Dictionary of Japanese Sewing Terms

last update – 11 Dec 2013

This list is constantly growing as I will be updating it when I come across new terms. I have accumulated this list by painstakingly going through the dictionary so please do not reproduce this on your own personal blog. You are welcome to link to my blog but please credit it to my site. Thank you!

Download Print-Friendly PDF for reference while you are sewing Dictionary of Japanese Sewing Terms

Points to note when reading Japanese patterns

  1. Some books come with more than one pattern piece. They are usually named/numbered on each side, with the projects listed in a box in the corner. Sometimes this may be confusing, so you can refer to the “how to make” page in the book, and look for the words  (実物大型紙 actual size pattern paper) Usually this would be followed by a number or alphabet which is corresponding pattern side you would be looking for.
  2. When tracing the patterns, note that seam allowances are usually not included. The seam allowance is usually 1cm for general seams and 1.5 for gathers. When the seam allowance deviates from the standard, the number will be specified next to the seam. There will always be a diagram of how the pattern pieces are laid out on the fabric for cutting, included in this diagram will be the seam allowances.
    Usually, there will be also a remark next to the diagram saying 指定以外の縫い代は1cm where “指定以外” means “other than those specified” and “縫い代は1cm” means seam allowance is 1cm.
  3. On the pattern pieces, there will sometimes be a dotted line, with the character わ labeled on it. This means to align the dotted line on the folded edge of the fabric.
  4. There will also be long arrows showing the direction of the print of the cloth. Take note of the direction especially if your fabric is printed and there is a right way up.



  • Reply Understanding the instructions – working example » Japanese Sewing Books January 27, 2012 at 1:52 am

    […] Dictionary of Japanese Sewing Terms […]

    • Reply Connie Strybel September 21, 2016 at 4:32 am

      Thank you so much for sharing all this wonderful knowledge! I am just back from Tokyo/Kyoto with several sewing books in Japanese and big dreams/plans. The style is such a good fit to my lifestyle and personality! Although I am not deterred by the language – given the fabulous diagrams, having a translation tool is most helpful! Thank you so much. I am still plowing through all of your posts and I am learning so much!


      • Reply Japanese Sewing Books October 6, 2016 at 8:40 am

        You’re welcome! Yes I always come back from Japan with big sewing dreams + plans too 🙂

  • Reply Book Review – Girls’ Dresses おんなの子のワンピース » Japanese Sewing Books February 1, 2012 at 12:05 am

    […] Dictionary of Japanese Sewing Terms […]

  • Reply Patty Jakob May 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    What’s the word or sign for seam allowence?

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books May 21, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Hi Patty, the phrase for seam allowance is 縫い代 (pronounced nui-shiro – thanks to Namakemono for pointing this out!)
      Most of the time they don’t mention in under the instructions, but near the cutting diagrams, you will always find a note saying
      指定以外の縫い代は1cm where “指定以外” means “other than those specified” “縫い代は1cm” – seam allowance is 1cm.
      Good question! I’m going to add it to the list 🙂 thanks!

      • Reply Namakemono November 22, 2015 at 6:52 pm

        Nui-shiro, not nui-dai

        • Reply Japanese Sewing Books December 3, 2015 at 9:33 am

          Thank you! 🙂

  • Reply yulia July 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Hi JSB,

    I really enjoy reading your blog, as I am a huge fan of japanese patterns. I’d like to know what the term fabric スレーキ #2000 means (used a lot in Ayano Uchida’s My Favorite Handmade Style, as lining fabric). I did a little research, it’s called sleek fabric. But what kind of fabric is it actually?
    Thanks a bunch!

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books July 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Hi Yulia, It’s my first time seeing this term too. But I checked on google and found that it literally means “sleek” (smooth) fabric. It is a thin smooth fabric used for making pockets of men’s pants, or as lining fabric. It is usually plain weave/twill in either cotton or polyester or a blend. Apparently it is pricier because the quality is better as it is supposed to last as long as the pants itself (for example jeans or upscale men’s pants).

      • Reply yulia July 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm

        Thanks a lot for the info 🙂 Really helped me out. I guess the idea is to use a comfortable yet durable fabric as lining.

        • Reply Japanese Sewing Books July 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm

          I think the other consideration is smoothness of the fabric, hence the term “sleek”. One of the ways to get a visual explanation is to input the term and search under google images. Turns up alot of pants pockets! 🙂 especially from jeans.

          • yulia July 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm

            Ah, now that you brought up the “sleek” effect, I did a deeper research on スレーキ, thanks to you. It appears that this particular fabric is commonly used in japan as pocket lining on jeans. The characteristics are breathable (the composition is mainly cotton), smooth (with minimal wrinkle factor), yet durable.

            So I checked my jeans’ pocket lining and I was like… “Oh, so this is what スレーキlooks like”.

            Now the next step is to find that fabric, but hey… that will be another problem to solve.

            Thank you so much for helping me, Yifarn 🙂

          • Japanese Sewing Books July 8, 2012 at 9:06 pm

            No problem! I got to learn something new too 🙂 It might interest you to know that スレーキ is pronounced “su-re-ki” which is the phonetic translation of the english word “sleek”. One of the sites that was talking about this material also mentioned that nowadays to save costs, normal cotton is used, so I guess if you can’t really find the exact same thing then maybe a good quality cotton can be used as well.

      • Reply Sewer June 23, 2015 at 9:32 pm

        In English, the fabric described might be “silesia”, a sturdy type of cotton or cotton-blend pocketing material.

  • Reply Niki July 13, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Trying to find out what a symbol is on the pattern b from girly style wardobe. I can make out symbol for right and left but not the rest. Its for the collar tie… have you the same book… if not how do I type japanese symbol to send to you so you can see? I am new to all this and to sewing but love the challenge!
    You weeb site is fabulous. Thanks Niki

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books July 16, 2012 at 8:15 am

      Hi Niki, Yes I have the same book. Just take a photo of the characters and send to my email japanesesewingbooks@gmail.com then I can help you with the translation.

  • Reply Niki July 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    in response to yulia… is the fabric calico? Or maybe a ‘lawn’ fabric here in the UK?

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books July 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

      Hi Niki, I found the English name of this fabric. It’s called Silesia.

      • Reply Sewer June 23, 2015 at 9:33 pm

        Didn’t see your response here when I replied.

        • Reply Japanese Sewing Books July 20, 2015 at 9:08 am

          Sorry, I may not have time to reply all the comments immediately 🙂

  • Reply Niki July 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    Just sent an email and had delivered my second book! No idea what it’s called but girl with plum puff dress on front with little wooden pull along dog?
    This book seems to habe less diagrams but maybe its just unfamiliar? Dying to start but whole bathroom being pulled out and re fitted so sewing is impossible! I have withdrawal symptoms!xxxxx

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books July 28, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Hi Niki, Yup I receved your email. Will work on it and send it to you when I’m done 🙂 Oh I hate bathroom refittings! The dust and noise!

  • Reply Niki July 30, 2012 at 3:53 am

    This site quite good too. Trwling hrough bit by bit but so hard going!!!

  • Reply yuanita August 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    do you know what あき止まり means? i’ve tried to translate it with google but the result is blind autumn, i did’t understand 🙁

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books August 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      Hi Yuanita,

      That is because あき(aki) is the pronounciation for both 秋(autumn) as welll as 開き(opening). Together with 止まり (which means stop/end)
      So it actually means “endpoint of opening”. Where opening may refer to any slits/opening in the garment. So you usually see it when they are referring to a slit/opening and it indicates where the opening should end or stop.

      • Reply Kumari June 13, 2016 at 11:36 am

        Dear Madam

        I am very much interested in Japanese Sewing books. I have a fair knowledge of Japanese words and charactors. I have a knowledge of sewing and very very interested.

        Can you recommend the “ondori ” books for me

  • Reply Japanese Sewing Book Series with skirt as top | you and mie March 25, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    […] (Japanese characters from the dictionary of Japanese sewing terms at this indispensable site) […]

  • Reply Japanese Sewing Book Series with Sanae Ishida | you and mie March 26, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    […] Sewing Books has already done an excellent job, and you can find her translated dictionary of terms here. It’s a great compendium of terms with pretty much everything: fabrics, garment terms, […]

  • Reply Stacie May 31, 2013 at 2:37 am

    Hi, I looked at the whole list but there was no word translation for boning (boning is used to put in a corset), what is the Japanese word for boning?
    And do they sell boning in Japan?

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books May 31, 2013 at 10:08 am

      Hi Stacie, the Japanese word is ボーン (bo-n) derived from the English word bone. I’m sure they sell it in Japan since sewing is such a popular hobby and cosplay costumes use it alot too. Here is an example of an online shop listing with different types of boning. http://item.rakuten.co.jp/okadaya1ec2/c/0000000690/
      This shop also has a physical store in Shinjuku if you are in Tokyo. Otherwise there are lots of other sewing and hobby stores in Japan that will sell them.

      • Reply Stacie June 1, 2013 at 10:29 am

        Thank you very much, どうもありがとう this is very helpful for me because I tried to look myself and could not find results on rakuten or any online webpage or dictionary, but your information on the Japanese word for it and rakuten link solved my problem 🙂 thanks!

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  • Reply Japanese Sewing Books – in English! November 14, 2013 at 1:42 am

    […] said, I’d never have managed to even get started without a LOT of help from online sources such as this and this one in french.  Nowadays, we are so lucky because Japanese sewing books are being […]

  • Reply Cindy December 12, 2013 at 12:59 am

    This is FANTASTIC!! Thank you so much for sharing this list. It will replace the one I’ve had for a few years 🙂 Cindy

  • Reply Amanda January 8, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Trying to download the PDF of the dictionary of Japanese sewing terms & it can not find the page? Could you please email me a printer friendly copy PLEASE? 🙂

    Thank you kindly,
    email address is ajrich@live.com.au


    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books January 9, 2014 at 10:22 am

      Hi Amanda, The link above brings you to an attachment page where you can download it, but for convenience sake I have linked directly to the PDF. So just click on the link above and you will be able to download the PDF directly.

  • Reply Thoughts of Japan | Connecting the dots… February 6, 2014 at 9:03 pm

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  • Reply Diane February 19, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    What are saroul pants?

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books February 21, 2014 at 10:51 am

      The Japanese terms for Sarouel Pants サルエルパンツ – a baggy, low crotch pants similar to harem pants.

  • Reply Mi February 21, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Hi! Thanks for making this translation guide. It is really helpful! However, there seems to be an error with the PDF. The first 3 pages are the same content. Just a heads up!

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books February 21, 2014 at 10:47 am

      Oh my goodness! Thank you so much for letting me know. I have re-exported the PDF file and uploaded it again, and double tripled checked. Sorry about that! 😛

  • Reply deebee March 11, 2014 at 8:24 am

    thank you. i needed this.

  • Reply Jean April 18, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    I am searching translation of PROTEIN (for protein fiber made from milk).
    Could you help me ?
    Best regards

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books April 24, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      Hi Jean, The word for protein is 牛乳 (cow’s milk) 蛋白 (protein) 繊維(fiber) click here for link to source

  • Reply isabella May 1, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Hej! Great website you have and I use the dictionary a lot! 😉 I have just been the happy owner of four japanse sewing books. But there is just one thing..: I don’t know how much fabric I need for a project. :p Can you help me? 🙂

  • Reply Enanna Spring and Summer Clothes for Toddler | Another Sewing Blog June 30, 2014 at 5:02 am

    […] I was going to translate before hand, because the internet is full of useful information like this Dictionary of Sewing Terms on the Japanese Sewing Books website, right? Well, attempting to translate word for word is way […]

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  • Reply Sew Japanese Day.2 / Talk about Yuki Katagai featuring Ajaire from Call Ajaire | Nutta September 9, 2014 at 7:32 pm

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  • Reply Su November 12, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Hi, this list is very helpful since I live in Japan. I noticed at the fabric stores I went to here in Japan such as Tokai that they only sell cotton fabrics, I was wondering if it is usually the only type of fabric they sell in Japan? Or am I looking at the wrong kind of fabric shop? Maybe I went to the wrong brand of fabric shop? I was looking for fabrics such as damask, jacquard, velour and metallic fabrics, but could not really find any non-cotton fabric except a little bit of plain no-design taffeta.

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books November 13, 2014 at 8:40 am

      Hi Su, Lucky you! I’ve been to Craft Heart Tokai at Chitose and they don’t only sell Cotton fabrics. The shop I went to is rather small though, so I guess the selection is not extensive, but they did have other fabrics like knits, chiffon, satin, canvas etc. From your description it looks like you are looking for more heavy weights or decorating fabrics. I can’t remember if I saw those, or whether or not they sell it at other branches, but you can try online shopping like rakuten and key in the fabric names. Or even print out the list of fabric names and ask them if they have these in store or other branches.

  • Reply Hans November 28, 2014 at 1:52 am

    This is a great resource! Have you ever encountered the term 「ルイス仕上げ」? I have found descriptions for it in Japanese, but I can’t seem to find any English equivalent for it. 予めにありがとうございます!

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books November 28, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Hi Hans, I haven’t come across this term. The direct translation is a “Lewis Finish” When I googled it, it seems to refer to a method of hemming for pants. Did not find many references though, if you do have a link where it describes the actual process of hemming, that may give us a clue to the English term.

  • Reply Helen January 16, 2015 at 1:50 am

    Can someone please tell me what 切り替え means? Thank you.

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books January 16, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      In sewing it means the line where the yoke is joined to the skirt.

  • Reply Anna January 17, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    I think your site is fascinating and as a beginner sewer I would like to see videos from start. To finish. Do u plan on doing any of these.

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books January 20, 2015 at 8:47 am

      Hi Anna,
      I do have a list of video tutorials and free patterns that I put up previously. I haven’t had time to do more though. Or did you mean videos for explaining the Japanese sewing terms?

  • Reply Su Poh March 18, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Hi, I saw this tag on a “scarf” & I took a picture of it – I was wondering if you could help me out… I couldnt tag it to this comment though. I searched on your website to find out the fabric terms & it was extremely helpful…. I know now it’s not what I thought it was! Ha3! All the time I thought it was polyester & it’s confirmed thru your website it’s not (phew). Is there a way to send you the image?

    Many thanks in advance

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    […] are detailed in the book at the beginning of each pattern.  In this instance, and thanks to this translation guide, the measurements given are bust, sleeve length and […]

  • Reply Denise February 4, 2016 at 8:56 am

    First of all, thank you for posting all the definitions of the sewing terms in Japanese. A few months ago I was in Japan and bought a couple of Japanese apron patterns at Kinaria in Sapporo. Although I can read and write hiragana and katakana fluently and know if few hundred kanji, the sewing kanji have stumped me. I use an app on my telephone to draw the characters but they don’t show up in the dictionary either. So again thank you so much. I’ll be referring to your list a lot as I have a couple of “kimono remake” books I’d like to use some day. I may be in the minority of those needing your list who can read kana but do you think it is possible for you to include the readings for the kanji in your list as well. In that way kana readers can increase their vocabulary. Thanks

  • Reply Lily Rae May 29, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Hi, I’m currently living in Tokyo and learning embroidery, and I’m wondering if there is a specific term for transfer paper? (I understand there’s several kinds, carbon, chalk, I’m new at this so I’m not sure.) I think I can find some at Tokyu Hands or Okadaya but knowing exactly what to look for or what to ask for would be a huge help :/
    Thanks a lot for the dictionary in any case, very handy!

    • Reply Japanese Sewing Books June 4, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      Hi Lily,
      I think the most commonly used is Chacopaper チャコペーパー
      There are some diagrams here showing you how it is used http://www.chacopaper.com/pg164.html

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  • Reply Sarah December 11, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Wow, what a great list! I have a simple question – how do you say “sewing pattern”? Also, I wanted to recommend the website jisho.org. It is very good for translations. You can even draw characters and it compares them to the database. Amazing!

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