Firstly, let me say that my sewing buddy Lynn and I love your blog and your work. You are quite a talent.
Secondly, I’m sorry about your mom and your Fifth Disease. I hope you are back in the pink soon!
Thirdly, I wanted to ask you about those super beautiful Japanese pattern books by Machiko Kayaki that I saw on your blog (by the way, maybe I should have written this as a post to the blog, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that!). How do you know which one to buy? I am really smitten with the overall aesthetic of them and seriously driven buy from yesasia. Who cares if I can’t actually read them, right?! But how do you pick which one(s) – do you have ones you recommend over others? Have you seen the inside of many? Do the skirt books have just skirts, but the ones with titles like “Sewing Lesson,” “Pindot Polkadot Coindot,” or “Home Couture” have more general patterns? Is there any English in any of them, other than on the cover?
Well, I hope I’m not bothering you with these questions. Also, let me say, I am sorry that you don’t have sewing buddies there in Ontario. But I’m glad you have found lots of them by having a blog!
Monica (& Lynn), thank you so much for your kind words and your well wishes - the sewing community online is made up of such a wonderful group of people. Too bad we didn't all live just a smidge closer together - just think of the fun!
Now, on to the JPB (Japanese pattern books). I first became interested in JPB when Tany and Angie mentioned them on their blogs. Like you, I was instantly smitten with the aesthetics of these books - the clothing and the photography is so appealing to me. So, I was on a mission to find out as much as I could about these magical Asian books!
Altough, yesasia.com sells the books, they don't give any glimpses into the books, which is a bit of a disappointment. For that I had to search up a storm. I have found the following sources useful for locating pictures of the garments inside the JPB.
1. eBay - search for JPB using the keywords, "Japanese pattern books", "Machiko Kayaki", "Sato Wantanbe", "Yoshiko Tsukiori" or book titles. The people that sell these books usually have pictures of the pages in their auction ad. If you click on the keywords I've listed, you will be taken to some great examples by my favourite designers.
2. Japan Couture Addicts blog - although this blog is in French (which I can read to a very, very limited extent), it is a great place to see pictures of many garments made up. The left hand margin shows pictures of the JPB covers, which can be clicked on to be taken to the garment photos provided by contributors of the blog. Excellent resource!
3. Google - enter the same keywords as for eBay to find blogs and websites with tips and further info.
As far as what kinds of patterns can be found in the books, you are correct, the title tends to give a glimpse into the contents. Most of the books I own (Sewing Lesson, Simple Chic, Pindot Polkadot Coindot Etc, Home Couture, Retrospective is Stylish) contain many types of clothing including skirts, tops, jackets and dresses. Two of my books (Skirt a la Carte and Utsukushi Silhouette no Skirt Angkor Shitakunaru My's Size no Kawaii Smart Style 27) are all skirts. There are yet other books aimed at children or soft toy crafters, but I have no interest in those so I can't say much about them.
In terms of recommending one book over the others, I can honestly say I absolutely love several garments from each one of the books I own. If forced to chose one book, I would pick "Home Couture My Standard" by Machiko Kayaki. I gravitate toward clean, simple lines with a retro flair and this book has that.
Here is some further information about the books themselves that I have noticed during my experience with them:
*JPB are pretty much completely in Japanese (natch), with the occasional bit of English to describe the garment. However, if you are a decent seamstresses, there are enough pictures to work through the construction of a garment. Most of the clothing is simple enough that a good sewing reference book (or sewing experience with similar garments) should be enough to get you through.
* The sizing is different than North American pattern companies. First, the measurements are in metric and second, the patterns run fairly small. See this blog entry for the measurements.
* Full sized patterns are included with the JPB. The pattern sheets look like a BWOF (Burda World of Fashion) pattern sheet, with 4 or 5 different patterns (in all the sizes) overlapping on a large sheet of heavy weight paper. Therefore, the patterns need to be traced onto another paper before use. To say the pattern sheets can be a bit confusing is an understatement. All the patterns are in black ink, unlike BWOF (which uses different colours for different patterns), so I recommend highlighting the lines before tracing or you may end up cross-eyed and frustrated!
* The patterns do not include seam allowances, again just like BWOF. However, each pattern has a suggested fabric layout guide and suggested seam allowances (usually 1.5 cm) and hem allowances (usually 1 to 4 cm) are shown on it.
* There are not as many notches and symbols as can be found in the North American companies (Butterick, Vogue, etc), but again the designs are typically fairly simple, so it's not to hard to figure out what is attached to what and where.
In closing, I think it is only fair to come clean that I have not actually made up any of these patterns yet, although I do have one traced out. So take my advice with a grian of salt. Hopefully, I will get an article or two of clothing made up in the near future, but you know all about the best laid plans...