14 December 2015

Knit in Japanese

Last month I gave a short talk about Japanese knitting for Atlanta Knitting Guild. Pam is leading the guild on a knit-along incorporating techniques from around the world. Ideally we would have had either Gayle Roehm or Fleegle come talk to the guild about Japanese knitting. Since I had taken two of Gayle's classes, I filled in.

This led me to pull out my notebook of class handouts. When I took that first class at STITCHES 2009, I was not in the habit of keeping my swatches. Rather, I learned in class, ripped back, and reused the yarn. I also put all the handout pages in one page protector. Now I know better. Now I put each page in a separate protector and I put the swatch in with the page, so I can see what it was I did. After giving my presentation for AKG, I decided to knit the missing swatches and revisit what I had learned.

If you have a chance to take a class with Gayle, I recommend it. Over the past five years I have gathered about half a dozen Japanese stitch dictionaries. They are often innovative and inspiring. Gayle will teach you what you need to know to read the charts. And she shows you how to do the strange maneuvers. In today's and tomorrow's posts, I'll show my swatches so you can understand why these patterns are so intriguing and why you would want to take a class or two on how to make them.

This first set of swatches labeled A through G were from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs."
Swatch A from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
I recall referring to this chart as the "shock and awe." The chart looks fairly plain, but there is a little box on the side with very strange marks in it -- circles of varying sizes along with vertical lines and some crossed lines, too. That box explains how to make this rather crochet-like pattern that involves extreme increases and decreases. Truth is, since I didn't keep the original swatch from 2009, I'm not 100% sure I've worked this correctly. Maybe it is just because I knit it in fuchsia, but the motifs remind me of small roses.
Swatch B from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Swatch B looks to me like a dogwood blossom on a lace background. The chart again looks very strange due to the extreme increases and decreases. Columns of the chart are split into strips. This pattern also has action on every row -- definitely not for the beginning knitter!
Swatch C from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Swatch C bears a similarity to chart A in that the chart does not look scary until you look at what the little box on the side means. This highly-textured pattern looks a little funny when flattened on my scanner. The maneuver here involves working short row tabs and then turning them before continuing across the row. Who thought of that?
Swatch D from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
Then there are the Japanese patterns that are just plain show-off acrobatics. Bobbles, cables, twisted stitches, and some sort of dipping down across several rows maneuver that Gayle called a "blackberry" stitch -- the bud-like texture inside the cabled ovals on the right edge. The blackberry stitch is something you want someone to show you in person. Why knit the next stitch when you could just knit up a new stitch anywhere?
Swatch E from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
I've purposely blocked swatch E quite flat. This is a short-row pattern similar to the famous Lizard Ridge blanket. The chart is a bunch of triangular grids separated by open spaces. The pattern is a wonderful scallop shell well-suited to long-print yarn. If you don't stretch it flat when you block it, the shells even bow outward a little like real seashells. Wouldn't this make a fabulous blanket?
Swatch F from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
The purpose of swatch F was to explain how to handle a non-standard symbol in the chart. In this case, the pattern is produced by purposely messing with the gauge via double-wrapped stitches. I've seen condo knitting -- using two radically different-sized needles on different rows to create patterns -- but I don't think I had previously encountered varying stitch sizes on the same row to create texture.
Bonus Swatch G from "Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs"
I think this last swatch was a bonus swatch. The chart wasn't all that difficult to follow, although it did contain a twisted purl that helps make the stockinette motif pop off the reverse stockinette background. It is the sort of subtle refinement typical of Japanese crafting culture.

Tomorrow: swatches from "Even More Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs."

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