13 October 2010

Mrs Stylebook

Last month, I attempted my first project from a Japanese pattern. I'd read lots of posts online about 'Mrs Stylebook' and ordered one for myself from to see what the big deal was. Basically, there are really great projects for women over 30 that are stylish, interesting, and a little different from everything else out there.  However, they are not for the faint-hearted! First, they are in Japanese.  Now I speak a few languages (English, Spanish and French), but not Japanese. Second, you draft your own patterns.  I actually enjoyed the drafting and think it's a better way to get a good fit rather than modifying a commercial pattern. I have a background in drafting and landscape design, so that part of it was fun for me. I do most of my drafting on the computer and it was great to use my drafting table for something other than cutting fabric! If you are looking for a quick project, this is not the way to go! If you want a brain challenge, it's great.  There are also very clear and easy-to-follow visual instructions. All the patterns are made from a basic sloper/block (also in the magazine) which you make to your own measurements.  I've read that you can also use your own sloper if you have one from another source.  I found a few web sites with Kanji character translations and also ordered a copy of this book from YesAsia.com:

Most of the Japanese pattern books use the Bunka Fashion College college drafting symbols.  This is the first in a series of their textbooks translated into English.
Here's the magazine picture of the jersey jacket I made:
And the 'pattern' instructions using a loose-fitting sloper in the magazine.  I made a toile/muslin out of a $2/m jersey and had to take in a lot on the sides and also made it about 15cm shorter than the pattern called for. I also had a lot of trouble getting the sleeves right, but this was my first attempt at this.
My drafting table and tools (drafting the sleeve):
And the final result:
I used a beautiful lightweight New Zealand merino jersey from The Fabric Store and mixed antique buttons from L'Uccello.  I'm allergic to wool and was giving merino a go because I've heard it's not always a problem for non-woolies like me.  I'm pleased to report that it is only very slightly itchy as long as I wear something long-sleeved underneath. And no red eyes and runny nose! Still not completely comfortable, but a wearable option.

Back to the Japanese pattern review...Would I do it again...? Yes. It was a lot of work initially doing the translations, measurements and the sloper, then the muslin and final alterations.  However, this is the best-fitting garment I have made in my young 2 1/2 years of sewing. Once you have the slopers made, you can use them again and again. It's also like doing a brain-teaser along with your sewing!  The Japanese patterns and garments have very clean lines that are classic without being stuffy or boring.  They are fashionable, and different enough not to look trendy.  I have always loved modern Japanese clothing styles, and since I'm a wee bit past the Harajuku, Steampunk or Gothic Lolita age, these patterns suit me very well!  Here are some resources I found along the way that you may find useful if you decide to work on a Japanese pattern:

Japanese Pattern Sew-Along - Thank you to the ladies in the Stitcher's Guild Japanese Pattern Sew-Along for their help and encouragement!
Mrs Stylebook How-To Info - Step-by-step sloper instructions, also on the Stitcher's Guild site.
YESASIA  - Easy to use site (forget Amazon Japan!), free postage world-wide and prompt delivery.
http://movinghands.wordpress.com/japanese-sewing-and-pattern-terms/ - Kanji into English translations! I printed this out and kept it next to me!
my little mochi - more translations including colors and body parts (arm, head, etc)
label-free - even more translations and a series of posts on making a dress from a Japanese pattern.  A must read!
Pomadour24's Craft Cafe - Etsy shop with Mrs Stylebook and Japanese books for every crafter/maker! She delivers promptly from Japan.
http://www.tessuti-shop.com/ - Tessuti carries a good selections of Japanese pattern books and fabrics.
Japanese Couture Addicts - A French site (use Google translate) with more Kanji to English and French translations. Look for 'Aide Technique' on the right side bar and click on 'JCA- LE lexique couture' (PDF or Word doc) and 'Lexique Couture Japonais-Anglais' (PDF). Also indispensable.  Also, very nice completed projects from Japanese pattern books.

Have fun!


  1. Hi!

    Can I ask where you purchased Mrs. Stylebook from?

    1. You can order mrs style book from yesasia.com for $18.

  2. This is awesome, thanks so much for this post. I'm getting into mrs. stylebook and have been scouring the web for info to bolster my confidence. Your jacket looks great!