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Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Giveaways Japanese Sewing Books in English

Book Review and Giveaway – Patchwork Quilted Bags

August 6, 2016

Today’s book review is a yet to be released title named Patchwork Quilted Bags, and this is your favourite part – it’s in English! The author/designer is Reiko Washizawa, 鷲沢玲子, a famous and well-published Quilt designer in Japan. She has been quilting for 40 years and has published many Japanese quilting books. This book is not about making patchwork quilts though, it is a book dedicated to incorporating your patchwork creations into everyday bags. This will be a great way to bring your creative showpieces around with you since it is quite impossible to bring your quilts wherever you go.

Honestly I have never made a proper full size quilt, but I have been hoarding a whole box of handmade dresses that my girls have outgrown and planning to make a keepsake quilt out of the dresses, so I have been reading up on hand piecing and it seems kind of daunting, especially when it comes to creating a full size quilt. This book came just in time and gave me some new ideas on smaller projects I can start with, and furthermore, it combines the patchwork quilting with my love for making bags!

Let’s have a look at this book shall we? Before we jump to the details of the giveaway 🙂


There are 19 projects to be made in this book and they are divided into 5 chapters. There are also additional sections in between the chapters that teach you all the basics you need to know about patchwork making. From materials, to drafting of basic quilt patterns, and even a little showcase of the author’s quilt-making story.




Before the first chapter begins, there is an introduction tutorial on how to draft the different shapes you will need in the book. This is the basis of the book, you will need to know how to draw the different shapes and how they are pieced together before you can apply them to your bags.

Now, we are ready to make some bags!

The first Chapter : Basic Bags


The first project is the beautiful pieced Little Bird Bag that you see on the front cover. I was surprised that this bag was called a basic bag because it certainly looked complicated to me! Upon closer scrutiny, it turned out that the birds were actually part of the fabric print and were quilted on to the batting. The patchwork portion is only the strip in the middle, which is made up of hexagonal pieces.


There are detailed instructions for every step, not just the making of the patchwork, but also to show you how to assemble the bag.

The second Chapter is about Out & About Bags


There are beautifully embellished bags for a night out,


Casual basic square patchwork bags for running a quick errand,


cute bowl shaped bags, perfect for carrying knitting supplies I say!

 Chapter 3 : Shopping bags


Roomy bags with lots of space for shopping and marketing. Note the beautiful pattern which is called a Lemon Star Patchwork. Looks challenging to me!

 Chapter 4 : for Moms and Little Ones


Mother’s bag and Baby Bottle Case


Lesson Bags for kids

 The last chapter : Cute Little Pouches
Creative patchwork designs and small scale projects that are suitable for beginners like me!


Sewing Case and Scissors Case


Strawberry Pouches


Mini Yo-yo Pouch. These pouches are made out of lots of tiny yo-yos. Amazingly cute and I love the color explosion!


Union Jack pouches. Fashioned after the Union Jack using Liberty fabrics for the stripes. How apt!


 Sample of detailed instructions for each project.

 There are also two large pattern sheets attached for all the appliqués and templates you will need to make the projects in this book.

Thanks to Tuttle Publishing, I was provided a free PDF book preview for this book review, and they are also,  giving away one copy of this book to one of you lucky readers! Win a copy of it before it is even released! Contest is open worldwide and will run for a week. Enter now!

To enter the giveaway, please fill in the form below. Contest ends 12th August 2016. Extra chances for those who share this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Good Luck!

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Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Books

Book Review – 14 Sewing Projects to teach you how to Sew Zippers Perfectly

July 2, 2016

And just like that, the school holidays have ended and now we’re back to the usual routine. I was dreading the early morning wake ups, but finally there is some peace and quiet in the mornings for me to work on the blog! As you can see the progress has been slow this June. These photos were taken a while ago before the school holiday started and are only now making their first appearance! Today’s book review is more of a technical one. I’ve always had a fear of sewing with zippers, even though I have used them many many times, I can never be sure of how my sewing will turn out. I have been sewing zippers for cushions, bags, pouches and I even dared to release a tutorial on a double zipper pouch here (see my sewing tutorial on how to sew a double zipper pouch here). Sometimes I even resort to sewing zippers by hand as sewing zippers with a sewing machine is kind of scary when the needle goes over the teeth, I’ve had a few sewing needles break from trying to sew through thick layers at once.

I’ve relied on sewing zippers tutorials on youtube, and some tutorials here and there as part of the basic techniques included in some Japanese sewing books, until I found this book, released early this year in January, which is devoted to the sewing of zippers.  In Japanese, the word for zip/zipper is actually Fastener, and the Japanese word is exactly the borrowed term from the English word Fastener ” ファ(fa)ス(su)ナー(na-)”. I always return from my trips with a load of fasteners, especially the decorative type, because they are so difficult to find here. I can find some imported YKK zips here but they are usually limited in length. In Japan you can find a wall full of YKK zippers, in so many varieties of lengths it is hard to decide especially when I don’t even have an idea of the project I am going to use it for!


But it won’t be an issue because with this book, you will learn how to properly cut a zipper to fit your project.

The full title of the book is ファスナーのつけ方がばっちりわかる! ファスナーの本 which roughly translates to “Perfectly understand the ways of attaching fasteners! Book about Fasteners.”
You will learn 10 different ways to sew your zippers for bags and pouches, and 4 different ways to use them on garments. That makes a total of 14 different ways to sew zippers.


An excerpt of the contents page.

The book begins with an introduction of zippers. Everything you need to know, for example,


the anatomy of a zipper. Got to know your subject matter well!

There are also other information like types of zippers and when to use them, different ways of sewing them, size of teeth, how to adjust the length of zippers to fit your project etc.


The next part moves on to sewing zippers for bags and pouches, and the good news is, with every project there is a detailed series of photographs devoted to teaching you how to sew the zipper for that particular project.  Note that the detailed photographs are only for the steps involving the zipper. The rest of the instructions are included at the back of the book in black and white diagrams like the standard sewing book.


Learn how to sew a zipper pouch
You can see a small excerpt of the step by step photographs in the picture below.


The projects in this book are quite simple in design, but are selected based on the different applications for zippers.


Sewing zippers on bags


Sewing zippers on mini pouches (with curve edge)


Sewing zippers around a bend.


Making a lined pencil case (learn how to attach the lining)


How to sew a wire frame bag with zipper enclosure. This is similar to the small cosmetic pouch I made for my mum for Mother’s day, but in a larger size with a hidden handbag frame.


How to sew a foldover flap over the zipper. This technique is useful for making cushions too, when you want to hide the zipper pull and teeth of the zipper for soft furnishings. I’ve used this technique on sewing the front pockets of backpacks too.


This lesson will teach you how to sew a zippered pocket, also known as a hidden zipper pocket?


A double zipper pouch, or what they call, a pocket pochette.

The next part of the book is devoted to sewing zippers to clothes. Namely, sewing side zipper for skirts, sewing a front fly zipper, sewing a concealed or invisible zipper, and lastly, how to sew a separating zipper / jacket type zipper.



Learning to sew a proper front fly zipper on pants is on my to-do list! I actually have quite a number of patterns with step by step instructions on how to do this but yet it still looks super complicated. When will I get over my fear! This particular pants pattern, by the way, is designed by May Me.


You can’t see the zipper in this case because it is at the back of the dress, but in this lesson you will learn how to sew an invisible zipper. I can’t tell you how horrible my first few attempts with invisible zippers were. Probably because I didn’t even have the right invisible zipper foot to begin with. I was using a regular zipper foot and could not understand why I could still see the zip.


Another project designed by May Me, a collarless jacket. This project will teach you how to sew on a separating zipper, which simply refers to the type of zippers on jackets that open up completely into two separate pieces.

The sewing patterns and instructions are included at the back of the book, pretty much the standard format.



Close up of the diagrams included with the sewing patterns.


Full size patterns attached.


Title :  ファスナーのつけ方がばっちりわかる! ファスナーの本
ISBN No : 978-4529055284
Publisher : Nihon-Vogue

Buy now from CDJapan

Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Books

Book Review – Natural Cute Bags and Pouches

August 7, 2015

Did you participate in the Poll for the type of Japanese Sewing Books would you like to see translated into English? I hope you did! The poll is closed now and leading the pack is sewing for Ladies, followed by kids and bags sewing tied at #2.

I can think of quite a few girls sewing books, but only 1 kids book – Sew Chic Kids (for both girls and boys). But hardly any bag making books, it’s strange since there are so so so many gorgeous bag making books in Japanese. I must have at least 10 bag/purse/pouch sewing books in my collection, that number does not include periodicals like Cotton Time, Cotton Friend, Sewing & Crochet, where there are even more bag sewing patterns. I love Japanese bag sewing books because of the clear, precise instructions provided, either in diagrams or photographs. I also love the amazing photography and choice of fabrics.  It always makes me want to go fabric shopping.

So guess what, today’s book review is a bag making book! One that I bought without browsing simply because of the cover. 😛

Oh, and I was talking about fabric shopping! This bag sewing book is produced by Kamakura Swany. A fabric shop in Kanagawa. If you have not heard of this place, just check out their very beautiful website.  They also have an online shop which is in Japanese. Some of you may find many of their fabrics familiar. That is because they sell lots of imported fabrics, like Clarke and Clarke, Cabbages and Roses, Tilda, Lotta Jansdotter to name a few. There are also Japanese fabrics of course, as well as their own Swany line of fabrics. The 15 projects in this particular book are all made using fabrics from Clarke & Clarke, and feature patterns for bags that you can use on a daily basis.

The very clever thing about this book is that you can go to their online store, not only to buy the fabric, but to purchase the kits for making each project in the book. You can also browse the full range of projects and additional pictures through the links on each kit.


This bag a medium size bag with pockets in the front and back as well as an internal metal frame at the bag opening for a nice structured look.


This bag is called an Outing bag, with contrast fabric details for the handles, closing strap and…check out the little upturn corners on the base of the bag, and the big red button accents. How cute!


This bag is called a Cube bag. You can’t really tell from this picture, but imagine the pink side fabrics being pulled upright, you will see that the bag is actually made up of a boxy shape. There is a detailed sewing lesson with step by step photographs for this bag.


The next bag is a simple tote with leather straps. I love the fabric on this one and the leather straps go perfectly with the color scheme.


This round little bag is aptly named the Circle bag. There is a zip enclosure on the top of the bag. This fabric combination is too sweet!


The direct translation for this bag is the Body Bag, but no it’s not THAT kind of body bag, but a bag meant for carrying cross body. The strap is detachable at the bottom end so that you can switch sides depending on which shoulder you are more comfortable with. There is piping sewn along the edges of the front and back pieces of the bag, which help to give it a nice structured look. A full sewing lesson with step by step pictures is included with this pattern. More pictures of the bag here.


This bag is a backpack but with an open top (with a magnetic button) and shorter handles so that you can carry it like a tote as well.


I love this cute little bag with the irregular straps. This bag is simply called the Round bag. There is a zip running across the top of it.


This next bag is a flattish bag, but with a little depth for carrying stuff. I can’t figure out what the actual translation for this bag is but you can see from the pictures here that it is kind of a pear shape. There is a zipper running across the top of the bag.


There are also a few small projects like these hidden frame purses as well as some kiss-lock coin purses.

As mentioned earlier, there are two detailed sewing lessons (for the cube bag and the cross body bag), as well as some bag making techniques. Installing the magnetic buttons, sewing on leather handles, adding a bag base etc.

For the rest of the patterns, some include color diagrams like the ones below, and some of the patterns are in grayscale diagrams. Even the grayscale diagrams are clear and easily understandable as they use fabric pattern and shades to denote the different orientations of the fabric (right sides/wrong sides).


The diagrams are large and clearly labelled, so I don’t think there should be any problems following them.



One large double-sided pattern sheet included.


Title : Kamakura Swany’s Natural Cute Bags and Pouches
ISBN : 978-4-528-01145-8

There are other books published by Swany, including one that was just released a few weeks ago. Check them out here.

Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Magazines

Book Review – Sewing and Crochet magazine

February 6, 2015

I picked up the crocheting bug a few years ago when looking for winter patterns. Crocheting is a very therapeutic hobby and very portable as well since you can’t lug a sewing machine everywhere you go. So when I saw this new magazine – Sewing & Crochet, I knew I had to get it since it combines both of my favorite crafting activities!


You can see that it’s a relatively new magazine, vol. 2. I bought this magazine in December when it was still new, but never had the time to review it. By this time I am publishing this post, vol. 3 should already be released, but no matter, let’s have a look at what this magazine is all about before we decide whether or not to buy the next one!


The magazine kicks off with the sewing projects, lots of bags. The cover did mention that the feature for this issue will be granny bags. So we will see lots of them in different variations.


A granny bag with a leather base and lots of pockets


Round base Granny bag


Plump granny bag


Mother’s Bag (I guess that just means a huge bag or a diaper bag)


Going for a walk Granny’s Bag


Mini bags! Tote, Granny, Drawstring versions. Great for holding small change or small items that can easily get lost in your big bag.


Pouches and small items made with snap buttons


Synthetic leather x Fabric accordion pouch


 You can make this accordian pouch with all fabric instead, but when using fabric only, use a thick interfacing to give it more structure.


Key case


Round strap Key holder


Interesting idea and pattern for a bag. Using leather straps and rivets. I suppose it adds to the strength as well?


Other than sewing patterns for bags. There is also a pattern for a wrap dress, with a complete step by step sewing lesson with full color photographs.



There are also a couple of warm weather sewing projects, such as this neck warmer,


Room shoes

More sewing of small accessories like this detachable pocket pouch. Usually seen in kids magazines but sized up for adults. Adults will find this useful too!


Some felt projects are included as well…


Matryoshka doll felt keyholders! Too cute!


Travel pass case in the shape of a luggage.

Moving on to the crochet section of the book, we start off with a simple cover for umbrella handles.



Some of the basic crochet techniques are covered with step by step photographs, like the above which shows you how to make a magic circle/ring for the start of the base of a bag/tube. This eliminates the hole in the base that you will find when using the traditional starting chain ring technique. Very useful and necessary for making Amigurumi patterns.


What’s a Japanese crochet book without Amigurumi patterns! According to wikipedia, these are crocheted stuffed animals and this term is a combination of the Japanese terms for crochet and stuffed animals. The trademark aesthetic is cuteness.(of course!) In this issue, learn to make some cute woodland animals like the squirrel, bear and rabbit. Can you also tell that the 3 animals have a similar shaped body? There are actually hidden plastic clothes pegs in each of them, so that you can use them as clips for holding namecaards, or attaching to your bags, or even to a stroller strap for a baby to play with.


 Other than Amigurumi patterns, there are also some practical crochet items for decorating the house, like these comfy looking chair pads.


As this magazine was published in November, there was also a section on decorating with sewing and crochet projects for Christmas. Christmas is over but I can keep these patterns for next year I guess!



 Love this multi-color crochet ribbon wreath. It’s made of multiple ribbon bows. Will be a great use of wool scraps.


Make a triangular Christmas tree. Step by step instructions included.


Most of the crochet patterns , with the exception of those detailed in photographs, are in diagrams such as this. Having learned my crocheting entirely on youtube 😛 I must confess that I do not know how to read these diagrams! There is however, a very detailed and enlarged glossary of terms as well as the corresponding stitch symbol, at the back of the book.  The most commonly used ones are

くさり編み – chain stitch
細編み  – Single crochet
長編み – Double crochet
中長編み – Half double crochet


There were many more projects that I did not show here because there were just too many! If you like both sewing and crochet just like me, you will love this magazine. I’m looking forward to the next issue for more Spring sewing ideas.

Title : Sewing & Crochet Vol. 2
ISBN : 978-4-86322-586-2
Publisher : パッチワーク通信社

Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Books in English

Book Review – Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics (Now in English)

November 21, 2014

Christmas is around the corner, and if you are thinking of making some handmade gifts, this book will help you make some one-of-a-kind Christmas presents! You can even buy this book as a Christmas present for someone crafty!

This book has been translated to English by the lovely folks at Tuttle Publishing (Yay!) and is all about handmade bags, by Emiko Takahashi, who is more well-known in the sewing “circle” for promoting hand-sewing. Most of her book published (she has published 76 books according to her website!!!) are hand-sewing books. She has published books not only on making bags and small goods, but also adult and kids wear. Yup! All Hand sewn! You can have a quick look at all her books here.

This book includes easy patterns and instructions for hand-sewing, so it will be great for beginners or those who do not have a sewing machine. Naturally you can speed things up a little and make these bags using a sewing machine as well, then add on your hand-stitched details for a personalized touch.


This book includes 60 Easy-to-make Purses, Totes, and More. Do note that out of the 60 projects, a few of them are multiple design variations of the same pattern, e.g. different embellishments on the same bag pattern. Patterns are included unless the design is based a simple rectangle, in which case you will only need to measure out the dimensions of the rectangle and cut accordingly. There are no complex curves construction/drafting required. All patterns that require anything other than a rectangle will be provided in the pull out pattern sheet.


The projects are divided into Shopping Bags, Everyday Bags, Fashion Bags, 2 Sewing Lessons (with full color step by step photographs) and everything else you need to know about hand sewing (basic stitches for construction + fancy stitches for decoration) and bag making (interfacing, handles, attachments etc). Let’s now have a look at some of my favourite projects in the book!


Spruce up your weekly grocery trip with a pretty shopping bag… I love the combination of knit fabric with tweed!


This is a really interesting foldable shopping basket bag. Quick and easy to shop and go!


Foldable Eco bag for carrying around as a spare shopping bag, you never know when you are going shopping! 🙂


These are both reversible bags. Both bags have round bases which make them nice and roomy.


These tote bags have a gusset base for a more roomy and spacious bag.


Flat totes are great for carrying around lesson books, document files or just as little bags for the little ones.


A lunch tote. Simply love the matching of light blue gingham check fabric with the pale leather handles.


 A great beginner hand sewing project.This is a simple drawstring purse that you can quickly whip up as a present. A great choice when you need to make multiple gifts since all the different design variations provided will mean each and every purse is unique. Lovely way to make use of scrap fabric as well!


 A sweet and dainty bag with a purse frame and crocheted handle.


A really delicate looking bag made with cotton voile, embellished with lace, and glass beads. The strap is made from lace as well.


Make a sturdy bag with zip enclosure with a leather handle and matching leather flower embellishments.


Very quirky and interesting Vase shaped bag that will be a great conversation topic.


Tucked bag with corsage.

As mentioned above, there are two detailed sewing lessons included in the book. The lessons are for the Flat bag, but it also comes with instructions on sewing a Gusset (which converts your Flat bag into a Gusset bag). The other sewing lesson is for hand sewing the little drawstring purse.



 Close up of instructions


There are also basic tips of bag making, as well as explanatory notes on the different materials you need for making bags.


Since this is a hand sewing book, hand stitching and decorative embroidery instructions are also included.


A typical pattern how-to-make is shown above. Every step is shown in a diagram form.


Close up of instructional diagram.


Patterns are included in a convenient pocket inside the back cover.


This book will only be released on November 25th, but you can pre-order it on
Handmade Bags In Natural Fabrics: Over 25 Easy-To-Make Purses, Totes and More (Tuttle Sewing Books)

Title : Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics
Author : Emiko Takahashi
ISBN No : 978-4805313169