller tuck than the pattern called for and added a bit extra seam allowance in the shoulder area.
    With knits I cut the large with no seam allowances and it ends up working well with the stretch of the fabric.
    I have to add length in the appropriate areas but I have to do that regardless of what pattern company I’m using. The exception is if I want it to turn out as a tunic top instead of a dress. Then the length is pretty close for me. 🙂

    Sorry for the length of this comment. I just love Japanese patterns and I feel they get a bad rap because of sizing when if you do the flat pattern measuring there is enough room for us “bigger” women in them.
    I look forward to your journey and will be checking out this sew along!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! You make an excellent point about measuring the pattern pieces. It’s too bad Japanese patten books don’t include measurements of the finished garments. I will look again at the Stylish Dress Book and measure some of the pieces and see if an L would actually fit me with slight alterations. You’re taller than I am but my bust size is a little bigger. Thanks so much for pointing this out the ease difference. I’m not a waif so sometimes when I look at the photos, I think oh I can’t get away with that but maybe I can. 😉

  3. What an inspiring blog post! Thank you so much for all this information and the little book review. There are so many doubts about japanese patterns when it comes to women who are taller than the rather “petite” size chart, so this will be an important hint for them.

    I will add a link to your post to today’s post.

    Thanks for joinging us!

    1. Thanks – and you’re very welcome! It’s tough to choose a pattern if you’re not petite and slender! The other option are the Japanese pattern books that don’t come with patterns because you draft them. You just get diagrams and instructions.

  4. exciting!! I’ve made a few things from the “DrapeDrape” series, my love for the tops will never end 😉
    I’m significantly shorter than you though (165cm) & a size L in them, small busted, 35″ chest, 30″ waist & 39″ hip.
    I’ve been drooling over my all Japanese version of “Military jackets” & am building up the confidence to sew #2, but I might try another top from “ShapeShape” or “She Wears a Mannish style” for the sew along. My copies of both are in Japanese, I wish I’d known mannish style was available in French 😉
    The “I am cute dresses” are draft your own with either one-size fits ‘most’ (40″ finished bust for a 36″ size ‘most’) or sized by your bust measurement, so they might work too….

    1. I’m jealous that you can fit a size L. If only I had narrow shoulders, then maybe I could fit a size L. I might take a look at the Stylish Dress book again but drafting your own may be a way to go, if I don’t stick with the Pocchari book. Thanks for letting me know about that one. 🙂

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