Archive for October, 2009

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. 🙂