Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Knitting - extra Japan post number three

My advance research was mainly about fabric, so I didn't specifically go to Japan looking for yarn.  I had already read online that Noro was no cheaper in Japan, which proved to be the case. I saw a couple of very small yarn shops in market malls, and there was a big yarn section in Okadaya in Tokyo, and I found a combined fabric and yarn shop in Nara, plus there were smaller yarn sections in some of the other stores we went to like Tokyu Hands, Daiso, department stores etc.  There was quite a lot of yarn labelled in Japanese, but also some imported brands from America and Italy. I think I saw Debbie Bliss but I'm not sure if I saw any Rowan (which is ubiquitous here in the UK). Sorry I can't remember what brands I saw but it all seemed pretty standard stuff, I didn't notice anything hugely different about a Japanese yarn store from a UK store.  Prices seemed similar to the UK as well.

As mentioned in the previous quilting post, I found decent sized sections for knitting and crocheting books in all the bookstores we looked in. Crocheting seems to be equally popular judging by the number of crochet books, and indeed almost all the knitting books included a good proportion of crocheted items as well. Mittens, hats and scarves were popular topics, as were tops and pullovers. Kids and baby clothes were also popular in both hobbies.  Some books focused on western techniques such as Aran cables, or fair isle colourwork.  I was looking for a book that had clever design and items I wanted to make (I don't crochet) but struggled. In the end I came away with one new stitch dictionary, one secondhand stitch dictionary from Bookoff, and a secondhand book of sweater patterns.  The secondhand prices at Bookoff were hugely cheaper than the new prices: new books were £8-£10 whereas secondhand books were only £2-£4. However the craft section was much smaller at Bookoff and craft books were jumbled together with gardening books and yoga books.  Not reading Japanese, this slowed me down a lot as I had to pull out every book in turn to look at the covers!

The two cute little bags, which are really well made and also lined, were typically on sale at shops selling high-end biscuits or sweets and I imagine are intended as gift bags. However they are exactly the same size as small knitting project bags (like for socks) so I came home with two of them which I shall enjoy using.

The Japanese yarn is from the shop in Nara, and accompanies a cute pattern for a sleeveless cabled top which was on display in the shop.  The assistant had virtually no English and initially we were at a stalemate as she assumed I was trying to buy the shop sample.  I had to resort to making knitting motions with my hand and pointing at the yarn but eventually she understood I wanted the pattern and the yarn. I know I have a couple of articles in my pattern stash about how to read Japanese knitting patterns and there is more information online, so hopefully I will be able to puzzle it out.  I bought two extra balls because Japanese women are generally a lot smaller than me. I made sure the pattern size went up big enough for my metric circumference before I bought it, so I think it will be alright.  The yarn is a blend (not sure of what) and is soft with a slight halo. There are some lovely patterns in the stitch dictionaries which are all charted out so fairly universal.

I took two knitting projects with me to Japan: my second go at the Raindrops Shawl using the tweedy yarn I bought at FibreEast this year, and my purple Victorian Lace shawl.  I mainly knitted on the Raindrops shawl as it is pretty straightforward and in fingering weight.  The laceweight purple shawl requires more concentration so only got a few periods of time on the plane or in hotel rooms.  I felt a bit conspicuous knitting on trains because everybody else is either reading or looking at their smartphone, I never saw anyone doing crafts.  I even Googled it one night in case I was committing some terrible faux pas but I couldn't find anything saying you shouldn't knit in public.  I managed to get about halfway through the Raindrops shawl and also managed not to break any of my wooden interchangeables (although I took spares just in case, or in case Security had decided to confiscate my working pair).  I only saw one other person knitting which was an older lady knitting hats behind a street stall where she was selling the hats. She was actually attracting a crowd, whether because of her unusual activity or because she knew a lot of people, I couldn't tell.

I saw a lot of women wearing knitted hats, knitted scarves and even gloves, although probably most of these were purchased items.  It gets extremely warm in Tokyo in the summer, so perhaps they feel the cold more. On days where DH and I felt pleasantly warm and were dressed in lightweight summer clothing, we saw lots of people bundled up in thick coats and woolly hats  looking quite cold.  Also the public transport, particularly buses and the bullet train, was kept way too hot for us with hot air blasting from the ceiling. We did experience some extremes of temperature: our first day in Tokyo on October 26 was 26 degrees and I was wearing a summer dress and openwork shoes.  Our last day in Takayama it was only six degrees and it was actually snowing on us as we walked to the station to return to Tokyo.  So as you can imagine, it was difficult to decide what to take with me in my suitcase and I was wearing a lot of layers. I stuck to a palette of navy blue so that everything went with everything else. Now that I'm home again I am enjoying wearing clothing in other colours!

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