MIKI HOUSE Craftsmanship


Going beyond hand-knitting, MIKI HOUSE knits with love

A key piece for the Autumn Winter season, these playfully decorated items will infuse each child’s clothing with a freshness on those chilly autumn days. At the same time, the knit sweaters and scarfs have a uniqueness about them. For example, the hand-knit item invokes a feeling of warmth and happiness within each and every wearer.

Since its founding, MIKI HOUSE has created a product that proves popular and a must have every Autumn-Winter season: knitwear. Each knitwear item offers the comfort that the child will be delicately enveloped and warmed. In addition to the sweaters or cardigans, the addition of mittens, hoods, or scarfs in the same motifs add colour and life to every fun event throughout winter.

The cute designs will have you jumping with excitement. The sweater and hoods are so popular that each year certain sizes continue to sell out as soon as they start selling. With a complex design and knit style, the sweater becomes a work of art while the knit cap is decorated with a bounty of appliques and motifs and adorable knit styles to make not just kids, but also adults fall in love.

Each year, MIKI HOUSE fans around the world wait in excitement for the launch of the sweater. Once it hits the shop floor, many sizes sell out almost immediately. The sweater has become one of the most recognizable items within MIKI HOUSE but it was not an easy path to get there.

We have taken the opportunity to speak with Katsutoshi Hanano and Motoi Sone of Ito Shoten, two individuals who have worked with MIKI HOUSE for more than 20 years and helped to create the comfortable and impossible to copy knit items.

New sweater design on sale November 2022

“Excuse me, I think there are one too many zeros.”

Motoi Sone (left) and Katsutoshi Hanano of Ito Shoten

To understand this, we need to go back 22 years to the year 2000. The former CEO of Ito Shoten, Seizo Ito, was approached by a fabric supplier with the suggestion that if they were making knitwear for kids, they needed to go to MIKI HOUSE. This was the start of it all.

After a successful meeting with the MIKI HOUSE team, the Ito Shoten team was commissioned to produce the MIKI HOUSE sweaters; however, when they looked at the proposed number for production, they surprisedly exclaimed, “Excuse me, I think there are one too many zeros.”

The first MIKI HOUSE order was for a total of 18,000 pieces (3 styles in 10,000, 5,000, and 3,000 pieces each). At the time, however, Ito Shoten was focused on small lot orders for children’s sweaters; they rarely ever received an order totalling 4 digits. Hanano happily reminisced, “Mr. Ito was often telling that story, I think he was very happy at that time. I think he became very motivated.”

The late Mr. Seizo Ito (roughly 20 years ago).

This is how they first came to create the MIKI HOUSE sweaters.
Sone, who was working as an assistant at that time, was asked to join the team. They were told everyday by the CEO at that time to not make any mistakes or slip-ups and they must make sure MIKI HOUSE is happy.

“When I first took over the MIKI HOUSE account, I was so worried if I could live up to the expectations of quality and brand image and if I could give the brand exactly what they asked for. In order to create a great product, I met with MIKI HOUSE often and would take everything they said back to our office to ensure all was clear. Then I would speak with the factories and work to remedy all issues. This was constantly repeated.” say both with a tinge of nostalgia.
While endeavoring to make an even better product, the Ito Shoten team gained a plethora of new knowledge and experience.

Aiming For No Itch and Easy Care

“There are three key points that I learned to take care for in creating the MIKI HOUSE knits: that there is no scratchy feeling when wearing the knit; that each item is clean and colorful in the MIKI HOUSE style; and that, since each product is for children, it is easy to launder. No matter how cute or outstanding the design in the sweaters and knit caps, if the fabric is scratchy or itchy when the child wears it, it becomes stressful for them.”

“Texture is a never ending concern for knitwear,” says Sone.

Many have the impression that with wool sweaters or knit caps, an itchy texture is unavoidable. This is due to thicker fibers in the wool and also the scales on the surface of the fibers becoming splintered. When these splintered scales come in contact with the skin it causes a reaction. It raised the questions, “What is the best way to craft knitwear that is comfortable for children?”

There is also another issue that needed to be overcome: how to create a product that was easy to clean by hand at home while staying true to the MIKI HOUSE design and beautiful colors. Thanks to the knowledge and experience of Hanano and Sone, they found their solution in a wool and acrylic blended fiber.

By using an acrylic fiber without scaling on the surface, the itchy texture is reduced, it becomes hand-washable, and most importantly, vivid colors can be produced. The next step was for Sone and his team to attempt to dye a 50% wool/50% acrylic blend fiber that was already being produced. However, the appearance and color they hoped for was not produced. This would not pass MIKI HOUSE standards. They decided they needed to make something new. This was the beginning of a round of trial and error for Sone and his team.

“We researched alongside a factory we work closely with and we finally landed on a 60% wool, 40% acrylic blended fabric. Using Australian high-quality merino wool “Superfine” blended with Japanese premium acrylic, we were able to maintain the warmth of wool and the ease of use of acrylic. We created a fabric just as we had hoped, voluminous with little to no itch,” says Sone.

Thanks to this independently developed fiber, children were able to comfortably wear MIKI HOUSE sweaters and parents could easily handle the care, creating a huge merit for the products.

Trusting The Same Thread

This original MIKI HOUSE thread is still a main component in MIKI HOUSE products today.
Sone notes, “Even if the seasons change, we continue to use the thread as our staple.”

In actuality, it is difficult to produce completely identical products each year using wool. Depending on the condition of the sheep, the condition of the wool changes each year. This makes it difficult to continuously maintain the same level of quality. However, the appearance and comfort required for MIKI HOUSE products does not change so it is crucial that we continue to use the same type of thread. Be that as it may, continuously creating new designs with a multitude of materials is the thrill of apparel, is it not?

“In order to maintain the high quality, it is crucial to use a stable and quality thread, I feel. Each season the design is completely new, the impact and appearance are new. Creating this is also a chance for us to show our skills as well,” answers Sone.

(Left) Previous thread swatch book.
(Right) Current thread/color swatch book with over 50 samples. By showing a woven swatch versus only the thread, the client is able to have a better understanding of how the final product will look.

Each new season's product development begins with creating a woven swatch. Each swatch is created based on the order from the MIKI HOUSE product development team; however, using the same thread each year provides a major benefit.

“If the thread is changed, the gauge of the knit and the number of threads must also be re-adjusted. All of the hard work, effort, and time that went into creating the perfect appearance and conditions would have been for nothing. By using a standardized thread, we can predict the quality of the garment from the beginning. It is easier to develop a plan including the modifications making production run smoother.”

*Gauge: a measure of the number of stitches in one inch of fabric based on the density of needles in the knitting machine. The higher the gauge the more fine the stitches.

For example, with the ability to look at a sweater and determine something along the lines of “to create this sweater with the typical appearance use 4 needles” or “to make this hat softer use this technique” the production process runs much smoother.

“While producing the MIKI HOUSE quality using the successful knitting techniques, we also worked to produce new colors. We were able to reproduce the thread in over 50 different color variations. The specifics of this thread sample have been shared with the MIKI HOUSE product development team. So we are able to make a new design sample at any time,” says Hanano.

MIKI HOUSE product spun from the thread of trial and error. No matter the color, the number of needles in the gauge, or the type of knitting style, they are able to actualize a plethora of designs.

Adorable Motifs

One reason for the popularity of the MIKI HOUSE knits is the original designs and the ability to surprise and delight with adorable designs. The colorful threads and various techniques used to create the knitwear of course provide a sense of excitement, but the MIKI HOUSE character motifs are a major element in what makes the pieces incomparable.

The two most prevalent characters are Pucchi the bear and Usako the bunny. Each lovable character is hand knit or hand embroidered into the motif to make a product that feels handmade with care from the makers. Like the knit cap in the photos, there are products that include multiple hand embroidered motifs; completing one of these items can take many hours. Hanano says, “Although we are using many different motifs, we cannot have a single mistake or mishap. Moreover, we work hard to ensure that each and every piece is the same as the next.” Nonetheless, each motif remains handmade. It would seem that each individual creator’s skills and techniques would lead to discrepancies in the product. How does the Ito Shoten team maintain the high quality?

“In making the MIKI HOUSE motifs, both ourselves and the factories that we employ choose the best of the best workers and allow plenty of time to create to allow for stable results. The MIKI HOUSE team provides us with the order numbers early, so we can allocate the proper time,” continued Hanano. The motif for this particular knit cap was created with a partner factory in China. No matter how many strong creators we have on the team, the quality that MIKI HOUSE demands cannot be created within a day.

Sample motifs being made in our partner factory in China.
Only the most skilled workers are selected.

“As this is not made by machine, it is impossible to make exactly the same product each and every time. There may be slight differences in the face portion, the size, space between the different parts, etc. If there are 100 pieces, because it is all handmade, the results will be 100 individual faces. Even if it isn’t exactly to the specified measurements, something adorable can still be created. That is why, for me, it is more important to focus on items that are adorable and lovable versus simply focusing on the measurements when I give direction or examine the final product”

One by one, each part and each piece is knit with care.

The sense of "cuteness" and enthusiasm that Hanano and Sone have brings out the best aspects of handmade to create truly warm and loveable "main characters".

The main characters for MIKI HOUSE are the children who wear the products and the handmade motifs that, like a best friend, bring out the smiles and adorableness of those main characters. This makes each product that much more special.

Creating With MIKI HOUSE

We asked both Hanano and Sone, after partnering with MIKI HOUSE for more than 20 years, what is their happiest memory.

Hanano, while laughing, struggled to find just one.

“I have so many happy memories working with MIKI HOUSE. I was so happy when, after we began the project and spoke with MIKI HOUSE, the samples came out so cute. The very first time I looked at the samples, I found myself suddenly smiling. After that I showed it to the staff and shared this feeling of joy. Then I take the samples to MIKI HOUSE.
I could mail the samples, but I find it important to take the samples directly to MIKI HOUSE and show them in person. If we speak face to face, we can discuss any issues at that time and work quickly to find a solution. But most importantly, I like to see the happy faces of everyone involved in the project. I feel a sense of pride in my work when I see the new product decorated with the samples we have worked hard to create being given the spotlight at the new product announcements. Just like a MIKI HOUSE staff member, I find myself wanting to recommend the products with our samples to anyone who comes.”

Sone, listening to Hanano's story, nods in agreement.

"After joining Ito Shorten, MIKI HOUSE was the brand that truly made me love this job. I feel very pleased to be working with the global brand MIKI HOUSE in creating their product. More than anything, I am happy that we are able to feel like a single team while working with MIKI HOUSE. Of course there are difficult orders, but I feel like that shows the passion that the MIKI HOUSE team has to create great products. We pour our hearts into samples that I look at and think ‘This will sell!’ and then when we receive orders for those products it's the best feeling. It really gives a purpose to the job.”

Soon this season's newest sweater will be on sale.
Seeing the smiles of the children wearing the extremely adorable and comfortable knit hats and sweaters created by the Ito Shoten team gives us a feeling of warmth and satisfaction.

We think the fans around the world are waiting in anticipation.