Saturday, August 25, 2012

Shape shape, by Natsuno Hiraiwa; a review

above; top "b" and skirt "d"

I was very flattered to receive some requests (well, two, hehe  :)  ) for my thoughts on the Japanese pattern book Shape Shape (formerly known as Unique Clothes Any Way You Like) by Natsuno Hiraiwa.  I have only used six out of the nineteen patterns in the book, and made a total of eight garments.  So I haven't made everything in the book yet.  But two ladies alerted me to the fact that there were negative reviews of the book on Amazon, and I popped over to have a look and was pretty amazed to see that some of the most negative reviews were from people who hadn't yet attempted anything at all from the book!  Which made me realise that maybe I did have something concrete and useful to offer after all  :)  
I was equally amazed and equally flattered to see that someone had written something very nice indeed about my blog in a review of the book, which totally made my day!!!!  
A big thank you to Nancy Bowron and jenniferp for asking for my opinion, and to A. Badus for those kind words on Amazon!
above; top "a" and skirt "m"

So:
Description:
Shape Shape (formerly known as Unique Clothes Any Way You Like) by Natsuno Hiraiwa, is a book containing nineteen patterns for some tops, skirts, wraps, scarves, one pair of loose trousers and one bag.
Sizes:
The patterns are for two sizes, medium and large, with the Medium being very roughly equivalent to a European 36, and the Large to a European 38.  Now these sizes might seem too restrictive to the average Western body type, but nearly all the garments are very loose-fitting and flowy in that easy comfortable Japanese style that is much admired by Westerners, me included.  They could very easily be adapted to larger sizes, particularly if you have sewing experience.  Very few of the designs are close-fitting or body hugging, or would require a lot of fitting.  I use the Large  :)
The Patterns:
The patterns are printed on one large loose sheet of paper within the book, just exactly like how Burdastyle magazine supplies its patterns.  The user traces the patterns of interest, keeping the master sheet intact for use of the other patterns.  If you are familiar with Burdastyle magazine then you know how it works!
Some of the most extreme negativity of the reviews on Amazon were directed at the pattern sheet, and how difficult the reviewers found the tracing.  Personally I did not find it tricky at all.  A twelve year old could do it, easily.
Once upon a time I wrote a post on my method for tracing patterns and used this book in my pictures, here
Sewing Instructions:
I own the Japanese language version of the book; so my copy has literally not an English word in the entire publication, save for the author's name.  So I cannot comment on the written content, since I am sadly very ignorant in Japanese  :)  However; I do not feel that has been a hindrance in this excellently illustrated book.  I have found the drawings and diagrams for constructing the clothes are excellent; very good, very clear and helpful and very easy to decipher which step follows which.   The book does assume some basic sewing skills, so is probably not suitable for an absolute first-timer.  There is no hand holding, like you would get with a conventional pattern from say Simplicity or McCalls, but if you have been sewing for a few years and know already about interfacing, clipping curves, how to sew buttonholes, how to finish hems and edges; generally how to construct clothing: then I think you would cope just fine. 
above; "top "p"

The Designs:
I would describe them as simple and minimalist, with a twist.  The designs are in my opinion, unique and cool.  Natsuno Hiraiwa has take some organic shapes and turned them into interesting patterns for comfortable clothes.  I love them, and some of the designs have been the most versatile garments in my wardrobe.  Skirt "d" has half the skirt on the straight grain, half on the bias, so hangs differently depending which way you wear it.  I wore my version styled in 6 different ways here.   The design of skirt "m" is also stunning in its simplicity, but is an insanely unique garment that looks nothing like any other skirt pattern I've ever seen.  I wore my version of this skirt styled in 6 different ways here.  Complaints on Amazon about not enough pictures showing off the versatility show a sad lack of imagination on the part of the complainers, and are not the fault of the designer, in my opinion!   My view is, make something and have a bit of a play and experiment with it yourself, you may be surprised and learn a few things about manipulating your wardrobe yourself!
Skill Level:
I would rate this book overall to be a bit more difficult that your standard average big 4 pattern... I am basing that rating solely on the level of autonomy required in sewing up the garments, and the fact that there are no entry-level instructions to help the beginner in the basics.  However, some of the projects, such as the wraps "f" and "j", and say, the scarf "o" are uncomplicated and are well within the scope of a beginner.  These would make good projects to start with, to get a feel for tracing the patterns and nutting out the gist of the instructions.  Then one could move on to some of the more complex projects.
Do I recommend this book to others:
of course!!  In fact, just flicking through the book again to write this review whetted my appetite to try out some other of the designs, as well as to re-visit my favourites too  :)


below; wrap "f"

37 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review Carolyn! It's so great to see the photos of you wearing some of the items 6 ways!! I think I bought the follow up book to this, but now wish I had this one. Might be next on the list.

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  2. Great review. I must get this book

    Have you tried Shape Shape 2?

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  3. Bitching on amazon about books you have not used seems like an incredible way to announce to the world that you don't have a life.. Sheesh! But I'm glad to see you taking up the cause, especially as you've been the main blog poster on finished items of this book, and your good photography enhances them so much. Thanks for being such a long-term inspiration :-).

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  4. thanks for the thorough review Carolyn! I'm not sure my skills are sufficient enough to tackle these kinds of projects but it sure seems like a unique book and one that needs a little imagination from the owner :)

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  5. You look great in them clothes. Love Japanese creations.

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  6. Thanks so much for going into such detail^ I'm a big fan of Japanese patterns and books even though I don't read Japanese they are, as you say, very well illustrated.

    Glad to read some positive constructive comments about the book so I am rushing off to get it now

    xx

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  7. Thank you for such a thorough review! I was recently looking into Pattern Magic by Tomoko Nakamichi and was wondering if they were similar in layout to Shape Shape? Does it also contain patterns or is it more about how to make certain shapes from manipulation of fabric and then how to draft them. I love the pieces you've made from both books!

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  8. Great review! You look lovely in all the garments.

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  9. You are the second blogger this week to recommend Japanese sewing patterns, so I guess I may have to get this book!

    Reviewers can be so precious - one detail out of place or something unexpected can send them running for cover.

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  10. Nice to see all those patterns together! makes me want to do them!
    It had been a while I visited your blog, and you still amaze me with your sewing skills!

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  11. What a great and thorough review! It amazes me how anyone can complain about something they never even tried! As for me I love every single piece you have made from this book and the other japanese books you own. Btw, I liked the previous book title better than shape, shape!

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  12. You are a wonderful advertisement for this book. These clothes are so unique and fun, without being ugly weird. Your versions are so beautiful in those subtle colorations. (I'm having trouble describing your palette...) Fabulous!

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  13. I was so glad when I saw the book was out in English - your tops and skirts have long made me covet this book. Thanks for the review!

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  14. Thanks for the review - I'm going to give it a try!

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  15. I have really enjoyed all of the interesting designs you have made from this book.

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  16. I've had this book for ages and especially want to make the wrap/vests. Thanks for the great review - your pictures are very inspiring!

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  17. Thank you!
    Adri, I've replied to your comment over on your blog as well: and no, the Pattern Magic books do not contain patterns, but are more a design exercise in drafting your own patterns and manipulating them to achieve different sculptural effects with the fabric.

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  18. Thanks for the review. The clothes look really good. I think I will add it to my Christmas list.

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  19. Thanks for a great review, I'm so tempted by these books but not 100% confident I could carry them off. I might just need a little more sewing practice in my kitbag and then I might give them a try!
    In the meantime thanks for the pattern tracing tip! My Spotlight is out of stock of 10m rolls of non-fusible interfacing and tell me that last time it took 6 months for them to get it back in!!! This looks like an even better solution!

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  20. Thank you for your excellent review. I had admired these garments previously, and was interested to read of your overall impression of the book.
    I bought Pattern Magic I and II after seeing your garments, and enjoy these books very much, although only a few ideas have made their way into my garments (so far). This book looks equally interesting.

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  21. After your posts I am very interesting in Japanese books!

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  22. Your review of this book is impressive because you've taken the time to try these patterns out.
    Your reviews of Pattern Magic books have influenced me to buy them and these are on my list of projects to do next year, because I'd like to stregthen my pattern making skills - a bit.
    I agree that there's no use reviewing a book when you've never tried it out.
    Thanks again for your great work Carolyn.

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  23. Carolyn, I was just wondering have you posted your own review of the book on Amazon? It would be very helpful to people who are not aware of your blog already and will not go to the trouble of searching for it as mentioned in the other reviews.

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  24. Thanks for your reply, Carolyn! I think I need exercises like the ones in Pattern Magic to loosen my pattern-drafting joints... I haven't drafted a pattern in a looong time. :)

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  25. I have this book (and think it's lovely!) but haven't sewn anything in it yet, so it's wonderful to see some real live pieces made, and worn.... and looking great!! Thank you so much for sharing!! :)

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  26. Very interesting, I really like top 'p'. I am eagerly awaiting the book 'Drape Drape'. Different author, but it looks very inspiring. I've also got Pattern Magic 1, but I haven't made anything from it yet. Every time I get it out, I put it away again in the 'too much faffing on required' basket. I know you've made several items from PM, are they a lot of effort before you get started on the actual sewing? Thanks for the great book review and how exciting to pop up in an Amazon review!!

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  27. Great review, and so interesting to see several garments from the book gathered together in one post - they look amazing!

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  28. Thanks for the review and wonderful photos. The designs have such flattering drape and interesting details. The natural fabrics are a perfect choice.

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  30. I missed this review until I read the account of the snarky commenter. I love all the garments you make from the Japanese pattern books. They seem to suit your style so well, and the fabrics you choose are such good design-fabric marriages.

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  31. I bought this book because I was motivated by your take on these clothes- I think they look very stylish on you or you make them look very stylish - both are a win!
    I loved your review and I love your blog! Nice job with your sewing and your photographing.

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  32. HI! I was wondering if you could tell me if the slacks on the cover of the book is one of the patterns inside the book. I've seen the drawstring pants, but I want the pattern for the ones on the cover. Thanks!

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    1. Kara; no that pattern is not in the book, unfortunately. They are gorgeous, aren't they!

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  33. Hi Carolyn, thanks so much for the review!
    I have bought the book 'Simple Modern Sewing: 8 Basic Patterns to Create 25 Favorite Garments' and I love it but there is only one pattern for trousers/ 3/4 pants. it has a drawstring waist.
    I was looking at the shape shape patternbook because of the beautiful trousers on the front cover of the book. Is the pattern for those trousers in the book?
    If so have you made them?
    Thank you! Zoë

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    1. Zoe; no I'm afraid the pattern for those flat-fronted, waistbanded trousers is not in the book, sadly. I wish it was too, they are lovely! There is a pattern for 3/4 length trousers with a drawstring waist, but I have not used it :)

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    2. Thank you for the reply Carolyn. maybe I will make the designs in the books I have (I also just bought the Stylish Dress Book) before I buy a new book! I think the ones in Shape Shape might be a bit advanced anyway - you are a much more advanced sewer then me! I have only just started making clothes again

      thanks for the inspiration in your blog though! :-)

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