Book Review – Handmade Bag Basics

I picked up this book from the Kinokuniya sale over the National Day weekend. It is a book about the basics of handmade bags and it’s great for beginners!


This book is split up into 3 main sections. The first section is more like a textbook, and goes through all the basics you need to know for bag making.


There’s everything you need to know here. From selection of tools like needles, thread types, fabric selections, patterns, preparing your fabrics, sewing around curves, finishing of raw edges etc.



The second section provides 11 different sewing lessons from the most basic tote bag, to the boston bag (complete with zips and leather handles). The lessons are ordered in increasing order of difficulty, so you can work your way through the projects. By the end of the book, you will be an expert at bag-making! :)


Here are some of the bags you will learn to make in this book.


Petanko tote bag. What’s Petanko? I have no idea and there doesn’t seem to be a direct translation, but it seems to refer to flat tote bags.


For each of the sewing lessons, the instructions are presented in large, clear graphics like the ones above.


This bag looks like the previous tote, but it is made using laminated fabric. Anyone who has made bags using laminated fabrics will know that these fabrics are not easy to sew with. This lesson will show you how to work with laminated fabrics.


Mini Tote bag


Simple Pochette


Classic Canvas Tote bag


Eco Bag


Messenger Bag


Boston Bag

The third section is a chellenge for first time sewing Mamas! Make a set of school accessories for your child!


The standard 3 piece set – Lesson bag, Drawstring bag, Shoe bag


There are no pattern sheets included, since all the bags are constructed using simple rectangles and easily constructed shapes.

However, as a bonus, there is a little booklet at the back that you can detach for reference.  It is a handy handmade dictionary for frequently used sewing terms and techniques.


An excerpt from the handmade dictionary



Title : Basics of Handmade Bags
ISBN No.: 978-4-405-07182-7

This book is great not only for beginners who have never sewn a bag in their life, but also for people like me. I’ve made many many bags before but there are certain steps where I just wing it, mostly due to shortage of precise instructions. This book breaks down the process to the smallest detail, so I believe that by following it I will finally learn how to create the perfect bag!

Translation Request – for Emma

This week’s translation request is from this book – Straight Stitch Sewing Tunics and Dresses by Sato Watanabe.


 The pattern translated is for pattern E variation 2.

pattern1_SMclick on image to zoom in

Fabric – 2 Way Toriko Satin [Solpano 4112999] 145cm wide x 1.8m (you can purchase the exact fabric here )
Interfacing : 40 x 60cm
Fastener (zip) – 20cm longth x 1pc
Beads – 3mm Cut beads (beads with facets) x 20pcs, Small round beads x 20 pcs

Sewing order
1. Sew tucks on front bodice, attach facing on neckline (for front)
2. Attach fastener to back centre, attach facing on neckline (for back)
3. Sew side seams, finish armholes with a double fold hem
4. Attach shoulder fabric pieces
5. Finish the hem with a double fold hem
6. Stich beads on top of tucks (on front bodice)

pattern2_smclick on image to zoom in

Happy Sewing Emma!

New Releases – August 2014

It’s a brand new month! And here are the new releases that are coming soon, as well as some that have been released over the past few months (that have escaped my radar) Obviously I have not been too hardworking at shopping lately :P

Happy browsing & shopping!

cottonfriendCotton Friend (Autumn edition 2014)


NHK Wonderful Handmade 


Fabric bags and accessories without using patterns


Adult Sewing – 26 patterns for all year use
For more preview pages, click here to go to the flash viewer on Nihon-vogue’s website

handmadepurseHandmade Purses Book


Straight Sewing Dresses & Tunics


Handmade steteco for everyone
To find out what a suteteko is, this article from Japan Times, is a great explanation.


I Love Liberty Print 

hatsyouwanttomakeHats you want to make
althernative site on Rakuten, clicking on the green button below the cover image allows you to launch a flash browser to preview the pages.

Book Review – May Me Style Ladies Wear

This week’s book review is the first time I am reviewing a Japanese sewing book that has been translated into Chinese. There are many Japanese sewing books translated into Chinese by the Taiwanese publishers, since I guess in Taiwan there seems to be a much greater interest in sewing and DIY crafts. The draw of buying the Chinese versions is that they are 20-30% cheaper than the same Japanese books (based on prices in my local Kinokuniya). In comparison, the price of the English translated versions are even cheaper. I think it all depends on where it is printed and quality of the print as well. Another plus point is that the ones that have been translated are usually quite current books, for example this particular book was first released in Japan in April 2013. In comparison, some of the English translated titles had their original Japanese versions released a good 5 years ago (and some even more!)

Of course, all these “plus points” won’t matter if you can’t read Chinese :P, especially since it is published in Traditional Chinese (which is used in Taiwan) as compared to Simplified Chinese (used in China and also here in Singapore). So take it that I’m just reviewing another Japanese sewing pattern book that has been translated to another language. There are also lots of French versions too, but since I can’t read French I will have to show you the Chinese version!


The title of the original book is  May Me Style Adult (Ladies) Wear. The image above is the original Japanese version
(image from just for reference since I don’t have a copy of the original)


The Chinese is pretty much the same but with a some additional comments on the cover like “Ok for casual wear or for gatherings”, and  ”Learn in one lesson how to make tops, dresses, skirts, pants, vests, bags and accessories”.

There are 29 projects in all (including accessories) for sizes S,M,L and LL. Do bear in mind some of the garments are made using the same pattern pieces, with variations in length, or other additional design details, so it’s not exactly 29 unique design patterns included.

The rest of the book is pretty much the same as the Japanese version, and I must say that the printing quality is pretty good. Let’s have a look at the projects inside!


Sailor collar blouse


Loose fitting blouse with fine pleats


Button down blouse


V-neck tunic


Check out the back centre pleat of the tunic. It’s a nice touch by the designer.


Round neck dress – very simple design but I love that fabric!


Some casual bag patterns included


Slit open front dress


This is similar to the loose fitting pleated blouse (02)  but extended to dress length and an added drawstring around the waist.


Button down puff sleeve dress


Another centre pleat feature on the back centre line.


A-line skirt


Knee length A-line skirt with button placket and drawstring detail


Drawstring skirt


From left – Wide leg denim three-quarter pants, Narrow slimming pants (long), narrow slimming pants (cropped)


Full length dress coat


Vest style dress


Vests (in linen and wool)


Triangular slit opening at the bottom of the vest.


Shawl style coat


Hooded cape




There are two pages to demonstrate how, with the same patterns, you can create a more formal look simply by using a different fabric. This top is actually the sailor collar blouse (minus the sailor collar) and made with a red linen instead.


There are also a couple of pages showing you how to mix and match the different co-ordinates for many different looks


The sizes included are the same as the Japanese book version – S,M,L and LL. All units in cm, no inches provided at all.
Can you guess the terms on the left column?

A useful tip at the end of the table. Although the size chart uses 160cm height as a basis for all sizes, the model in the book is 168cm, Bust -79, Waist -60, Hips -87, and wearing size M for the photo shoot.

Together with the size chart, are some pattern tracing and sewing tips in colored diagrams.


There is one detailed sewing lesson with step by step photographs, for the Slit open front dress. Techniques covered include gathers, proper finishing of the open slit, collar and sleeves, as well as making hidden side pockets.



The rest of the how-to-make section is pretty much the same as the Japanese version, in terms of layout and simplicity :)


2 full size pattern sheets included.


Title :  May Me大人風手作服 (Chinese)
May Me スタイルの大人服 (Japanese)
(if you are interested, click on book titles to buy Japanese version from and Chinese version from, both offer international shipping)
Author : 伊藤 みちよ
ISBN : 978-986-302-186-5 (Chinese)
or 978-4529051972 (Japanese)

Translation Request – nani IRO Baby Shoes

Laura wrote to me end of June, asking me to translate this pattern for her, so that she could sew this for her best friend’s son. He is about 7 months old, and I hope these shoes will fit him since there is no size indication on the pattern.

The original pattern is free and can be found here on nani IRO’s website under the 2008 collection of patterns.

Laura, or anyone who is interested in making this shoe, you may need to check the length of his feet before cutting out the fabric. There is no indication of the completed size but if you look at the centre line where you cut on fold, you can see that the length of the sole is 12cm. You may have to size up or down depending on the actual size of the baby’s foot.

The other recommendation I would make (based on my experience with babies losing their shoes :P) is that this pattern looks comfortable but may drop off easily because there is no elastic around the foot opening. I would suggest sewing in an elastic band around the foot opening at step 7 (Not too tight of course!) which can help keeping the shoe in place.


1. Flap outer fabric and lining fabric for flap pieces right sides facing, sew all around except opening for turning out.

2. Turn the piece sewn in step 1 inside out, insert cotton stuffing. Hand sew opening shut with a whip stitch.

3. For the main body piece, sew along the back centre line (right sides facing). Do the same for each body pieces, i.e. the outer fabric and the lining fabric.

4. Sew the heel portion from step 3 together (see diagram)

5. Place the outer fabric and lining fabric pieces togehter, right sides facing, sew all around, leaving the opening for turning out at the foot opening (see diagram)

6.  Turn the piece sewn in in step 5 inside out, insert cotton stuffing, hand sew the opening shut with a whip stitch

7. Finish the foot opening edge (see diagram)

8. Make gathers for the Toe part of the shoe.

9. Using the piece made in step 2, place it on the main body piece and align the points – centrepoint, A to a, B to b, hand sew together with a whip stitch.

10. Sew on the cord string on near the foot opening.

This looks like a easy and fun project for anyone with babies to sew for! In fact, I have two nieces and one nephew arriving soon so I may have to make a couple of pairs myself! Thanks Laura for discovering this cute pattern!

Book Review – The Best Dresses

I’m sorry for posting later and later into the week. I have been bogged down by work earlier this week and hopefully next week will be back to normal. My list of translation requests is growing too (sorry to keep you waiting!) and I’ve been wanting to do up some sewing videos too, but just haven’t had the time or space to do it. I hope my current work project ends soon so that I can get some of my own time to do my own stuff! Anyway, here is this week’s book review.

This week’s book review is kind of an impulse buy. I was basically sold by two dresses. The one on the front cover…


and the other on the back cover.


The title of the book is ワンピースがいちばん which means the Number One/Best (because ichiban literally means “Number 1/The First” but can also mean “The Best”) Dresses.  I prefer to call it The Best Dresses.
There are 19 patterns in all, for sizes 9,11 and 13. The author of the book is 茅木 真知子 (Kayaki Machiko), who also wrote Simple Chic, Skirt ala carte, and many more. If you have come across or own any of her books, you should know that her style is very simple but with chic (oops did I just borrow that from the title of her book?). I also like her choice of fabrics and colors, which makes me feel that I have to make them in the same fabric or else it wouldn’t work out as well. The link to the website where you can buy the fabrics is included in the book credits – . Unfortunately it’s in Japanese and only ships domestic so I guess we can only browse.

Now let’s see what dresses you can make with this book!


Sleeveless dress in soft linen


Kimono style dress


Easy wearing dress with half sleeves.


Dress with gathered neckline and sleeves.


Low waist dress


Coat dress with lace embellishments


Floral print smock


Navy blue check dress


I learn something new everyday. Today I learned a little bit of French.
The Japanese title for this dress was ギンガムチェックのカシュクールドレス.
ギンガム = Gingham, チェック = Check , and ドレス = dress
But what was カシュクール (ka-shu-ku-ru?) Google translate said it mean “Cache-coeur” which is a French word, and when I looked it up it says this on Wikipedia “A Cache-cœur (French for “hide the heart”) is a top for women, composed of two finished triangular parts, each having a strap. It is closed by overlapping the two segments and tying the straps behind the back or along the side, depending on the length. The triangular shape of the sides makes the garment a type of V-neck.”

Now I know. :)


Cotton shirt dress

Check out the collar details below!


Hemp dress with collar


A-line Wool dress



Wool gauze dress with lace

The sizes included in this book are for sizes 9,11 and 13.


On the left hand colomn, the measurements are for Bust, Waist, Hip, Back length, Sleeve length and Height.

The how-to-make section follows the usual format, with materials, cutting layout, and sewing steps. Note that for each garment there is also a small table indicating the dimensions of the completed garment.



Close up of one of the diagrams. It’s hand drawn!


Two large pattern sheets included.


Title :  ワンピースがいちばん The Best Dresses
Author : 茅木 真知子 (Kayaki Machiko)
ISBN : 978-4-579-11484-9
Publisher : Bunka Publishing Bureau

Book Review – Kids Yukata and Jinbei

I’ve received a lot of questions lately about the kimono, yukata and jinbei from different readers, and I realized that other than the seasonal pattern in Cucito Kids, I don’t actually have a book on making them or even tried making one. Well, the fact is that my kids will never get a chance to wear them, especially the pretty yukatas. But they have worn the jinbei when we stayed at certain Ryokans (some of the more family friendly ones offer them in kids sizes), and it is so comfy they can lounge around in them the whole day after their onsen.

What is the difference between the kimono, yukata and the jinbei? I’m not an expert but I’ll give you the layman’s explanation :P  - A kimono is the formal, traditional Japanese garment worn for traditional ceremonies, whereas the yukata is more like a casual summer kimono made of cotton, unlined and is usually worn for summer festivals. The jinbei is a 2pc set with a wrap top and matching pants, usually worn as nightwear or housewear although they can also be jazzed up and worn for summer festivals as well.


This book was recently published in June 2014 by Boutique-Sha, which is also the publisher of Cucito magazine. Thus some of the patterns will look familiar as they have been featured in the magazine before, however, I bought it as it is a collection of many different variations of the yukata and jinbei patterns, for both boys and girls, and even some baby jinbei  patterns as well. The kids sizes range from 90-120cm and the baby sizes are for 70-80cm.


The different types of garments include – yukata, 2pc type yukata, yukata dress, jin bei, jinbei dress and baby’s jinbei. For each type there are a few pattern variations.


One piece Kids Yukata – for both boys and girls. Patterns for matching obi and accessories (e.g. bags, hair accessories) are all included in the book.


Another version of the one piece yukata


2 piece Yukata – Top and skirt sewn separately


Obi belt, matching bag and hair accessories patterns are all included.


Another 2 piece, with a wire frame purse accessory


I know I have this pattern somewhere in one of my past Cucito magazines, isn’t it sweet?  This is a Yukata dress, complete with lace and frills.


And a tulle sash!


Another Yukata dress. The fabric is adorable!


And now for the jinbei….


Very comfortable, casual loungewear, perfect for playtime.


The more fashion conscious girls may prefer this more girly style jinbei.


Baby jinbei…


Included in the book – how to put on the obi belt.


Tying of the fancy tulle sash ribbon for the yukata dress…


Most importantly, there are 3 detailed sewing lessons included in this book, namely for the 2pc yukata, yukata dress and the jinbei. Pretty much what you will need to tackle all the projects in the entire book.


You can’t go wrong with these clear, step-by-step photos.


As for the size chart, they have included quite a detailed one in here, with measurements for Bust, waist, hip, back length, sleeve length, pants rise, inseam, even weight and approximate ages.


There is also one full page on basic hand sewing techniques.


The individual project pages look pretty much the same as the usual how-to-make pages, but do take note the long list of materials, and that for a yukata, or a yukata dress, a lot of fabric is needed. A one-piece yukata requires 4m of fabric for the largest size (120cm). The 2-pc uses slightly less and the jinbei uses the least fabric. So do check carefully before purchasing your fabric.


A close up of the diagrams.


One actual size pattern sheet is included.


Title : Made of Cotton – Kids’ Yukata and Jinbei
ISBN : 978-4-8347-3767-7
Publisher : Boutique-Sha

New releases – July 2014

Didn’t spot many new sewing books this month other than the regular periodicals, but there were a couple of books for larger sizes, which some of you have been asking about. There is also a new Kurai Muki book on aprons. Her books have always been useful for beginner sewists because of their clear photograph instructions. Happy shopping! :)


Cute Corset Style 2



Straightline sewing, slim looking clothes  for bust size over 100cm – by Sato Watanabe


 Large size stylish clothes for sizes L-4L


Kurai Muki’s Aprons
 (S,M,L sizes)


Lady boutique July 2014

Mrs Style Book July 2014

Book Review – Clean and Natural

I’m back from vacation! It was really great to get away for one whole week, not having to check my email from work was really stress relieving :) and the cool temperatures of Adelaide was a welcome change from the searing hot weather we’ve been having for the past month. We stayed in a lovely seaside 2 bedroom apartment and really did nothing but hang out at the beach, BBQ, catching up on sleep and just a little bit of sight seeing. My kind of holiday!

After being separated from my blog and books and sewing machine for one week, I am really itching to sew again, and there are a couple of things on my list that I have to get done before school starts again in July. However, I was notified by my friends that Kinokuniya is having a sale (again) and of course I had to go check it out. I picked up only 2 books this time. Amazing restraint? :P


I first spotted this book when I did the New Releases post in March earlier this year. It is one of the few book covers that I liked, and the title sounded promising. But without a “look inside” or customer images available at that time, I decided not buy it online. Luckily I spotted this book and got to browse through it at the bookstore.

Here are some pictures of what’s inside the book. Please forgive the blur images as I had to take them with my mobile phone. My camera battery is completely flat after the trip and I forgot to charge it!


There are 26 garments featured in all, for sizes S,M,L and LL. The stars below each item denotes the level of difficulty. Please note that despite featuring 26 different garments, some of them are actually slight variations of each other, either in fabric options or in terms of  length. Some of the patterns are actually used for more than 1 garment, so the total number of patterns you actually get is less than 26. For example, there are two fabric variations for the ribbon skirt, tapered pants, and kimono pullover.

Let’s look at some of my favourite projects in this book!


Flared pullover. In a lovely lace fabric, this airy breezy piece is perfect for summer!


Dress with balloon sleeves.


Key neck pullover – I love this one!


Frill collar pullover


Crew neck robe


Key neck robe  with a fabric belt. This is basically the long dress and longer sleeve version of the key neck pullover.


Tapered linen pants


Kimono sleeves pullover


Ribbon skirt in linen


All in one – the only 3 star project in this book!


Tartan tunic


Hooded coat


Long flared coat

The general look and feel of this book is once again very clean cut, simple lines and silhouettes, as in most Japanese sewing books. It also has its fair share of long baggy shapeless pieces that I am not so fond of :P, but also lots of wearable pieces like the skirts and tapered pants. I also like the pullover tops for the easy sewing and easy wearing. They will be perfect paired with jeans.

Now for the technical bits – the size chart (units in cm)


Terms indicated in the leftmost column – Height / Bust / Waist / Hip


The format for the instructions is pretty much standard – Materials, Cutting Layout, Sewing steps in point form as well as indicated in the overall graphic.


The steps are individually illustrated using graphics.


Close up of diagrams


1 large 2-sided pattern sheet included.


Title : Clean and Natural いつもの服、きれいな服
Author : 大川友美
ISBN No :  978-4-579-11483-2

Book Review – Making clothes for my own style

I had so many ambitious sewing plans for the June holidays! Including having real sewing lessons with my daughters. So far we have only managed to make 1 shoebag, and the rest of the time seemed to have zoomed by in a flash with other activities and a birthday celebration. I didn’t even find time to sew my little one a birthday dress! :(  To write this post, I woke up much earlier than the rest of the house just so that I can get the pictures ready and write in total peace and quiet. So I expect this should be the only post this week. Next week I will be away on vacation for the whole week so I hope to schedule some translation posts in just to get my list of things to do a little shorter. I do hope I can get some sewing done by the end of this month. Hopefully a dress from this new book!


This book was released in May and was one of those listed in the blog post for new releases. From the cover, you really can’t tell much about what’s inside the book. So I was really glad to have spotted this book in my local Kinokuniya and got a chance to flip through it. I really loved what I saw so I had to get it.


I just included this page in the preview because I really really like the layout. Such a peaceful feeling… :)

Let’s have a look at the clothes you can make. There are 2 content pages, with 10 main styles (A-J) but with at least 2 variations per style.




Can  you tell that the picture above and the picture below belongs to the same style A?  The name of the basic style is called a サックドレス which literally means sack dress! Not a very flattering name for a dress, but it does look like an all occasion dress pattern depending on the type of fabric you use for it. The silhouette is a simple straight A-line but with bust darts to give it some shape.



The next style B is a french sleeve gathered dress, this dress has a zip down the back and a hidden side pocket.


Style C – A gathered neckline dress. The dress itself is more like a shift, no darts. The main design element is in the gathers around the neckline. The gathers are actually achieved with a drawstring effect of the ribbon tie.


Style D is a Frill Blouse. The front middle of the blouse is actually a button placket which buttons all the way up to the collar, you can’t really tell in the picture because she is wearing it unbuttoned and layered over a camisole. There are 3 vertical columns of frills on each side, running parallel to the button placket. A very pretty spring/summer blouse.

A longer dress variation is included for this style. Look how pretty it is in black too!


I skipped Style E which was a caftan dress, partly because I think there are too many similar patterns out there…


The next style F is for a skirt, just a simple tiered skirt with a side concealed zip enclosure. But what I liked about this particular skirt is the use of heavy wool which makes it ideal for cold weather. Looks cosy doesn’t it?


Moving on to style G –  a smock blouse with 3/4 sleeves. The ends of the sleeve are gathered, giving it a puffy sleeve look. I love the black lace fabric on this!

There is also a smock dress variation for this pattern, which is basically just a longer version of the blouse. The following picture shoes the sleeve details more clearly.



Style H is a boat neck blouse. It looks very simple but there is a special design element to it…

There is a tuck in the back. Check out the top stitch details on this one. Style H also comes in a longer dress variation.



Style I is a pattern for a pair of wide pants. A very simple pattern but by varying the length and fabric used, you can make anything from your lounge pants to linen/wool pants for going out. Play with varying the belt and pocket colors to make it your own style.


The last style J is called アメリカンスリーブドレス. Literally translated as American sleeve dress. I have never come across this naming convention, but from the diagrams it looks like the armholes are cut further in compared to the usual sleeveless patterns. Not quite halter or racerback, but cut in further with a narrower shoulder seam than the usual sleeveless tops.

Here’s a view from the back, in a more formal jacquard fabric.


You can make it in knit fabric too, here’s a picture of it in a long maxi dress length.



The size chart for the projects included in this book. Note that not all the patterns come in these sizes. Those that come in free sizes are usually the baggy fitting styles. Those that come with zip enclosures will come in individual S,M,L sizes. There are also some blouses that come in S/M and L sizes – meaning two sets of patterns only. One for S/M and one for L. And there are patterns that come in S, M/L which means one set of patterns from S and one for M/L. Sounds confusing but I guess the most important thing is to read carefully before tracing or cutting!


The how-to-make section is pretty standard, with diagrams, cutting layout, and instructions in point form.


A close up of the diagram.


2 actual size pattern sheets (for a total of 4 sides) included.


In short, I love the aesthetics and styling of the book. The styles make look a little mature for some of you, which could be due to the choice of model or fabrics. But I find that most of the patterns are pretty much wardrobe staples, so you can vary the fabrics and lengths to your liking, and basically make your own clothes in your own style.

Title : 自分スタイルの服作り
Author : 杉本伸子 designer of Hayama Sunday
ISBN : 978-4-579-11488-7