Japanese pattern-reading tutorial: Lesson 3b knitting

Ready for the knitting pattern tutorial? I’m afraid this one isn’t as in-depth as Monday’s crochet tutorial, but that’s mainly because the sweater pattern is so simple that there isn’t really much to talk about. I’ve already started on mine, and it’s mainly a lot of stockinette:

child's sweater progress

I’m using the suggested yarn, Pierrot Yarns Junmo Namibuto2, in a nice egg-yolk yellow color, and US 8 knitting needles.

The first step in working the pattern is obviously seeing what exactly it is that you’re supposed to do. If you look at the pattern, you’ll see a schematic of the back piece on the left and the front piece on the right. This pattern is very simple – no shaping, no sleeves, etc. – so the front and back are nearly the same. The only difference in the schematics is that the front shows the neck opening. Then at the bottom, there’s a diagram showing how to attach the fringe to the neckline (as seen in the photo).

Now, normally a Japanese knitting pattern will also have stitch charts at the bottom. This pattern doesn’t have any fancy stitch patterns, so there are no charts. Instead, the names of the stitches used are written onto the schematics. That’s where the photo and a Japanese knitting glossary come in handy. From looking at the photo alone, it seems we have a garter stitch hem, a long stretch of stockinette stitch, and then ribbing up top. We can confirm that by looking up the terms written on the schematic in a Japanese knitting glossary such as this one.

From the photo, it looks like the hem is garter stitch, so what does the schematic say in the hem area? ガーター編み. So look up ガーター編み in the Japanese knitting glossary, which confirms that it’s garter stitch. The schematic then changes to a big section labeled メリヤス編み, which we already suspect is stockinette from the photo. Once again, it’s right there in the Japanese knitting glossary. Then at the top, we have a section labeled 2目ゴム編み flanked with two strips of garter stitch (ガーター編み). Since we know from the photo that it’s some kind of ribbing and the gauge information told us gauge for k2p2 ribbing, let’s assume it’s k2p2 ribbing. Once again, the handy Japanese knitting glossary confirms this. In summary, we have:

  • ガーター編み (gaataa ami), garter stitch – borrowed from English
  • メリヤス編み (meriyasu ami) stockinette stitch – borrowed from Portuguese
  • 2目ゴム編み (futame gomu ami) – literally “two stitch rubber knitting” – the rubber obviously comes from the fact that ribbing stretches like, well, rubber.

UPDATE: I knew I was forgetting something! I didn’t mention how to tell how many stitches to cast on. D’oh! Sorry about that. Most of you have probably figured it out already, because it’s pretty clear, but here’s how to go about it: look for a number followed by 目 at the hem. That number is the number you need to cast on. So, for example, in this pattern, it’s 62目 = cast on 62 stitches.

cast on edge

Also note that there’s an arrow pointing upward from the hem, which quite simply means that we’re knitting from the bottom up. Some patterns have an arrow going down, meaning that the edge is worked downwards after the body of the sweater is finished. Finally, inside the hem portion of the diagram, and again in the body portion, the needle size is written. Here it’s a bit redundant, since we were told up top to use Japanese size 8 needles (4.5mm). That means the hem and body are both done with the same size needle, but that won’t always be the case. So look for a number followed by 号針 to confirm the needle size. In this pattern, we have 8号針 in the hem area, 8号針 in the body, and 8号針 in the shoulders/neckline area. So we need to use that (Japanese) size 8 for the whole sweater.

Now, this pattern doesn’t have anything beyond basic stitches that people already know – garter, stockinette, and ribbing – so there are no knitting symbols in the pattern.* But if you want to know the Japanese knitting symbols, check out the basics on these sites:

In a later lesson, I’ll show you a pattern with stitch symbols and go over how to interpret it. I think it’s best not to mix more than one pattern per lesson, though. Later I’ll also go over how shaping is indicated in Japanese knitting patterns, since this pattern doesn’t have any shaping to speak of.

Anyway, I’ve told you enough to get you up until where the ribbing starts at in the chest portion of the sweater. Next time I’ll show you what the symbols at the top of the sweater mean, including casting on some additional stitches. Then we’ll go over what the pattern’s telling us about finishing, particularly the tassels on the neckline. That should about wrap it up, because I think two lessons may be enough for this simple sweater. Later lessons can be about other patterns if people are interested in continuing.

* OK, I lied: there are some knitting symbols, but only two: knit and purl. They’re in the schematic where the body of the sweater changes from stockinette to ribbing, and they’re there to tell you how the ribbing should be aligned (k2, p2 at the right edge, ending with k2 on the left edge). More on this next time.


8 thoughts on “Japanese pattern-reading tutorial: Lesson 3b knitting

  1. Thanks again for doing this! You have made approaching Japanese patterns seem so achievable. The links that you have put on this post are already on my ‘favourites’ list, and I look forward to more lessons.

  2. Pingback: Japanese Knitting Instructions « The Finished Spool

  3. Pingback: YarnLOLogy - For the fun in fiber » (5) How to read a Japanese pattern – Knitting

  4. Thank you for this post. Being portuguese I was delighted to learn that the Japanese word for stockinette stitch derives from Portuguese. Our word for it is “meia” (sounds like “may-er”) and also means sock.

    • It means “rows even” (or “rounds even” if you’re working in the round. See the shaping tutorial also on this blog.

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