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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

kitty: How to read a Japanese Knitting Pattern?

Hi Monika and Peppermint Mocha Mama,

Since you both asked the same question I decided to just do a quick post about how to read a Japanese Craft Book and how to order from Amazon JP.

Ordering from Amazon.co.jp these days really couldn't be easier. There are a couple of things that will make your life easier though:

1) Install Google Chrome : Google Chrome will identify that the page is in Japanese and will give you the option to automatically translate the page into English. Now it will still be broken English but you can figure it out pretty easily.

2) Amazon is also pretty smart as well, right above the wish list area there is a link that says "In English". This seems to internally trigger at least some of the text on the pages to be English. Bottom line though if you are a regular US Amazon customer just use muscle memory to place your order. The links are exactly the same and with Google Chrome most of the text is in English.

3) Once you have a couple of ISBN's of books that you are interested in, use the "Customers Who Bought this item also bought section" to look for other titles you might be interested in. Then you can do the look inside feature to see what the book is like inside.

There is also always the option of ordering from YesAsia if you don't want to fool with ordering from Amazon JP. -- Http://www.yesasia.com

So now the more pressing issue. How do you read a Japanese Knitting or Crochet Book?

Over the years a few people have asked me this question, I guess bottom line are you the type of knitter that would like written instructions for each row or are you comfortable kind of winging it with basic instructions?

I am a full believer that anyone can learn to do anything they put there mind to. Japanese patterns are basically all on one page and very concise.

1) They will tell you how many stitches to cast on
2) Knit a certain number of rows
3) Then you will start to see information about how to increase or decrease the numbers of rows.

(0-1-1) Increase 1st on both sides on the next row(double sided arrow)
(8-1-6) Knit 8 Rows, Increase 1 st on both sides 6 times (double sided arrow)
(5-3-4) Knit 5 rows, Decrease 3 stitches on the side with the arrow 4 times

1# is the number of rows to knit
2# is the number of stitches to increase or decrease
3# is the number of repeats for the first and second number
(4) is the number of stitches to decrease

If the pattern does contain a specific stitch pattern there is always a clear chart drawn up and with Japanese Standard Stitch Patterns.

For Crochet Patterns you are on your own for if they are easy to read or not. Crochet still is so daunting for me. I really do not understand the concepts. There are so many crochet patterns that really interest me, but alas I am left wishing I had paid more attention to when my mother was trying to teach me. She on the other hand is an amazing crocheter, but she only does it from written text not charts.

Here are some Resources to help and guide you:

1) A JP Craft Book to learn about Japanese Knitting Symbols
-- Fluffbuff

Clear and Simple Knitting Symbols
74 pages Published 1993
ISBN 452902413X / 9784529024136

This is a great book to teach you the meaning of the most common symbols. The book shows you the symbol and then walks you through the steps to make the stitch.

There are a few other books in the series that I have written about.

  1. Crochet Motifs - Crocheting and Joining
    66pages - 1992/11
    ISBN-10: 4529022927
    Amazon JP
  2. Knit Buddies Post

  3. The Very Basics of Crocheting
    74 pages - 1993/04
    Amazon JP

Knit Buddies Post

2) ABC of Knitting
-- By Tata & Tatao of the ABC's of Knitting Site
One of the most useful sites that I have found for learning how to read Japanese Knitting Patterns.

The Basics of Japanese Knitting

Japanese - English Knitting Dictionary - Priceless

How to read Japanese Charts

http://purlyshells.blogspot.com/2007/11/how-to-read-japanese-crochet-pattern.html3) How to read a Japanese Crochet Pattern
-- by Purlyshells Blog
She shares her experiences on her trials and tribulations of reading a Japanese crochet pattern for the first time. She takes you through step by step of the first row and some of the symbols.


4) Japanese Knitting Patterns - My adventures with Japanese Knitting Patterns and Japanese Knitting Books

In 2008 she did a Japanese Cable Vest Kal and wrote about how to translate the pattern. An Excellent resource.


  1. Wow! Thank you so much for taking the time to create such a wonderful tutorial. I truly appreciate it. Now it doesn't seem so scary to attempt a Japanese pattern in the future.

  2. Thanks, for taking the time to make it easier for me. The book is ordered. And I have a symbol book already in my book shelf. I've bought a few stitch pattern books in the past and was able to work with them. My son helped me order this one though. :o)

  3. Fantastic post. Thanks. I have ordered through YesAsia several times with no problems, but it's nice to have the google/Amazon option too1