*or* How to Buy and Use Japanese Sewing Books
It is not necessary that you read Japanese characters to sew in Japanese. You don't even need a friend who does. All you need are metric measuring tools (which you probably already own, just look at your seam gauge) and intermediate sewing skills, or beginning skills with a good sewing manual and extra patience, and your new Japanese pattern book, of course.
1. Selecting your Japanese craft book.
First you need to choose your books. Yes, if you are reading this, it will likely be books plural by the end of this paragraph. Look at pictures and collect ISBNs from Crafting Japanese, Wee Wonderfuls, and Molly Chicken for starters. If you are sewing for little girls, Girly Style Wardrobe, ISBN 457911132X, is a great place to begin. It's instructions are quite clear, the projects simple, and the results very satisfying.
2. Purchasing your books.
Did you go browse? Good. Now that you have a nice wish list, you need to decide where to buy your books. Superbuzzy, Etsy, ebay, Amazon Japan, and YesAsia all sell them. Etsy and ebay are actually good places to 'see inside' the different books as the sellers there often post lots of photos. And it looks like Amazon Japan has vastly improved their English site, as I was able to look up Girly Style Wardrobe without an ISBN, so that may be the new way to go. That said, I've bought my small collection of five sewing pattern books from YesAsia. I entered the ISBN in the advanced search (no dashes or spaces), and ordered enough to qualify for free shipping. One credit card number and three weeks later, voila!, I had my booty.
3. How to use your new Japanese pattern book.
The hardest part is deciding which project to sew first. We'll look at this sweet tie-shoulder top, project 'a' from Girly Style Wardrobe. After removing the folded pattern sheet from the book, check your measurements for the correct Euro size and look for the set of lines marked 'a' in size 100cm (for example, do use your own size). Trace them onto freezer or pattern paper.
Important: Before you cut the pattern pieces out, add the seam allowances shown on the cutting layout.
The cutting layout is on the instruction page in the back of the book, along with the amount of fabric you'll need. If your project calls for elastic or bias tape, you will also find those lengths if you study the characters labeling those items in the illustrations, then look for the same characters near the measurements above the cutting layout. (Click the photo for a readable size.) Now you are ready to cut your fabric, follow the pictures, and sew! Yes, you are right. That was easy.