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If you’ve ever dipped your toe into sewing Instagram you will have no doubt come across the sew-alongs collected under the hashtags #sewjapaneseinjanuary and #sewjapaneseinjuly. Run by Anna (@bloglessanna) and Jane (@craftyjane_makes) from Melbourne, the idea is to crack the spine of your beautiful Japanese pattern books, sew something and share it. 

My Japanese sewing books have been sitting neglected, so this July I opened up Atelier to Nani Iro, the first pattern book by Naomi Ito and traced Pattern P. If you’ve never used one of these books before, opening the pattern sheets for the first time can be a visual overload, but once you get your eye in and find your pattern pieces, you are good to go. PSA, because the patterns are all overlaid tracing is a must, and seam allowance almost always needs to be added. Thankfully even though all of the text is in Japanese the numerals are not, and if you find yourself stumped Google Translate is your friend. The diagrams are always terrific and if you have some basic knowledge of garment construction, you should be a-okay.

Pattern P, The Work Shirt is a boxy number with a band collar and half button placket, three-quarter sleeves with a deep facing and a high-low hem. Ease levels are out the other side of extreme with buckets of gathering in both front and back bodice. I thought it might be a challenge to cram all of this fabric under a jacket but because the sleeves are narrow, it has still been okay to wear with a warm layer over the top. Plenty of room too, for a light layer underneath should that be your wont.

The diagrams really do tell the whole story with this pattern, so it’s worth paying very close attention. For example, some edges of the sleeves and bodice need to be finished before you commence piecing things together. Probably it says something in the text about this (I didn’t try to translate anything), but it is marked in the diagrams only by a simple zigzag on the pattern layout. I’m guilty of generally barreling though instructions, so this was a good reminder for me to slow down and pay attention to the fine of details.

I was a little tentative approaching a half placket using only diagrams to guide me but they use a straightforward technique so it was smooth sailing. Even though you only need one of each, I had just enough fabric to cut 2 each of both placket (each one a mirror image of the other) as I had the sneaking suspicion I’d quite possibly lose something in translation and confuse left from right. Which of course I did! Pass the spares…

Lengthened the front by 2cm and shortened the back so the hem was even all way around. I also opted to interface only one side of the band collar for a softer look.

I went for an all-in Nani Iro experience and used this beautiful Lei Nani double gauze (now sold out). I was able to cut the whole thing comfortably from the 2.1m we had left rather than 2.4m recommended. Because there’s a stack of volume in all of those gathers, this shirt definitely calls for something with a bit of drape and weight. Any other Nani Iro double gauze would work beautifully, tencel would be perfect, or any light drapey shirting will also fit the bill.

Lovely as it is, the print makes it hard to see the shirt details, like the nice little tab at the end of the button placket. It’s purely decorative and serves no function; as I write this wearing the shirt, I haven’t even cut the buttonhole open nor stitched a button in for it; perhaps I should? Buttons are our 11.5cm Corozo shirt buttons in Charcoal.

Even though I am distinctly not an S, I chose the S based on other reviews and the general vast amount of wearing ease in this pattern. As far as fit goes, this is plenty roomy in all the right places, but the shoulder seams sit quite a bit toward the front on me, causing the whole thing to feel like it’s pulling forward. Perhaps sizing up will sort the issue in the future, or perhaps I need more length in the upper bodice - but I’ve read one another report of this so it could also be the nature of the beast. This one is still comfortable so it will still get lots of wear.

After hovering over this pattern for a couple of years, I’m glad to have had the nudge to finally sew it this July. I'm not sure this uber-gathered style is really for me but am keen to sort out the front bodice problem and perhaps try a sleeveless version when the sun comes out again.

The Atelier to Nani Iro book is available here.

- Fiona xx

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