Today we welcome Nancy Vandivert to the blog to share her thoughts and process on creating the Yojimbo shawl. 

Mosaic stitches are a type of slip stitch knitting.  Like brioche stitch, two rows of knitting produce one row of a mosaic pattern.  Multi color patterns result by working specific stitches in one color and slipping the remaining stitches.  Colors alternate every two rows; this means both colors remain attached to the work throughout.  Patterns may be worked in all Stockinette, all Garter, or a combination of both.  The simplest motifs are frequently geometric or rectilinear.  Most important, there are NO LARGE FLOATS along the back of the work. Knitted mosaic patterns retain much of the flexibility of plain Stockinette stitch.


Yojimbo features mosaic designs inspired by Japanese Sashiko embroidery.  This technique began as a simple running stitch used by peasants to repair clothing.  Matching thread was used to create utilitarian, and invisible, patches.  However, as undyed cotton thread became available, more elaborate and decorate patching designs developed.  In addition to repairs, this more showy style of embroidery was used to quilt together layers for durability and insulation.  Once Sashiko spread from the peasant classes to Japanese merchant and upper classes, it transformed from a practical skill to one valued as pure decoration.


The genesis for my design arose from the eponymous movie by Akira Kurosawa.  In the 19th century, a lone samurai enters a rural Japanese village and finds the peasants beset by a feud between two rival factions.  After being betrayed and seriously injured, the samurai is hidden in a forest shrine and warms himself under a patchwork quilt made of Sashiko and kimono fabric scraps. 


If you are interested in Sashiko, my favorite book is Sashiko: Easy and Elegant Japanese Designs for Decorative Machine Embroidery, by Mary S. Parker.  Although written for machine sewing, the stitch dictionary in the back is worth the book’s price. 


When it comes to design, I am old school.  Give me a sharp pencil and graph paper, and I am a happy camper.  The full shawl has multiple sections in different designs intended to appear as though pieced from fabric scraps.  I knew the increase rate for the shawl shape I hope to make, and this guided me (for everything except Chart C) to small, symmetrical designs.  This means one pattern multiple has either the same number of rows as stitches OR the number of stitches is a factor of the number of rows.  This allows the design to predictably repeat at the increase edge.  Chart C, the design is called “Persimmon Blossom”, broke all of these rules.  Hey, I really, really liked this big flower pattern in the middle of my shawl. 



Mosaic stitch basics:


Yojimbo’s charts are unlike the pure mosaic charts developed by Barbara G. Walker.  Traditional mosaic charts show only the right side rows and assume the knitter will know to repeat the pattern when working the wrong side.  Yojimbo’s charts show every row.  Read them as you would any chart: right-to-left for right side rows and left-to-right for wrong side rows. 


This shawl also features an attached edging along the vertical edge.  Yes, this means the main color and contrast color will both be attached throughout.  However, working the attached edging is not the same intarsia torture as an isolated, multi-color motif in the middle of a sweater. In addition to a lovely finished edge, the transition between the edging and mosaic stitches is a convenient place to conceal color changes. Instructions for wrapping yarns are included with the pattern. The main thing to remember is not to snug the working yarn too tight at the color changes. Trust your eyes and feeling of the fabric in your hands. 

You can visit Nancy at her website, facebook, or raverly store