The PelongPelong Story
When Ms Jiny Jang was preparing to get married, her mother in law (Mrs Park Hong Ja) gifted her with a hand knitted dress. It was her way of welcoming Jiny into the family.
Mrs Park (pictured above) first started knitting small accessories such as hair bands, scarves, hats etc as a school age child but doesn’t remember exactly when or how she learned it. She says her knitting talent was probably passed onto her by her mother, like almost every other Korean woman at her age. It’s just like this; after dinner at home, everyone in her family was watching TV, sitting close together and trying to keep warm. Even at that moment, her diligent mother refused to rest. Some might call her an active-relaxer. She would quickly clean up their table and then grab her knitting needles to make a warm sweater for her little son. Over time, she started to move her fingers agilely and sped up the rhythmical movements. The young girl, Park Hong Ja who was leaning on her mother’s arm, felt that something interesting was happening and sat up to look at the work over her mother’s one shoulder.
This ‘over one shoulder’ is an expression which is used commonly to say someone learns a thing by experiencing it in a habitual repetition; with no manuals, no instructions or no seriousness. At that time, it was the most efficient way to pick up a new skill from a skilled person and was a kind of culture in Korea. So, knitting became a part of life for a girl who couldn’t take her eyes off her mother’s knitting.
Her own knitting became more serious after her marriage, when she opened a sports gear shop in a local shopping centre. Customers would come and go, but she didn’t drop her knitting needles. Soon after, she began a knitting group with nearby shop owners and started to expand her knitting talent with these new friends, trying more complicated designs, discussing new patterns and creating her own designs. During this time she made countless works and the Pelongpelong dress (which means “Twinkle twinkle” in the Jeju Islander’s dialect) is just one of the numerous results from her lifelong passion.
Jiny shares this love of knitting too and now works in South Korea, translating knitting patterns into both English and Korean while working on her own designs. PelongPelong is her debut pattern and this collaboration with Mrs Park is expected to produce many more patterns yet. In turn, this act of working together is bringing these women even closer. While they chat about the designs, construction and yarns used, the shared passion spills over into quality time and mutual respect for each other.
You can follow her progress on future patterns over on Instagram (all of her posts can be automatically translated below each post).
The Team Behind PelongPelong
Of course, Jiny and Mrs Park haven't worked alone. This project was a team effort in conjunction with Knit-to-Wear Korea (I will talk about this collaboration more in my up and coming post "Why I Sell Translated Patterns) working with Mr Yungjoo Song, Ms Yoon-Young Jeon and myself.
Mr Song is the driving force behind launching the new knitting resource in Knit-to-Wear (also on Instagram). This platform is designed to bring yarn and knitting patterns to South Korea without the tie of purchasing them solely as a kit (which has previously been the only way to buy patterns there). He's also working with Jiny and Ms Jeon to translate foreign patterns into Korean and it's been exciting for knitters to finally access patterns that were previously unavailable to them. Many knitters would watch on social media as other knitters made beautiful garments, but a lack of translation meant they couldn't enjoy those specific patterns themselves. As result, he's uniting knitters and designers around the world and breaking down language and cultural barriers in the knitting world. It's win-win for knitters and designers everywhere! It's also fair to say that his support in encouraging his team to pursue our passions is contagious. It's led to a collaborative, supportive environment for us to work in and I'm deeply grateful for that everyday.
Ms Jeon works as an essential part of this team designing her own patterns, working on translations and technical writing. She studied fashion design at University and along with a solid career in stationery and fashion accessory design, she's been an avid knitter for over 10 years. Ms Jeon has now returned to her first love of clothing design and was instrumental in working with Jiny on this pattern. Her technical knowledge and understanding of the knitting market is invaluable to us and we rely on her a lot.
My role came in the final steps. There's nothing like a native speaker for checking language accuracies and I combed through the pattern doing technical and grammatical proof reading; making sure the pattern reads smoothly and clearly and that the formatting used would meet customer expectations. Then I ran testing over six weeks, working with a group of knitters in NZ, Australia, the USA and beyond to check the fit and instructions. We communicated often, shared photos and asked questions. Sometimes I'd work between the knitters and Jiny to clarify information, making sure any big changes were still in line with her intentions. Test knitters are beautiful people and their feedback has been so invaluable. The quality control they've offered is everything and I'm so grateful for their willingness to help.
Not Just a Change of Language
Did you know that a pattern translation isn't just a change of text? For a start, many Korean patterns aren't graded. Knitters are given just one size and are expected to adjust the pattern to suit their intended size. So Jiny worked with common fit standards and measurements from both the US and the UK to establish the grading. Korean patterns are also often illustration and chart based, but after doing some research, we found that half of our knitters prefer written instructions. Pattern translation isn't just the exchange of text. It's a full rewrite.
The PelongPelong Dress has gone from a loving gift to a daughter-in-law, into a gift back to the mother-in-law as a pattern to be enjoyed everywhere. It sounds so simple when you put it into one sentence like that. But it's infused with an incredible amount of patience and perseverance. It's a collaboration between three South Korean women, a man with a vision at Knit-to-wear, and a Kiwi woman. All who just want to see language and cultural barriers removed so that knitters can unite share their passion, wherever they may be.
We hope you love the pattern as much as we do.