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Japanese Craft Books

Reported by Susie Ziegler


My confession today is that I am a Japanese Craft Book addict. I know that I am not the only one. Other craft books are great and we all like having varied craft book libraries, but you know how it is when you get a new book or magazine and you really only like one or two projects and the rest are just… meh…not so great? Well, in these books, it’s like craft heaven. I pretty much want to make every single thing. The projects are simple, gorgeous, cute, and a celebration of a life filled with handmade things. Projects are both contemporary and timeless with tremendous visual appeal.

Just look at this! I could get my preschooler to wash the windows if only she had just the right handmade crochet “Magic Scrubber”!
Here, a felt mascot boy and girl take a felt teddy bear on a little perfect picnic all made in miniature.
Pattern books aren’t all of the “Cute” variety such as the mascot books above, although that is what I am personally drawn to. Some books feature “zakka” (zakka= general merchandise) of all kinds. In fact there is a whole series of books titled “Handmade Zakka”. Cotton Paint and Cotton Time are bi-monthly publications full of inspiration and patterns for all kinds of handmade things.
I have a great collection of these books and I do go a little bit crazy when it’s time for me to make a new order for more. I force myself to craft from several books before I let myself buy any new ones.

I know what you are thinking: I don’t read Japanese! How can I possibly use those books? That’s the amazing thing! You don’t need to be able to read them! The instructions are printed visually, step-by-step. If you have a basic knowledge of a craft like crochet, felt craft, embroidery, or sewing, a Japanese pattern book in that medium will not be difficult. Measurements are given in metric, and numbers are always in our familiar Arabic style. Sometimes the books read from “back to front” but I see that as an exciting novelty and not a problem.

Okay, so sometimes the books with pattern inserts are intimidating. If you have strong visual/perceptual skills, you can figure these out.

Many books are much simpler with instructions like these:
If you simply must know what these books say, you can use this handy Japanese pattern help pdf posted at My Little Mochi.

Browse around at Crafting Japanese. This site was very quiet for awhile, but is back up and running with current photographs and links to blogs with photos, projects, and ISBN numbers.

Also check out the Flickr groups, “crafting in japanese” and
“inspiring images from craft books”. Both groups have well over 1000 members and several thousand photos of books and projects to keep you salivating for days and days.

Ready to buy and start your own collection? Brick and mortar sellers include Kinokuniya on the east and west coasts of the USA, and Mitsuwa in other locations. Your city or region just might have a Japanese bookseller or market, but you’ll have to check your local yellow pages.

Shopping online is much easier. You can order directly from Japan at Amazon Japan. People use them all the time and I know you can get the pages translated into English, but in this case, the Japanese freaks me out a little bit. I prefer to shop at YesAsia. At YesAsia, they offer free shipping for orders in the USA over a certain amount. Expect your orders from these sellers to take about a month to arrive from overseas.

Other online sources include Etsy, ebay, SuperBuzzy, and KittyCraft. Crafting Japanese has an online guide to sellers HERE.
You’ll need to know the ISBN number to do any searching at YesAsia or Amazon Japan. I find that doing keyword searches like “craft” “crochet” or “felt” yield very limited results. It is much better to search by ISBN number, but leave out the letters in your search and use the numbers only. You can also browse around these sites by clicking on the “Customers who bought —- also bought —-“, crossing your fingers that you’ll see the specific one you want.

Pros of buying at big online sellers like YesAsia:

  • Wide Selection of books
  • Excellent prices
  • Free shipping depending on your location

Cons

  • Difficult search engines don’t handle the language barrier
  • Listings only have very small cover photos
  • Slow delivery takes several weeks

You can expect more photos and some personal service at smaller sellers, but prices will vary widely. Some sellers will even special order books for you. One ebay order I made before discovering YesAsia was very expensive, but it was packaged in the cutest way!

Prices for these books range from around $6 to over $50 for must-have out-of-print books. Publishers are getting wise to the Japanese craft book trend and are beginning to publish some books in English language versions. There are Aranzi Aronzo, Sock and Glove, and some amigurumi crochet books to name a few.
Inspired? We hope so! Let us know if you’d try out these highly inspirational books!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

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7 Responses to Japanese Craft Books

  1. Avatar
    Lindy Stamper May 6, 2008 at 6:59 am #

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that is addicted to the Japanese craft books. I can’t read a lick of it and often had to rely on the pictures heavliy. I actually have much better luck w/ eBay and have several usual sellers that I work with. So much so that they would email me to tell me what they have first before listing the item.

    That said, i do pay for the shipping, which can be costly because I do want the insurance, so it’ll get here in a week.

    I didn’t have much luck w/ YesAsia, and often very frustrated with them, because they will let you buy the item, pay for it. But often take a month to find out the item is no longer available. That part of it, I hate. That has happened to me every time I try to purchase from them. So, I gave up. Glad for you if you are having success.

  2. Avatar
    floresita May 6, 2008 at 8:58 am #

    Thanks for this awesome overview! I find the designs so adorable, but the language barrier is intimidating – that PDF guide is amazing!! 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Tsoniki May 6, 2008 at 3:22 pm #

    I love the Japanese craft books I see everywhere!

    And your post came on the day when we have to pick where we will move next – seeing the books makes me want to pick Japan. LOL

  4. Avatar
    Julie Campbell May 6, 2008 at 9:05 pm #

    I’ve always loved seeing these cute creations on etsy, but never thought to look for a book. Which Aranzi book would you recommend the most? They all look so cute! Also… do you have a link for the Craft & Paint magazine?

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    liabette May 6, 2008 at 9:06 pm #

    Oh my gosh I absolutely love Japanese Craft books! It started out about 18 years ago when I was crocheting doilies and Ondori Japan had about 5 books that were awesome. Now I see tons of other craft ideas and I really like not having to read the instructions. The visuals are detailed and pretty easy to follow. I had the opportunity to visit Mitsuwa in Arlington Hts Il and I went a little overboard, my teenage son had to pull me out before we needed to rent a truck. All in all I say the information about these the better!

  6. Avatar
    Julie Campbell May 6, 2008 at 9:06 pm #

    Oops! I got the magazine name goofed… but I’m looking for the one you have pictured. 🙂

  7. Avatar
    IamSusie May 7, 2008 at 8:14 pm #

    Lindy stamper- It is true that shopping at YesAsia can make you old before your time, but I love those prices and I just assume that things will take 4 to 6 weeks. It is only recently that I’ve seen other sellers with competitive prices.

    Julie Campbell- I like the Aranzi Aronzo Cute Stuff. It was my first Japanese book and it has a nice variety of simple cute things in it including my favorite felt envelopes. It’s recently come out in English:
    http://www.amazon.com/Aranzi-Cute-Stuff-Aronzo/dp/1934287091/ref=pd_sim_b_img_4

    That magazine is Cotton Time March 2008. It is available at Superbuzzy:
    http://www.superbuzzy.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=72_80&products_id=2562