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.


54 Responses

  1. Patty Jakob says:

    What’s the word or sign for seam allowence?

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      Hi Patty, the phrase for seam allowance is 縫い代 (pronounced nu-i-dai)
      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!

  2. yulia says:

    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!

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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).

      • yulia says:

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

        • Japanese Sewing Books says:

          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 says:

            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 says:

            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.

  3. Niki says:

    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

  4. Niki says:

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

  5. Niki says:

    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

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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!

  6. Niki says:

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

  7. yuanita says:

    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 :(

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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.

  8. Stacie says:

    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?

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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.

      • Stacie says:

        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!

  9. Cindy says:

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

  10. Amanda says:

    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


    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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.

  11. Diane says:

    What are saroul pants?

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

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

  12. Mi says:

    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!

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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! :P

  13. deebee says:

    thank you. i needed this.

  14. Jean says:

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

  15. isabella says:

    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? :)

  16. Su says:

    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.

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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.

  17. Hans says:

    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!

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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.

  18. Helen says:

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

  19. Anna says:

    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.

    • Japanese Sewing Books says:

      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?

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