Japanese Pattern Books

By Susan | Comments: 6 | January 22, 2014

I discovered Japanese patterns on a trip to Japan many years ago, but the last few years have brought an explosion of interest in Japanese pattern books.

japanese pattern books

Like so much of Japanese design there is an understated elegance about the styles and some of them are downright quirky and I adore that!

My collection of books was not large until our last trip to Japan.

I’d been saving for months and did my research on all the best places to go. Everyone raved about the Kinokuniya’s in Shinjuku and after a long day exploring other parts of Tokyo we headed across by  train.
The store itself was very easy to find but had not one single sign in English and as it was over 9 stories high. I knew I wouldn’t have time to go floor by floor to find them.
I asked at the front desk and the first assistant was unsure how to respond in English so spoke to another assistant who translated that they were upstairs and what floor they were on. Giving me a quizzical look he explained “but they are in Japanese?” I said that was OK I didn’t need the language to read the patterns. He seemed baffled but happy I knew where to go.
When I got to the right section WOW it was huge! And broken down into craft, knitting, sewing by machine, sewing by hand and oh so much more. This is going to take awhile I said to The Englishman who happily wandered off to explore the rest of the store.
So much good stuff! I chose a handful that I just couldn’t leave without and took photos of the covers of the ones that I liked, but as I had more stores to go to I didn’t want to blow all my budget! (Photos of the covers is a brilliant way to remember as the way a westerner will typically say a title will be different to the Japanese pronunciation whereas a photos is universal). Price wise a book in Japan is almost half what you will pay for it here in Australia. It will of course depend on the exchange rate of when you are there so it’s good to do some research before you go and use an app like to help with the exchange rate.

Later in the week we were in Kyoto where one of my all time favourite fabric stores is. I spent time looking at the fabrics downstairs and then at the patterns upstairs. This time I made a list as this was just the recon visit and I’d be back on our last day in Kyoto to get everything I needed (saves lugging it around as we were changing accommodation while we were there).

On the last day I went back and got everything I had decided on from my list. The Englishman had discovered some lovely indigo fabrics with amazing prints that made their way into the “buy” pile as well. Combined with the patterns, books and fabrics I was starting to worry about the weight of our bags flying back. Luckily there is a huge post office just outside the Kyoto train station (a handy thing I had remembered from a previous visit to Kyoto). A big box and quick discussion with the lovely post office staff and my entire 5kg box of sewing treats would be on my doorstep in Sydney in under a fortnight for the grand cost of $25! Bargain. Post out of Japan I have found to be very reliable and is far cheaper than excess baggage (books and fabric weigh alot), some stores even offer a DHL/Fed Ex or Post service so you purchase and they take care of all the shipping for you.

And yes I did go back to the bookstore in Tokyo to pick up some more pattern books before we headed home!


  • gjeometry
    January 22, 2014

    I do like the Japanese Sewing books as well. Looks like you made out well at this store! I have not sewn anything yet from one of these books. I have Feminine Wardrobe. Do you have this one and if yes, what do you think of it? What is your favourite book?

    • Susan Goodwin
      January 22, 2014

      I love the books so much, I got heaps more than I photographed too. SO much fun!

  • Alex
    January 22, 2014

    I love Japanese dress books too! I was given Pattern Magic but translated to English and also have Shape Shape. Kinokuniya in Sydney have a good range as well. Your trip to Japan sounds amazing. You must post some pics of the fabric you bought.

    • Susan Goodwin
      January 22, 2014

      All mine are only in Japanese so I have to work it out from the drawings, it works pretty well.

      Kinokuniya have a great range, I’m in danger every time I go near there that I will buy them all!

  • Melanie
    January 23, 2014

    I’m SO looking forward to fabric shopping in Japan. I don’t think I’m up to Japanese pattern books (both in terms of skill &I think the patterns will be too small) but it would be fun to have just one in the collection, surely?

    • Susan Goodwin
      January 23, 2014

      You will love Japan, we got a Japanese cook book at the same place just because it was so beautiful. The pattern books themselves often have some very simple garments in them and it’s just the style that makes them look so effortlessly cool.
      Am planning on sharing some of my Japan fabric shopping tips soon so hopefully it will give you some places to take a look at.

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Hi, I'm Susan. A designer living in Sydney, Australia.

Here I share tales of my sewing, my pattern collection and insights into what it's like to work as a professional fashion designer.

Other recurring themes include cat photos and an ever changing hair style.



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