Let’s start with the resources. I have often been recommending the Pattern Magic -series by Tomoko Nakamichi on Instagram. So what a better way to start, than by introducing these books a little bit better. I’ll also add some designs of my own, inspired by these books. To avoid a really long post, I’m going to divide it into two parts.
I first discovered these books during a sewing course. One of the fellow-students had brought the first two books with her in class and we were all leafing through them, amazed by the designs. Of course I then had to get the books myself, too.
It’s difficult to say which one is my favorite. Each book has designs that I like. However I’ve done most variations on the pieces from book number 2, so I guess this means that it’s the most inspirational for me.
What is Pattern Magic?
It’s a fairly well known series of patternmaking books from Japan. There are others, too, but what I love about these in particular, is that instead of just giving you the finished pattern to copy, the book explains how to draft it yourself! That way you have the possibility to make all kinds of different versions of your own using the various techniques explained.
The designs in these books are pretty unique: not exactly your everyday garments! The approach is definitely creative. It opens your mind to a completely different way of constructing patterns. It’s mostly flat-patternmaking, although many times it looks like one would have to drape to get such results.
All the projects include step-by-step instructions with diagrams and lots of photos. Some are more difficult than others to understand, depending on your experience. Personally, I often use the books as inspiration, even just by looking at the pictures.
The first Pattern Magic book in Japanese was published in 2005. The English edition came out later, in 2010, published by Laurence King Publishing Ltd. Nowadays you can find Pattern Magic also in German, Spanish and French. Currently there are three books on woven fabrics and one on stretch fabrics.
There isn’t much information to be found about the author Tomoko Nakamichi. I searched on the internet, but I could only find the same information that’s also written in the Pattern Magic -books: She was a professor at Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo and now delivers lectures and holds courses both in Japan and internationally. All the garments in the pictures are actually in half-scale. Nakamichi created them with trial-and-error approach and they served to help her students understand better how patterns work.
The books contain instructions on drafting a basic Bunka-style sloper, which is a bit different from the ones I normally use. The only measurements needed are the bust, waist and centre back length. However, I haven’t encountered problems using a basic bodice pattern of my own with the darts placed a bit differently. The stretch-fabrics -edition has a sheet where you can copy the basic pattern.
There is a section in the first two books, that illustrates how the stylelines work: how you can replace the darts with any kind of cut, as long as it passes through the dart-points. And the bodice will maintain it’s original fit. Knowing this already gives you a great starting point into modifying your basic pattern. In fact, most of the designs in Pattern Magic replace the darts with other elements.
The first book
The first book teaches how to insert knots, twists, cubes, holes, craters etc into your basic bodice. A version of the bamboo-bodice is in this book, too. Some techniques are surprising, as you literally attach the element with tape or pins on the garment and use style-lines to melt it into the pattern.
I’ve tried almost every design in this book and then I made my own versions of some of them by changing
the values and placement, or multiplying the elements. Just improvising and seeing what comes out. I mean, the book gives you the technique, but you can place the cuts differently, add more (or less) volume than it says and so on. It’s interesting to experiment. Even better if you can use a half-scale dressform.
Here are pictures of my version of the knots and the cubes.
Pattern Magic 2
Here you can find garments inspired by the various geometrical shapes: circle, triangle and square. There’s a chapter on accordion-technique, with examples of that being inserted both in a sleeve and into a bodice. I’ve done a few designs using this technique and I love the way it creates really sculptural shapes. Here’s one.
The same goes for the nyokitto, the ”fold in the fabric that protrudes from a fitted bodice”. Here you can see my versions, where I multiplied the folds and changed the amount of volume and their placement. I even tried inserting them on a shoulder, which resulted in a cool spiky look. I think these would look great in neoprene.
There’s a dress with a group of knots in the front. What a great idea! The knots create an interesting texture. I made a different version by inserting the knots on the shoulders of a bodice and added some gathering, too.
Then there’s a design called ”Like a jungle” where the bodice front is separated with stylelines into slices that overlap each other. I had an idea that I wanted the overlapping area to create a flower-shape in the middle by leaving little holes in between the slices. Well, I’m not too happy with the result, but probably I could make it work by editing the pattern some more.
I’m skipping quite a few designs here, but the last chapter of the book deserves a mention:
the vanishing scarf, -tie, -lapels and -pocket. These are normally separate parts in a garment, but in this case they are drafted partly into the bodice-pattern, which makes it look like they’re vanishing. If you want to start easy, start with the pocket! There are three versions of it.
Here’s a picture of a vanishing tie I made with some changes to the pattern. I think this way the pattern became more simple. I added stripes as well.
As you can see, the second book has inspired quite a few designs for me! And to be honest, now that I was leafing through it, I started planning a couple of new ones, too…
How about you? Do you have the Pattern Magic -books? Have you made, or planned, any garments with the patterns?
A very interesting article about the Bunka method on Business of Fashion:
Laurence King Publishing Ltd.: