Japanese pattern-reading tutorial: Lesson 4b knitting

Welcome back, everyone. Hope your sweaters are going well. I just finished the back of mine, so soon I’ll cast on for the front.

First, I’d like to go over something I forgot last time and only realized when a helpful soul on Ravelry reminded me. At the bottom of the schematic (circled in pink), you’ll find a number plus 目 indicated how many to cast on. Here it’s 62目, so 62 stitches. You’ll also see 36c (62目), also circled in pink. That c is just centimeters, and in some patterns you’ll see it abbreviated as cm instead. It just reminds you that not only are you supposed to have 62 st, the piece should be 36 centimeters wide.

bottom of schematic

I’ve also marked the line at the bottom in blue. What’s that for? Here it serves two functions: it tells us that we cast on 62 st along the edge, but it also tells us that we’re working the piece flat. If it were an oval instead of a line with two endpoints, it would mean that we should work the item in the round. This is especially important in some patterns where the front and back are the same, because the pattern may only show you one of them. You need to check that line at the bottom to see if you’re supposed to knit two identical flat pieces or one circular piece.

OK, so back to where we left off with the kid’s sweater pattern. We’ve just finished the stockinette portion of the body, and now we’re moving to k2p2 ribbing. Here’s a quick rundown of what we see in the schematic:

  • red: cast on 8 stitches (4cm) – note that this is repeated on each side
  • green: shows where the newly cast-on 8 st should be
  • purple: tells us that the edges are knit in garter stitch
  • orange: shows us that the garter stitch strip should be 4 st wide (look up ガーター編み in the ABCs of Knitting glossary)
  • gray: shows us that the middle is worked in k2p2 ribbing (again, check the ABCs of Knitting site)
  • blue: uses international knitting symbols to show us which stitches our k2p2 ribbing should end with at each edge (more on this below)

pick up stitches for arms

That’s pretty straightforward, right? It may seem like a lot of info all at once, but it’s nothing we can’t handle, right?

So about those international knitting symbols… here we have the two most basic ones: a straight vertical line for knit, and a straight horizontal line for purl. You can see this and other common knitting symbols here at the ABCs of Knitting. Removing all the other info from the schematic, we have this:

||–||–  (big white space here) –||–||

We all know that k2p2 ribbing is k2, p2. But what this is telling us is that when we get to the end of the row, we should end with k2. That’s it, and it’s just because 70 st isn’t a multiple of four, so they’re telling you what to do with those leftover 2 stitches. (The sweater is 78 st wide after casting on additional stitches for the arms, but remember that 4 on each edge are in garter stitch. That leaves us with a k2p2 center panel of 70 st.) In a written pattern, this would be written out as something such as *k2, p2*, rep from * to * until 2 st remain, k2.

Finally, we need to know how to finish off the back piece. Circled in blue below, we have 伏せ止め “cast off”, but it doesn’t tell us how many stitches. In my experience, it will usually say a number first, then 伏せ止め “cast off”, but here it doesn’t. We can still tell how many stitches to bind off, though, because the stitches are all listed in the line above the back schematic. I’ve drawn red lines down connecting them to make it really clear. That middle section to bind off is 36 stitches (21 centimeters) wide.
bind off info

There are no instructions about what to do with the remaining stitches. Sometimes there will be, but only if the designer really wants you to use a certain technique. Otherwise, Japanese patterns assume that you know an appropriate method and will use it. So here, for example, you might bind off the shoulder stitches in pattern, or use 3-needle bind-off to join the back and front shoulder stitches. Since it doesn’t explicitly tell us to bind off the shoulder stitches, I assume working a 3-needle bind-off from live stitches is the best alternative here, so that’s what I’m choosing.

The only part left now is to figure out the neckline for the front. I’ll leave that for the next lesson, because this is already really long. (I wrote the shaping instructions below first, so I’ll just leave them here for now.) If you have questions about the neckline before next week, please feel free to post in the tutorial thread on Ravelry.

——————————————————————————————–

Shaping in Japanese charted patterns: This particular sweater doesn’t have any shaping, so we haven’t yet covered how increases and decreases are depicted in Japanese charted knitting patterns. (For crochet patterns, there’s usually a complete chart of the armhole and neckline decreases.) So I’ll show you how the shaping works using this pattern, French-sleeve Ensemble Sweater (Pierrot | Ravelry), which flexibleknits recently asked me about.

For a very thorough explanation of shaping, please see Clearwaterknits website. It’s intended for machine knitters, but the shaping rules work the same for hand knitting. In a nutshell, it works like this: patterns use a sequence of three numbers to indicate how many stitches to increase/decrease, on which rows, and how many times. So in a pattern schematic, you’ll see a list of numbers next to the usual suspects (armholes and necklines). In the French-sleeve Ensemble Sweater, it looks like this [click on picture to open larger version if desired]:

shaping diagram

The ones circled in pink are for the arms. Since there’s no corresponding list of numbers on the front diagram, it means the shaping is the same for the front and back (i.e., use the back armhole shaping for the front as well). Circled in blue on the back piece is the neckline shaping (see that tiny line pointing to the neckline?). Circled in blue on the front piece is the neckline shaping for the front piece, also with a line pointing to the neckline. So here’s an example where the shaping for the front and back are different. Circled in green is shaping for the shoulders, which you’ll only find in some patterns. Finally, the parts underlined in orange tell you how many stitches to bind off at the neckline.

Here’s how to interpret it: #-#-# stands for rows-stitches-times. If there’s a row at the top marked 段平, it means “knit even”, i.e., no increases or decreases. You don’t even have to remember 段平, actually: just remember that if you see one single number instead of #-#-#, it’s knit even. Increases and decreases are listed in the same #-#-# way. The only way to tell whether you’re supposed to decrease or increase is from the shape of the schematic. In the French-sleeve Ensemble Sweater, the sleeve are written like this:

  • 14段平
  • 14-1-2
  • 15-1-2

First, remember that you’re working from the top of the pattern up to the neck, so read the list of shaping instructions from the bottom up. That means the one with 15 is first. So following the rows-stitches-times formula, we get:

  • work 14 rows even
  • every 14 rows, increase 1 stitch, twice
  • every 15 rows, increase 1 stitch, twice

If you look next to the list (also circled in pink), you’ll see +4目. I mentioned previously that 目 means “stitch”, but even without it, that +4 reminds us that the increase result in 4 extra stitches. Keep in mind that these are the instructions for one armhole only. They assume you’ll be working both armholes the same, so it’s really this:

  • work 14 rows even
  • every 14 rows, increase 1 stitch on each side, twice
  • every 15 rows, increase 1 stitch on each side, twice

The result is that you’ve increased by 4 st on each side, 8 st in total. Easy, isn’t it?

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5 thoughts on “Japanese pattern-reading tutorial: Lesson 4b knitting

  1. Very late commenting. But I made the beret, used Pierrot yarn. You made it so easy. Thank you so much. I will try more patterns now.

  2. Thank you, this is really helpful. I can read the crochet charts, but I wasn’t sure whether the numbers at the bottom were really the number of stitches you begin with.

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