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How difficult are Japanese Pattern books to follow?

I get this question all the time. The short answer is; it depends. It depends on the book, it depends on your experience, it depends on how much of an adventure seeker you are.

Japanese pattern books are not for you if:

  • You want a pattern that walks you through how to make a garment. (unless you speak Japanese, of course).
  • You have never made a garment before
  • You are just beginning sewing
  • You aren’t up for a challenge

Japanese pattern books are for you if:

  • You love a good challenge
  • You have made a garment or two from a commercial pattern and understand some basics of garment construction. Again, the amount you need to know depends on the pattern book you chose.
  • You want a book that has multiple fun patterns in it.

There is no denying that many Japanese pattern books are full of super cute patterns. Most times they are pretty easy to follow. I do have one book that is exceptionally difficult because it doesn’t really have picture instructions. When ordering a book, feel free to ask the etsy seller how good the picture instructions are. They should be willing to send you a picture of an instruction page.

A few tips for success:

  • Chose a pattern you want to make and then find the corresponding pattern pieces on the pattern sheet. Most Japanese pattern books have all the patterns layered on top of one another on the sheet so you have to pay close attention to which pattern you want. All are labeled by English letter so you can find what you are looking for. Well, all of the books I have at least.
  • Study the directions and diagrams to find out how many of each piece to cut and whether or not you need to add seam allowances. I believe most of the patterns will need seam allowances added to them.
  • Highlight the pattern piece you want with a highlighter before you trace it onto tissue paper, pattern paper or freezer paper (my personal preference). This will make the tracing easier because there are lines everywhere!
  • Study the instructions and write out your own before you start. This will help so you don’t miss a step. If it seems the picture diagrams start midway through the garment construction there is a good chance the garment you chose is similar to another in the book and their first instruction is something like “follow steps 1-6 of skirt A”. Just take a look around and see if you can find the instruction pictures for the beginning of the garment. You probably will. If not, it will often have a picture of the garment with numbers all around marking which step to do first, second, etc. These are the harder books and I’d save those until you’ve made more garments.

Do you have any suggestions for people who want to jump into Japanese pattern books?


  1. says

    I have a Japanese sewing book that I’ve never used. Guess I’m a bit intimidated. I was that way with Ottobre at first, but it wasn’t too bad.

  2. says

    Thank you so much the tips. Living in Japan all I have access to is Japanese patterns. I have been a little intimidated to use them so far but I think I will have to give them a try soon!

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