Monday, 1 July 2013

Meet Yi Farn: Behing

Last month, I ran a giveaway of five Japanese sewing books together with Yi Farn, a Singapore based mom, seamstress, crafter and blogger from Japanese sewing books. If you are into Japanese sewing or crafting books, you can find a lot of useful information on her blog like how to understand Japanese patterns or dictionary of Japanese sewing terms. From time to time, Yi Farn also fulfills translation request and translates some patterns into English.

I though that I would be nice to get to know a bit more about Yi Farn  and asked her some questions...
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  • Tell us a little bit about yourself
    I am a work from home mother of 2 girls. I used to work as a freelance web designer + programmer, but after kids it was rather hard to attend meetings out of the home. So now I am only working for a couple of regular clients as they understand my "inflexible" hours. This is great as it gives me time to both be at home for the kids in the day, but also work and blog/sew at the same time.
  • Is there a big sewing/crafting community in Singapore?
    I wouldn't call it big at the moment, but I am definitely seeing a renewed interest in sewing/crafting. I often get emails from fellow Singaporeans who follow my blog and tell me they sew too. Most people tend to pick it up as a hobby after having kids, but there are also some young people who are into crafting and trying to turn it into a career/business. 
    • When and why did you become interested in Japanese sewing books? 
      I remember my first sewing pattern that I bought. I can't remember which brand it was but it comes in a paper envelope for one girls' party dress + 4 variations. The pattern paper was flimsy and the instructions were really hard to understand especially for a beginner. I remember improvising (a lot!) Then I bought some sewing books in English, the quality of the patterns were a lot better, and most of the time not much tracing was required which was great, but the books were really expensive and the instructions were also hard to understand. Out of ten steps there might be one diagram, and most of the time I had to have very good imagination or visualization skills. I still have those books but I have not actually made anything from them for a long time.

      The biggest and my favourite bookstore has always been Kinokuniya. And since the brand originated from Japan, needless to say they are very well stocked in Japanese sewing books. I bought one to try and despite not knowing any Japanese then, I was able to follow the diagrams. It did help that there are lots of kanji (chinese characters) that I can read, and that helped alot with the basic orientation like front and back, inside and outside. As well as key garment parts like sleeve, neckline, sides etc. Other than that the diagrams were also easy to follow. 

    The prices were also at least 20% cheaper than the english books, so it was really a no brainer. After my first few books, my collection just grew and I decided to learn hiragana and katakana to be able to read it better. It was also through this method, that I realize it is not necessary to be entirely fluent in Japanese to read the books, and that with some help, lots of Japanese sewing books fans can also learn sew from them.

    • Have you been to Japan?
      My first trip was in 2007 and since then it's been at least one trip a year. So that's like 6 times at least? The past two years we've been addicted to Hokkaido and we went 3 times in a row! It's a really lovely place both in winter and also summer. It is also not as crowded as Tokyo and very easy to get around on the subway and trains. The food there is also really good.
    • What types of books do you collect and how many books are in your collection?
      Mainly girls dresses, bags, zakka and recently, lots of adult clothes (for myself). I have about 70 books at the moment, and that's not including the magazines. 
    • What are your favorite items to make using Japanese sewing books?
      Girls dresses and bags! 

    • I know that you have a YouTube channel which I find great. Will you continue expanding your video tutorials?
      Yes. My aim is to produce at least one tutorial a month. I wish I could do more but it is rather time consuming to shoot and edit videos, hopefully when I get better at it I will be able to produce more.
    • What would your advice be to someone who does not read Japanese but is interested to try a Japanese sewing book?
      There are a couple of English translated book options that I have compiled on my blog ( Those are a good way to start familiarizing with the use of Japanese patterns, where the units are in cm and the seam allowances are not included in the patterns. The diagrams in the translated versions are also similar to the original Japanese ones. The books are also not very expensive.
      If you want to try a sewing book in Japanese, I would start with one of the magazines. Firstly it is cheaper to purchase compared to a book, and it is usually packed with a variety of projects, not just focused on a certain type of garment. These usually include a number of projects where they show you step by step photographs and that eliminates the need for translation.

      A good choice will be Cotton Friend. It includes both adult and kids wear, accessories, bags, zakka etc. For adult ladies wear and accessories, a personal favorite is the Female magazine, I find the looks in the book more updated and wearable than some of the other adult sewing magazines


    1. Thanks for this interview Inna. As a bit of a fan of the Japanese sewing books I'll have to check out her site.

    2. Thanks for the interview! I found you through Yi Farn's blog and its great to learn more about the person behind the blog!

    3. Very cool. I'm in love with that sewn macaron. I love eating them... but had never thought about interpreting it like that. Cute!