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Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Books

Book Review – Handmade Bag Basics

August 20, 2014

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!

Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Magazines

Magazine Review – Cotton Time May 2014

May 26, 2014

The covers of Cotton Time magazines never fail to brighten up my day. Look at this pretty and super colorful mix of bags, zakka, accessories…. Yes, all these projects and more are included in this month’s edition.


Fabric freebie! A 40x26cm wide piece from Sweet Charms fabric design range by Cosmo-tex. It’s the same fabric used on the bag on the cover. There are patterns for making the round bag on the cover, or a shell shaped zipper pouch, or a metal frame purse.  There is probably only enough fabric to make one project of course, so choose wisely!


The next section is all about using the “House” as a motif for all kinds of zakka goods, starting with this sweets pouch. The photo shows the pouch being used to literally carry sweets, but at 10.5cm x 7cm x 5cm it will be perfect as a little pouch for carrying keys,tissue paper, or just a little bag for your child.


House shaped Pin Cushion


Stationery organizer


Mini Felt Cases for holding jewellery and small knick knacks.


It’s Summer, and it’s time for picnics! The next section covers a whole bunch of projects for making your own co-ordinated picnic accessories! There are two different themes. The Lovely theme,


Or the Sporty theme. Patterns included – Bottle case, Cup case, Dish case, Leisure mat and  Lunch bag.


Next up, a very popular and often revisited theme in Japanese sewing books, the Granny bag pattern.

Other than the basic version, there are 5 other suggest variations of the granny bag that you can try. Here’s one example – where tucks are added to the opening. The other arrangements include – sizing down for kids, using different types of materials for the handles, and adding detachable long handles.


There are always lots of bag patterns in Cotton Time. I can’t show them all here so here are just a few that I really like  – Canvas tote with round base.


A colorful patchwork tote designed by quilt artist Akiko Endo.


A really useful pattern to have – A vanity bag that is designed to slip over the handles of your suitcase.


Other than bags, there are lots of little accessories and useful objects to make.

Like these hair accessories,


Hair band decorations, necklaces


Cute Cord rolls in the shpae of macarons, and bears! – for neatening your cables and electrical cords, and beautifying your desk too!


Get ready for summer with these summer hats!


Matching flower hats for mother and daughter


Step by step instructions for making the hats.


I just wanted to cover one last section. This is a little late for mother’s day, since I only received this magazine after mother’s day, but nevertheless a cute matching set of accessories you can still make for Mum (or even yourself!)


Father’s day is coming in a few weeks time, so you can still make this in time! There are a couple of projects, all centred around the use of leather. Like this key holder,


Small accessories tray, and even a book cover.


One large sheet of actual size patterns included. You can see that there are large number of patterns included based on the list below.


Cotton Time / Shufu to Seikatsusha

I know that many of you are big fans of the Cotton Time magazine, and many of you have asked me where to buy this from. Those of you who prefer a English shopping experience can buy it from cdjapan (or click on the image above).  Those of you who already know what you want and want to buy other Japanese sewing books as well (that are not found on cdjapan) can opt for The descriptions are in Japanese but the checkout process is very much like the English site. Both of these websites ship internationally to most destinations. You may want to compare the shipping rates and see which is better. I hope this will help you find your copy of Cotton time and other sewing magazines. Good luck and happy sewing!

Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Books

Book Review – Pouches of various shapes and sizes

February 24, 2014

I haven’t been buying many books lately, as most books during the winter season are devoted to knitting and crochet. So I turned my attention to sewing books for bags and purses. I kind of stopped looking for a while because I had too many books on bags already, then I spotted this book with a really cute cover! Look at all these metal frame purses!


The full title is いろんな形&サイズが作れる がま口がいっぱい which loosely translates to Making pouches of all shapes and sizes. There are 35 projects to be made in all, with 3 lessons covered in full with step by step photos. There are also basic technical lessons ranging from pattern tracing, tools, even embroidery stitching. I thought it would be really useful to have pictorial instructions because I have tried making one of these before but failed terribly. Well, at least in my opinion because my finishing was not perfect and there were dents in the metal frame (which was probably due to using the wrong tools). So I wanted to learn how to do it properly.

Here’s a look at the contents page.



For each design, there are a few variations, which totals up to 35 different purse designs in all.


The book starts off with the basic metal frame pouch, in two variations.


Followed immediately by a detailed lesson on making the basic pouch.


Close up of the photo instructions.


Full page view of the step by step instructions.

Now that you know how to make a basic metal frame purse, you can move on to make the following…


A mobile phone case (with darts at the base)


Card case, Lip balm/Lipstick case


Pencil case, Spectacles case


Gathered pouch


If you can find these large handbag metal frames, you can make this too! This is so pretty!  I actually saw many of these handbag frames being sold in Japan but as I’m not the type to carry dainty purses, I didn’t buy any. 😛


Plump purse (the title says that literally!)


Close up of the base of the “plump” purse.


There are some very interesting designs, like this box purse, where the clasps meet at the side and the purse is in a box shape. Perfect for storing earrings and rings.


Or make a larger one like this – Vanity purse


Long wallets/purses. This pattern includes a zipped coin compartment in the middle which also acts as a divider.


This purse is cute both inside and out! It uses a mother-daughter type of metal frame. I don’t know what this type of clasp is called in English, but the book says it’s a mother and daughter metal frame.


A more unique type of frame – the L-shape frame, where the clasps are located in the top corner instead of the middle.


Another interesting way of applying a simple metal clasp on a handbag.

Other than the 3 fully detailed lessons with step by step photos, the book includes basic technical knowledge lessons such as this one – tracing, cutting and marking the patterns. There are also lessons on embroidery, fabric treatment and even special tools that will help you create a better result when making a metal frame purse.


The how-to-make pages are located after the lessons, and they look like this.


Personally, I feel that the layout is a little cramped. See the close up below, the size/materals and pattern info are listed with the 4 lines of text, there are no steps written down in point form as everything is in diagrams. On some pages, they’ve even managed to squeeze two patterns in one page. But I guess this is because most of the projects are constructed in similar ways so there is no need to repeat some of the information.


1 sheet of actual size patterns attached.


and for those of you who are wondering where to buy the different metal frames, especially the really pretty ones with colored beads on the clasps, look no further! Website is in Japanese though.



Title : がま口がいっぱい いろんな形&サイズが作れる (Heart Warming Life Serires)
Publisher : Nihon Vogue
ISBN : 978-4529052344 

Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Magazines

Magazine Review – Cotton Time Magazine

January 2, 2014

Happy New Year everyone! It seems that I gave myself a much longer holiday than I planned to, and here’s why. I was back last week of December but had to deal with a number of issues including a mountain full of laundry, getting ready for the new school term, lots of Christmas and New year get-togethers and way too much feasting. On the technical side, there was also a problem with the server, which happened just before I left. So when I came back I had to hold back on posting till the files were migrated to the new server and the blog software upgraded. So far everything has been running ok (hopefully) and it’s time to get back to posting!

What better way to begin the year than posting about the latest issue of Cotton Time Magazine, Jan edition (No. 112), which is all about sewing and crafts for the New Year!


The cover is so colourful and cheery, it brings a smile to my face. 🙂

Freebie alert! : A free calendar….


that includes gorgeous photos featuring handicrafts…


as well as the instructions on how to make them!


FREEBIE #2 : A free sample piece of 40cm x 26cm fabric with a cute kitchen print , from the Le Ciel collection by Daiwabo-tex.


They even give you ideas on how to use the fabric.


You can cut out the printed bottle shapes and use them to make jar labels, or apply as an applique on your kitchen towels.


This year is the year of the horse, so there are lots of cute horsey crafts too!



There are also some Mount Fuji inspired crafts. This is too cute!


More sprucing up for the home. A quilted floor mat in the shape of a snow pea pod.


It’s hard work spring cleaning for the new year, so you have to cheer yourself up doing the chores wearing a cute little apron.


Instead of using disposable wiper sheets, use microfibre cloth and make a dog cover for it instead. You can pretend you are walking the dog while cleaning the house.


Other than household zakka projects, there are always a number of bags and accessories patterns included in every issue of Cotton Time.


I love the structured look of this bag (below).


Pretty wallets to make.


Other than sewing projects, there are also a number of craft projects with really interesting applications. The following is a feature on making tassels and how to use them for accessories or embellishments on your other sewing projects.


There is another special feature on cardboard weaving….


with step by step instructions to show you how to make your own hand weaving loom out of pieces of cardboard.


Can you guess what these cute thread holders (below) are made out of?


Same material as these colorful earrings below.

There are all made from プラ板. I’m guessing it is a direct translation of plastic board. I found some references online that call it Shrink Plastic or Poly shrink. I’m not sure if you have played with it or seen it before but It’s basically a plastic board that is thin enough for you to draw and cut out shapes from, then after you shrink it in the oven it will harden up and become much smaller than the original size.  You can use it to make all kinds of arts and crafts. They sell it here in the $2 shop but I’ve never tried making anything out of it because I am not sure it’s a good idea to shrink plastic in the same oven that I use for food. But it certainly looks like a lot of fun if you have a spare toaster oven to use.


One of my favourite features in sewing magazines – peeking into the sewing rooms of other crafters, especially how they store their sewing supplies.


Since it is the beginning of the year, there is also a school goods special. The official school year in Japan doesn’t start in January but I guess it is always a good idea to get started early since there are so many pieces to make!


This particular feature is targeted at Mum’s who are beginners, so the designs are simple and there are also step by step photos to follow along.


Some of the other cute school goods – bento cover with matching lunch mat.


1 large size Pattern sheet for all the patterns in the book.


Cotton Time is published once every two months by Boutique Sha.

Cotton Time / Shufu to Seikatsusha
Get your copy now from cdjapan

Next week, I will be posting up some patterns that I am considering for the sew-along. It will be a girl’s dress because I really need to get my sewing for my girls done before the Lunar New Year comes around (31st of Jan!) Help me decide which pattern to make and you will get to see it as the sew-along feature for this month!

Bags or Zakka Sewing Patterns Book Reviews Japanese Sewing Magazines

Magazine Review – Cotton Friend Autumn 2013

September 24, 2013

Is it Autumn already?

 I bought two magazines last week. Cotton Friend Autumn (above) and Female (which will be reviewed next week!)

Index page showing all the included projects (part 1)

 Index page part 2! As usual, other than clothes, lots of small goods, bags and accessories included.

Let’s have a look!

 This pattern is for a robe coat. The coat is similar to the construction of a bath robe (overlapping front panels) but in linen and includes a drawstring ribbon tie.

 A long shirt dress, check out the suggested co-ordinating look on the bottom right. Love it with the sweater and the boots.

There is an entire section devoted to 1 pattern that can produce 6 different variations from a single pattern – dress/tunic/blouse.  I’m not a fan of the first look (above) but there are some other variations that look pretty wearable.

Same pattern in a tunic length, and with different details such as shorter folded sleeves and a ribbon tie around the waist. Looks much better doesn’t it?

There is also a straight line sewing special. I once reviewed a book on straight line sewing. Straight line sewing actually doesn’t just mean sewing in straight lines, but that the patterns are constructed out of simple straight line shapes, so… no tracing!

 Some of the pieces you can make from straight line sewing.

A tunic (in gorgeous fabric!)

A very simple but sweet skirt thanks to the ribbon tie and jacquard fabric.

 Gathered pockets cardigan. You can’t see it from here, but the bottom front corners of the cardigan are actually flipped back and sewn with the side seams to make pockets. Ingenious idea!

Some very useful patterns –  leggings and lounge pants (title says free pants? Maybe it means free-size pants)

 And these next two pages are too cute. Pajamas for the entire family!

 I see Cotton Friend is starting to notice that Men need their sewing love too. Last edition, we saw a jinbei pattern for Men remember?
Sizes included : S,M,L for Mens and Ladies, 100,120,140 for Kids. 

 Some interesting fabric finds and projects made from them. The Japanese love the Moomins, there are lots of Moomin merchandise to be found in Japanese zakka shops. This fabric on the skirt is too cute! Will my kids let me wear it?

 Another very interesting garment for both Mama and Girls. It’s some kind of drapey cardigan constructed using rectangles!

 New fabric “veronica” being introduced on a padded vest with hood. The fabric is a quilted corduroy. (コル天)

 There is always a Babylock serger/overlocker sponsored special in every edition of Cotton Friend, and in this issue they show you how to make a hooded parker which looks super comfy and cosy.
In Kids sizes, 100,120,140 and Adult sizes S,M and L.

With step by step pictures of course.


And now for accessories. I recently made a canvas bag for my shopping trips, and while shopping for fabrics, I realized it was not easy to find nice canvas, especially those that look like these weathered canvas fabrics. Apparently these undergo some kind of Bio Wash treatment to give it the aged look. The ones I can get here are all either really rough and rugged, or a little plasticky due to the coating on the fabrics, and definitely not in these nice colors.

More accessories!

A hat template for making your own hats! Sounds kind of fancy, since you can easily trace these patterns out eh?

Make some miniature handbags

Bedroom slippers

 More bags!

 Frilly aprons.

Now a quick word about the how-to-make.

The sizes included in this magazine.
(Top row of measurements for both tables – Bust / Waist / Hip / Back length(nape to waist) / Sleeve length / Body Rise / Crutch Depth Line to floor / Height )

With the exception of special features which include step by step photographs, the rest of the how-to-makes include colored diagrams such as the one below. The colors and fabric shading really helps in the understanding of the process. I personally find Cotton Friend the most user friendly in terms of instructions.

Actual size pattern sheets for use with the projects.

Coming up on Thursday, I will be showing you some of the new fabrics featured in the Autumn magazines. See you then!