One of the magical things about knitting and crochet is the way that traditions vary a little from country to country, so you’ll probably never run out of interesting things to discover.
Let’s talk about Japan. I confess that until recently, my awareness of Japanese yarn-related traditions extended not much further than amigurumi. I’m not proud of that fact. But then Tuttle Press sent me a review copy of Hitomi Shida’s new book, Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible (translated into English by Gayle Roehm), and… well here’s the briefest book review ever: wow.
What? You want more detail? OK. At heart, Japanese knitting is of course just the same as anywhere-else knitting – we’re all making loops in string using sticks. And yet, and yet…
Whilst I’m sure that someone, somewhere, in Japan is churning out plain garter stitch scarves, the general theme of Japanese knitting is exquisite complexity of lace and cables, often all mixed in together.
This book is a stitch dictionary of 260 patterns, all charted and photographed. Each is a sample panel of some detailed loveliness. Of course, I had to have a play:-
If you’re used to working from charts, the patterns won’t especially faze you, although it’s fair to say that they’re all at the more complicated end of the spectrum.
There are detailed explanations of chart symbols and general principles, with photo-tutorials for particularly complex stitches, so everything should be doable. That said, this is not a book for beginners. (And as I discovered to my cost, it’s not a book for inebriated knitting at pub yarn-night, either).
One of the exciting things about Japanese knitting is the tendency to combine elements that we Brits often keep neatly separate in different patterns; especially lacework with cables, and sometimes some crochet bobbles thrown in for good measure, too.
The results are worth the effort. The patterns are works of art in themselves. Many have a botanical flavour, with leaves and berries and curling stems.
Knit them as swatches for the sheer joy of creation, or choose one to incorporate into a scarf or a hat. (The book does include several full patterns for small garments, although the format in which these are presented might be slightly different from what you’re used to.)
As for the pattern charts, an incredible amount of work has clearly gone into the detail. It probably helped that the book’s translator is herself an avid knitter. I’ve knitted a few of the charts so far, and as long as your brain is switched to ‘on’, they’re fine.
I did find a possible problem with just one of the samples (number 20), although I’m saying this cautiously due to the very real possibility that I’m just being colossally dim. But it was difficult to establish this pattern with a balanced number of increases and decreases on each row.
But everything else that I tried came out just perfectly. Here’s my favourite (pre- washing and blocking):-
Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible, 260 Exquisite Patterns By Hitomi Shida (translated by Gayle Roehm) is available worldwide, right now.
You’ll love this book if:-
- You’re an experienced knitter who welcomes challenges.
- You’re fine with working from charts.
- You adore detail and complexity.
- You like monochrome texture, with plenty of lace and cable. The occasional involvement of a crochet hook doesn’t faze you.
- You happily drool over pictures of beautiful knitwork.
- You like inspiration that you can take in your own direction.
- You’re a process knitter.
This might not be the book for you if:-
- You like mindless knit projects that you can make when you’re feeling tired. You like to keep things quick and simple.
- You’ve only just mastered the knit stitch, and next week you’re going to try purling for the very first time.
- Colourwork is your thing. For you, it’s all about the pattern, not the texture.
- Charts are scary. Give me words, man.
- You just want a bunch of patterns for making stuff.
- You’re a product knitter.
Personally, I love this book (even though my ‘thing’ is colourwork).
Thanks to Tuttle Press for the review copy. All opinions are my own.