To see Part I of this series, click here.
Charts are absolutely magical, and to be quite frank, I wish all knitting patterns were written in this way. There are certainly shortcomings when knitting from a chart, and I’ll get to those later on, but they’re helpful when knitting garments. This is probably obvious the minute you view the pattern, but Japanese charts are different than the charts most western knitters are accustomed to; they’re really a schematic, rather than a gridded table like you might see for colorwork. Here’s the full pattern again for the fishermans rib sweater from last time, a free pattern by Pierrot yarns, viewable on Ravelry here.
To the right of the header, there are a few construction notes about the way the sweater is put together. It’s a raglan, it’s seamed, etcetera. There is a lot of Japanese up there -- if you have a pdf pattern which cannot highlight pieces of text like this one, and you don't know how to look up kanji by their radicals, it might too difficult to translate text this dense. The information in the construction notes is helpful, but not absolutely essential to knitting this sweater.
The drawing shape shows this sweater is a raglan, and it also shows a front and a back to the sweater, which means it's seamed. This is why charts are pretty handy -- most of the information about how a sweater needs to be knit can be found in the chart schematic.
In this post, I'm going to break down the back panel of this sweater, which has the easiest to understand shaping. The back panel is shown in the drawing below.
Something I want to address before getting into the gritty of the chart is one potentially troublesome part of translating Japanese sweater design -- garments are rarely offered in multiple sizes. If you’re a 30-34” bust, there likely won’t be any major issues in knitting Japanese sweaters. Even still, let’s say you’re a 32” bust, but you’re over 5’ 4” -- extra length will need to be added to have a well fitting garment. It's always a good idea to cross reference the sweater’s finished dimensions with your own measurements to ensure the pattern won’t need extra tinkering. This sweater is 34.5 cm from the underarm, or 13.5-ish inches, with a raglan depth of 22 cm, or 8.5 - ish inches. I have a long torso, and a sincere aversion to tops riding up my body, so I’d add at least 2 inches to that length if I were actually knitting this sweater. Now onto the real goodness.
Here’s a refresher of some Japanese words I listed in the last post, as well as a couple new ones. Like I mentioned last time, a few of these words can be defined in a number of ways, but I’m only providing the knitting definitions.
段 : rows
号：Number size (of knitting needles)
３号針：JPN size 3 knitting needles
1 目ゴム：1x1 Rib (If there were a 2 instead, it would be a 2x2 rib, and so on)
作る: Cast on
伏目: Bind off
The first thing look at in a chart is to see what direction the garment is knit. The arrow on the right of the sweater drawing means the sweater is knit from the bottom up, with the cast on edge starting the beginning of the ribbing.
Right below the sweater drawing, the pattern reads（１０３目）作る, which means the exact same thing as CO 103 stitches.
Within every drawing of a Japanese pattern section, there will be two important pieces of information: the stitch pattern needed and the needle size needed. Per the definitions above, the first part of the sweater is worked in a 1x1 rib (１目ゴム), on JPN size 3 needles(３号針).
The next important piece of info is the measurement to the side of the drawing. Each section’s length is separated by a dot on the line, which is the exact way most dimensions are given in western knitting, so this probably looks familiar.
The line to the right of the sweater schematic says the ribbing should be worked for 7.5 cm (about 3 inches) or 32 rows. And just like that, you’ve worked the very first part of a Japanese pattern.
GET THAT BODY
Next is the body of the sweater, worked in the fishermans rib stitch pattern on JPN 5s. The chart at the bottom right of the corner, notated with 模様編み, meaning stitch pattern, shows the way to work the fisherman's rib. Interestingly enough, fisherman’s rib in Japanese is called English rib. (If any native Japanese speakers are reading this, I’d love to know why).
The chart above calls for this stitch pattern to be worked for another 27 cm, or about 10.5 inches, with no waist shaping. Easy peasy.
Working with shaping and decreases is where charts get interesting.
Once the sweater is to the desired length, bind off six stitches at the beginning of the next two rows. As a bit of a refresher from above, 伏目 means to bind off, and the required number of bind off stitches is numerically notated before the kanji.
Decreasing and increasing annotation in Japanese is super funky, but know this is the hardest part of learning charts, so once this is down, the rest is cake. The decreases are noted like this:
This is what those numbers mean
2段平 : work 2 rows even
2 (# of rows decreases occur)-1(# of decreases)-14 (# of times repeated) :
4 (# of rows decreases occur)-1(# of decreases)-14 (# of times repeated):
Read the decreases like you would if they were in a normal chart, from the bottom up. These decreases are given only for one side of the sweater, so if the pattern says decrease 1, it means decrease 1 on either side of the knitting. The direction of these decreases is noted in the drawing above along the armhole edge. Since it's a raglan, the decreases are angled inward. To complicate things even further, some Japanese patterns aren’t specific about where to do these decreases. Most sweaters call for the decreases to occur one or two stitches in from the knitting edge, so sticking with that rule is a safe bet. If this is confusing, and I'm sure it's confusing, this is how the decrease directions would be worked if I wrote them out:
Row 1-3: Continue in pattern.
Row 4: k1, ssk, continue in pattern until 3 stitches before the end of the row, k2og, k1.
Repeat rows 1-4 13 times more.
Row 1: Continue in pattern
Row 2: k1, ssk, continue in pattern until 3 stitches before the end of the row, k2og, k1.
Repeat Rows 1-2 13 times more.
There should be 35 stitches remaining, and this sweater doesn't have any back neck shaping. Once the raglan decreases have been worked, the work is bound off in pattern. The above chart says the finished back neck should measure 16 cm, or about 6.25 inches blocked. And that's the back of the sweater! I genuinely hope this has been of some help to anyone trying to knit from Japanese patterns. The rest of the pattern can be figured out with these basic principles worked on the back, but if anyone has specific questions, let me know in the comments or email. And if you've gotten this far, eat a fat slice of cake or something, because this shit is complicated.