Japanese knit and crochet patterns are very standardized, and follow the same basic layout style that has been in place for decades. The diagrams and stitch patterns are detailed and not difficult for experienced knitters and crocheters to work from with very little Japanese language knowledge, and therefore they have the reputation of being “universal.” I agree this is mostly the case, except when it comes to seaming.
The knitting/crochet instructions have headings that look like one of the following:
編み方要点 “Stitch Points”
or まとめ方 “Summary”
They are mostly general instructions, e.g. “Cast on, then work pattern A, then pick up for pattern B, then work the edging, etc.” which come at the end of the section before the diagrams. They follow the materials list (yarns, needle/hook sizes, buttons, pins, beads, etc.), garment dimensions, and gauge information. Take a look for a moment at dancingbarefoot’s Japanese pattern-reading tutorial: Lesson 1 (a great resource, by the way). In the first image, the Stitch Points section is the one with the red X. Again, it’s generally unimportant.
The details for construction will be found in the diagrams and charts which follow the Stitch Points. One important piece of information that is not usually shown in the diagrams, however, is which method to use to put it all together. The types of seams a pattern may call for and where they go are usually listed under Stitch Points, all in Japanese. Hopefully this article will help you figure out which seams a pattern calls for, if it’s a seamed garment. (Coming soon: identifying parts of a garment, such as sleeve, shoulder, side, front, back, and so forth so you know where to actually put the seam.)
All the following seaming examples are worked on the wrong side of the garment, with right sides together, unless otherwise noted. I use U.S. crochet terms.
I have left out joining techniques for motifs, which may become a separate article when I get the chance.
とじ – toji
引き抜き編みの鎖とじ – hikinuki ami no kusari toji - slip stitch and chain seam
くさりとじ - kusari toji - chain seam
This is normally used as a side seam for an openwork crochet garment. Step 1: Start at a corner, usually the beginning or end of a foundation chain, and make the first slip stitch through both garment pieces. Step 2: Make a chain the height of the row minus one, e.g. for a dc row (normally 3 chains high) you would ch 2. Step 3: Make a slip stitch (joining sides) through the top of the row stitches. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until you reach the end of the seam.
引き抜きとじ - hikinuki toji - slip stitch seam
This technique is often used for attaching either knit or crochet sleeves or any curved seam, but it can also be used for side seams.
Google Search: Crochet Slip Stitch Seam
すくいとじ - sukui toji - mattress stitch seam
Mattress stitch is usually associated with seaming the sides of knit stockinette, but the same technique can be used for crochet as well.
Knitty.com: Mattress stitch tutorial
半返しとじ – han kaeshi toji - backstitch seam
This type of seam can be used for curved armhole edges instead of a slip stitch seam.
Dummies.com: Backstitch seam
はぎ - hagi
引き抜き編みの鎖はぎ - hikinuki ami no kusari hagi - slip stitch and chain seam
くさりはぎ – kusari hagi – chain seam
Notice that the names are nearly identical to the first seam listed under toji. This one is normally used as a top/bottom seam for an openwork crochet garment, typically mesh. Step 1: Start at a corner, e.g. the top of the sc or dc on the edge, and make the first slip stitch through both garment pieces. Step 2: Make a chain the width of the mesh chains below minus one. Step 3: Skipping the first chain-space, make a slip stitch (joining sides) through the next chain-space of both garment pieces. Step 4: Make a slip stitch through the next chain-space of both garment pieces. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until you reach the end of the seam.
引き抜きはぎ – hikinuki hagi – 3-needle bind-off (knit), slip stitch seam (crochet)
This can be done with either three needles or with two needles and a hook, depending on your personal preference. Note that the crochet version is the same as hikinuki toji above.
メリヤスはぎ – meriyasu hagi - stockinette grafting a.k.a. Kitchener stitch
目と段のはぎ - me to dan no hagi - vertical to horizontal seam
This is a technique for joining a top/bottom edge with a side edge of a garment.
Knitty.com: Vertical to horizontal seaming on stockinette
巻きかがりはぎ – maki kagari hagi - whip stitch or overcast seam
This is usually used for joining granny squares together, but can also be used for seaming crochet garment pieces. Sometimes you may see directions for 全目 (zenme – whole stitch), sewn through the entire top “v” (both loops) on both pieces, wrong sides together, or 半目 (hanme – half stitch), sewn through only one of the top “v” loops, pieces lying flat and touching at the seam.
Crochet Spot: How to Whip Stitch in Crochet (whole stitch version)
かぶせはぎ – kabuse hagi – ?
I’ve only seen this technique in Japanese books so I don’t know if there’s an English equivalent. The set-up resembles a 3-needle bind off, however, pass each stitch on the front needle over the corresponding stitch on the back needle using the third needle, and at the same time make a knit bind-off with the working yarn, beginning with the first two stitches.
If anyone has suggestions for additional types of seaming to add to this tutorial, finds an incorrect translation, or notices a broken link, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!