Browsing the blogosphere I chanced upon Karyn Valino's Make Something site and her review of Japanese dress books. I'd not come across these before so was thrilled to read about the existence of books full of sewing patterns for simple, chic garments I'd love to wear. Inspired by Karyn's blog I tracked down an English translated edition of Yoshiko Tsukiori's Stylish Dress Book: Wear With Freedom. The book cost just under £12 and with 26 sewing patterns included it's incredibly good value for money, especially compared to the cost of individual sewing patterns (in the UK you can expect to pay between £5.00 and £15.00 per pattern).
Stylish Dress Book: Wear With Freedom (volume 1 in this series) is a beautiful object in itself with high production values. It contains gorgeous photographs of all the garments worn by an ethereal young woman looking by turns thoughtful, worried, frail, then a little happier holding a plate of biscuits*, followed by a numbered list of instructions for each pattern with clear step-by-step illustrations. At the back of the book is an envelope containing three folded large double sided pattern sheets. At first glance these were intimidating but with good light, tracing paper, pencil, ruler and concentration the patterns are straightforward to trace out – just don't forget to add your seam allowances afterwards!
I decided on pattern T (a pretty smock) and found drafting the pattern, cutting and making up my first dress from the book actually easier than following many other commercial sewing patterns which often have baffling instructions. The simple numbered list and diagrams were a pleasure to follow. I used a recently purchased piece of fabric called Red Folklore from the Isso Ecco & Heart collection by Lecien Japan. It's a cotton/hemp blend printed with apples, birds and plants in vivid, bold colours. For the contrast neck and sleeve trim I used a favourite piece of lime green/hot pink spotted cotton by Michael Miller.
It's a colourful dress and I'm so pleased with the shape and loose fitting style - my ideal kind of garment! Three other Stylish Dress Books are lined up for UK publication this year: Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops is out on 6th May, 23 Stylish Outfits from 6 Simple Patterns on 5th August and Daily Use Dresses, Blouses and Pants on 3rd September. I've a feeling I'm going to buy them all but in the meantime have already started drafting a second dress from volume 1...
*The biscuit recipe is also included in the book!