Bow-tie tunic: Sewing Japanese patterns

Bow Tie Top

I bought Feminine Wardrobe, a lovely book of Japanese sewing patterns, months ago after seeing pictures of it on Tilly’s blog. I was really drawn to the simple, classic silhouettes and earmarked several projects for summer sewing (though only managed one amidst getting married and writing my masters dissertation).

Jinko Matsumoto’s book comes with a big double-sided pattern sheet containing all the pieces to the 21 designs of the collection. The designs are all based on half a dozen core shapes though, which I find great for ideas on how to modify patterns to make really different garments.

After pouring over the gorgeously-styled photos, I finally settled on the ‘giant bow-tie tunic’ project – an A-line tunic with a fabulous oversized bow. Part of the reason I went for this as my first project from the collection was because at the time (this was sometime mid-summer in Ireland), I didn’t have very much sewing experience and was looking for a simple enough project that was a bit more challenging than the few things I’d made so far.

(I think I need a better steam iron...)

(I think I need a better steam iron…)

It was the first time I’d worked with a pattern like this: the pattern pieces needed to be identified, traced and cut out etc, while the actual sewing directions are not terribly detailed. Actually, the (translated) instructions for making up the garments are very like those in the Burda magazines – several simple points with a sketch or two as guidance, but no great detail.

Skills learned: Tracing a pattern, inserting neckline facings.

Recommend pattern? Yes and no: yes, because this pattern is really beginner-friendly and I love the finished piece (though the massive bow isn’t always practical to wear out and about!); and no, because the size range is really restricted to quite small sizes and really doesn’t cater to different body shapes.

Overall, the patterns in this collection all seem do-able and the garments are loose-fitting styles so a comfortable fit is quite easily achieved. There are a few more pieces in the book that I’m planning on getting stuck into this spring, such as this cute shift dress:

Matsumoto Shift Dress


Vintage knitting – working with 1940s patterns

Several years ago, I came across a lovely book on sale on Amazon called Knitting Fashions of the 1940s by Jane Waller. The book has a great selection of patterns, but I found it quite hard for a beginner knitter to use given the limited sizing ranges (a more seasoned knitter would likely make the necessary adjustments without much hassle). I recently picked it back up again and am determined to see at least one project through!

Jane Waller's lovely 1940s knitting pattern book.

Jane Waller’s lovely 1940s knitting pattern book.

I’ve started working on the ‘pull-on vest’ pattern – which is actually for men, but I thought it would make a very useful short-sleeved woolen tunic top to wear with leggings or skinny jeans. Crucially, though, what drew me to the pattern was the simplicity of the stitches involved (basically, knits and pearls). Phew…

I think the style of tunic also means that the fit doesn’t have to be spot-on:

The 'pull-on vest' pattern from Jane Waller's book.

The ‘pull-on vest’ pattern from Jane Waller’s book.

The only downside is that I’m working with a 4-ply wool and that stuff takes an age to knit up (I’m using a stone grey from the Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply range). After about a fortnight I’m almost finished the back section, though, and the front follows exactly the same pattern so I’m pretty optimistic that I’ll manage to get through it without too much stress (and before the end of the year!).

I’ll post details of the fit and finish (the pattern is presented in just one size) once I’ve completed it.