Hankie-skirt: An Introduction to the Japanese Craft Book

(Note: I brought this post over from my other blog. It is not a new post.)

This lovely little skirt pattern comes from a Japanese craft book I bought at Hana Gifts in Columbus, Ohio. Imagine my surprise when I got it home and saw that it did not include the pattern pieces! Instead of tracing a pattern for your size, you have to draw a diagram onto your pattern paper, or in my case soil separator fabric. (I like drawing patterns on heavy interfacing, but this soil separator stuff is much cheaper.)


I’m calling it a Hankie Skirt because I can’t read Kanji and I don’t know what the book calls it. Also, I can’t read the title of the book, either, so here is a picture of it, in case you want to try your hand at making this. The “mook” (magazine book) number is 0390805, but I also saw this number on the back: 4910039080583. Neither indicated that is was an ISBN.


This book contains over 100 patterns. That’s why I bought it. Just about every pattern is super-cute, too. I was intimidated to try drawing a pattern. But the cuteness of the skirt overwhelmed my trepidation. If you want to make a piece of clothing from a Japanese craft book, here are a couple suggestions:

1. Choose a pattern that is so irresistibly cute that you will work hard to see it finished.

2. This book, and others, read from back to front, and top to bottom. Just keep track of which step you are on and follow the numbers.

3. Make a quick muslin, especially if it is an adult pattern. I used the soil separator fabric because I really couldn’t visualize how this funny-shaped pattern piece would turn out

4. Invest in a metric ruler and don’t forget, you have to add seam allowances! I forget this a lot. I need to post a large sign on my table.


I found the identical fabric “Valentine Patchwork”, in another color, on sale at Superbuzzy. It required 1 1/2 yards, and I have a section leftover to make a easy-peasy-Japanesey quilt for Claire’s “nunny”.

Now, I’m going to try to help the uninitiated navigate a Japanese pattern. Please let me know if this helps or not, or if you have further questions.

Here is the pattern layout:


  1. On the far left you see the funny-shaped pattern piece I was talking about. The broken lines on the rectangle of fabric mean “fold”. You can see there is a fold on both sides. The measurements under the rectangle indicate the width, which is about 42″. The length measurements are on the right side. I used the first one “130 cm” because I made the smallest size, 90 cm (you have to measure your child’s total length to find this). Also on this diagram is the seam allowance needed for each seam. All but one seam on this skirt is 1 cm and the skirt panel seam, circled in yellow, is 1.5 cm.
  2. On the far right, you see some more numbers and I figure they related to the size of the elastic for the waistband. I was correct. Again, I used the first measurement because I made the smallest size. So, you need 1.1 cm wide elastic and 1 m 30 cm for size 90 cm. The box just to the left has all the sizes. I would highlight your size, then go through the pattern and highlight the corresponding measurements.
  3. Now the tricky part: the main pattern piece of the skirt. I first drew the rectangle that this skirt would fit into. You see it is 56.4 cm long on the left, 28 cm wide on the bottom. The right side has two things to measure: 23.5 cm that is placed on the fold, and 12 cm for the waist that is cut away. Notice the symbol of the O with a line through it. The length of the curve will be 15.9 cm, which if you multiply it by 4, will be the waistband length at the top center of the page. I used my tape measure, on it’s edge, to draw and measure this curve, but next time I will get one of these.
  4. You have all your straight edges and waist drawn and now you have to draw the curves. I don’t have a good technique for this. My french rulers are not so good. I just had to eyeball it. One curve I didn’t do correctly was the bottom. Notice how it is straight for about 1/3 of the length? I didn’t! I drew a straight line from one corner to the 3.2 cm mark on the left edge. But it turned out alright.
  5. For the rest of the pattern, you can match up the kanji in bold to find your pieces. It really is a fun game to play.

It is pretty easy to follow the instructions on a Japanese pattern because the pictures are so detailed. Just remember to look back at the cutting layout for your seam allowance measurements.


  • In step 1, you can see that the seam is stitched, and the seams are finished and pressed flat.
  • Step 2, the hem is pressed, then stitched .3m from the edge.
  • Step 3 is the waistband. It took me awhile to visualize what was happening here. I could see that there would be two pieces of elastic inserted later, but there was only one hole here. Well, don’t worry, two casings are formed later. Also, I didn’t understand why the waistband looks like the edges are finished in step 2. Until I learn Kanji, I will never know. That’s okay–the skirt turned out great without this step.
  • Step 4, you press one edge up and the other edge is sewn to the skirt. I assumed “Right sides together” although I cannot tell you what indicates that on this pattern. Other books are much clearer with colors and shading on that.
  • Step 5, Insert elastic and stitch the ends. I like the way they did this by overlapping. It is less bulky. See, you learn new techniques from Japanese craft books!
  • Step 6 is the bow. Pretty easy and a cute little detail.

I have a couple other Japanese books I will make things from. It took an hour to draft the pattern and cut out, another hour to make, and then another hour to blog about. Not too bad for working with a foreign language!

What have you made with a Japanese pattern? Please share your experience!


Dirndl DIY

IMG_2201_2October began in the way I like to live life in my “pioneer spirit” daydreams: homemade baked goods, bubbly cold drink, long pretty dresses and lots of music and laughing. “Prost!” and “Cheers!” to Oktoberfest 2009! We invited people to our little house to drink Collin’s homebrew, eat our chewy homemade pretzels, and pretend to like accordion music. I could have listened to that all night, but at some point, someone changed to the Beatles, and then the party really got going with sing-alongs. You know you know at least one song by the Beatles. Who doesn’t enjoy singing “Yellow Submarine”? Most people didn’t know each other, but something about big pretzels and the Beatles puts people at ease. Or maybe it was the Oktoberfest homebrew?

IMG_2197_2IMG_2192It was a family-friendly celebration and I know we will do it every year now. Claire looked so sweet in her dirndl. Collin and I both have our costumes of lederhosen and dirndl. And who knows, we might add sausage-making to our DIY skills of homebrewing and baking. It can only get better and better. Claire will be able to help make pretzels next year. And I think I will make a little green fedora with a feather in it for Chuffy to wear. He LOVED the party and someone saw him sneaking off with a whole pretzel in his mouth.

Although Collin and I bought our outfits (off Ebay of all places!), I made Claire’s dirndl. You can easily modify any pinafore-type dress to become a dirndl. All it takes is choosing patterns and colors typically found on a dirndl and a few embellishments such as ribbon, buttons, and lace.


Here are the supplies I used:


        McCall’s pattern 3531 (sizes 1-2-3) View C & D

For the shirt and apron: 1 yard of white eyelet cotton fabric with a scalloped border on one edge

For the skirt of the dress: 1 yard of red floral patterned fabric

For the bodice of the dress: 1/2 yard of black cotton fabric

For the apron strings: 1/2 yard of green fabric

Embellishments: I used three brass buttons on the shirt back, three black plastic buttons on the bodice back, and three little round red and white rose buttons as an accent on the bodice. I highly recommend a cute floral-patterned ribbon to use as a border for the skirt if you choose a plain color or to add to the bodice. I didn’t have time to do this, but it would look great. You can buy a ruffle to add to the neckline, or cut some off the eyelet fabric to make your own. Just add a gather, press it in place and spend an hour trying to neatly fit it in place. 🙂

You will make three pieces: the undershirt, the pinafore, and the apron. You are essentially making view C, the dress bodice with puffy sleeves without the skirt for the shirt. To this you add the ruffly lace at the neckline, using the collar insertion instructions for view A, the dress with the collar. You have to finish the bottom of the shirt on your own. For this, I just sewed it up, right sides together and left a hole to turn it wrong side out. Then I made a casing for elastic, inserted elastic, sewed it down on the ends and closed up the hole with some whipstitching. That was how my dirndl shirt was finished also. One note about the sleeves: the ones for the McCall’s pattern are not your traditional dirndl sleeves. If you have sleeve expertise, then you can change them. I do not, and I have never been to a real Oktoberfest, so I will just have to plead ignorance on the matter of dirndl sleeves. They are very cute, however, so that counts for something!


After making the shirt, you will use View D to make a pinafore. This is the easy part. I used the black fabric for the bodice and the red floral-patterned fabric for the skirt. The only modification here is to cut the bodice front about two inches lower. That is how a traditional dirndl looks, and it shows off the ruffly collar better.


For the apron, just cut a length, about the amount of the skirt front’s width, and add gathers. Sew a 2-3 inch band of a contrast fabric onto to it for the strings. I found that I was constantly pulling Claire’s apron up to her waist all evening. I eventually pinned it in place. You could insert the apron directly into the bodice when you join the skirt and bodice together to avoid making apron strings and then sew a ribbon around the waistline and tie it in the back. That would look very pretty.

I made this a size larger so that it can be worn next year, too. This type of dress is easy to cinch up and still looks nice, if I may say so myself. 🙂


A Dress for Many Occasions

I just completed Simplicity 2886 (View C without the skirt band) and it was a lot of fun.   I feel like Donna Reed in it.  I feel like making a roast chicken and wearing high heels.  Or feather dusting–the easiest clean around.

S2886 - 1

In this dress, you will find gathers, pintucks, and pleats.  I really enjoyed making this because FINALLY all the pieces of a project were fitting together the right way.  And it has a lot of pieces:   20! (Counting all pieces cut out.)

S2886 - 6

It has attractive pockets, elastic on the top of the bodice back for some give, and a side zipper that was very hard to put in with all the bodice layers and the tie.  The tie is cute, but you could get away without it.  You might feel a bit less silly that way and have less to iron!

I would like to point out two problems for me with this pattern:  the sizing of the bodice and the lining.  Although I am a 36 bust, I made size 12, (which is for a 34″ bust) because these patterns are always big.  And there is no need to have this kind of bodice loose.  I tried it on while making it, and it fit like a glove.  But after wearing the finished dress, I noticed that the straps would fall down a lot.  The bodice front top is too wide for me, even though I went down a size.  And I can’t move the straps in because they must be placed exactly where they are.  AND there is no way I am tearing it apart, taking it in on the center seam and then reattaching it to the pintuck bodice strip and stitching it back up to the sides.  Egads!  That would be a lot of work.  But now I know–I probably will need to take in an inch on a lot of things like this in the future while leaving enough room lower down on a bodice for my ribcage, and breathing room. 🙂

The other problem I had with this pattern is that although it has a lined bodice, the seams are exposed.  It would have been nice to hide those, but maybe this isn’t possible because of all the layers.

A closer look at the bodice:  great fit on the bottom but the straps are about to fall off my shoulders.

A closer look at the bodice: great fit on the bottom but the straps are about to fall off my shoulders.

I think this dress could fit any occasion depending on the fabric used.  With a satin or silk pintuck bodice and tie, it’s a bridesmaid’s dress!  All in black, as a cocktail dress.  I would consider making this a halter top, too.  Then the straps wouldn’t fall down either!

One more tip:  I followed the suggestions of a reviewer on Patternreview.com and sew the top of the bodice fronts to the contrast bands first, and then sewed the whole thing up the middle.  This made for a perfectly-lined up seam.

S2886 - 2

Make this dress and clean your house!

Dress Your Toddler in Corduroy

You know when you are sewing and you reach for your pincushion and it’s not there?  You turn around and see your elfin toddler giggling and pulling out the pins?  That’s when you need Corduroy!  No, not the bear, the fabric!  I just spent the past week stitching up a fall wardrobe of corduroy clothes for Claire Bear.  This way, I can hear her swishing before she sneaks off with the pincushion.

Simplicity 2523 View A, modified to add length in rise and leg

Simplicity 2523 View A, modified to add length in rise and leg. But I forgot to add length to the straps. It's a little close around the neck, but it works. This was not the pocket that came with the pattern. It's one that I made up.

Instead of rick rack, I used a decorative stitching (my first time!) from my machine.  I like the subtle color contrast.  She can wear any shirt with this color.

Instead of rick rack, I used a decorative stitching (my first time!) from my machine. I like the subtle color contrast. She can wear any shirt with this color. And these overalls will be a part of her "Corduroy the Bear" costume for Halloween. I'm going to make some furry feet and ears.

McCall's 3531 view D

McCall's 3531 view D I added a velvet ribbon tie to the bodice. It is a little big on Claire, but the tie makes it fit nice. She can wear this now through winter until spring without outgrowing it.

Same pattern as above.  This is a great pattern for embellishing.  It has three buttons on the back bodice--another way to add interest.  I added ties in the back to this one, also, in the heart fabric.

Same pattern as above. This is a great pattern for embellishing. It has three buttons on the back bodice--another way to add interest. I added ties in the back to this one, also, in the heart fabric. By the way, on both dresses, I topstitched the bodice bottom instead of handsewing the lining down. It's a little tricky because I had to pin the inside and then sew the outside, but my machine handles pins well and this was much faster and looks fine, to me.

Oliver + S sailboat pants, size 2T

Oliver + S sailboat pants, size 2T. Notice that I did not put the buttons where the pattern indicated and since they are not on the edge, the flaps flare out a bit, pushed by the belly bulge. Next time I will be more careful!

I LOVE these pants!  I wish I could have a pair.  I did not modify them for the cloth diaper, but they are accommodating it pretty well.  I might experiment with the next pair.  This lightweight pinwale corduroy is great for these pants.  The drape and swish of the wide legs are so cute.  My punkin has petite legs so I would expect these pants to be shorter on other children.

I LOVE these pants! I wish I could have a pair. I did not modify them for the cloth diaper, but they are accommodating it pretty well. I might experiment with the next pair. This lightweight pinwale corduroy is great for these pants. The drape and swish of the wide legs are so cute. My punkin has petite legs so I would expect these pants to be shorter on other children.

The Big Reveal: My First Quilt

Quilt Reveal - 08Quilt Reveal - 02Quilt Reveal - 09Quilt Reveal - 11Quilt Reveal - 06quilt top pinned - 07

quilt top pinned - 06

Ah, I am done!  Claire slept with it last night.  I have spent a few evenings covered with it while slipstitching the binding to the back.  (No one warned of this last, time-consuming step!)  (Okay, my fault for not reading the book all the through first.:)  I conclude it will be the soft, comfiest quilt I will ever make.  Because I am never making a quilt out of japanese double cotton gauze ever again!  It stretches and it unravels.  What I mean by stretches is that when you slightly move it, it becomes uneven.  I don’t know how to describes this better.  It is a loose weave (good for handquilting?) and when you manhandle it, it does not keep the the weave at the 90 degrees angles, so it gets all wonky.  But it is done, and I am happy with it.  I just had to include a picture of it all pinned.  Over 300 safety pins!  I will never forget doing that with a toddler and corgi hovering at the sides, wanting to pounce on it.

The fabric is from the Far, Far Away line by Heather Ross for Kokka.  The backing is also double cotton gauze that I bought from Fabric Tales.  The batting is Quilter’s Dream Select.  It is very warm!  I was surprised because it isn’t too thick.  I did a simple grid machine quilting because this was my first time.  I am very happy with the results.  There was a lot going on with the color and design, so it didn’t need a crazy stitch pattern.  The quilt pattern itself is from AllPeopleQuilt.com.  It is “Sherbert Rail Fence” by Alice Kennedy.  It is 62×62 and I think I will never make something this big again!  It is a throw size and big enough for two to snuggle under on the couch and big enough to drape over a full size bed as a decorative blanket.  It is quite big enough for little Claire and she loves it.  I hope it can withstand all the years she will use it.  If not, I’ve got scraps to fix it with!

Iraqi Bundles of Love

I just found out about this last night.  Tuesday, September 8th is the last day to ship.  It’s a great cause and really touched me.  A man stationed in Iraq set up a way to get sewing resources to the people of Iraqi before his unit is removed from the area.  He said he has never seen more resourcefulness than when he first came to Iraq.  I remember some people I met in Turkey who also were resourceful and could make anything out of nothing.  I loved his “About Me” page.  He describes himself as the son of a quilter, the husband of a quilter, the brother of a quilter and the father of a future quilter.  He said in another part of his site that he has known knitters and sewists to be of the most generous spirit and that you hardly meet a quilter that has sewn a quilt for their own bed.  So, before any more time runs out, I am headed to the post office to pack up some fabrics and yarn that have been shoved to the back of my closet, waiting someday to be used.  Now I know they will definitely be used.

For the address to ship to, leave a comment at the website: Iraqi Bundles of Love.


For the past three weeks I have been exercising 3 times a week.  It’s a good effort, but it hasn’t been glorious to fit in this new habit. It’s not like when I first decided to spend Claire’s nap time on making things instead of cleaning the house or whatever I did B.S. (before sewing).  That was exciting and satisfying and opened up a new world!  Unfortunately, my favorite new occupation has not been kind to my body.  I have to admit something not so nice to you:  I have gained weight.

Gaining weight is a reason many people start exercise.  Especially when diabetes runs in the family. But not me!  What is truly motivating me is the neck and shoulder pain I have been having from overuse of my knitting and sewing and cutting muscles.  They are not in any anatomy book, but that’s what I call them.   This means knitting and sewing has become uncomfortable.

An afternoon workout always involves my "spotter."

An afternoon workout always involves my "spotter."

Before the recent pain, I could sit and knit for hours.  I used to read for hours, too.  I never get ants in my pants, I just shift positions, and I’m fine.  My sister on the other hand can’t sit for long and she is go, go, go all day long.  She is also thin and strong and has good posture.  I am soft around the edges and ALWAYS fall off the step if I dare go to an aerobics class.  A weight in my hand looks very precarious.  But put some needles in my hand and I am very coordinated.  Now, my friends and family who know me, don’t be nice and say I’m exaggerating.  🙂  It is the truth.

Now that I know the truth about myself and my inclination to do sedentary, though productive activities, I have to exercise.  And it has to happen pre-dawn because I am never giving up my naptime crafting until Claire gives up her nap!  I’ve been following the advice in this book, Your Best Body Ever by Anita Goa, which I will sum up:  do yoga, and cardio, and strength training in balance.   Do it 3 times a week for one month, then increase intensity and add a day for another month, and during the third month and the rest of your life, do it for 5 days a week for about 90 minutes.


I haven’t lost weight yet, but I have lost the pain.  I have more energy as long as I don’t overdo it.  My wicked trainer wants me to overdo it because he does when he works out (Crossfit), but whenever I try too hard, I end up on the floor and he has to make dinner.  “Know thyself” and I do.  I know that I WILL NOT exercise 5 days a week for 90 minutes during the third month.  I don’t especially recommend this book because the charts are confusing and a couple exercises require gym machines, but I do recommend the entire premise of doing all three types of exercise.  I do them all on the same day, so there is a lot of variety and one of the days I just do yoga, which I enjoy a lot.  What I recommend is my friend’s new blog “Fit Britt”.  She is motivating me a lot just by osmosis through the computer. 🙂  Check it out!

Find the right time of day (first thing in the morning) and the right book or video and you can do it!  Until my Knittercise video comes out, we will just have to do what these naturally athletic people tell us to do. And then we can show them how to blindstitch a hem.