Japanese Book Review: Motifs of Crocheting

Posted on by MK Carroll

Motifs of Crocheting
ISBN 4-8347-2331-3
Barcode 1: 9784834723311
Barcode 2: 1929476009432
Printed in Japan

I went to Hakubundo on a lunch break and came back with this book.  One of my co-workers asked if I could read Japanese, and when I said I couldn’t, she asked me why I’d purchased a Japanese book and then spent the next few minutes probably wishing she hadn’t said anything as I extolled the layout, the use of symbolcraft, and the Japanese symbolcraft standards.  My illiteracy does limit my use of the book in a couple of respects (I had to get someone else to translate the title for me, for starters), but the hurdles are easily overcome.

The sections are organized by motif shape (circle, square, hexagon, triangle, and floral), with an illustrated tutorial at the beginning of each section which presumably gives tips and explanations (the illustrations are easy to follow; the text accompanying it is, due to my Latinate-centric education, impossible for me to follow).  Each motif is shown in four variations using different yarn textures and colors, from fuzzy mohair to shiny ribbon to smooth cottons and wools, although the yarns used vary from motif to motif (not every motif will be shown in different yarns; some are shown only in different colors).  Every pattern is given in symbolcraft, with the sort of added detail that delights me: each row or round of the pattern is in a different color and clearly numbered.  Swoon!  The sections begin with photos showing projects made using motifs, including handbags, scarves, and shawls, with instructions for the projects given at the end of the book (between the photos and the illustrations, even the Japanese illiterate can manage them).  The projects are generally simple and rather conservative, although yarn and color choices could make a big difference - for example, there's a fringed mesh shawl on page 23 which could be appropriate for my former art school girl of doom self, or for my practical mother who would want something warm that goes with most of her wardrobe (more on this here).  There are no people in the photos, just the items, sometimes shown on a wooden mannequin.  I like this - it's easier for me to not delude myself into thinking that a hat strongly resembling a crumpled brown paper sack will look just as cute on me as it does on the kawaiiiiiiii model (please note that no such hat is in this particular book).

Additionally, the book includes a section with step-by-step illustrations explaining each symbol used, removing any confusion that would arise with text-based patterns (such as the US single crochet vs. the UK single crochet), and illustrated instructions for joining motifs.

The book is about the size of a standard magazine, so it fits neatly into my messenger bag.  I'll probably take this to a print shop to have the spine replaced with a spiral binding.  $17.35 at Hakubundo.

For more on Japanese craft books and links with information on the symbols used, etc., please check out my earlier post on Japanese Craft Books.

Book Review: Ondori Basic Knit

Posted on by MK Carroll

Ondori Basic Knit Full Color Illustrated
Ondorisha Publishers Ltd.
ISBN 0-87040-745-7

Regular readers may recall that I've been on the lookout for a Japanese knit book which includes the symbols used, explained with the handy step-by-step images I've seen used in Natural Taste.  What if I told you there is indeed such a book, it's readily available at a low price, and printed in English?  Not to mention, sitting right under my nose at the local Japanese bookstore?  While browsing through a sale table at Hakubundo, I came across Basic Knit.  I've seen it before, but this was the first time I had the presence of mind to check and see if it included a symbol chart.  Yep.  It covers the basics as well, with the same clearly illustrated diagrams and helpful notes I expect from a Japanese knit publication.  The section on grafting is particularly helpful for me, as it shows where the needles are (something lacking in most illustrations for grafting that I've seen).  Overall, a good basic Japanese learn-to-knit book (in English!).
There is also a book on learning to both knit and crochet; however, I haven't had a chance to go through this one yet.

For more on Japanese craft books and links with information on the symbols used, etc., please check out my earlier post on Japanese Craft Books.

Page 197, or 10 Reasons To Knit a Sweater in Hawai'i

Posted on by MK Carroll

Last night I know I ordered decaf, but I don't think I got decaf, which is why I was up late again last night. Has nothing to do with realizing 3/4 of the way through the Aloha Knitters meeting that I'd fouled up the provisional cast-on for the short row toe on the second sock and had to frog it and start over (Trekking, wool, not going to my mother because Trekking makes a thin fabric and she wants, basically, a smallish sheep wrapped around each foot). I love short rows and I love making a perfectly cupped toe on two needles, but I could have held off until my work commute later today. At any rate, I read through the sweater section of Knitting Rules! and, on page 197, "I Could Never Knit a Sweater": Ten Reasons Knitters Give and What I Wish I Could Say to Them, I got to number 9. "I live in Hawaii. Well, okay, fine, but don't you have an aunt in Wisconsin?"

I know. She's just sayin' (and she's right, having friends and relatives who live in colder climates is a contributing factor to wool stash). However, if Ms Pearl-McPhee happens to find herself, on her book tour, in a warm climate like Hawai'i or California, Louisiana, Texas, etc., it's not likely that she will have to give us a reason to knit a sweater.

10 Reasons to Knit a Sweater in Hawai'i

(in addition to Ms Pearl-McPhee's reason)

(...which would give us a list that goes all the way to eleven!*)

1. Microclimates. I've mentioned these before. If you've been to Manoa, up on Tantalus, to Kula, Volcano, etc., you know it can get quite cool, especially at night and in the upper elevations. When I lived in Manoa Valley, my walk to the UH campus would take me from misty and cool to dry and hot in 20 minutes. I learned to layer. Up on Haleakala, you can tell which visitors are staying at the same hotel you are, because they have the same style blanket wrapped around them.

2. A 20-degree drop in temperature is a 20-degree drop in temperature. When it goes from 80F to 60F, you will notice. It can get cold here, really. Houses often lack a certain amount of weatherproofing. My parents house, for example, has glass louver windows that have frozen into position, mostly open or partly open. This is usually not a problem, but at some times of the year, it can drop down into the 50's and 60's at night. In this weather, the concern for children and the elderly is wanting to keep them warm but also making sure they can still move under all those blankets.

3. Aggressive air-conditioning. The Aloha Knitters Honolulu meetings take place in an enclosed shopping center where management believes that what customers want is proof of civilization in the form of powerful air cooling. We aren't wearing sweaters (and shrugs and shawls) to the meetings just to show off. I've worked in a hermetically sealed, centrally controlled office building where my typing speed would begin to slow as my fingers grew numb from the cold. I looked calm and professional above the desk. Below the desk, I was wrapped in an afghan. A nice cardigan suitable for business would have been perfect, but I knew that by the time I finished knitting one, the job would be over (I was temping). Movie theaters and grocery stores are also known for keeping the AC on full blast, as well as May's boyfriend, who enjoys creating his own microclimate in his car.

4. Lace. How about an exquisite, dainty, fine-gauge lace sweater, tossed over a camisole? Knitty's Spring Fling, perhaps, or Arisaig. Look at that photo of Arisaig - the model is running around on a beach in it! [I know the water temperature is probably a little different there. shh.] Teva Durham's vintage-inspired Cashmere Lace Blouse is another example - I can't find a photo online, so if you haven't seen it, trust me. I have a fantasy involving knitting it up in something non-cashmere and just tossing it on with a pair of jeans and looking fabulous.

5. Plant fibers. Bamboo, linen, hemp, cotton, and soy, for example. Bamboo and soy are especially nice in warm climates, feeling very comfortable against the skin in warm weather.

6. Silk. I know you are thinking about the cost. Think about how silk is appropriate for so many temperatures and seasons, how you could wear it all year-round, and then think cost per use (it helps if you plan to wear it every day). It can be casual, it can be elegant, it can be purchased in a blend that is a bit easier on the finances. Some of those blends are even machine-washable. If I ever manage to find a good source for Regia Silk, I may just have to save up my pennies and then knit that Cashmere Lace Blouse, adding on small and dainty vintage buttons and crocheted button loops so that the front does not keep gaping open while I am leaning over the dairy case at the grocery store, looking for the organic 1% milk.

7: Ice Palace. (Keohinani)

Hey, nobody thought we'd have snow in Hawaii either, but we do have snow on the Big Island occasionally. Since the mountain ranges don't quite reach that high on Oahu, we have to settle for an ice skating rink, i.e. Ice Palace. If ever one wanted to simulate cold weather in the dead heat of summer or any other time of year in Hawaii, that'd be the place to go. I have an aunt whose sons play hockey there. I'm sure she would love for me to teach her how to knit a sweater so she can both entertain herself and keep warm at hockey practice.

8: Because You'd Make More Use of A Sweater than a Knitted Bikini. (Keohinani)

Let's face it: there are only so many people who can wear a knitted bikini. And of those people, most of them would rather not worry about droopy sagginess that was their knitting that would result from a romp in the water. If you don't go into the water at all, a knitted bikini is fine and dandy. But for those who would rather avoid the harmful UVA/UVB rays and self-consciousness altogether, a sweater would be more practical anyway.

9. The Joy of Knitting. (Barb, who just finished knitting the BPT sweater from Knitty)

What other reason do you need?

10. Travel. Going to visit family and friends in, say, Toronto, early April? How about that trip to New York in November? Sure, you can go shopping when you get there, but what are you going to go shopping in? A blanket from the hotel? Plus that plane ride can get chilly.

Why stop at 10? Add 'em if you've got 'em!

*I watched This Is Spinal Tap a few times when I was a kid. Just humor me on this, okay?

Page 49

Posted on by MK Carroll

Recently on the Aloha Knitters board*, Keohinani wondered how we could get the Yarn Harlot to Hawai'i on her booktour and Monday night I very nearly tripped over Keohinani trying to get to a shiny new copy of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's latest book, Knitting Rules! The Yarn Harlot's Bag of Knitting Tricks. Monday night I also left out the decaf part of my drink order, and was up until 1 am reading the book. It's a book that is both informative and funny, and I'm putting it on my bookshelf next to Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears and Annie Modesitt's Confessions of a Knitting Heretic. If you'd like a DIY, get in control, punk as Henry Rollins** book on knitting, this is one of those books.

However. Page 49. "I understand that my affection for wool probably seems silly to Hawaiian knitters." Without going into the semantics of Hawaiian knitters vs. knitters in Hawai'i,*** or that it takes more than one knitter to prove this point, or that she's just sayin', y'know, and there very well may be knitters in Hawai'i who think wool is ridiculous, may I direct your attention to Exhibit A:


These are Araucania Nature Wool worsted weight 100% wool socks with holes in them. The holes came from constant wear. Oh, did I include sunny blue sky and flowers behind them? Kind of hard not to.

Exhibit B:


These are Peace Fleece wool/mohair worsted weight slipper socks with fleece-lined soles. Note the way the right slipper sock appears to be warped. That is because the sole is splitting. I would repair it, but the wearer would have to take them off. She says I need to just make her a new pair already (already? I gave her that pair at the end of December!). She is wearing a pair of cotton socks under the slipper socks. It is 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Hawai'i is known for its microclimates, and it can get quite cool in some areas and *(^%#@!! freezing in others (ask me about the time I was up on Haleakala for sunrise and realized I'd left my shoes in my car parked at an airport on another island). Even though my mother is standing on a linoleum floor in an area known for being hot and dry, her feet are encased in wool all day long.

Exhibit C, to show that you can love wool even if your mother does not have a severe, chronic case of cold feet:


My take on the Interweave Crochet Textured Tweed Clutch by Mari Lynn Patrick. My version uses two skeins of Peace Fleece worsted weight (color: grassroots), minus the bobbles, and with a buckle from a thrift shop belt. I made a few alterations to the buckle strap to accomodate the belt buckle.


Zeke agrees that it is a fine handbag, large enough to carry the necessities, including a sock in progress.

I have a real thing for Peace Fleece. My stash is organized into storage bins, sorted out as:

synthetic fibers

plant fibers

Blue Sky Alpacas Cotton


Peace Fleece

Yep. I have a storage bin full of assorted wool yarn, and a storage bin dedicated to Peace Fleece wool yarn. My stash, admittedly, is on the small side, and you'll be needing a larger sample to understand the love of wool shared by many knitters in Hawai'i. I'm counting on other members of the Aloha Knitters to flash a little stash around (especially someone who has sock yarn exceeding life expectancy, *cough*keohinani*cough*) and talk about wool lovin'.

La Harlot gets much love for knowing that there are knitters in Hawai'i. Well, we are everywhere, we are legion, after all. Kelli-the-wonder-publicist, care to give us a chance to prove it in person? We're just getting started. We haven't even mentioned the island which has cacao farms, coffee farms, and vineyards (all on one island!), and a yarn shop too!

*in an attempt to raise our visibility, we also have a MySpace Group ( and a MySpace profile page (

**of course, if Mr Rollins, who is a writer, also happens to be a knitter, he could be in the running for most punk knitting book. My admiration of Mr Rollins' work is known but I must admit that given the choice between going to a talk given by Mr Rollins and a talk given my Ms Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot would win, no contest. Should Mr Rollins ever desire personal knitting instruction, he can call me.

***Hawaiian is an ethnic designation, confusing as, for example, if you are from California you can be called a Californian, but Hawai'i has the dubious honor of having been a sovereign nation prior to being annexed by the US. One can be a Hawaiian knitter or a knitter in Hawai'i , but only one of them gets preference when applying to Kamehameha Schools for admission.