Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For the love of Japanese crochet

I heart Japanese crochet. They have some of the cutest and ingenious patterns that I have ever seen. Every time I am in San Francisco, I go to the Kinokuniya bookstore in Japantown. I have to keep myself under control otherwise I end up buying more than I can carry or afford. Here is a small selection of my books – unfortunately the rest are in storage while I continue my gypsy lifestyle:
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I have only completed a few projects because of my “other job”, but here’s a glimpse of them:
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The rest of this post will be somewhat of a how-to-begin-attacking-Japanese-crochet-patterns. They have such a wealth of great patterns I want to share with you so please ask questions if you need help with figuring out whatever is not covered here!

General Help

If this is your first time looking at crochet charts, study the Craft Yarn Council (a.k.a., yarnstandards.com) international stitch guide here. The great news is that Japanese crochet uses these same standards! More and more books in English are incorporating charts so you can start with a chart from an English book if the Japanese is still too intimidating (but I say go for it now!).

Look at patterns with an open mind and ignore the Japanese symbols at first. You can figure out 80-90% of the pattern just by studying the photo and the chart. Typically, the first part of the book has the glossy photos with numbers next to the item. Use this number to find the pattern in the back of the book. Most books also have a stitch guide in the very back as well showing each symbol (or at least the complex ones) and illustrated pictures of how to do them so you still don’t need to know Japanese to figure them out. Purlyshells wrote a great post here showing how she attacked her first Japanese crochet pattern in a step-by-step manner.

If you’re the type who frets about the details like yarn type, gauge, etc. (or you are attempting a complex pattern like for a garment), there are several resources on the internet which list out key Japanese characters (keep in mind there are 3 alphabets in Japanese) and their English translation. I have listed a few below. You can always use Google Translate if you are really determined (or if you’re trying to read a Japanese website).
  • If you’re on Ravelry, join the Japanese Knitting and Crochet group.
  • Snuffykin's post is a great resource for helping you use the right hook size and matching up with yarn weights (in English!)
  • Japanese terms translated to English here and here (mostly knit terms but still very useful)
  • Amigurumi help at WeLoveAmigurumi
  • More Amigurumi help in a pdf
P.S. If you’re making crochet flowers, many Japanese patterns use an adjustable or "magic" ring (rather than a chained loop) which works great at tightening the center once your done – Crochetme's tutorial in English is great at showing how to use an adjustable ring.  Another common flower stitch is a bullion; HealMyHands has a great step-by-step tutorial here.

How to Find Books and Patterns

You can buy Japanese crochet books online through YesAsia.com and the Kinokuniya bookstore website (then click on your region like “BookWeb USA”). Plenty of other sites exist, but these are my favorite and both are reliable. The best way to find books you like is still to go to Kinokuniya in San Francisco and just flip through the books in the knit/crochet section. Your local independent yarn shop may have a small selection for sale or as reference so you can get an idea of what they are like.

Pierrot Yarns' website (a Japanese yarn company), has many free patterns but you have to navigate around a lot (use Google translate or just click on photo links). Here’s how I got to one pattern:

  • Find a photo that looks like crochet, and click on it.  
  • You might have to scroll down to find that photo again and keep clicking until when you scroll down you get something like this with what looks like the intro to a pattern (yarn type, needles, etc.).
  • The last thumbnail after the button thumbnail looks like a mini pattern: amizu
  • Click on the link to the right and that’s how you get the pdf (which you can also find here for the example shown)
I just found out from a fellow Raveler that Pierrot has an English language pattern club with a handy link to Japanese crochet patterns, symbols, and videos!  You have to sign up, but it's free:  http://gosyo.shop.multilingualcart.com/free1.php.


Good luck and happy hooking! Let me know if you have questions!
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