Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible Review

Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible Review
Oh, my. Just oh, my.

No one will be surprised if the above is your first reaction after paging through Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible: 260 Exquisite Patterns by Hitomi Shida. This stitch dictionary contains some of the most elegant knitting patterns to be published in a very long time. This is definitely not a book for beginning knitters, but projects designed using one or more of the charts in this tome will produce heirloom results.

The book begins with a short introduction to Hitomi Shida written by translator Gayle Roehm, herself a knitting designer of some note. It’s worth taking the time to read this part through – Japanese knitters work with a different set of chart symbols which every knitter is expected to know. Roehm explains the crucial variances and then provides a multi-page symbol key for reference. She also takes the time to explain what Shida terms the ‘knot’ stitches; in other translations, these might be called ‘pkok’ or ‘wrap’ stitches.

The bulk of the book is given over to the charts and matching photographs, most of which are large enough to get a very good idea of the results. The patterns are divided into unusual groupings: lacy patterns, for example, are grouped by lace with bobbles, smocking, leaves, scallops, or lace by itself. ‘Overall Patterns’ are presented next; these are combinations of lace and cable stitches. ‘Crossing Stitches’ are those which use twists and cables without lace elements, while ‘Pattern Panels’ offer large-scale combinations of each of these, together and by themselves.

The ‘Pattern Arrangement’ section is especially fascinating; here, Shida shows how she changes up patterns to create new ones, presenting the ‘basic’ pattern and its ‘arrangement’ side by side. Similarly, the ‘Round Yokes’ section offers patterns that grow larger or smaller from the beginning; these can be used to create collars, capes, or even sweaters for the extremely adventurous. Finally, Shida closes out the collection with a series of edging patterns, which might possibly be the worth the entire cost of the book. By virtue of their small size, these provide an excellent introduction to Shida’s designs, and can be used to add distinctive elements to otherwise plain garments.

The charts are complex, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by their expertise. Due to their intricacy, it’s important to swatch before adding these designs to a pattern. Scarves or blankets will not be two-sided unless they are knitted in the round (possibly with a plain stockinette side to make things somewhat easier); mitts, hats, socks, and scarves will be beautiful, but it may take some fiddling to adjust the patterns to a shaped garment. Sweaters made from these patterns will take a great deal of time, but they will truly be heirloom pieces.

Shida offers five sample patterns, for a scarf, mitts, collar, socks, and hat. These patterns are not especially difficult, but you would do well to read the directions through a few times before beginning. It would also be helpful to have some experience with the type of garment selected.
Overall, this is a wonderful stitch dictionary, with excellent photographs. Advanced knitters will enjoy trying out the different designs. At seventeen US dollars, the book is good value for those who enjoy creating distinctive and unusual items.

Disclaimer: I paid for this book with my own money, and have no connection to the author, translator, or publishing company.

Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible: 260 Exquisite Patterns by Hitomi Shida. Tuttle Publishing, Rutland, Vermont, 2017. ISBN: 978-4-8053-1453-1

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