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Japanese Crafting with Mari: Nani Iro + Drafting Japanese Sewing Patterns


One of my favorite Japanese fabrics is Nani Iro by Naomi Ito.  I first discovered it on a trip to Japan last May.  Imagine my thrill when I first started working at Purl and discovered that we carried it too!  I have been (im)patiently waiting for the past few months for her new line to come out, and I wasn’t disappointed.  On top of a beautiful collection of fabrics, Naomi Ito has put out a book, Nani Iro Pattern Book, with patterns using her fabric.


This book features clothing for both women and girls, as well as a few accessories.  Nani Iro is a double faced gauze fabric, which lends itself nicely to loose, flowing pieces versus highly tailored clothing.  None of the patterns have zippers, and only a few have button or hook enclosures.




I made two dresses with the fabric. 


This dress is the one on the cover of the book.  It’s a loose fitting tunic dress that could be worn over pants or a skirt.


One of my favorite things about this pattern is how she uses the selvedge motif along the collar and hem.
This simple tank dress is so comfortable I never want to take it off!  It’s a slip dress with no fasteners to get in the way. 

If you'd like to make a few of the beautiful patterns featured in Naomi Ito's lovely book but feel daunted by the task of working with a Japanese sewing pattern, please visit my Japanese Pattern Drafting Tutorial for directions. --Mari

Reader Comments (27)

Your dresses turned out beautifully! When the new nani iro fabrics come out in early spring here, I make a beeline for the fabric store. I used the same fabric in your tank dress to make a dress for my daughter. The fit on your tunic dress is perfect.

The pattern book is lovely, too, but $42 for a book with a $16 cover price seems kinda high.
July 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
I LOVE the tunic dress! The fabric used is just perfect for making the simple lines of the tunic look sophisticated. Thanks for sharing!
July 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaundrybasketcase
this fabric is amazing. i love the dresses you've made - perfect for a hot summer!
July 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHelen
I am not the biggest fan of the material, but I do love the book, and both dresses you made. They look very comfortable and pretty. Thanks for the information.
July 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJeannine McCloskey
Hi Jennifer,
We are very aware that the book is expensive (we wish it wasn't!). Unfortunately importing books from Japan is very costly. Please note that our price is a really just a reflection of what we had to pay for it to make it available at purlsoho.
July 21, 2008 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
That fabric is so beautiful! Great work!
July 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn
That book looks wonderful! I bought some Nani Iro fabric last summer and have been just sort of hoarding it because I love it so much and I'm afraid that I'll make a mistake and ruin it! I'm feeling inspired now though and I think I'll go ahead and cut into it this week.
July 21, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterannie
Oh those patterns all look sooooo do-able. I love that cover dress. I'd make that a jillion times.
July 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Anne
Great to see you again Mari! I hope these lovely dresses are evidence that your wrists are completely healed!
July 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLucinda
Reading all these post on Japanese crafting books has started me on a dangerous road. I have just started to collect some books and am about to make a dress for my daughter. Your tips on how to interpret the patterns are great. I'm asian but I don't read or speak the language, at least not very well. Thanks for the tips.
July 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMay
Wow, what lovely dresses! Thanks so much for sharing!
July 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMina
i am in love with the dresses
July 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterv and co
Your dresses are lovely, but I thought it was going to be an article about drafting patterns based on photos in Japanese books, not how to trace patterns in the books! Oh well.
July 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwillow
Dear Willow,
This is how you draft a pattern from a pre-printed pattern that does not include seam allowances and is printed with a whole bunch of other patterns on the same page. Drafting a pattern from a photo would be quite a feat!
July 22, 2008 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
This is a very helpful tutorial and I am dangerously close to ordering the book and fabric. How do I know how much fabric to order? For instance, I want to make the tunic on the cover and I am a U.S. size (dress, not necessarily pattern) 8.

July 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMartha
Hi Martha!

I made the medium size and used three yards of fabric, which left me with about 0.25 yards of fabric. I think you should be able to make the largest size with 3 yards of fabric. Good luck!
July 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermari
Thank you, Mari!
July 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMartha
i'd like to try the little top the girl is wearing (standing next to the stack of pillows).
How do you do that little "cinch".
July 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbetsy
I have a bunch of Nani Iro fabrics and I would love to know if anyone has made a quilt out of
these lovely fabrics.

Thanks so much
July 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIrene
your dresses are so lovely! and, i love the pin tucks in the pillows and the dress in the fourth photo.
July 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commentercindy k
Purl Bee: I have used other sewing patterns (including Japanese ones) without the seam allowance and overlapping patterns that must be traced. I am sure people who haven't seen these type of patterns appreciate the detailed explanation. I know many people who do draft from photos/observed garments, so I thought that's what it was about. Anyway, thanks for your response, and it's nice you're carrying the fabrics. They're fabulous. :)
July 25, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwillow
Hi Mari,
I am trying to make the dress on the cover also but am coming across a problem. I have found the patterns for the skirt and sleeve parts of the dress but I am not able to find the third part- the collar part that you have pictured in your close up photo. Is there not one?? Thanks!
October 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSara
nice dresses!
i'm looking for japanese patternbook for womans dresses, can you recommend some?
November 14, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrino
You need to draw it yourself- it just follows the outline of the bodice piece. There are two widths in the pattern directions, 2.5 cm or 4, depending on which version of the dress you do- the floral one, or the blue one with the natural trim at the collar.
January 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
I'm thinking about using some Nani Iro fabric for a simple sleeveless dress to be worn in a hot climate. I was wondering how sheer the double gauze fabric was since I don't really want to wear layers or a slip under the dress.
Thank you.
May 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHolly Matsuo
I made the same tunic dress in the same fabric as yours last year. I'm getting ready to sew it again and just looked at the layout in the book. Are there two separate pattern pieces for the skirt? ( I used one piece for both front and back in my first dress).

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergeri
Hi Geri!

Sorry it took me a couple of days to get back you - I had to find my copy of the book! You did it correctly, the front and back skirt are the same pattern piece.

Happy Sewing!
Mari :)
August 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermari

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