For my birthday, the thoughtful Mr. Knitcircus gifted me this Japanese Stitch Dictionary, and I’ve been poring over every page! This is my second Japanese Stitch Dictionary; the first contains 300 stitches. It’s been one of my most treasured possessions since I got it a couple of years ago.
So what’s the fuss about Japanese Stitch Dictionaries, you may ask. Why get a book in a language you can’t even read? Why are these books sought after by designers even though they’re way more expensive than perfectly good stitch dictionaries like these? It’s true, there are wonderful books out there, starting with Barbara Walker’s Treasuries on up to Melissa Leapman’s recent volume The Knit Stitch Handbook. Well, my knitting friends, I’ll answer all these questions and more!
First, the wonder of Japanese Stitch Dictionaries is that you don’t need to be able to read Japanese to learn how to work the stitches. They include detailed and ingeniously understandable illustrations of every single symbol used in the charts. My first book has them all in their own section at the back, and the new one even more helpfully starts with knit and purl, then groups the whole book so that every section including a new symbol is grouped together so that you can add understanding as you go. The instruction below shows you how to work a lifted stitch.
The charts in Japanese knitting books are the envy of designers everywhere. According to designers I’ve spoken with, whole country has a standardized chart system, so every chart uses the same symbols the same way. How much easier would it be if we could do that?! They have also come up with representations that, by and large, show how the stitch will look when finished.
One thing I found fascinating about this new book was discovering that the slanted stitches shown above aren’t k2tog and ssk as they normally would be in the US. They indicate that the presence of a decrease causes those stitches to slant in a certain direction, making it much clearer from the chart what your knitted fabric will look like.
You can really see the herringbone pattern this stitch will make!
As a designer and a medium-to-advanced knitter, I love getting inspiration form the stitch patterns. Japanese knitters clearly aren’t afraid to follow charts, do decreases on wrong-side rows or add a number of stitches together to form one repeat (as with the cable stitches above). They’re also much bolder about mixing textures, cables and lace together in one repeat.
They also have pretty creative ideas about wrapping and lifting stitches as shown in the pattern above and do a lot more with adding and subtracting stitches and working from the rows below to add textures than we normally see here.
Here’s a fun combination of lace, cable and texture into one stitch pattern!
Some other fun elements that expand my mind when I read these books is the willingness of Japanese knitters to purl, leading to some very interesting stitches with purled backgrounds, to drop stitches on purpose, and to put patterns next to and even inside of each other to form complex knitted fabrics. If you want to challenge yourself to try, or at least think about, new ways to knit, I definitely recommend one of these stitch dictionaries!
For more stitch dictionaries, check out my search list on Amazon.