November 24, 2007

Easy Embroidery

  Another Japanese craft book for your viewing pleasure.

Easy Embroidery is the follow-up to Small Embroidery and shares the same format and layout. All in Japanese, with Danish titles.

(Easy embroidery)
by ちひろ, 佐藤
127 pages
ISBN-10 4140311487
ISBN-13 9784140311486

It wasn't the bakery sign.

It wasn't the citrus fruits,

or even the acorns

or the green pepper.

It wasn't the hens,

the hotdog,

or the lion.

The piggy got close.

Real close.

This button scored pretty high, too.

The fish almost did it all by itself.

But even if there had been nothing else to like

in all of the other

126 pages…

this feather alone

would have been reason enough to buy this delightful embroidery book.

November 18, 2007

Embroidery of a journey (Tiny Garden #2)

  Remember Tiny Garden? The author, Kazuko Aoki, has just published another embroidery book.

I think it translates as Travel embroidery or Embroidery of a journey, but I have a feeling that there is a more befitting translation. From the photos, it seems that the author created these embroideries while on a journey to the UK, but I am really guessing. Anyone who can help me out here?

Embroidery of a journey
by 青木 和子 (Kazuko Aoki)
ISBN-10: 4579111540
ISBN-13: 9784579111541

Entirely in Japanese.
Kazuko Aoki's website:

Delicate little daisies and clovers.

A gallery of simple flowers you are likely to encounter while walking in the countryside.

Tiny photos, thumbnails really, of typical English gardens and country roads.

The red poppies remind me more of Italy than Englad, but I guess thy manage to thrive at higher latitudes as well.

I fell in love with the embroidered tea bags…

… and the lavender.

I am usually suspicious of follow ups, but both the second Nordic Knitting book and this one are worthy of their predecessors.

ADDED on March 20, 2008:

A friendly reader (thank you, Helen) emailed me with a better translation for the book title:

Embroidery of a Journey: Encounters with England's Wildflowers

November 5, 2007

Nordic Knitting #2

  Yesterday's book hunting expedition rewarded me with knitting and embroidery books. Here is one I had been on the lookout for since a friend in Japan had alerted me that it was being released.

I like this book just as much as I liked Nordic Knitting: Ten Fabulous Techniques.

Nordic Knitting: Seven Miraculous Techniques
by Kirja Kongsbak
ISBN-10: 4579111621
ISBN-13: 978-4579111626

Table of Contents

  • Zigzag
  • Frill
  • Spiral & Circle
  • Rose
    Four Knitted Rectangles
    Dropped Stitch
    Garter Socks
    Buttonhole Technique
    Moebius Band
    How To Make

I don't know the correct translation for Vendepinde, but all the projects in this section are worked with short rows, so maybe that's what vendepinde means. If you know different, please let me know.

The projects are diverse and illustrate the various techniques well. You'll find scarves, hats, table mats, bags, a necklace, sideways socks, a Moebius headscarf.

If they come out with Nordic Knitting #3, I'll buy it with my eyes closed.

November 4, 2007

What poop can do

  Our lovely neighbor across the street decided to cover his front lawn with dung on a Saturday afternoon. For those of you unfamiliar with the Californian way of life, let me tell you.

Every year around the first rain, usually in early November, many people (sigh) fertilize their front lawns in what they believe to be the best way. As far as I know, there is no scientific proof that poop is better than other fertilizers — I think it's one of those urban myths — but that's the way it goes here. Good for us that this weekend we didn't have people over.

Anyway, the local color note is just to explain how I got to drive down to Costa Mesa after a long hiatus from Japanese craft books. We needed to be away from the house for a whole day; who wants to spend a whole Sunday breathing shit miasma? Have you ever heard of a better excuse to go hunting for cool new knitting and embroidery books?

So, away from the poop we went and I came home with some wonderful finds.
One review coming up shortly.

March 20, 2007

English-Japanese Knitting Dictionary

  The nice people at Kinokuniya's in Little Tokyo agreed to order this book without having me commit to buying it. I'd been curious about this dictionary for a while but couldn't bring myself to part with the equivalent of 10,000 yen without seeing it first. And a good thing that was indeed. When I finally got to examine a copy of the English-Japanese Knitting Dictionary, it definitely was not what I had expected. I had hoped for a dictionary that included a lot of visuals along with translations of knitting terms, and one that would be equally useful to Japanese and English speakers. As it turns out, the visuals are scarce and a lot of entries are textual explanations of words in the same language, with only part of the entries giving translations from one language to the other. When I examined the book I was a little under the whether and probably not at my most alert, but my guess is that this dictionary will be most useful to Japanese speakers who are trying to decipher knitting instructions in English and not the other way around.

Also, when I first converted the yen price to dollars, I must have made a mistake because I was expecting the book to cost $80 (already a hefty sum for one book), but the price is actually $120! Now, I would have bought it at $20; I would have thought about it twice at $30, but at $120, I really didn't have to think.

Unfortunately I don't have pictures to show you, so this is probably not a very useful review as there is always a lot of subjectivity in making this kind of judgement, but I thought I'd share all the same.

510 pages
ISBN-10: 4881220853
ISBN-13: 978-4881220856

March 9, 2007

Hand Knitting Techniques

  If you liked Clear & Simple Knitting Symbols, you may enjoy another book from the same publisher — Hand Knitting Techniques Book.

新 棒針あみ―よくわかるセーター作りの基礎
Hand Knitting Techniques Book
Paperback, 82 pages
Language: Japanese
ISBN-10: 4529029271
ISBN-13: 9784529029278

More info at LibraryThing.

While the previous book covered individual knitting stitches, this one explains various techniques such as a casting on and off, working with DPNs, short rows, intarsia, cables, selvedges, shaping, grafting, and finishing. The book starts off with a spread illustrating the necessary tools then the rest is all about the techniques, illustrated in the same style and with the same clarity of the other books in the series.

March 5, 2007


   Preserving the ordinary is perhaps not high on most people's priority list. Collecting antiques or even the barely old is one thing; cherishing the normal objects of everyday life beyond their expected life span and a certain respectability of appearance is another. This book has reminded me of bygone days, when I was a little girl growing up in a convent. In summer, I was the only girl left in the nuns' care and I would spend my days roaming around on a tricycle and sharing the nuns' activities.

Every afternoon they would spend a couple of hours sitting in the shade of trees, embroidering, mending, and chatting. I can still see them patiently darning modest pieces of cloth, often working on their "soggoli" (guimpes), a part of their habits that covered the neck. White as snow and perfectly pleated with a parting halfway that changed the direction of the pleats; a feat of sewing and ironing mastery.

Now, when something is old and abused, we throw it out without a second thought. Or so I've been doing.

While my language inadequacies prevent me from understanding even the book introduction, I sense that behind this Darning Notebook is a true appreciation for preserving beloved objects by either maintaining them or repurposing them so that some of their qualities can exist in different form. The book is clearly aimed at the Japanese public with no concessions to the "Japanese Craft Book club" of overseas. Entirely in Japanese — not even the usual English chapter headings — and to be opened from right to left and read vertically, as is customary in traditional publications. The projects include a few items you could fit in the cute category, but the overall feel is not one of cuteness. The aesthetics of wabi-sabi — the beauty of imperfection — are at work here, but taken to a certain extreme and out of the understated domain. Some of the pieces seem closer to fine art than clothing.

After the photographic section, are a few pages of instructions, mostly the basics of darning. Some projects involve cutting and sewing pieces together to shape new items of clothing, but they are meant to be inspirational and no specific instructions are provided to replicate the objects.

Darning Notebook
by 勝屋 まゆみ
Published 2007/01
87 pages
ISBN-10 4579111273
ISBN-13 9784579111275

February 26, 2007

Japanese knitting symbols

  The beauty of Japanese knitting symbols is that they are standardized across publications according to the JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards Association) so this is really a useful reference if you are trying to decipher a Japanese pattern (thanks Yukie for pointing this out). And don't forget that ABCs of Knitting has a wealth of information for both Japanese and English speaking knitters trying to understand each other's ways of charting knitting patterns.

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

The book covers 120 knitting symbols. This is a lot more than we are used to seeing in English knitting books. We are talking symbols, not actual patterns, and I think this is beacause Japanese knitting books don't give text-only instructions like some western books do, so more symbols are needed to avoid lengthy descriptions. Once you have a way to read the symbols, this really makes better sense.

February 17, 2007

Stitch Library

  This book presents 300 knitting stitch patterns arranged according to their main design elements (see table of content below). I love the samples in all sorts of shapes: triangles, circles, stars and more. They seem to be finished with a round of crochet to keep the edges from curling up. Entirely in Japanese apart from the section titles.

300 Knitting Patterns (?)
128 pages
ISBN 4529020711

300 stitch patterns divided as follows:

  • Leaf 1-30
  • Diamond 31-60
  • Stripe:
    • Horizontal 61-72
    • Vertical 73-90
    • Diagonal 91-102
    • Wave 103-114
  • Small 115-144
  • Check 145-168
  • Pyramid 169-180
  • Zigzag 181-204
  • Herringbone 205-228
  • Bobbles 229-240
  • Flowers 241-258
  • Lace 259-282
  • Lace cable 283-300

The stitch library is followed by an explanation of the symbols used in the charts and the technique for each symbol is clearly illustrated in several steps.

February 15, 2007

Where to buy Japanese books

  Every now and then I get an email from someone asking where they can buy Japanese books. So far, I've been replying individually, but a collective reply will probably be more useful. So here's what I know. Please, let me know of other sources, especially in Europe, since I don't have any information about that.

I buy my books at Kinokuniya bookstores. They have stores in the US, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.
Here is the complete list of Kinokuniya bookstores worldwide with contact information.
You can also order from them online or over the phone. My experience with Kinokuniya has always been very good.

Stores in the US
Asahiya, website in Japanese.
Locations: Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Torrance, San Diego, Chicago, New York.
Kinokuniya, website in Japanese with some English.
Locations: New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Seattle, Costa Mesa.
Sanseido, website in Japanese.
Locations: inside Mitsuwa Marketplace stores. They may be at other, independent locations, but I don't know.
Sasuga Bookstore, website in English.
Locations: Massachussets

Stores in Asia + Australasia
Kinokuniya: Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Thailand.

Stores down under
Kinokuniya Australia.

Stores in Europe
In Europe there are a few stores that sell Japanese items, including books, but from a quick scan it seems they don't have much in the line of craft books. In any case, here are the few I found.

Japan Centre Bookshop in the UK.
Jipango in France
Roellin Books in Germany

Online only stores:
Yes Asia

Some practical information
Amazon Japan now offers enough of their interface in English that it's possible for the rest of us to understand how to order. The shipment fees from Japan are high, but the basic prices are lower than at regular stores. If you lose your bookmark to this entry, just remember two things:
1) Choose English in the menubar

2) Open and perform the same operation on the US website comparing screen by screen with what you are doing on the Japanese website. The Japanese interface mirrors the US website closely, including placement of elements so for instance, if you were trying to add a book to your wishlist on the Japanese website, you would click the button highlighted in red on the bottom right. To create or view a wishlist, you would click the button highlighted in red at the top of the page.

This is the same page displayed with some elements in English:

Most of the time, I use to browse or search books, then with the ASIN/ISBN number, I go to the Kinokuniya website to see if the book I want is available at a location near me. To see a book's ASIN/ISBN number, scroll down the page:


To check if a book is available from Kinokuniya stores, enter the ISBN/ASIN number in the input field by the pulldown menu called "Japanese books". I use the website for the US West Coast, as that is where I am. Make sure to use the Kinokuniya website for your area.

The bottom of this first page shows contact information for the area stores.

Entering the ASIN/ISBN number in this field will take you to a result page. If the book is in stock, it will appear as in the image below, with cover image, when available, and a list of the stores that have it in stock.

To see their other stores (East Coast and Asia):

I hope this is not too confusing. I'll update this page whenever new information comes my way.

February 9, 2007

Fair Isle Knitting

   I had been waiting for this book for a few weeks and was disappointed when I finally picked it up the other day. The best thing is really the cover. There are many models — sweaters, vests, cardigans, gloves, scarves, berets — and color charts for the motifs, but no instructions for actually knitting the various garments. I had expected the usual Japanese craft book with a presentation section and a "How to make" section. Not this time. The book is also visually not in line with what I've come to expect and it feels a bit old. Perhaps the glossy paper, perhaps the page layouts and the overall feel of the photos. Just not exciting. I do like the sweater on the cover very much, though, and perhaps my dissatisfaction is just a result of my expectations. You judge. Sorry again for the poor picture quality. Between my unsteady hand (gotta get that tripod) and the glossy paper, this was not a good photoshoot.

Fair Isle Knitting
by 勝子, 阪場
39 pages
Published: 2004/08
ISBN-13: 978-4835579191
ASIN: 4835579194

February 8, 2007

Book index updated

A few months ago I started a complete list of all the books for which I have individual entries in the blog and somehow, along the way, forgot about it. Today, I finally updated it and also reinstated the link to the page under the Popular category in the right column. Somewhow I had lost the link, which I suppose played a part in me forgetting about that list.

For your viewing pleasure: complete book index. Enjoy.

Monogrammatic Embroidery by Calligraphy

  This was a chance find at Sanseido bookstore. I hadn't seen this book anywhere, on- or off-line. Since my background is in graphic design, I responded to both the calligraphy aspect and the use of color. Apologies for the non-so-sharp photos. It's hard to keep the camera still while keeping the pages open. I couldn't really scan this book as it doesn't open up easily and I didn't want to squash it in the scanner.

Monogrammatic Embroidery by Calligraphy
by 真喜子, 小田原
73 pages
Published: 2006/9
ISBN-13: 978-4277370073
ASIN: 4277370071

Table of Contents


  1. Copperplate
  2. Italic
  3. Gothic

Stitch Lesson

  1. Step 1
  2. Step 2
  3. Step 3


  1. M
  2. MO
  3. K
  4. Love


  1. Room Shoes
  2. Cloth
  3. Apron
  4. Stole
  5. Bookmarker
  6. Tea Cozy
  7. Beret
  8. Cushion
  9. Cloth
  10. Shirt
  11. Tablier
  12. Bag
  13. Cloth
  14. Gloves & Socks
  15. Baby Shoes

Art of Stitch

February 7, 2007

Tiny Garden

  By now you know that I buy embroidery books and do nothing with them. I told myself it's okay; I get a lot of pleasure just leafing through these books and I'm not going to feel guilty for not being productive. This is my best find from yesterday's trip. I am in love with this little book. It's charming, well designed and truly inspirational. I give this book five stars. I'd give it five stars on the cover alone. And I did get a chuckle out of the funny English titles: Happy my tiny garden with pretty flowers, Fablic by Scandinavia, and A fossil makes blue flowers activated?

Tiny Garden
by 和子, 青木
83 pages
Published: 2004/03
ISBN-13: 978-4277311441
ASIN: 427731144X

February 6, 2007

Day off + goodies

  Since I didn't take any time off during the weekend and had another frustrating day yesterday (after the heating broke twice last week, yesterday it was my car's turn… again), I awarded myself a day off during the week. That's right, I took Tuesday off and felt like raspberrying everyone as I was driving down the freeway on my way to Costa Mesa. That didn't last long, the raspberry part I mean. As soon as I got to the 5, I got stuck in a gigantic traffic jam and I'll spare you the whole story, but it took me more than two hours to get down there. And by the way, it was bloody hot and the AC died a couple of years ago and who wants to put money in a 15 year-old car?

So, by the time I made it to Purl Soho, I was in serious need of gratification.

More Habu 2-ply cashmere, just because. I think I'll try my hand at Fair Isle gloves with it; if not, I'll just fondle it late at night while sipping some Bailey's.

A hank of Jade Sapphire 2-ply Mongolian cashmere in Silver Pearl color, because it's slightly thicker than the Habu 2-ply and I want to try it. Jennifer, always extremely nice, offered to unwind the hank into a ball for me.

Some double pointed needles in size #0 (2.0mm) and #1 (2.25mm).

After that, the usual visit to Kinokuniya, which was actually the main reason for the trip since I wanted t pick up a book I had ordered a few weeks ago. That particular book — Fair Isle Knitting — turned out to be a disappointment (will I ever EVER learn not to buy books without seeing them first?), but I also picked up a booklet on Japanese knitting symbols and one on knitting techniques that I think will be very useful references. The Notations book I had also ordered could not be found, as it's been out of print for several years.

My last stop was at Sanseido Bookstore inside Mitsuwa, a Japanese supermarket. Sanseido is only a few minutes drive from Kinokuniya and I had never been there. As it turns out, they also have a very good craft section and I found a book I'd been after for a long time: Tiny Garden. In this case, I had been afraid of ordering it sight unseen and guess what? I love, love, love the book! I'll put up pictures of several spreads tomorrow. The other book is Monogrammatic Embroidery by Calligraphy, a complete surprise since I hadn't seen the cover anywhere.

Stay tuned for book pictures.

January 18, 2007

Knitting techniques

  I had picked up this book twice before and left it at the bookstore because of a design issue that bugs me. Yes, I'm fussy that way. The issue is the sepia colorization of the photos that make it hard to see the details; not a minor problem for me in a book that is all about teaching techniques. Fortunately, the photos are accompanied by illustrations that show even the finer points very clearly. I have to thank knitbuddies for making me pick up this book again and take it home with me.

Not that I can actually read the damn thing. Well, not yet at least. But this morning at breakfast I started to write down and look up some of the kanji in the "Before knitting" page. Little by little, I hope to figure out the basics.

From an actual knitting class
by 千枝, 小瀬
104 pages
ISBN 4579111125

Entirely in Japanese, including the table of contents.

I don't really care for the models inthe book, but I look at them as a way to illustrate the knitting and finishing techniques.

I really can't imagine ever wanting to knit something like this. Love the color, though. A lot of the Japanese knitting books are really too frou-frou for me, including those of the Prince of Knitting who has a baroque sense of style.

Good luck figuring out the table of content!

This page is called Before Knitting (I think) and has really captured my attention. It gives directions on how to read the charts and instructions. I find it really smart that each chart is shown in two versions:
a) the way it looks from the front of the work
b) the way it is knitted

"a" is the same as the charts we see in western books. "b" shows the stitches not as they appear, but as they are actually knitted, so the back rows are reversed compared to "a". The beauty is that this way you don't have to mentally convert one symbol into its opposite when you are knitting a back row. If I misunderstood this page, somebody please correct me, OK?

This looks like an explanation of short rows.

A rather scary sleeve chart, no?

Additional information about this book at Knitbuddies, where you can see also many more Japanese craft books.

January 8, 2007

Knitted Accessories from Scandinavia

  There seems to be a surge in interest in Scandinavian knitting in Japanese books, or maybe it's that I'm attuned to it. This is my latest find.

Knitted Accessories from Scandinavia
by 嶋田 俊之 (著)
88 pages
ISBN 4-529-04140-9

All in Japanese, including the table of contents.

January 6, 2007

Embroidery Designs

  This is one of the books I picked up today at Kinokuniya's. I was able to translate the first two words of the title — Embroidery Designs — but not the third. Perhaps someone out there who knows Japanese can help?

Embroidery Designs
72 pages
by 大塚 あや子, ワンダフル
ISBN 4-277-37012-8

Most Japanese craft books display the finished pieces in the first half of the book and the "How to make" section in the second half. This one shows each piece followed by its own instructions. I like that; less back and forth.


  • Outline Stitch
  • French Knot Stitch
  • Chain Stitch
  • Closed Herringbone Stitch
  • Buttonhole Stitch
  • Back Stitch
  • Running Stitch
  • Straight Stitch
  • Couching Stitch
  • Satin Stitch
  • Raised Buttonhole Stitch

I love the little Braille embroideries…

… and this cushion. I know someone who could take this idea and do something wonderful with it. Right, Stephanie?

Apart form the table of contents, the book is entirely in Japanese. But the inspirational value won't suffer.

Field Trip

   This past week I've been knitting lace swatches, trying out patterns, yarns, and needle sizes. I eventually focussed on two patterns that are very much alike: Eunny Jang's Print O' The Wave Stole and one from the book Victorian Lace.

Armed with my swatches and samples of yarns for comparison and help in determining yardage requirements, I went down to Purlsoho's warehouse in Costa Mesa. Fortunately I went with my friend Theresa, so the trip was much more pleasant.

At Purlsoho, a very friendly Jennifer helped me find what I was looking for: two kinds of 2-ply cashmere yarn. I looked at Habu's and Jade Sapphire's 2-ply cashmere and almost immediately decided for Habu. The Jade Sapphire yarn was slightly thicker and the colors mostly variegated, to various degrees. Some solid colors, too, but I really liked the Habu yarn better for the lace stole I have in mind.

I was undecided between a charcoal gray, a brown and a golden yellow. I almost chickened out and went for the brown, but everything I bought this year clothes-wise has been either brown or dark gray so, what the heck, I went for yellow. Habu yarns come in cute little balls so, even thought the price of the two yarns was comparable, it's easier to get closer to the desired yardage with Habu because of the smaller quantities. I'd hate to have a lot of cashmere leftovers. So I bought four yellow balls (728 yards) and one charcoal, to make samples and see if I can knit it without losing my eyesight.

I bought also two Addi Turbo circular needles in size #0 (32") and #1 (40"). They don't carry Addi Natura, so I couldn't get the #2 I wanted. On the trip home, Theresa showed me her Holz & Stein rosewood DPN needles and now of course I have to have those! Well, I don't use DPNs, but I understand Holz & Steins make circulars as well. They are just damn hard to find in the US. I looked around the Web and there seems to be a lot of confusion about those needles. For one thing some people say that they are being marketed in the US under a different brand name, but a very thorough review of Holz & Steins, Susanne Bates, and Lantern Moon at sock prØn. dispels that notion. Now I only need to find someone who sells the small sizes, because the vendor mentioned on that blog doesn't seem to carry the very small sizes I am after. Theresa got her set from a former secret pal and told me that the needles are made from the leftover wood used to make musical instruments. I guess I must find this romantic, because as soon as I heard that, I wanted them even more.

After Purl Soho, we went to the Kinokuniya bookstore and bought some Japanese craft books. I bought a knitting book, an embroidery book (no, I haven't started embroidering, but that won't stop me from buying books) and a language book.

The titles losely translate as Knitted Accessories from Scandinavia and Embroidery Designs. Pictures from these books later today or tomorrow.

November 20, 2006

Knitting Gloves

  The Start Series books are Japanese books that introduce the basics of various craft techniques such as Hawaiian quilting, glove knitting, counted thread embroidery and so on. The last time I went to Kinokuniya, I picked up this booklet that explains how to knit mittens, gloves and socks.

Start Series è una serie di libretti giapponesi che introducono varie techniche come le trapunte hawaiane, il ricamo, i guanti fatti a mano, e così via. L'ultima volta che sono andata alla libreria Kinokuniya, ho comprato questo librettino che spiega come fare le manopole, i guanti e i calzini a maglia.

What I like about these books is the clear step-by-step approach that doesn't take anything for granted. Yes, they are in Japanese, but step-by-step here really means what it should. I knitted a pair of gloves about three years ago and since I haven't made any since, and also had some trouble keeping stitch consistency at the base of the fingers, I figured I'd get some visual help.

La cosa che mi piace di questi libri è che mostrano tutto passo per passo e non danno niente per scontato. Si, sono in giapponese, ma sono passo per passo nel vero senso della parola. Tre anni fa ho fatto un paio di guanti ma siccome da allora non ne ho fatti altri e avevo anche avuto qualche problema a mantenere i punti uniformi alla base delle dita, ho pensato di procurarmi un po' d'aiuto visivo.

The examples employ DPNs and I use circulars, but I'm sure it won't be a problem. Here is the book information along with some spreads from the glove section.

Gli esempi sono tutti con i ferri a doppie punte e io uso i circolari, ma sono sicura che non sarà un problema. Di seguito, i dati del libro e alcune immagine dalla sezione sui guanti.

はじめての手あみ手袋とくつ下―今年の冬こそチャレンジ ミトン・5本指の手袋・くつ下
ISBN 4-529-03844-0
50 pages

The booklet includes instructions for:
— Mittens (one model, two variants)
— Ladies' gloves
— Men's gloves
— Men's socks
— Ladies' socks

All models are illustrated with step-by-step photos, line drawings and chart graphics. Text in Japanese.

Il libro include istruzioni per:
— Manopole (un modello, due varianti)
— Guanti da donna
— Guanti da uomo
— Calzini da uomo
— Calzini da donna

Tutti i modelli sono illustrati con foto dettagliate, illustrazioni e schemi.

A particularly nice touch is that they change color yarn within a project to better illustrate the technique.

Un tocco particolarmente efficace è il cambio di colore del filato all'interno dello stesso progetto, per rendere più chiara la tecnica.

The main difference between the ladies' gloves and the men's gloves lies in the construction of the thumb.

La differenza basilare fra i guanti da donna e quelli da uomo consiste nella costruzione del pollice.

And did I mention that it was only $9.70?

E ho accennato al prezzo? Solo $9.70.

November 14, 2006

Nordic Knitting

  Today I bring you yet another Japanese book, but it's more Scandinavian than Japanese. It's a book of knitting techniques from Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia and Norway. The book is in Japanese, but (take note Japanese publishers!) with the basic technique instructions also in English. Bet you're happy about that; I know I am.

The first half of the book presents photos of the projects and the techniques being used. The second half — How To Make — gives instructions for the projects with charts, illustrations and Japanese text.

One of the projects is actually crocheted (tapestry crochet from Finland). As I found out browsing shelves of Japanese books, when you see something classified as knitting, it can be about either knitting or crochet or both.

Nordic Knitting: Ten fabuluous techniques
ISBN 4-579-11118-4

Table of Contents

  • Tapestry Crochet in Korsnäs
  • Fur Tape
  • Domino Strikke
  • I Cord
  • Näverstickning
  • Kihnu vits
  • Estonian Spiral
  • Crown
  • Tubular Stitch
  • Bead Knitting

How To Make

Finland: tapestry crochet

Finland: fur tape

Sweden: Näverstickning

Estonia: Estonian spiral

Norway: tubular stitch

I like this little book a lot. I am glad it includes instructions for fur tape, as I've been wanting to try that for a while. Not that it's anything trascendental; once you see the instructions it's like duh… couldn't I have figured it out for myself? Oh well… I'll be creative next time. Lene of Dances with Wool has some gorgeous mittens with crewel embroidery and fur tape that I've been lusting after and now I have no excuse.

I haven't started anything new in a while because of all the UFOs languishing in my baskets around the house. The result is that I've neither finished the UFOs nor started anything new. Maybe I should just give up on trying to finish things, or I should stop working on projects that take a long time to complete and stick to socks and other small items.

October 14, 2006

Handmade postcards

  From the cover it looks a bit like a cookbook, but it's actually about drawing and painting picture postcards.

The first chapter covers tools and techniques. The following chapters are all about practical examples showing the sketching process, cropping images to enhance impact, painting with watercolors, and brush lettering. Entirely in Japanese.

ISBN 4-344-90083-9

my catalog entry on LibraryThing

October 7, 2006

Sew and Knit linen

  I read on a couple of blogs that some people have been frustrated lately with the quality of Japanese craft books. Maybe I'm easy to please or maybe I've been lucky in my book hunting, but so far I'm happy with my findings. I have to admit that not all bookstores are equally well stocked. Even within the same bookstore chain — Kinokuniya — selection varies widely from store to store. The Kinokuniya in Los Angeles (Little Tokyo) hasn't turned up anything interesting in a while, but the store in Torrance has a great selection of craft books and magazines. If only I lived closer. Torrance also has a large Asahiya bookstore, but the craft selection wasn't too exciting last week.

Here's anoher book on crafting with linen that I bought a couple of weeks ago.

ISBN 4-89396-901-3


Now I have to find a local source for the linen fabrics and tapes I see in all these Japanese books. So far, I've only found them in Japanese online stores.

October 2, 2006

Dear Sweet Home

  Since I've heard from some of you that there can never be too many Japanese craft books, here's another one. A couple of you are under the impression that I am fluent in Japanese. Ha! Don't I wish. No, I am a beginner and the sad thing is that I've been a beginner for a very long time. Not enough time, not enough money… somehow I never managed to get past a certain stage. But I am not giving up.

Dear, Sweet Home
ISBN 4-391-62192-4

You may have to wait a while for a translation of the table of contents.

It would have never occurred to me to sew paper, but isn't this a great idea for a gift package?

September 26, 2006

Simple Stitch Life

  Another Japanese embroidery book with lots of linen and references to France, from the tour Eiffel to phrases in French, as in the case of "La cuisine de maman" and the recipe for madeleines embroidered on a kitchen apron. A few British things, too: the Tower bridge, a London taxi and more.

Simple Stitch Life
ISBN 4-579-11103-6


  • Shirt
  • Apron, kitchenware
  • Blouse
  • Pincushion, sewing case
  • Accessories
  • Bag, button
  • Skirt, socks, t-shirt
  • Lampshade
  • Tea cozy, coaster
  • Jam vocer, bread cover
  • Kitchen cloth
  • Book cover
  • Scarf, mini album
  • Bath towel, face towel
  • Laundry bag
  • Shoes bag
  • Baby goods
  • Cardigan, socks
  • Scarf, bag

September 25, 2006

Embroideries on linen

  Linen is big in Japanese craft books right now and I am really happy about it. In Italy linen is everywhere, especially in summer; not so much here. This book shows a variety of embroidery projects mostly on linen (from what I can tell). I particularly like the tsutsumu (wrapping), a square with loops on three corners and a string on the fourth that is used to close up the square as a little bundle: simple and clever. I also like the deliberately irregular stitches that give the embroideries a naive feel. The embroideries are in red, navy blue and white; the cloth is either natural (unbleached), white, blue or red.

ISBN 4-579-11088-9


  • fagel
  • pincushion
  • canvas bag/card case
  • fuwafuwa bag
  • aka+shirt
  • ao+shirt
  • dishcloth
  • table center
  • tsutsumu
  • hana bag
  • mitten
  • muffler
  • utsuwa
  • igokochi cushion
  • tablecloth
  • mori bag
  • necklace
  • hagihagi coaster
  • tea mat
  • handkerchief
  • handkerchief
  • wool cap
  • wool bag
  • double luncheon mat
  • tori bag
  • bookmarker
  • wanko
  • apron
  • how to make


Tsutsumu: how to make

September 16, 2006

Small Embroidery

  I found this little gem at Kinokuniya, in Little Tokyo.

It's a book on embroidery, entirely in Japanese with — surprisingly — Danish titles. At least I think it's Danish, after a quick Google search for some of the words. The embroideries are exquisite and come with instructions.

(Small embroidery)
128 pages
ISBN 4-14-031141-X

I really need to get back into studying Japanese as half the books I am interested in are in Japanese.

July 18, 2006

Initial & Monogram

  The last of the books I bought on Saturday in Little Tokyo is Initial & Monogram. Even though this is a Japanese book, it's entirely inspired by the European tradition of applying initials and monograms to house linens. You won't find any examples of Japanese monograms, either original or adapted. That said, it is a beautiful book with both photographs and charts. All in Japanese, apart from the occasional headline so if you don't speak Japanese, you will at least know that a pillow case is a pillow case and a covered button is, guess what? a covered button!

Judging from the books, magazines and sationery at Kinokuniya, Japan's love affair with all things French is at an all-time high. I started noticing 2-3 years ago that a lot of Japanese stationery had French quotes and now I see a lot of life style books about France. My French is very rusty, but it seems that they are doing a better job at quoting French than English. What's with the funny English in Japanese products and publications? Can't they get native speakers to proofread? I am starting to believe that the occasional English headlines in Japanese books are not for us clueless gaijin, but rather a way of adding flavor to the product for the Japanese audience. Tha would explain the lack of concern with accuracy and translating the only things that don't need translating. In the end, it doesn't matter to me. It'll take more than some funny word choices to dampen my enthusiasm for Japan.

Initial & Monogram
ISBN 4-579-11034-X
84 pages

Kitchen Cloth Collection

July 16, 2006

Aranzi Aronzo

  I love the Aranzi Aronzo books. They have the most adorable patterns for soft toys and small objects.

Kawaii Mochimono (all in Japanese)
by Aranzi Aronzo
ISBN 4-579-11076-5
80 pages

These tissue holders crack me up. If I don't make anything else from this book, I'll have to make one of these.

Japanese embroidery books

  Yesterday I spent the day with a friend that will soon move out of LA. In the morning we went to Little Tokyo where we spent some time at Kinokuniya. I didn't find the sewing books I was looking for, but we didn't leave empty handed. I bought two embroidery books and one Aranzi Aronzo book of sewing patterns, and Andrea bought a book on basketry and a knitting magazine. Just outside Weller Court there was a small Farmers Market, so we also got a bunch of fruit and vegetables. Back to my place we had lunch and spent most of the afternoon taking pictures of an Italian knitting cast-on technique. The gran finale was a huge bowl of strawberries marinated in sugar and red wine. A very good day.

This is one of the embroidery books: One & Only.

One & Only (all in Japanese)
ISBN 4-09-310377-1
80 pages

This is my favorite page in the whole book; I especially like the maps.

Table of content, page 1

Table of content, page 2

June 11, 2006

Simple Zakka

  I received this book yesterday, among many other things, from my secret pal in Japan.

Simple zakka and bag of felt wool
Publisher Ondori
ISBN 4-277-43072-4

I have to make these little glass holders. I have two glasses just like these, maybe slightly taller, that I bought a long time ago for Irish coffee. Now I use them for ice cream and the little dress would be nice.

I have to make these coasters, too.

And these little bottle covers. But how do you put them on and take them off, I wonder?

And I certainly have to make these espresso cup holders and saucers, trompe l'oeil little spoons included.

Who would have thought of a felted paperweight? It reminds me of the felted soap my friend Andrea made for Christmas.

This bag will have to wait until Bush is no longer in office.

I am perplexed about the letters; I'll have to check the dictionary to see the Japanese names for these nuts.

Other projects in the book: more bags, baby shoes, pot holders, photo case, tea mat, pouch, circular boxes, bookmark, tray, pen case, flower vase cover, room shoes.

Aside from the title and names of the projects, the book is entirely in Japanese, but the step-by-step instructions have clear photographs and illustrations and if you've felted before, you shouldn't have any problem.

April 24, 2006

Japanese craft books

It's not just the cute file folders; I like all sorts of Japanese things. I love the wabi-sabi essence of traditional Japanese arts and the whimsical quality of contemporary graphics and design. I started buying Japanese stickers years ago at a paperie on Melrose – Soolip – and now I add to my small collection whenever I see something that catches my fancy.

Lately, I have also started buying Japanese craft books. So far I have three books on felting, one on stuffed toys and one on natural cord bags. They are gorgeous, not to mention their logical structure and easy-to-follow instructions. See for yourself.

felted bags book spread
Handmade Felt, ISBN 4-579-10798-5

felted shoes book spread
Handmade Felt, ISBN 4-579-10798-5

felted jewels book spread
Handmade Felt, ISBN 4-579-10798-5

aranzi aronzo fish book spread
Aranzi Aronzo, ISBN 4-579-10921-X

aranzi aronzo monkey book spread
Aranzi Aronzo, ISBN 4-579-10921-X

Felted leaf bag book spread
Handmade Felt (My Felted Bags), ISBN 4-579-10891-4

felted horse book spread
Small articles made of wool felt, ISBN 4-309-28044-7

cord items book spread
Handmade bag and zakka of natural cord, ISBN 4-277-43052-X