And the Winner of She Wears the Pants…

is Megan Berka!

She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada-

Megan gets a copy of She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada! How did I choose the winner? I plugged in the lowest number 1 and the highest 2- (I skipped the one person I knew who already had the book) – and gave me “10” as the result. Megan was the tenth person to comment (skipping Lizzy).

Congrats, Megan! I just need your mailing address and if you are not a U.S. resident, I need your phone number to pass along to Tuttle Publishing, which will send your copy of She Wears the Pants to you.

BTW – I did make the Draped Mini Dress from this book. You can see it here.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my book review!

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Draped Mini-Dress – from ‘She Wears the Pants’


Last week I reviewed the Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants. I mentioned that I was thinking of making the Draped Mini Dress but wearing it as a tunic. Well, I made it this weekend but I’m still not sure I like it on me.

Draped Mini Dress - She Wears the Pants - csews.comI made size L, using a lightweight synthetic knit. It’s either rayon or poly. I’m really not sure. Maybe it’s a rayon/poly blend? I got it for less than $2 a yard at Fabric Outlet. It was priced at $1.99/yard and the store was having a 40 percent off sale that day. So this is my mockup. Here’s the photo of it in the book.

I didn’t make any adjustments except to the hip/upper thigh area. I added a half-inch (~1.3 cm) to the pattern before I cut anything. I’m sure there’s plenty of ease in this pattern but I was taking in consideration the fact that I usually grade up a size in the hips, and this is supposed to be a dress with drape.  It wouldn’t be too drapey if it was too tight across the hips – even if I am using a knit fabric. (I adjusted the photo so you could see the drape but the background is a bit over-exposed. The perils of photographing black.)

Draped mini - black hat - She Wears the Pants -

I don’t have a serger so I used a zig zag stitch to sew this up. I think it would have been easier to sew if I had a serger to do the top stitching along the neckline and hem. This lightweight knit was a little fiddly but for a mockup, I think it turned out OK.

This is a simple top to sew but the armhole and neck bindings can be a little tricky if you haven’t had any experience sewing knit bindings. The bindings are essentially long rectangles (see cutting layout below). Because this pattern uses a knit fabric, it will stretch to go along the curves.

Draped mini dress - cutting layout - She Wears the Pants -

The front piece of this dress is rather wide so you have to tape the two pieces together. Unlike the back, it is not cut along the fold. As with most Japanese sewing patterns, you have to add the seam allowances, which are indicated on the cutting layout. For this dress, you do NOT add seam allowance to the armholes or the back neckline because these three areas will have binding added to them. But you do add a 7/8″ (2 cm) seam allowance to the front neckline. If you look at the diagram of the front neckline, you’ll need to add some length to the seam allowance on both ends. This has a triangular shape because this will fold over and be stitched down. I wasn’t sure how to draw that seam allowance so I just took a guess and made an approximately 45 degree angle for that bit.

I’ve told people that the diagrams are sometimes more important than the written instructions in Japanese sewing books. Well, I didn’t quite pay attention to the instructions about the neck binding. Oops. I looked at the first part – sew the back neck binding to the back but didn’t really look at the next illustration. Thus I didn’t fold over the binding twice before sewing it down. I just flipped it over to the other side and sewed it down. I wondered why the binding seemed a bit wide. Heheh.

Draped Mini - diagram - neck binding -

Also, my back neck binding seemed a little short so you should gently stretch it as you’re sewing it OR just cut it a little longer than the diagram indicates, and cut off any excess. I actually pinned the binding to the back and it seemed like it was long enough but when I finished sewing it, I saw that a bit of the fabric of the back neckline was caught and folded over. Ack. Luckily it was only an inch or so from the end so I unpicked it that part and stretched the binding to fit. It doesn’t look very neat but I didn’t want to unpick the entire seam (#lazy), plus this was my mockup.

Sleeve binding - Draped Mini Dress - She Wears the Pants - csews.comThe armhole binding is done a little differently that I’ve done with other knits I’ve sewn – folding the binding in half and then stitching to the sleeve hem. For this dress, you sew the binding to the armhole, gently stretching as you sew. Then you fold it over twice and then sew it close to the edge. I decided to give it a whirl. As you can see here, I had a lot of extra binding left over. I cut off the excess.

If you haven’t sewn knit bindings before, you may want to practice sewing a strip of knit to a shorter piece of fabric. It’s not really something you can pin and sew. You just stretch and sew. For a good video about sewing a binding to a curve, see Cake Patterns video Binding on a Steep Curve on her Hummingbird sewalong tutorial.

And here’s what the armhole looks like with the binding folded over and stitched. I decided to stitch in the ditch to try to hide my zig zag stitch. it was supposed to be top stitched.

Sleeve binding attached - Draped Mini Dress - She Wears the Pants - csews.comIt looked pretty good but it was a bit thick. I didn’t trim my seam allowance and I’ve got a total of four layers of fabric that I stitched through. My fabric was lightweight so that wasn’t a big deal. I think the idea was to give the sleeves a bit of weight but they stick out slightly. Granted I didn’t press the dress at all so maybe that can be fixed with a little pressing.

Here’s a sort of side view. The neckline is a bit plunging for me – not exactly something I would wear to work unless I paired it with a camisole.

Draped mini - front - She Wears the Pants - white hat -

If I leaned over, I think I would be flashing my bra. For me, this “dress” is too short to wear as a dress. Thus I’m wearing pants with it. I might consider wearing leggings and boots with it.

Draped mini - She Wears the Pants - back right -

If you like short knit dresses, this one’s for you. I still need to trim down the back neck binding because it’s folding up and you can sort of see the raw edge peeking in the back here (just to the left of center).

Draped Mini - back - white hat - She Wears the Pants -

If you’d like to win a copy of She Wears the Pants, just comment on my post reviewing the book to be entered. You just need to comment by Thursday, May 21, 11:59 pm Pacific (California time).

She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada-

Thanks for visiting and happy sewing!

Draped mini-dress from Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants

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


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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

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 -

A back view of the top.

Top - She Wears the pants - back view -

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

Top - She Wears the Pants - beret -

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

Spring Sewing


What are you sewing for spring? I’m going to try working on two projects this month: a vintage dress for Spring for Cotton – a group sewalong organized by Lucky Lucille (March 20-April 30) …

… and a garment from She Wears the Pants, a Japanese sewing book by Yuko Takada, which I’m reviewing for Tuttle Publishing.

I’m thinking of making the vintage dress and jacket in cotton pique. My goal is to wear it to a magazine awards event on May 1. The trade magazine I work for is a finalist for nine (!) awards. The awards event is in Los Angeles and it will be warm down there!

I like the striped top on the cover of She Wears the Pants, and a few other tops in this book. A couple of the mini dresses would work as tunics, such as this one. I wouldn’t wear anything this short but I would wear it with pants. (Photo taken with phone so excuse the quality. In fact this entire post was done on my phone!)

After I review this book, I’ll be holding a giveaway for a copy of it – so stay tuned!

Please feel free to share your spring sewing plans – and happy sewing!

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And the Winner of Basic Black Giveaway Is…


Before I announce the winner of the Basic Black giveaway, I just want to explain how that person was chosen. I went to, which has a “True Random Number Generator.” There were 28 people who commented so I entered a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 28, hit “generate,” and it gave me number 7!

Random number generator

And the seventh person who commented is Laura, who said: “I don’t have any experience with Japanese sewing and would love to win this book to learn this art.”

So Laura – you are the lucky winner of Basic Black, published by Tuttle Publishing!

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Tuttle Publishing

Just send me your mailing address and if you are not a U.S. resident, I’ll need your phone number, too so Tuttle Publishing can fill out the customs form.

Thank you everyone for commenting on my book review post! You can order the book on Amazon here (currently less than $11!) or search your indie bookstores for a copy.

Happy Sewing!

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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!

Finished: My Skirt from ‘Basic Black’

Hi, I finally finished my Basic Black skirt for the Japan Sew Along! I began participating in the sew along (make something from a Japanese sewing pattern book) in early February but I didn’t complete it until this past weekend –  unlike some of the other sew along participants who finished their garments in February, such as Sew Busy Lizzy who made TWO versions of a skirt from Stylish Skirts and MaciNic of The Somnolent Dachshund, who made some great tops – one from Basic Black and another from Drape Drape 2, which she blogged about here.

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanbe - Japan Sew Along -

You can see many other Japan Sew Along projects on the blog Tanoshii, which is where Catrin is hosting the sewalong. Be sure to check out her post Japan Sew Along Finale I – to see the shirt she made with a fabulous fabric!

My sewalong project is the only skirt pattern in the Japanese sewing pattern book Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe by Sato Watanabe (Tuttle Publishing). I was going to include my review of the book in this post but it was getting super long. So I’ll post the review tomorrow, along with a giveaway for the book! Yes, lucky me, in mid-February, Brandon, the publisher’s marketing guy, contacted me asking if I’d be interested in reviewing some of their recent or upcoming titles and even offered to send copies for me to give away at a Bay Area Sewists meetup! (I’m the organizer for the group.) Of course I was interested and asked if he could also send me a copy of Basic Black. (I was using a copy I checked out of the Berkeley Public Library.) Come back tomorrow to enter the drawing to win a copy of Basic Black. Don’t you love the dress on the cover?

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe -

In the book, each garment is assigned a letter of the alphabet so it goes (you guessed it) from A to Z. I made the A-line Block Skirt, pattern T. It is one of the more fitted patterns in the book; the others are what the designer describes as “loose” or “garments with darts and shaping seams.” This skirt is made up of 16 vertical panels – 8 for the front and 8 for the back – an invisible zipper on the side and the waist finished with self-made bias tape. As you’ll in the photos below, the top panels gradually curve in from hip to waist. No darts, tucks, or pleats. It’s a very clean elegant design.

I made size L, the largest size (the smallest is XS). You can read about the muslin and pattern adjustments in my WIP post on this skirt which also includes details on sizing and how this size is somewhat similar to the By Hand London Anna Dress – US size 12/UK size 16 or the size 44 Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt. However, the Basic Black skirt has much less ease at the hip and thigh area. I didn’t make any pattern adjustments to the hips of the Anna or Chardon I made.

Unfortunately, this skirt doesn’t look very interesting in the photos because you can’t see the details such as the 16 panels and the top stitching. But believe me, the details in this skirt are lovely. I’ve got some close-up photos below that show some of the detail. I’m sorry that my photo skills are just not up to photographing black – things are either over- or under-exposed. 🙁

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Japanese sewing patern book -

Construction Details

The skirt features top stitching along each panel’s seams, except for the side seams. I admit the top stitching got pretty tedious but my stitch-in-the-ditch foot came in handy. If you follow me on Instagram (@csews) you may have seen some of my posts about it. The piece of paper on the left is one of my labels. I identified each panel on a small piece of paper and attached them with a safety-pin (front top center, front top side, back top center etc.).

Stitch in the ditch foot - top stitching -

Here’s a detail of the skirt panels with labels either on the front or back. I didn’t remove them until the back and front pieces were all sewn together. It would be really easy to lose track of them.

Skirt panels - Basic Black by Sato Watanabe -

Here’s what the top stitching looks like. The photo isn’t great because it’s taken with my iPhone but I just couldn’t get the exposure right on my digital camera. (It kept wanting to shoot it as a night scene.) There’s top stitching on both sides of the seams. This is a detail of one side of the skirt with all eight panels attached.

Top stitching detail - skirt -

Here’s a close-up I posted on Instagram. You can see the texture of the pique and the top stitching here. I should mention that this is my first time sewing pique. I wasn’t sure which was the right side. Luckily, Brooke of Custom Style pointed me in the right direction and even took a photo of her pique fabric and posted it on IG for me to see. The textured side is the right side. Thank you, Brooke!

Top stitching detail -

I had eight of these “intersections” to match across seam lines – with a little help from my pins…

Pinning skirt panel seams -

Here’s what the skirt looks like on the inside.

Skirt from Basic Black -

If you haven’t made anything from a Japanese sewing book, pay very close attention to the diagrams, particularly because the actual written instructions are often minimal and this book is no exception.

There are only six steps listed at the top of the page for this skirt and they are just one sentence each. The diagrams include a few more words and a lot of detail: cutting layout, seam allowances, which order you should sew the panels, where you install the zipper, and how to finish the waist and hem, etc. As you can see, in Step 1., you sew each top and bottom panel together. Then you sew each side panel to a center panel. The diagram tells you which pieces to sew first and where and when you sew the top stitching. Pretty succinct, eh?

Basic Black - skirt instructions - diagram -

I should mention that I first placed my pattern pieces right side up on my fabric, and then I noticed that the pattern pieces didn’t quite match the cutting layout in the book. But when I flipped my pattern pieces over and it did match. The book does NOT say to place your pattern pieces right side down. So I made a note in the margin. I don’t know how much it matters except that you use slightly less fabric by flipping the pattern pieces over, which gives you more fabric to cut the bias strips. There is no pattern piece for the bias strip. Just make sure you cut a length that’s long enough to go around the waist, plus seam allowance. Give yourself an extra inch or so – you can always trim the excess fabric. I had 55″ wide fabric so I only needed one piece of bias tape. I didn’t need to cut a second short piece.

A-line block skirt - Basic Black - cutting layout -

[New edit, 13 March 2015 – I forgot to mention this when I first wrote this post: The Center Back Top and Center Front Bottom pattern pieces are the only two pieces that have a grainline marked on them. That seemed odd when I traced the pattern pieces. But once I began to place my pattern pieces on the fabric, I realized that some of the pattern pieces were parallel to the selvage or the fold so it didn’t matter. This is another reason to pay very close attention to each diagram in the book.]

I picked this skirt because I wanted a wardrobe staple and I wanted to see if I could make a skirt that would fit well and not shift when I’m walking. My A-line RTW (ready-to-wear) skirts fit me in the hips but are loose at the waist so after I walk a block or so, the skirt slowly moves so that the side zipper usually ends up center front.

This skirt is simple to make but takes a bit of patience because of all the pressing and top stitching. Note: The instructions for this pattern do NOT mention pressing. I think the designer assumes you know this. I just mention it here as a gently reminder. Press after each seam you sew or your top stitching won’t look very good.

I unpicked a couple of seams because they didn’t line up. I also made my construction a little more complicated by adding a lining, which I machine-basted at the waist before adding the binding. Here’s the lining around the invisible zipper. I hand stitched the lining to the zipper tape. (See the zig zap stitch on the right? I didn’t notice that until halfway through before switching to a straight stitch. Oops. I was finishing some of my seams with a zig zag stitch but then I stopped because I figured the top stitching also helped finish the seams. There are no instructions about finishing seams. )

Skirt lining detail -

Then I attached the bias tape binding to the right side.

Bias binding at waist -

If I make the skirt again, I might consider eliminate the bias binding, adding seam allowance, and attaching a lining. Here’s what it looks like from the inside. You fold over the binding, top stitch through the layers just below the seam line, catching the binding on the other side. You can sort of see where my stitches went off the binding (to the right of the zipper). I think I’ll hand stitch that bit to the waist.

Lining - zipper -

My adjustments to the Basic Black A-Line Block Skirt:

  • added 1 cm (3/8″) to hips and upper thigh to give me a little more ease
  • added a lining (see my WIP post for how I drafted a lining using my muslin)
  • added fusible black bias tape around invisible zipper to reinforce fabric
  • hemmed the skirt using hem facing tape instead folding it because I wanted it to be longer (I hemmed my Chardon skirts with hem tape, which you can see in this post.)


  • 2 yards black cotton pique
  • 2 yards black Bemberg lining
  • 70/10 Schmetz needle
  • black all-purpose thread
  • 9-inch black invisible zipper
  • hook and eye
  • 3/8″ black fusible bias tape
  • black hem tape

My fashion fabric is from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics – using my birthday gift card from my husband. I picked this cotton pique because I really like the texture and I didn’t want the skirt to be a boring solid black skirt. My wardrobe really needed a long black skirt, which is why I picked this pattern. I got the lining on sale at Britex Fabrics.

Here are a few more photos of my finished skirt. You can sort of see the skirt panels and a hint of top stitching. It’s tricky to shoot black when you’re using a timer and focusing on a wall instead of yourself. (Yes, all photos were by me. Heheh.)

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Japan Sew Along -

Back view… and in case you are wondering – those sandals are from Kenneth Cole. I got them last year in San Francisco. They zip up in the back!

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Japan Sew Along -

You can see the top stitching here because I could actually focus on my skirt for this photo.

Skirt from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe - Japan Sew Along -

Thanks to Catrin for hosting the Japan Sew Along! I have more things I want to make from Basic Black, which you can read about tomorrow – and enter the giveaway for the book!

Happy Sewing!

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