I’m torn you guys. I really love the Japanese sewing book (Shape Shape by Natsuno Hiraiwa) I got from my friend Megan, and so I kind of want to tell you all to go out and get it…but I also don’t want you to come after me all Frankenstein’s monster style with pitchforks.
The pieces in the book are all pretty simple and geometric in styling and so they’re the kind of thing that you want to use really beautiful fabrics for. Problem is, somewhat because they’re so simple in style, they are not simple in construction. At all.
After completely striking out on finding anything nice enough at my local JoAnn Fabrics I made the trek to Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak to get the good stuff. Michigan seamstresses, if you haven’t been there yet, go…but be warned that it’s dangerous. I usually have to restrain myself to keep from rolling in their fabrics, and even my Mr, the non-sewer, the one and only time he walked into the store walked out with a serger for me! It’s like heaven.
So I came home with fabrics for this pattern and one of the other ones in the book and was hovering over them with my scissors, but chickened out and decided to try the patterns with “practice” fabrics first. Woo boy am I glad I did.
This is the twelfth project in the book: the folded shrug. Looks pretty easy, doesn’t it? HA.
Finding the pattern pieces in the included pattern sheet is, in and of itself, a challenge. To save on paper, the pieces are all printed one on top of another and you need to trace them onto separate tracing paper. Not a huge deal, and not even that difficult once you figure out how the system works, but absolutely overwhelming the first time you look at it. Checking on the project instruction pages to give you an idea of shape and where grain-lines ought to be helps immensely.
This project consists of two roughly rectangular pieces and a few strips of bias tape for fastenings. Nothing seems that unusual, but once you start construction it gets crazy fast.
The whole thing is folded over on itself so in some spots the inside shows and some spots the outside shows and so the finishing gets tricky, marking gets tricky and making sure you put it all together with the right side out (where it’s supposed to be out) gets really tricky.
And unfortunately, either because of a loss in translation or just because the author wrote it that way, the instructions aren’t particularly clear.
Luckily, with the “practice fabric” I chose, the fact that I wound up with the wrong side out where the right side was supposed to be out doesn’t show too badly.
This cool, quilted black fabric is something I’d grabbed at a resale store for cheap and while it doesn’t drape quite as prettily as I think the silk blend I got will, it hides my mistakes nicely. Besides, it will be warm and there’s never any concern that I’ll wear black.
The whole thing ties in the back across your shoulders and then buttons below your arms around your rib cage.
For this version, because my fabric was black (an easy color to find) and because it was thick (and not really suited to making narrow bias tape or tubing) I used store bought bias tape for my ties and black elastic cording for the button closures.
The instructions indicate you should make your own bias tape for the ties and your own very tiny tubing from the main body fabric for the button closures. I’ll need to do it for my next attempt at this shrug since the color I got is not easily findable in bias tapes/elastic, but I’ll fully admit, I’m nervous.
I’m really enjoying this book. I’ve gotten a little bored with traditional clothing shapes lately, so the more geometric fits are refreshing and, while it’s intimidating to feel like a newbie seamstress again, I’m really liking that I’m being forced to challenge myself when it comes to finishing skills.
I’ve sewn for a long time and so I’ve gotten to the point where I’m pretty confident with traditional pattern piece shapes. I haven’t tried too hard to get into tailoring and seam finishing though, so it’s good that these pieces are forcing me to slow down a little and find ways to make the simplest shapes (rectangles anybody?) perfectly cleanly sewn and finished.
I cannot in good conscience suggest that new sewers pick up this book for anything other than enjoying the concepts and pictures. That being said, if you’re experienced with needle and thread and are looking for a challenge, by all means.
I plan on making several more projects from this book, but without doubt, I will be doing them in inexpensive practice fabrics the first time.