What the Japanese know (and I obviously don’t)

Two e-mails arrived in my Inbox today, and both hit me like a ton of bricks.

The first brought feelings of redemption like I’ve never felt in my entire life. It was from Shiromaru, a Japanese reader of my blog who’s been helping me with the Mountainash pattern. By the way, don’t you just love the title of her blog, knit, knitter, knittest? Okay, those happen to be the only words I understand in her entire blog, but still? Hehe :). Anyway, Shiromaru writes:

Hi Kat,

Needless to say, you’re right!

After reading your article, I checked the website of NIHON VOGUE, the publisher of that pattern book, for some information. And, on their forum, I found there is a Q&A about the same problem that you faced. Their answer is that row23 has a typo, and that a K2tog is needed after boxed 2 YOs. (As you know, although your decision on K2tog is “BEFORE”, I’m sure that it doesn’t make much difference whether BEFORE or AFTER.)

For your information, this is the URL of above site. (in Japanese)

I hope that your catching up is going well.

Best Regards,


Okay, will you allow me to GLOAT for a second? Very big grin :-D. I mean, come on, I don’t speak a word of Japanese and I was able to (1) realize that there’s a mistake, (2) figure out the issue, and (3) come up with an identical solution (Shiromaru is correct – it doesn’t matter whether the k2tog is before or after the two yos). I visited the forum she referenced, and read everything contained within (hahaha! hahaha! hahaha!), and now feel pretty darn pleased with myself. And, Shiromaru, my deepest thanks!

The second e-mail… well, this one hit me like a ton of bricks, but in a very bad way. It came from Noriko, a Japanese reader of my blog who currently resides in the States. Noriko, you are an angel for sending me this info, thank you for taking the time. She writes:

Hi Kathy,

[…] After reading your April 19th blog entry, I checked the lace shawl pattern for the first time and found something. It’s not about the mistake you wrote. Maybe you already know about it or it’s not relevant, but I decided to let you know just in case.

The book says that you knit the edging first. But not the whole edging, only 85 patterns/ 1021 rows, from the black circle to the black triangle (for two sides of the isosceles triangle) in the shawl pattern schematic. Then pick up the stitches from the edging and start knitting the body and the rest of the edging at the same time. (The edging has more rows than the body, so you use short-row for the edging.)[…]



Jesus! Jesuuuuus! (I’m typing this entry in the Divinity School Library, so such an exclamation is only appropriate)

Dare I go into the uber-technical explanation of how the pattern is supposed to be worked, as opposed to the way I’ve chosen to work it? I can already see your eyes glazing over, as I blab and blab and draw color-coded diagrams with lots of arrows and numbers. Suffice it to say – DRASTICALLY different. Provisionally casting on 510 sts? Uhm, not so much. And this bit about knitting the body and the rest of the edging at the same time using short rows? God, I really wish I knew that before I started.

Cue the ominous music. I need to get my butt out of the library, go home, and THINK. THINK!


55 thoughts on “What the Japanese know (and I obviously don’t)

  1. Judy

    Oh come on, you know you love “opportunities” like this! πŸ™‚ You’ll have it figured out by the time I get home from work. On the other hand, I would be looking for honorable sword to commit Hara-Kiri if I tried to make a lace shawl in a language I do not read! (Not to mention in a writing I can’t even decipher…) You are amazing.

  2. Persnickety Knitter

    Wow. Huge bummer. BUT, didn’t you just say that you liked your knitting to be complicated? That you don’t intend for it to be stress free? Well, wish granted I guess. πŸ˜‰ Good luck.

  3. Daphne

    Bah! My goodness. Good story but… I guess when you said you like a knitting challenge, you didn’t think of starting over weekly.

  4. Susan

    I had the same thought as Judy. You just love such a challenge, don’t you?

    Can’t wait to see what you and the midnight oil come up with…

  5. Thorny

    Wow. I will take this as a warning from the cosmos to never utter the words, “I like my knitting complicated.” grin!

    Good luck figuring it out (and how cool is it that even despite language and alphabet barriers, the Community Of Knitters is looking out for its own?!)!

  6. Becky

    Well now, it wouldn’t be a proper Grumperina project unless you have a hurdle to overcome. You never seem to be able to do things the easy way even when you really are trying to. hehehehe

    Good luck in getting the pattern to work out and I’m glad you have some help from people who can actually read the pattern. heh

  7. nikki

    Oh crap. That sucks. This is the part where I where I would curl up into the fetal position and start muttering to myself. You, though, have this ability to keep on. I look forward to seeing what you’re going to do.

  8. Sheila

    Please keep these e mails – esp the second!! Next time you get a hankerin’ to knit Japanese -Maybe they will help you out before the first 100,000 stitches!!

    You crack me up!

  9. Laura

    I would love an uber-technical explanation please. (or have you given enough of an overview already?) Does it matter if you work the shawl your way or the pattern way? If you keep going, will you run into some awful problem that could have been avoided working the other way?

  10. janna

    I love your uber-technical explanations – I feel very smart on the occasions I understand them. As for this new problem — I agree with Laura. Do you have any reason to think it won’t work the way you’re doing it? If not, just forge ahead!

  11. Emy

    Irregardless, I’m so glad that you got the stitches sorted out! Doesn’t quite matter how you would knit it or deviate from the original short-rowing technique right? πŸ™‚

  12. CarrieScribe

    Oops, I mean Heather.

    (Of course, I’m also with Laura and would love the uber-technical explanation, but apparently will be too dumb to understand it since I can’t even figure out which comment is from which person.)

  13. Kimberly

    Hey there,

    Great job! Think you can do the same for Danish or Norwegian? Please?? πŸ™‚

    Hope to see you tomorrow at Porter Square!

  14. Norma

    You know that thing they say about humans only using 1/10th their brain? Well, that’s true for me. You? I’m worried. Either that, or MY brain is 1/10th the SIZE of yours. Shut up. Just shut up.

  15. amy

    85 patterns/1021 rows. Now THAT would have hit me like a ton a bricks. It makes the 1200 stitches I had to tink on a certain picot-edged t-shirt Sunday seem not so bad. (Obviously I was tinking due to my error, not one with the pattern.)

    As always, I’m in awe of your talent. Thanks for sharing the journey.

  16. Emily

    It’s not really too late. There are probably several ways to knit it with the same end result. It’s just an opportunity for creativity. Enjoy!

  17. Jen

    I would also like to hear the uber-tech explanation, although I am a lace idiot – I keep hoping I’ll read something someday that makes it all click. πŸ™‚

  18. Amber

    The fact that your first impulse was to go home and think, rather than say, throw yourself in front of the nearest bus, says a lot about your character. πŸ˜‰

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  19. Kim

    Oh my gosh.. that’s the kinda thing that makes you want to bash your head against a (brick? heh) wall. Or a desk.. or a really hard knitting book..

    Ugh. Ugh indeed.

  20. marnie

    i’m weeping for you. i could never face such a project in the first place, and to hear this? forget it. I wish i could buy you a whole tray of sidecars.

  21. Kathryn

    As someone who’s taking some beginning Japanese, I’m always looking for Japanese knitting blogs in Japanese, but I don’t know enough to search for them myself. So, while your knitting is beautiful, I really appreciate the link to the Japanese knitting blog. Thank you!

  22. betty

    excuse me if i’m saying something silly, but i would go on with the main body, and attach the edging at the end, with the slip stitch technique. do you think it would make a big differece?

  23. claudia

    Our heroine is hanging off a cliff holding on with only one hand while a big pink monster comes toward her with teeth bared and claws out. Will she lose her grip and plunge to her death? Will the big pink monster eat her? Will she pull herself off the cliff, unfurl her knitting needle of doom and slay the monster with aplomb?

    Stay tuned for next week’s episode….

  24. Heide

    Wow, that’s a lot of work to frog… I’d be tempted to continue as you are, make some Grumperina changes and create something entirely new and improved with what you’ve already accomplished. Then maybe later come back and do it the way the pattern says. Good luck!

  25. Sarah

    That sucks… at the same time, I am sort of surprized that you didn’t catch that.. you are so detailed oriented.

  26. may

    No doubt a bummer, but I have faith in you πŸ˜‰

    I’m sure you’ll figure out a way to salvage the situation. After all, it’s hard to imagine YOU following any instructions that doesn’t make sense at the get go. You must have had your own idea how the pattern was gonna work, right?

  27. miss ewe

    The fact that you’re not in tears right now makes you my hero. The fact that I *know* you’ll find an alternate (and likely even better) way to get around this makes you the goddess of knitting. Henceforth, when I have a knitting “crisis” (mine seem so minor), I will invoke Grumperina, goddess of hidden option C.

  28. Peg

    It is funny from this side of the needles, but I am not sitting there with ++++ needles and a Japanese pattern in front of me. You’ll do it, I have no fear!

  29. rene

    Ho. Ly. Crap. Div Library or not, I think I would have been using stronger language. πŸ™‚

    Good luck with it.

    and p.s. I am completely impressed that you are making this from a pattern in not only a different language, but a completely different alphabet. Good luck again (you can never have too much. )

  30. Michelle from New Brunswick

    Unbelieveable! without a doubt this is an interesting delema. If this happened to me I’d tell my friends “I can fix this” and they would roll their eyes, shake their heads and wonder what my “shawl” is going to turn into.

    Can’t wait to see what your solution is πŸ™‚

  31. carrie

    So what? Not to belittle the impressive cast-on job, but as another commenter noted, you can just join the edging on as usual to the live stitches. It won’t affect the end result which is gorgeous handknit shawl. Have you ever looked at all the different ways to knit a shetland lace shawl? Don’t worry about it. It will be fine.

  32. Jacquie

    You know, I happen to like challenging projects. I do. So I get your stretch, stretch, stretch into new territory, old territory. I get the meticulous, obssessive perfectionism. I DO! Because I’m the same way. There’s a difference though between you and I. It’s only now, that I’m preparing for the math portion of Basic Skills Test for Teacher Certification, that it comes to me. I was a great Business Analyst. I can model with the best of them. I work data so fast my screen is a blur. But when it comes to math, just math, math, I’m abysmal. Absolutely abysmal. And spatial information? Like where am I and where am I going, I Am Fog.

    You aren’t. I can tell. You’re a scientist or an engineer or something. You can talk in an abstract way about a technical knitting problem and maintain it conceptually whereas I have to have the “problem” in my hands or it isn’t real to me. It’s as if the only way I can truly understand a knitting problem is through my hands. The same way I’m an Excel goddess but ask me a word problem and I’ll throw a book at you.

    Probably interesting to no one but me. But how different minds grapple with this thing called knitting. It’s really fun to see.

  33. Louisa

    Kathy, I know you’ll make it come out right! Preferably without frogging everything. I too have had problems with Japanese instructions (in my case kumihimo aka Japanese braiding). One can read the diagrams but there’s occasionally some important piece of information in the written part that isn’t obvious. These days I try to run things by one of my 3 Japanese girlfriends (only one of whom does kumihimo at all) just to see what the words say in case it’s not shown in the diagrams. But then, you’ve discovered that solution too, haven’t you? Cultivate Japanese girlfriends! They are so worth it. LOL!

  34. Sooza

    Kudos to you, girl! You’re doing fabulously, really. And if you ask me, I think your way of interpreting this pattern is way more intuitive than the original one But that might just be me, who neither gets the point of knitting 4 yards of edging first and then knitting inwards in the original Shetland style shawls. I rather do it the other way around and attach the edging in the end. It’s a really neat way, in my eyes. I’m looking really forward to more news from this project.

    Happy knitting


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