Sep 29, 2017

from quilts to garments: sewing Japanese fashion, in Japanese

When I was about 13 years old, I sewed all the time. I loved making tops. That was so long ago, but those memories are somehow very fresh. Well, in the past year I have sewn 2 new tops and I've had a blast. Here is one I finished today. 

Its made from Japanese linen and I followed a Japanese pattern... with no English!

The fabric was designed by Yoshiko Jinzenji, an amazing artist who lives and works in Kyoto. Over the years, I've been lucky to visit with her on several occassions. A few weeks ago, when I was in Kyoto, she invited me to a lovely lunch at a swanky Kyoto gallery / cafe. Joining us was Akiko Shibusawa, one of Yoshiko's master students. I loved the top Akiko was wearing (which is also made with Yoshiko's fabric).

Yoshiko Jinzenji and Akiko Shibusawa are both featured in my new book: "Cotton & Indigo from Japan." 

Akiko kindly gave me a copy of the sewing book, which included the pattern. The fashion in this book is just darling. But there is no English translation. I gave it my best shot by following the pictures.

The hardest part was knowing whether or not the pattern included a seam allowance. My decision was that the pattern did include a seam allowance (although I have no idea if that is correct). Since this top is quite boxy and loose, I figured I'd be okay with an inch or so "off" in either direction.

I started by tracing the pattern. Then I shortened it a bit (from dress length to a long top). I ended up creating my own textile for the front and back (rather than cutting on the fold, as recommended). I really wanted to preserve the selvedge with the Made in Japan writing and the designers name. Plus, since its linen, there is a nice edge. So I cut the pattern paper and pieced the sections together - as pictured below. The two pieces seen here form the front section of the top.

I stopped a couple times to try the top on. It fit well using the pattern, even though the typical Japanese woman is much smaller/more petite than me. I did enlarge the sleeve quite a bit. It was too tight, and I wanted more of a loose look. There might have been instructions for alterating the size, I'll never know... haha.

I'm happy with the way it turned out. And now I am ready to sew more garments. I feel like my 13 year-old self again.

I also did some searching and I found several Japanese sewing books that have been translated and I have ordered them! Can't wait to try again, this time with English!

Third Floor Quilts fabric label.


  1. The top looks great on you... the fabric is lovely.... not so sure about 13 year old self stuff... at thirteen I baby sat many times a week.... and babies take energy....

    1. Thanks Susie! You're right about that! Take care, Teresa

  2. Hi Teresa, the top looks really good. A flowing top using amazing fabric - what's not to love!

    1. Hi Andrea: Thanks so much for your nice comments! I feared sewing garments for a long time... but now I am loving it. Working on a second top like this one in a gray fabric! Take care, Teresa