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Japanese Knitting: Openwork, Bobbles, and Knots

Last week I mentioned I was going to explore the world of Japanese knitting stitches. I am using the book 250 Japanese Knitting Stitches: The Original Pattern Bible by Hitomi Shida as my guide. It is filled with pictures of gorgeous stitch patterns and accompanying knitting charts. I have never worked with Japanese Knitting charts before and I am a bit intimidated by the apparent complexity. I started off by reading the section 'Chart Reading Basics' in the introduction. There are some important points that need to be remembered when working with a Japanese knitting chart. One of the most important is that the chart is a visual representation of your knitting. It shows you what the knitting will look like when you are done, therefore when you are working stitches on the wrong side you will need to reverse the stitches recorded. Japanese chart symbols are standardized and not typically included with the chart, however this book does contain a 'Guide to Symbols' section which I have found very helpful, especially for the more complex stitches. Each chart contains blank boxes, which make the chart easier to read. These blank boxes represent either knits or purls, the key just under the left side of the chart indicates what these blank boxes mean within this particular chart. Also contained within the key is the pattern repeat. The chart itself may have more stitches shown that what is needed to work to repeat the pattern successfully.

Purposely choosing one of the less complicated openwork patterns to begin with, I was pleased to find that, so far, working Japanese charts is not as difficult as I anticipated. I plan on working through the different sections of the book trying the varying types of patterns. There are six sections each focusing on different pattern types: openwork patterns, overall patterns, pattern arrangements, patterns with crossing stitches, panel patterns, and edging. The largest section, Openwork Patterns, is broken up into five subsections highlighting specific techniques: basic openwork, bobbles, knots, leaves, and smocking.

After finishing an openwork pattern of what looks like stems and leaves poking up through the soil, I began another openwork pattern with bobbles. Hitomi Shida gives instructions on how to make a bobble using a crochet hook. While this method is new to me, I enjoyed the process and how smooth and neat the result looks. This pattern features repeats of chains and zigzagging parallelograms with bobbles on each point. It has a fun geometric feel. The pattern appears to be slowly undulating across the fabric as if moved by a gentle breeze.

While I typically prefer nature inspired patterns, I thought I would experiment with other themes. The next pattern I began is an openwork pattern with knots. Thick twisting ropes climb upward amid reverse stockinette and open chain like sections. To get the effect of twisiting ropes some sections are worked using a cable needle.

Next week will continue an exploration of Japanese knitting stitches focusing on openwork patterns featuring leaves and smocking.

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