Friday, 15 August 2014

Basic Black Bodices; a book review

I only work in black - hmm... I feel like I just started a post with Batman's quote...

Along with many other sewing book fans, I waited impatiently for the English language release of Sato Watanabe's Japanese pattern book Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe.

We are very fortunate here in Melbourne to have independent bookshops that will either pre-order titles for local collection*, or stock them and mail them to us with free Australian postage.
Readings came through on launch date with Basic Black and I had it in my hot little hands by the end of the week.

The appeal of Basic Black comes from lovely photography and a variety of tops, dresses and jackets - 26 in all. The patterns are divided into 'fitted', 'loose' and 'garments with darts and shaping seams' and all patterns are included on an uncrowded pair of pattern sheets. This is possible as the bodices and sleeves are interchangeable between patterns.
Shirt K with the darted bodice. The collar is the collar stand of other shirts
I've made the darted shirt bodice, primarily shirt K, but without the yoked back.

I've also lengthened it to shirt M as K finishes quite short (the model has a black top on underneath). This bodice pattern is the same (either darted or princess seamed) for patterns K-S (3 shirts, 2 jackets and the bodices of 4 dresses)
The sleeves are drafted with no ease and to be set in flat.
Shirt M with princess seams, from the same bodice on the pattern sheet.
I attended another lovely class at Tessuti with Vanessa and we adjusted the darted bodice of Basic Black and sleeves to fit me. Vanessa added 2 cm of ease to the sleeves and I set them 'in the round'. I may need to make some more small adjustments, but I'm happy that I have sleeves that allow my arms to move and a bodice that doesn't have excess fabric at the upper chest.
Soaking up the sun & appreciating the looser back waist for gentle breezes
This dotty top has the fish-eye darts left unsewn for a looser fit at the waist.

In case you're interested, the basic bodice in size M fitted well (I'm a 34 1/2" high & full bust). I made my 'usual' changes of forward shoulder adjustment and moved out 2 sizes (to what would be XL, the book is sized XS-L) at waist level for my western hips and ease preferences. I lowered the bust dart and made it more horizontal as my bust apex is around an inch lower than the pattern is drafted for. The fisheye waist dart was pretty good for my shape.

Some notes on the instructions:
Seam allowances are NOT included. I actually prefer this as I trace out the pattern pieces, then I can lay them on my fabric & trace the stitching line. I seem to be able to match up traced stitching lines better than edges of fabric, especially when the seam allowances aren't what I think they are, or I want some extra 'fudge room' for fitting ;)

The instructions are sparse. Seriously.
One of the reasons I like Japanese pattern books (ok, apart from the designs), is the numbered diagrams - Looking at the illustration below, you first cut out the pattern (from sheet B, not A an errata), adding your own seam allowances, then iron the interfacing (shown thereafter as textured grey).
The next step is to do step 1: create darts (using whichever method you like, or a 'how to' is illustrated as part of dress F)

then step 2: create front plackets - which requires you to look at the diagram below (in the pic above), where the order is 1) Sew placket hem: 3/8" hem folded under, then 2) 7/8" hemmed again, 3) Stitch as illustrated. Then fold the placket in 3/8, then 1 1/4 & stitch, trimming the bottom corner as illustrated.
Now, I was initially a tad puzzled as my seam allowances (from the diagram) from CF are 1 5/8. 3/8 + 1 1/4 is 1 5/8, so I couldn't see an overlap for the buttons. It was then that I realised that I'd added my 1 5/8 from the CF line, not the parallel line 1cm (3/8) further out - oops... (The 2nd line 1cm away from the CF line I missed in my tracing, I believe I may have thought it was the CF for the L sized bodice)
The CF runs through the middle of the placket if you've followed the diagrams correctly.

And I only realised they were swapping between cm and inches with such frequency when re-reading this, I worked through it without noticing ;)

To complete Step 4: Attach Collar, you flick back in the book to jacket D where the diagram explaining it is... (no, that's not specified... perhaps you're meant to make each project in order and build your skills up as you progress through all 26, although dress P also illustrates it...) This jumping back & forwards isn't specific to this book, it's also found in Stylish Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori, among others, though they often specify which page to jump to.

I attached the collar (stitching in the ditch rather than hand sewing the inner collar), but it was too high for me, so this is the collar (which is the lower collar for other patterns) piece, folded in half.
The sleeves and bottom hem are finished with a twice folded hem.
My other variation is the V neck, I've omitted the buttons (rather than add a seperate placket, though there are instructions for one in the the next shirt L), so this is a slip-over top.
an example of another set of instructions - this skirt is drafted by you, the bodice is the same as for K
I have some pieces of Liberty that have been waiting for my fitting skills to catch up with my stash, so that they can become spring & summer shirts. I'm very happy, that by fitting this darted bodice & sleeves I've got options for both fitted and looser shirts, with a variety of collars, sleeves and seaming, to keep myself amused for a while. As a bonus, there are also the jacket & dress patterns that share these bodice pieces in this book.
The delightfully un-crowded pattern sheet included in the book and finished garment measurements

More reviews and photos from basic Black can be found on Kirsty's Top Notch blog and I adore The Sew Convert's linen bamboo blouse (project F)!


  1. What a beautiful job you've done of that shirt Nic, and a great review. As you know, I have that book too, and should really take the time to refine the bodice fit. Then imagine how much I could sew!

  2. Thank you Lara ;) I hoped that the review would be helpful, there are some things that I didn't notice until I was actually sewing from it (and I wonder what subtleties I've missed in my Japanese language only magazines!).
    And I will live in awe of how wonderfully productive you'll be once you work through the patterns here! ;)

  3. Your shirt looks really lovely and thanks for going through this make in such detail. The world is your oyster now with that book! I am so with you on your comment to Lara - I wonder how much I missed in all my Japanese language only books!

  4. Wowwee, now I need this book! I would have no idea how to tweak the fit of the bodice, you did well. This is so lovely. Can't wait to see more of these beauties.

  5. This is so dang awesome, lovely! Love it hard with the red skirt :D And yay to an indent construction review here- Japanese language books stump this lady!

  6. Lovely shirt, and so not "basic black".

  7. That is one beautifully fitting shirt, Nic! Such perfect lines over your shoulder. Great fabric and print combo for you :)

  8. I love it. The skirt is also fab and Bruderlein gives you cool points for the dachsie pin!

  9. Thanks Mel! ;) I was thinking of you every time I adjusted the calico & pattern - I love your fitting pics & am very happy that I can have sleeves now ;)

  10. I do like a 'basic', which as we know, tends to have a few more hours in it than is initially apparent - it was so lovely meeting you last weekend ;)

  11. Why danke Bruderlein! I've been coveting the Erstwilder dachshund pins for a while & when I spied Sally aka 'Sammy the silly sausage', I simply had to own her, as you'll understand! ;)

  12. Why thank you my dear! I do love a good construction post & thought it only fair to report back on the realities of this one! ;)

  13. Thanks Louise ;) I got professional help with my fitting - sleeves have been perplexing me for a while, so I'm very happy that I attended the class with Vanessa & now have 'me' in a paper pattern - bodice, sleeves & pants, the trifecta so far ;)

  14. Thanks Kristy, I'm so very excited and looking forward to my spring sewing! I can't wait to see which design you pick first ;)

  15. Lovely job on your shirt! What fabric did you use? It has a nice drape to it. I've been looking at the instructions in Basic Black - they are indeed sparse but informative. I think they really try to economize on paper. It's a lot of info in a minimum of space. ;)

    1. Thanks Chuleenan ;) The dots are simply a cotton that I was a tad afraid might have been a quilting cotton when I got it home, it's got a nice weight to it, but it's not particularly fine or polished.
      I'm not really sure why I haven't revisited BasicBlack, I think it was the brevity of the instructions yet I don't tend to mind when they're not in English, clearly I'm fickle ;)

  16. This pattern is on my hit list and I've just moved it up as yours is so lovely.

    1. Thank you so much, I do like your M ;) I look forward to seeing your K ;)


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