I was very fortunate to visit Japan this year (which was amazing btw!) and whilst in Tokyo I picked up some fantastic amigurumi books. When I returned home and showed my friends my fabulous new books, the first question they asked was ‘How can you understand these books when you cannot read or speak fluent Japanese?’
A fair question.
Firstly, in Japan, it feels as though everything is pictorial. Food menus are shown through large photographs (they even have plastic models of food on display so you know exactly what you are getting!), there are drawings on street signs and rail tickets. So it follows that Japanese amigurumi patterns are also pictorial.
I actually learned to crochet using an English translation of a Japanese book: Ami Ami Dogs.
What I love about this book, and what made learning crochet a doddle, were the step by step pictures, showing you what each stage should look like. I can’t count the times I have tried to follow an English pattern and had to start again because it was only near the end that I realised it didn’t look the way it should!
The other visual aid that Japanese books have that English books rarely use is a visual pattern.
One of the problems with written patterns is that each author may have a different way of explaining how to make something. Having written patterns myself, I know how difficult it is to telepathically send your instructions to someone else but the lack of consistency across patterns does complicate things. For example, some patterns add the ‘turning stitch’ at the end of a row, others ‘just expect people to know’ that that is a standard way to end a row. Japanese visual diagrams remove this issue because you can *see* if a pattern requires a turning stitch.
The Japanese love of consistency also means that the symbols used for the stitches are the same no matter which book you pick up. In English patterns, there is even a different between an American double crochet stitch and a British double crochet stitch. No wonder it gets confusing sometimes!
In the photo above taken from one of my Japanese books, you can see it is easy to follow the pattern because it uses the same symbols and circular diagram as Ami Ami Dogs and there is a diagram showing what each piece should look like. I wish more English publications used this visual method.
If anyone has found a good way of producing visual patterns, please let me know what you use to create them.