Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Big in Japan

“Do you have a favorite chapter in Knitting Around the World?” Why, yes indeed I do – thank you all for asking!

While it’s true that in my research I explored the history of a slew of fascinating techniques native to many noble countries, I admit, I have a soft spot for Japan. And likewise, for its somewhat underreported knitting traditions.

Thanks to the expert assistance of Jun Miyamoto, my “correspondent” in Tokyo, I was given a view onto what is a rich, conflicted, still-developing, but not entirely new art/craft in the country – in fact, the knitting historian of Japan, Yoshihiro Matsushita, postulates that Japanese knitting dates back at least to the times of the samurai, and to samurai themselves.

In the U.S., knitting has lately become such an accepted and integral feature of our culture – it permeates daily life, fashion, craft, art, to such a degree that some younger knitters may find it difficult to remember a time when this was not the case. But the various facets of Japanese knitting life that Miyamoto reported on illuminated a community still somewhat in flux: an old guard determined to maintain rigorous, professional standards of technique and construction, versus a new generation of knitters looking for a modicum of creative freedom.

Members of Tokyo's Stitch 'n Bitch group. Photo by Jun Miyamoto

Thanks to the Internet, writes Miyamoto, “the new generation can read EZ’s words for themselves and see how contemporary knitting goes far beyond what Japanese culture has to offer, from Nora Gaughan’s newest stunning designs, to Dave Cole’s American flag swatch made with gigantic knitting needles and a pair of excavators. Now we can freely combine dignified, stringent chart knitting techniques and relaxed, unconfined knitting methods, right alongside our computer screens.”

Honestly, I can’t wait to see what develops!

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