My collection of Japanese Craft Books is now taking up a whole shelf on one of my bookcases. (And I am waiting for the arrival of two more I bought just this week.) I have so many of the books that I have arranged them into categories. I have sewing/clothing, sewing/accessories, patchwork, wet felting, needlefelting, teddy bears and other critters, embroidery, fabric flowers, handbags, and interior decorating.
On my Japanese Craft Books bookshelf, I have several books on sewing handbags. The photography, as in all the Japanese Craft Books I have seen, is yummy and the designs range from simple and pretty to inventive craft pieces. I love the wonderful fabrics used for the bags - my favorite fabrics are ones with writing on them and ones that look like abstract paintings. Because of the growing popularity of the Japanese Craft Books, the distinctive Japanese fabrics are becoming easier to find here in the US. And I have been amassing a small collection of these, also.
The imaginative shapes and surface designs of the bags are intriguing. There are geometric shapes such as circles and pyramids and doll and animal shaped bags. The designs are imaginative, but avoid being cutesy. Several of the bags incorporate unusual surface design that elevates them from handmade bag to an art/craft piece. Hand-painted, appliqued, stamped, and embroidered animals and everyday objects add to the whimsy and uniqueness of the bags.
These books have patterns in the back with instructions in Japanese. Some of the books have step by step how-to photographs for a few of the patterns. While it can be daunting when you first look at the directions, once you cut out the patterns and start following the diagrams, they start to make more sense. Usually I can figure out how the bags are made from the drawings in the pattern section of the books, but others are more difficult to decipher. I look at these as ones as a puzzle challenge. Some sewing experience though, is definitely helpful for figuring out how the pieces go together.
Kinokuniya Bookstore is a great U.S. resource for ordering Japanese craft books. They have a huge two-story store in New York City and one in Seattle. It is a lot of fun to visit. They also have a website which I found very difficult to navigate as it is in Japanese. However, if you have the ISBN number or can email them a photo of the cover of the book you want, they can order most books in print. The sales people are gracious and helpful. This site has the addresses and phone numbers for the Kinokuniya stores in the US, Asia, and Australia.
The book above with the little girl peering into an inside-out bag has wonderful, creative bag designs incorporating everything from embroidery to applique, slit designs, geometric felt handles, and fun shapes including snails and birds.
This bag, the right side out version of the cover bag, utilizes appliqued rabbits and frayed edges to create a charming total effect. It even has interior sashes (seen in the cover photo of the book) to keep the bag closed.
This is another book on bag making that has lovely, unusual designs. It is currently out-of-print. Sometimes Kinokuniya will have copies of out-of-print books left in their store in Japan and will do special orders for them. Ebay is another option to try for out-of-print titles.
The first page below from the interior of this book shows horse feedbag-shaped patchwork bags. These bags are some of my favorites with their unusual shape juxtaposed with the beautiful, classic fabrics. The second page shows a black bag with cotton fabric strips dyed with various teas. I love the use of handwritten labels with the type of tea hand-stitched below each tea-dyed sample. It is similar to the way a dyeing notebook might be laid out.
The book shown below is full of unusual designs made from reconstructed clothing. The cover bag is a doll bag. The arms reaching up with hands clasped together make up the handle. There is a tiny head sticking up above the top of the bag, and two flat, yellow feet. The doll bag is made from a sweater.
The page below shows a bag with a cardboard handle hand-sewn to the fabric bag adorned with raw-edged circles and feathers. I love the idea of this, even though it isn't very practical. With its cardboard handle, feathers, and raw-edged appliqued circles, the impractical quality of the bag is part of its charm. It makes a fun accessory for a special occasion (when it's not raining!).
The page below has two bags made from reconstructed shirt and jacket sleeves. The shirt bag with the flowered fabric and fringe is not one of my favorites because of its print, color and fringe, but the idea is quite clever. I do love the jacket-sleeve bag, with it's proper grey striped suit fabric and three small buttons on the flap. It has a whimsical, yet sophisticated look.
If you would like to read about more of my Japanese Craft Books and resources for where and how to buy them, please see my previous post, My Japanese Craft Books I - Reconstructing Clothing .