Japanese Sewing Patterns

It’s been quite a week here with a lot happening behind the scenes. Kim Killion and I have been working together to rebrand the Bride Quest series. We have six new covers completed and she’s finishing up the POD wraps. Then we’ll have the two boxed set covers to finalize — and then I have a LOT of content to proof, format, and upload. It’ll be a little bit crazy, but the covers are so beautiful that it’s all worth it. The first peek at the new covers will be in my May newsletter, going out next week, then I’ll load them here on the site May 29th.

But it’s Fiber Friday and time to talk about textiles and colour—and the wonderful stress-busters that they are. I’ve embarked on a new adventure that I wanted to share. I’d heard a fair bit about Japanese sewing patterns and earlier this month, I decided to try some. Part of the impetus was that I nearly finished a garment from a US pattern company, tried it on, and discovered that the fit was weird. The scoop neckline has ripples on the back shoulder, not because my shoulders are weird but because the curve of the pattern piece is wrong. It’s even ripply on Nelly, my dressmaker’s dummy, whose shoulders are perfect. As this dress has a ton of tiny pleats that took forever to sew, I was a bit annoyed.

Time for a change in my approach! I ordered three books from Amazon: Simple Modern Sewing, Basic Black, and Feminine Wardrobe.

These pattern books come with sheets of patterns in the back, much like Burda magazine. You have to locate the pieces for the garment you want to make and trace them out in your size, then add seam allowances. We have a tempered glass coffee table so I cleared it off and set a desk lamp underneath it to trace the patterns. The sizes tend to be smaller—the largest size in Simple Modern Sewing is L for a 37″ bust—but when you have all the sizes shown together, it’s easy to extrapolate to the next larger one. I missed that the patterns are also for shorter people—until I made my test garment. I’m 5’5″ so am usually on the short end for American commercial patterns, but the back waist length was only 15.5″ in SMS instead of 16.25″. I wouldn’t have bothered adding it to a waistless garment, but my first test was the wrap top on the cover of SMS, and it looks best with those ties on the waistline.

What I like about these patterns is that the books show lots of variations. So, that wrap tunic on the cover also has the option of 3/4 sleeves, and is shown in a dress length, too. Once you have the basic pattern fitted, you can have some fun.

I had some bright sheeting in my stash that I bought in a $1/m sale just for making muslins, and cut into it for a test garment. I had to drop the darts, but the fixes were very easy. These designs have simple lines—in fact, I probably chose one of the only ones that I’d actually need to modify. (But I like that long linen wrap dress sooooo much.) Several bodices later, I have a very ugly test garment—it’s too orange to show you!—but it fits. Ha. Now the fun begins.

I’ll do the finishing on the test garment and probably just wear it around the house—sometimes we need a garment that can risk being ruined with some job or other! Then I’m going to cut a real top out of some really interesting cotton with a border pattern. It looks like this:cotton border print

And here’s a detail shot:

I’m not sure how I’ll be able to place the border pattern on the blouse, but I know it will look great.

Next up, I’m going to try the dress option with one of the linen fabrics in my stash.

Have you embarked on any craftsy adventures lately?

Sewing Success

I’m pretty excited about this.

I told you a couple of weeks ago that I was sewing again, and showed you some of the fabric I had cut out. There was this rayon print:
RayonPrintI cut out the short version of Vogue 8970.

Here’s my lovely assistant Nelly, showing it off.Vogue 8970 sewn by Deborah Cooke

It fits perfectly! I’m so happy with this dress. The fabric is a little sheer, so I’m going to cut out an underdress in black cotton voile. The skirt has a nice flare, which is tough to see since Nelly needs to work on her modelling skills.

My one trick was to baste the tucks and darts initially. I waited until I could try on the dress to check them, then adjusted them a bit before sewing them in. I decided to use black thread and flat-fell the seams because I thought it would look good – it does, but because the seams are curvy, it took longer than expected to get them sewn. The only thing was that I didn’t check the length before I cut – I always have to shorten dresses and never thought about checking it – and it’s a bit shorter than I’d like.

This may be my new go-to summer dress pattern. (For a long time, it was Vogue 1149.) I immediately cut out two more dresses from this pattern, both in the longer length. I finished the seam allowances differently on the one in the black rayon print. That extra 4″ of length is just perfect—here’s the second dress on lovely Nelly:

Vogue 8970 sewn by Deborah CookeI’ve already worn this one a few times.

The third is also cut longer and from a wonderful plum cotton print from the Victoria & Albert collection. I’ve been waiting for just the right pattern for it. Here it is – most of the birds are white but some are taupe:

purple cotton voile print

They had rayon dress weights on sale this past month, so I bought another crinkle rayon and will cut a fourth version of this dress.

A lot of dresses? Yes, but I love wearing dresses in the summertime. I’ll get a lot of wear out of these. I’ll wear this black one with a pullover sweater and boots in the fall, too.

The green dress also has mother-of-pearl buttons that I bought as an experiment. I was ordering charms for bookmarks from an online portal and saw the buttons—the bag of 100 buttons was less than $4, so I thought it worth a try. I love mother-of-pearl buttons and pay about $3 for a card of 3 buttons at the fabric store here. I was skeptical that the deal could be as good as it appeared to be, but the buttons came and they’re great. If I keep sewing, I might spring for the bag of 1000 buttons, which is $9 or something equally incredible.

I’m so happy to be sewing again. 🙂

Into every crafter’s paradise, though, some rain must fall. I’ve also been knitting on that grey pullover and got far enough down the body to string all the stitches on a length of wool and try it on. Here’s what it looks like:

Inspired by Bohus pullover knit by Deborah Cooke in Rowan Colourspun

I love the colours and the way the dark grey has some variation in it. My guess at the underarms was wrong, though, and it’s more snug through the bust than I’d like. So, I’ll be frogging back to add more stitches – and maybe move some from the sleeves to the body – then knitting down again. This is plain stockinette so it goes quickly. I’m not very discouraged about this, particularly as it looks so pretty. There’s still a lot of time to get it done in time to wear this winter.

What have you been crafting lately?

Sewing Again

I used to sew a lot. I made most of my own clothes for years, and usually had good results. There were always a few miscalculations or bad choices, but most things turned out well. I hate shopping for clothes, so sewing them made me much happier.

Then I stopped being a size 8, and the fitting problems began. Armscyes didn’t fit, sleeves were too long, too short, too narrow, the ease was in the wrong place, the darts were in the wrong places, etc. etc. etc. Sewing became discouraging, even though I have a judy. Sometimes I didn’t even know where to begin to fix a pattern and make it right. I love fabric and I love sewing, but you can’t unravel a sewn garment and try again the way you can unwind a knitted one and have another go. I ended up knitting more, but I still bought fabric and patterns.

So, a few weeks ago, I decided it was dumb to have all this sewing stuff and not sew. Either I would begin to sew again, or I’d (shudder) get rid of it all and reclaim the space. (We won’t even talk about the sewing machines. I think there are eight of them, but I might have forgotten one. Or two.)

Naturally, this meant a road trip to a favorite store – yarn and fabric – to buy some fabric. My first project isn’t a success yet, but it’s getting there. It’s a shirtdress in a charcoal and white striped cotton that I love, with contrast in a Liberty of London floral print in purple and black.

BlueBlackThe pattern has been a challenge, to say the least – confusing directions for the front band, a really odd back pleat that made a puff in the middle of the back, plus the back cut in a T shape so that it also puffed under the butt when seamed to the straight front. Now the front band is done (although I still think it’s bulky), the odd monster pleat has been banished and replaced by pintucks, and the back is cut straight – which also got rid of some of the bulk in that monster pleat. I have to sew on the collar – which also looks strangely wide – and have cut sleeves for it, too. BUT progress is made and I do like it better now. It’ll never be the flared dress I anticipated from the pattern drawing – it’ll be straight, but that’s better than puffy.

I also went through some of my stash, and found several things already cut out, including a dress of this cotton print with an embroidered border. I’m excited about sewing this one!


I also (ahem) bought a new piece of woven rayon in a summery print, and cut out a dress last night. I’m excited about this one, too – the print looks like summer to me:


There are several people I talk to about sewing. One is Melanie, a local librarian who either knows the answers to everything or where to find them. I complained to her that there wasn’t a site for sewers like Ravelry – of course, she sent me a list of links. Here are a few of them, if you’re looking for some fellow sewers out in the world, or some comments on patterns before you cut.

Pattern Review – I joined this as DCDsews. Interestingly, no one has found issues with the pattern I’m currently wrestling, but I did make a correction to the pattern with for the embroidered cotton that will address an issue peeps have found with that one. (Ha.)

Melanie told me of three more, which I have yet to check out.


The Fold Line


I also visited a craft store yesterday, to get supplies for yet another creative venture. Yes, there is polymer clay in the house, in 24 colours… More on that project as it develops.

Do you make anything? Tell me what and how – and what online resources you use.

Thrifting Around

The last two weeks have been busy around ye olde château. We decided to host an early Christmas dinner for our family on the weekend of first Advent (last weekend) since schedules weren’t meshing very well right around Christmas. I’ve never had the house ready for the holidays so early, and it was a bit frantic getting everything done in time. But, it all went very well. The weather cooperated and it was a perfect sunny day for those who were driving. Dinner was good and we had a lot of fun. After getting all the dishes done from two roast geese – yikes – I had hoped to treat myself to a trip to a favorite fabric store, but that didn’t work out either. Worker guys arrived on the one day that I could have made the trip. Instead, this week, I managed a trip to the thrift store and was rewarded with some good luck.

I spent $10 and here’s what I got:


The fabric is a piece of purple cotton velveteen which is about 3m long and cost $9. Cotton velveteen is my favorite fiber blend and purple is probably my fave colour. This one was waiting for me. I’ve been admiring frock coats lately (those would be long formal jackets) and this will be perfect for that.

The wool was all jammed into a bag for $1. I thought it was a good deal, but realized it was a better deal once I got it all unpacked. What was in there? Well, the skein of lace weight is a 2-ply wool. It weighs 110g so I’m thinking it’s about 1400m in length. That’s enough for a good-sized shawl. There’s a plump cake of 2 ply wool in sport weight which weighs just over 200g. That gives me an estimate of 700 or 800m – again, enough for a shawl. The flat cake is a 2 ply DK wool and there’s only about 100 g – too bad as I really like this one – but the spool of red looks to be the same weight. The red weighs 65g, so I’ll guess the natural is about 200m and the red 120m. These two say “fair isle mitts” to me. (Can you hear them?) Finally, there’s a commercially wound ball of worsted weight – I suspect this is a Patons product and it looks to me as if it has some acrylic blended into the wool. 60g puts it in around 100m and I’ll use it up in something. There were a couple of other things in the bag, but I didn’t like them so they’re gone. 🙂

Since my kitchen is all cleaned up and my entertaining for the holidays is done (ha!) this little collection calls for some experimenting with acid dyes. I don’t have any shawls in sunshine colours, so that will be the perfect project for this month.

Have you had any luck at thrift shops lately? What was your best thrift store score?