A few years ago I found out about Toshiyuki Shimada’s book, New Style of Heirloom Knitting.
Although written in Japanese and out of print, I became determined to get my paws on a copy, and eventually tracked one down on Ravelry forums in Canada.
Every single page of this book is brilliant, from the incomprehensible essays accompanied by shots of vintage boots and scenes of Scotland or Norway as seen through Japanese eyes, through to the patterns themselves, and even the technical instructions.
In particular two patterns stood out to me: Poème (which was the pattern that led me to this book in the first place), and Herbstlied.
Last summer the stars aligned in the Liberty sale, when I nabbed a whole bag of discontinued Rowan yarn in an off-white colour, perfect for my oak forest sweater.
After consultation with various sources (detailed on my Ravelry project page) plus a head-scratching and cake session with my lovely Japanese-speaking friend Heenali, I was ready to cast on.
I started knitting in January, starting with a swatch for the central oak leaf design. When that was done to my satisfaction, I started on the actual sweater in February
I knitted on trains, buses, Tubes, at lunchtime, on weekends, and slowly the sweater started to grow. There was a hiatus in April and May for my MSc exams, but by then front and back were completed. Over the summer the sleeves crept towards completion, and finally, over a few rainy and solitary evenings on an island in Canada, I finished it.
I’m in love with this sweater. OK there are a few errors in the construction, but I don’t care. It fits, it’s gorgeous, it’s the first proper sweater I’ve ever made myself. I’m just really proud of it.
Wearing it brings me right back to the forest it was finished in, as a bonus it also smells of the lake, in which it was blocked. Forest associations for a forest sweater.
This sweater has been a masterclass in the value of making what you want, not what’s easy. A lot of brain power went into this sweater, sometimes I had to unpick. I learned a lot.
What next? Perhaps I have been swatching for Poème on the side throughout…