Japanese charted patterns differ considerably from written ones with which we are more familiar. There are almost no instructions for the techniques used in garment construction. These techniques were taught in knitting classes offered in ďBridesí SchoolsĒ. Women were supposed to go to school to learn all the things they would need to know as wives; knitting was an important part of that knowledge, and special classes were given for it. In China today, it seems that people still pass down knitting information from generation to generation, the way our ancestors used to do. Written patterns of any kind are not commonly used. A person is supposed to be able to knit a garment just by looking at a picture of it.
I have been very fortunate to sit at the same table with Yo Furuta, for seminar meals, when she was still "on the circuit". Hearing first hand how these patterns are written made it much easier to go home, pull out a Japanese book, and comprehend the notation. It really isnít that hard. I was able to figure out most of it on my own, ten years before hearing Yo explain it. Studio used to sell the Silver Knitting Book. I got my copy in 1974, and learned how to chart by using it. Actually, only refined the way I charted patterns, since I had already figured out how to do most of it while hand knitting in the Ď60s. We donít need to be able to read Japanese to use this method. There are really only a few symbols used, and these are easy to learn.
While Japanese patterns tend to be more standardized than the written patterns used in the Western world, there are still some differences in the way they are charted. The major difference is the shaping formula. Some patterns use stitches-rows-times, and some use rows-stitches-times. Suppose that for the armhole we must first bind off 6 stitches at the base, then decrease 1 stitch every other row 5 times. A pattern using the stitches-rows-times formula would use the notation, (6 plus the stitch symbol), 1-2-5. A pattern using the rows-stitches-times formula would use the notation (6 plus the stitch symbol), 2-1-5.
Gauge is always given in stitches and rows per 10 cm, rather than stitches and rows per inch. This may be confusing to knitters in the USA, but really isnít as bad as it seems. 10 cm is nearly the same as 4". Usually dividing by 4 will give you a usable gauge. Fine yarns may need a stitch or two to compensate for the slight difference; unless the gauge is 8 sts per inch or finer, I donít bother to do this. Two or three extra stitches at each side seam will be plenty, even on larger sizes. One of the most helpful pieces of equipment is a tape measure that gives inches and centimeters, preferably on the same side. These can be a little hard to find. If you must get the kind that has inches on one side, and cm on the other, the easy way to convert is to pinch the tape at exactly the point where the measurement lies; while holding the tape, turn it over, and read exactly the same point on the other side. Also, if you don't mind a little math, 2.54 cm equal 1 inch; therefore, divide cms by 2.54 to convert into inch measurements. A calculator is invaluable for this.
Gauge will be found in the written text at the top of the page. Sometimes the lines of text go back and forth horizontally, like Western writing, and sometimes they go up and down, beginning at the top right edge, and proceed from right to left. The gauge is usually buried in the text, so it may be necessary to really look for it. Most of the other writing covers only the same kind of information that is usually found at the top of our written patterns, and includes type of yarn, how many ounces, what colors are used, finished measurements of the garment, and tension settings. Usually only one size is given. It up to the knitter to rechart a size that fits. Arrows on the chart indicate knitting direction, and there may be a few very brief instructions, such as: "Sweater, K with 2 strands. 1 x 1 Rib, K single strand. Purl side is the right side." However, actual knitting instructions are not included. Yo had several issues of Nihon Vogue printed with an English insert; but because even this insert does not contain knitting instructions, they weren't very popular with US knitters. Most of us, apparently, need to be spoon-fed when it comes to instructions.
In the next lesson, we will take the pattern chart, and turn it into a written pattern. It would be a good idea to print out all of this information, because this is a fairly intense study, and it helps to be able to look at a printed page, without the need to keep scrolling a computer screen.
Charting Lessons Index
Japanese Charted Patterns, Lesson 2
Ladies Dolman Sweater Chart
Men's Tuck Stitch Pullover Sweater Chart
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