The stitch patterns in The Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible book are incredible, although mostly not completely unique. If you like charted knitting patterns I think this would be $16.95 you shouldn’t hesitate to spend. If you need written instructions, you are going to be challenged. This isn’t insurmountable. but you will need to fully digest this methodology. Also, the stitch charts are fairly small given the amount of information contained in them, so I recommend enlarging them for actual use. You will be able to make important notations on your copied chart, which will make it much easier to use them.
The project and stitch pattern I chose to knit up ended up being very much like the pattern I used in Remarkables. The difference is in presentation of information. It isn’t easy at the outset to figured out how some of the information is presented in the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible, and the text at the beginning of the book doesn’t give you clear guidance on how to proceed. I will admit that I perhaps should have tried just working a pattern first, rather than leaping into a project, but that is what most of us will do isn’t it?
If you started with one of the earlier patterns, got a feel for how to use the book, symbology, and charts, you should have few problems.
The Japanese Knitting Stitch Charting
There are a lot of symbols, and all the written instruction exists in the symbol tables. None of it is particularly impenetrable, although the symbology and the written instructions can seem a little overwhelming at the outset. It is important to take the information in hand in a way that works for you. Be sure you are very clear on what each symbol is telling you before embarking. This can be a little tricky, so I made myself a handwritten key.
I think if you are interested in using these charts and you find the Japanese Knitting Stitch method difficult to get a handle on, I would look at taking one of Gayle Roehm’s classes. Once you tease out the essence of the system it is not difficult to follow. None of these patterns are easy. They are all beautiful.
A Japanese Knitting Stitch Project
I chose to start the Elegant Decorative Collar (photo on page 104). I was packing up for a road trip, so snagged yarn and appropriate knitting needles, along with my copied/enlarged charts and instructions. I worked a stockinette swatch to check my needle size. As I looked over the instructions later in the car I realized the bobbles were crochet. Not having a crochet hook of any size with me, I chose to work 5-stitch knitted bobbles.
I cast on the required number of stitches; I used the flexible long-tail cast on because I prefer that method of getting a looser cast on edge over using a larger needle size. I was not disappointed by the results!
I knitted 60 bobbles after working the set-up rows. That bobble row took a long time because I had to work out how the pattern was set up, and I believe cocktails caused me to rip and redo 15 of them. If I have any complaint on this way of presenting patterns, it is that I was not able to easily figure out the set up. I had to get paper and do some calculations and diagraming. That’s totally okay, but I think that could be intimidating. I pictured much more plan-ful Japanese knitters working all of this out before working on their project!
Once I finally got through the bobbles and the setup, it was relatively clear sailing. I got the remainder of the first segment set up and sorted out. There were symbols that were not clear in their intention at the close of the first segment, but that I eventually figured out. The stitch pattern was done almost identically to how I had set up Remarkables, so it felt familiar and fairly straightforward.
Setting Up My Project
After I created my key I tried writing out one of the rows (look at page 151 if you have the book). It was not intuitive what was going on, so I counted stitches and put in a lot of markers. I had 187 stitches, less the 3 stitches consumed in each of the front edges, leaving 181 stitches. There is a beginning segment of 10 stitches, followed by a stitch that will become the first lace panel. There is a mirrored ending segment of 10 stitches. Between them there were 8 segments of 20 stitches. This was how I figured it out:
187 – (2×3=6) = 181 (total stitches less front edges)
181 – (2×10) = 161 (beginning and ending segments)
161 – 1 = 160 (lace stitch following beginning segment)
There is apparently a 20-stitch repeat. This was not as clear as it could have been, and I poked at this for a while before going with my instincts. I searched the text for some clue I had missed, but I don’t think there is one.
160 / 20 = 8
Japanese Knitting Stitch Thoughts
I completely understand that the Japanese Knitting Stitch method is not a written method, but I felt that just a couple of paragraphs to explain how to sort out the project pattern charts would have been an immense help. Otherwise knitters are going to feel that they can only do simple projects using only a single chart instead of putting the patterns together into more complicated pieces. There is so much rich material in here that I hope to see designers tackle these patterns in creative works going forward.
I recommend making some of the single-pattern stitch projects to get a feel for how you need to digest this information into a usable form for your knitting style. Be prepared to put a little effort into sorting out the pieces and make sure you have all the information you need before beginning. I am happy with my substitutions. I did not do a gauge swatch, and used yarn that looked like it would achieve gauge. When I ran into trouble, I cheated. I knew what the outcome was, so I was okay, but it wasn’t confidence inspiring. At one point I misplaced my key and literally could not move ahead until I could access the book in the trunk.
I added in two segments of pattern taken from the source pattern to make the Collar a little deeper. As expected, the finished piece is gorgeous. I don’t think anyone will know I cheated. I also forgot the buttonhole, but I don’t think I’ll use it anyway.
This is a perfect piece for transitioning to Fall so I’ll be wearing this!
Elegant Decorative Collar from Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible
Yarn: Aalta Truth for my collar. Truth is a lovely 80% merino, 20% baby alpaca DK weight, 100g / 298 yds [273m]. The color is Tahitian Yellow . I did a stockinette gauge swatch too. I have 14g remaining. Retail price approximately $19.
Needles: Addi Turbo circular needles in US size 4[3.5mm]. I used the 40” / 101 cm length, which may have been a bit long. I think a 32” / 81 cm would have been easier.
Stitch markers: I used lots of markers! I used ring markers after I had sorted everything out, and pin markers as I was doing the sorting. I placed a marker after the trim stitches, after the beginning segment plus the lace stitch, then after each 20-stitch repeat, and finally before the front trim. So 10 markers.
Useful Information: I used the flexible long-tail cast on and I used a combination of a regular bind off and JSSBO every other stitch to get a firm but flexible neck edge. I have four ends to work in because I used both ends of the ball to do my cast on instead of having a long tail. I also did a lot of backward knitting on the bobbles. I wet blocked the finished piece (and my swatch) in warm water and dried it. The final photos will be after I steam block it.
The final measurement is 14″ / 35.5 cm at the neck; 43″ / 109 cm at the bottom (where the tape is) and 7″ / 17.8 cm plus the bobbles in depth.
I am not certain how long I spent on this. Probably about 10 or 12 hours. That was a very inexpensive project: $19/10 hours is a cost of $1.90 an hour.