Today is the first day of a two week break before starting my new job. I'm excited to have this time off for many reasons including knitting and crochet time, dog park visits, a little travel, and at least one day dedicated entirely to sewing.
I'm also grateful to have a little more time to spend here. I like it here. I view my days in a different light since starting this blog. Almost everyday I spend at least some amount of time thinking about what to share here and that makes me see things around me a little differently. I love that I can dedicate a lot of time to being here over the next couple weeks.
To celebrate, let's talk Japanese culture and design!
This past week marked one of my favorite times in DC. Cherry blossom time. If you've never had the good fortune to be in DC during this time you're missing something amazing and you should put it on your list. Although, I can't even tell you when to book your tickets for next year's cherry blossom peak because the little buggers are unpredictable and it's fairly impossible to guarantee exactly when they'll bloom in full. This year Sean and I were out of town during the peak of the peak. But we managed to catch an eyeful before it turned midnight on them and they turned into regular looking trees.
The cherry trees were a gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington in 1912. It was meant to celebrate the growing friendship between the United States and Japan. The initial gift was 3000 trees and then, in 1965, we were granted 3,800 more. They're planted all around the city of Washington, but mainly concentrated near the tidal basin and the Jefferson Memorial. Sometime shortly after 1912 the United States reciprocated by giving Japan a whole lot of dogwood trees (which are beautiful, but I think we got the better end of the deal.) In spring, the cherry trees blossom and you've never seen anything like it. The city puts on the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a two week celebration that includes things like sake/sushi parties and the crowning of the Cherry Blossom Princess and the Cherry Blossom Queen. It's a celebration that means spring is coming. It also means over 1 million tourists are coming - which is fine by me - I like that I live in a place where people take their family vacations.
The blossoms. They are brilliant and beautiful and I love them.
I've recently discovered another source of love for Japanese culture and design and, given our blooming city this week, I thought, what better time thank now to share it here.
Japanese crochet and knitting books. When I started my obsession with fibers, I was mostly crocheting and, to be honest, I had to search pretty hard for crochet patterns that blew my mind enough to spend hours interpreting them and stitching, stitching, stitching them. Don't get me wrong - they're out there and there's no doubt there are some incredibly talented American crochet designers. But. Then I discovered the brilliance of Japanese crochet patterns.
They are amazing for so many reasons. First, the patterns are dense and involved thereby creating fabric that is luscious. Also, the designs are intricate and tightly stitched making them so structured that it's almost like crocheting a little sculpture. They also take the traditional granny-squares (that enjoy a super rich history in the US) to a totally different level by stuffing so many steps and stitches into one small motif that the result is a beautiful overload on texture and yarn-y goodness.
(And, look at this one! Patterns for crocheting with strips of fabric.)
But. The main reason Japanese crochet and knitting patterns (I've yet to try a Japanese knit) are beyond brilliant is that they use symbols. This means that anyone, no matter what language they speak, can crochet or knit from a Japanese pattern as long as they know what the symbols mean.
So instead of reading through a pattern filled with lines like this: "Ch 2, turn, dc in 1st sc, (ch1, skip next sc, dc in next sc) across: 6 dc and 5 ch-1 sp......"
You get to read a little chart, like the one at the very top of the next photo. MuCH better.
Every Japanese book you buy (and I get mine at Kinokuniya, my favorite book store in NY) includes a section at the end with a visual set of instructions next to each symbol necessary for most crochet patterns. Plus, the symbols are universal and the internet abounds with keys and legends for guidance. (Some crochet and knitting designers in the US and the UK have been inspired to create patterns using these symbols now and brava to that!)
I have these books sitting in my living room and I often pick them up and scan through them even though I've seen each page a hundred times. I think I love them so much because of the color and creativity combined with the methodical, repetitiveness of the pattern instructions. Which is sort of a reflection of me I guess - creative, yet pretty structured.
Now that I've satisfied my craving for some Japanese good-ness, Huck and I are off to the dog park. We might even be lucky enough to glimpse some remnants of the cherry blossoms.
Chinatown was our destination for dinner last night. It's also where I found my yellow for the day. I thought the day had passed with no yellow to be found until we exited the metro and, poof, the Chinatown entrance lit up the sky.