I started with Blouse B from the Girls Style Book. I think my downfall was in my expectations. I had read some of the reviews from the book and a couple of people said it was confusing. But then I wondered- how confusing could it be? (And the universe laughed an evil villain laugh.)
So let's start with sizing. I measured Tarikua, who's 4 1/2 and generally wears a size 4. She measured at a size 2. I haven't sewn a size 2 for her in almost 2 years. I was dubious. But I knew if it was too small for her, I could pass it along to Iris. So I went with it.
Then came locating the pattern pieces. The book doesn't identify which pattern page they're on. So you have to look through each page to find them. The pieces for this blouse were not all on the same page. I located the main pieces but there were still a few I couldn't find. I was puzzled. I went back to the first page which listed 'important information'. I should probably read that, right? It turns out, you have to draft your own rectangular shaped pattern pieces - in this case, the bias binding, button loop, and lower sleeves.
After my pieces were drafted, it was time to add the seam allowances. I found this post about adding 1/4" seam allowances by taping two pencils together. I thought this was ingenious. I was thrilled. In my merriment, I didn't stop to think that the seam allowances wouldn't be the same on all sides. The hem and the back plackets obviously require a larger seam allowance than the side seams, for instance. And of course, I didn't accidentally add a seam allowance to the folds, because that would just be ridiculous. I would never be so reckless. ;)
As handy as the pencil trick is, I learned I don't care for the 1/4" seam allowance. It's too narrow for my liking and makes it difficult to finish the seams with my serger. My favorite seam allowance is 3/8" which is what the book recommends. (Somebody totally needs to create a pencil that adjusts for various seam allowances - a techie version of the two-pencils-taped-together idea.)
Yes, the instruction are in English, but really, you're pretty much on your own. For instance, the instructions to sew the front tucks are : Sew front tucks. There you go. There are some diagrams, some of which are helpful and others, not so much.
The construction was no-frills. There are no facings or blind hems. You just kind of slap it all together.
This said, I was actually impressed with how smart it looked when it was done. The details are so nice.
I loved the finished look of the blouse - Indigo and I both literally gasped when Tarikua put it on. She looked like a little doll in it.
The book has 24 patterns for just over $13. You can't expect Oliver + S pattern instructions at a price like that. There are quite a few cute patterns in the book, which I think makes it a steal.
So, in the end, I came around, and maybe even fell a little bit in love with Japanese sewing books. I think half the battle (or more) is simply knowing what you're in for - and having the confidence to go for it anyway. :)