Monday 16 February 2009

Inspiration from Japan

If you read my last post you might be wondering if I managed to finish the 'little something' I was knitting in clematis coloured wool. Well, yes I did and you'll find out just what it was if you continue reading! But first......

These little cuties come from Japan and are known as kokeshi dolls. The first kokeshis were made in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan in the 19th century. Crafted from turned wood they were just a basic head and body with hand painted decoration (you'll see some examples if you follow the link above). Today they are made in all sizes and colours but their shapes have remained fairly simple.


These cute little ladies always make me smile so I decided to try and knit a little kokeshi style character of my own. And here she is, welcoming visitors to her Japanese garden.


She stands just 6 ins (15cm) tall and is very demure don't you think? You will find knitting instructions at the end of this post.

She and I share a passion for Japanese gardens and we'd like to invite you to take a little stroll with us through the garden that we have put together using pictures from various books.


In we go through a little bamboo gate and up a crunchy gravel path beside a deliciously cool trickling waterfall. 


On towards a peaceful pool where cranes wade beside a little island topped by an ornate stone lantern.


Crossing the wooden bridge we can stop and watch the brightly coloured carp basking in the sunshine.


And finally we arrive at the pavilion. How about some tea, Japanese style?


Tea for two  


In springtime you'll be dazzled by the many coloured azaleas and rhododendrons.


Clematis scrambles


Wisteria dangles


and tall primulas sway in the breeze at the water's edge.


And just look at that pink cherry blossom admiring its own reflection. Who can blame it!


Thank you for taking the time to walk with us through our make believe Japanese garden. We hope you enjoyed your visit. Please call again soon.

Kokeshi doll pattern:
If you'd like to knit a little Japanese style doll like this it is an easy pattern to follow. The basic shape is a tube 54 rows long. I used DK yarn and knitted in stocking stitch.
Using 2.75 mm (US size 2) needles cast on 26 stitches. Knit 10 rows khaki, 5 magenta, 1 black, 11 magenta, 3 black, 6 magenta, 18 flesh colour. Finally knit 2 tog and take off remaining stitches onto a length of yarn ready for drawing up.

To form a tube gather the base of the doll and then stitch the back seam leaving the top open for stuffing. Using a suitable fibre fill, stuff the body firmly (but not so firmly that the stitches are stretched too much). Run a length of flesh coloured yarn through the stitches at the point where the face meets the dress and draw up to form the neck. Secure tightly. Stuff the remaining head then draw up the top and fasten securely. You now have your basic tube (with a neck).
The sleeves - Cast on 12 stitches in khaki, change to magenta and knit 14 rows. DON'T FORGET as you knit these rows you need to shape the bottom edge of each sleeve so decrease one stitch at the end of alternate rows (6 times). Cast off remaining 6 stitches. Knit a second sleeve making sure the shaping is on the opposite edge.
The arms and hands (both identical) - Cast on 5 stitches. Knit 8 rows. Knit 2 tog across the final row and take stitches off onto yarn. Draw up to form the bottom, finger end. Stitch arm/hands flat to the body (tuck edges in a little bit before stitching down to make the arms look more real). Position the sleeves over the arms leaving just the hands protruding.Tuck the sleeve edges under and stitch down.
To give the impression of a wrap-over dress use black stitches around the neck (see photo). I've used lazy daisy stitch for flower decoration round the hem.
The hair is done with long stitches of black yarn which completely cover the flesh coloured head beneath. I popped a little black top-knot on and held it with yarn to match the flowers.
You might prefer to use sewing thread for the features as it is much finer than yarn and will give better results (I used two strands together). The eyes are a single straight stitches in black and the mouth 'v' shaped straight stitches in red. Blushing cheeks are achieved with red pencil crayon.... You now have your own little kokeshi doll and all she needs is her own Japanese style garden!