Friday, July 3, 2009

Japanese Knitting Patterns

Last weekend I got to spend about two hours with the owner of Habu Textiles learning about Japanese knitting patterns as well as viewing/trying on an extensive trunk show of garments made up from their yarns. I went because I am was extremely curious as to how you could work up some of the Japanese patterns that are very graphical and I wanted to see some of the more unusual yarns from Habu.

Let's start with the yarns.

These people will take anything and make it into yarn. From traditional wool and linen to stainless steel and paper, Habu has it all. I could spend a month trying to explain what they feel like but by trying on several garments I discovered that the more unusual yarns are really, really irritating to wear. Other participants were thirlled with the feel but I just don't want some of these yarns ever touching my skin.

The more traditonal yarns feel like yarns from others with the only difference being that Habu's tend to be a finer gauge. Some people brought works in progress and in every case I saw, the yarns were used at least doubled together.

I already own some of their silk yarn and I am making it up into a skinny summer scarf. Not a Habu/Japanese pattern just something I found on the internet. The yarn is a little sticky feeling but I think it will wash and wear just fine.

If you would like to work with their yarns, do not buy it without actually feeling something made out of it.

Then there were the patterns. All of them are simply fabulous for an old hippy like myself. Very little fitting, unusual shapes and very drapey. The fortunate part is that the patterns are traditional Japanese patterns but modified by Habu to include some English words, a couple of pages of explanations plus a speadsheet to help the knitter work out the row increases and decreases before you start kntting.

What that means is that you have a high probability in getting the pattern worked correctly.

The bad thing is that the skills to work the Habu patterns are not totally transferable to non-Habu Janpanese patterns because the traditional patterns have no English on them.

The main difference betwen Jaanese and American patterns is that the Japanese patterns are graphical while the American patterns tend to be more narrative. Here is a link to Japanese pattern site that translates the graphics to a more American style. Compare those pattern pictures to something like -

Round 1: K all sts on needle, pick up and k 2 sts along edge of work; remove waste yarn from CO and place live sts on a spare needle, k these sts using a second needle, then pick up and k 2 sts along remaining edge of work. 26[30] sts.

Can you see how it would all drive a knitter a little crazy?

The one thing not mentioned at the workshop was that Japanese knitting needles are sized differently than US or Metric needles. To be fair, it was mentioned a zillion times that knitting a test swatch is imperative to get a successful garment. What wasn't mentioned was why.

I will keep buying Habu textiles yarns as I come up with projects for them. I will try a Japanese pattern and use what I learned at the workshop to make a successful garment. What I won't do is buy the weirder yarns for garments.

However, if I ever get the urge to make more scuptural pieces I will definitely use their stainless steel, metallic or paper yarns... just not on my body.

Have a great weekend! And to those to the North,.... Happy Belated Dominion Day while to those of us here... Have a Glorious Fourth!

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