Japanese Sewing Terms You Need to Know - English Translations

03 Sep 2015

Want to know how to translate Japanese sewing patterns? Facing a page of sewing instructions in Japanese can be intimidating, but like with any sewing projects, there are certain sewing terms which are used repeatedly. Here's the most commonly used Japanese sewing terms and their translations in English.

Sewing Basics

JapaneseHow to ReadEnglish Translation
縫い代nuidaiseam allowance
型紙katagamisewing pattern
wasymbol to indicate fabric fold line


JapaneseHow to ReadEnglish Translation
裏 or うらurareverse/wrong side
表 or おもてomoteright/correct side
前 or まえmaefront
後ろ or うしろushiroback


JapaneseHow to ReadEnglish Translation


JapaneseHow to ReadEnglish Translation
表布omote nunoright / main fabric
裏布ura nunolining fabric
ファスナーfasunafastener / zipper

Clothing Items

JapaneseHow to ReadEnglish Translation

Let's try translating a Japanese sewing pattern!

Here's an example of a Japanese sewing pattern for a very simple maxi skirt.

Circled in BLUE, the Japanese symbol 作り方 means Instructions.

In RED, you can see the English translations of the different pattern components and which direction the diagram is showing.

Highlighted in YELLOW are the 4 steps to make the maxi skirt. Can you work out what the instructions are using the 'Instructions' table above?

  1. Sew the skirt.
  2. Make the belt.
  3. Attach the belt.
  4. Complete!

How to translate Japanese sewing pattern to English

The more you practice, the more you'll get used to how Japanese sewing patterns work. The diagrams really help you and understanding the instructions, so even if you can just work out whether you are looking at the right or wrong side of the fabric, it's a great start!

For a more in depth look at translating and understanding Japanese patterns, check out my ebook How to Sew Japanese Sewing Patterns. Many more sewing terms are translated in the book, including types of fabrics and garments. You'll also find out how to make sense of those seam allowances and drafting patterns.

How to Sew Japanese Sewing Patterns E-book

Start sewing Japanese sewing patterns, even if you DON'T speak Japanese! Get a free sample chapter of How to Sew Japanese Sewing Patterns E-book.