Halloween knits

I love knitting for seasons and occasions, and Halloween is certainly one of my favorite.

I don’t do scary too well, and all my knits turn out being on a cute side. These are something I made this year.

Set number 1: cheeky ghosts
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Cheeky Western ghosts. Our Japanese ghosts are troubled spirits which are not laid to rest and they take human appearances. Traditional ghosts wear long white kimono and have long hair and have no feet. They like coming out in summer and give you shivers on a hot night. Very eco-friendly.

Set number 2: Monster trio
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I know Franken is much bigger than the rest, but never mind.

Set number 3: Trick or treat
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I have children in three sizes.
The big sister dressed as a witch
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Her brother as the Count Dracula
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He is holding a pumpkin basket.

and their little sister (or brother?) in a cat suits
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I made the lolly with two strands of yarn. This was a challenge. I tried i-cord and crochet but didn’t quite work. I ended up with just twisting two strands of yarn and securing it with a few stitches. Simple is the best sometimes.

I am quite pleased with this little kitty.
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Happy Halloween!

Savory steamed Chinese buns

These are my family’s favorite: steamed buns with meat filling called Niku-man.

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You may have seen these. Niku (meat) manjū is the Japanese name for the Chinese baozi made from flour dough, and filled with cooked ground pork or other ingredients.

Nikuman are steamed and often sold as street food. You can often find these in Chinatown. In a cold day in winter, it is fantastic to see steams coming out from large bamboo steamers set outside of shops. You can say it is one of our comfort food.

You can make them at home quite easily. I like steaming food since it is the most healthy cooking method.

This is our family recipe. Some use yeast in the ingredients but this is a quicker version without proofing.

For the buns
100g strong flour
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100cc water
30g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1tbsp vegetable oil

For the filling
180g ground pork
12cm spring onion, finely chopped
1tbsp grated ginger
1tsp sesami oil
1tbsp soy sauce
a pinch salt
one large dried shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and finely chopped
2tbsp corn starch

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients for the buns. Shape it into a ball and rest it for 30 minutes. Add more water if the mixture is too dry.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling and roll them into 8 small balls.

Divide the dough for the buns into 8 and roll them into balls. Roll each dough into a 10 cm circle. Thin out the edges, until the circle is 12 cm.

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Center a meat filling on the dough circle and wrap the filling. Make little pleats as you wrap. If this is difficult for you, close up the bun and turn it over so you have the smooth side on top.
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Cut parchment paper into 10 cm squares, and put a bun on each piece. Put the buns in a steamer.
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Steam the buns for 15 to 20 minutes.
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Done. We like them piping hot, but do take care, the filling may be very hot.
Mine do not look as good as the shop bought ones, but still tasted yummy.

You can be innovative and experiment with different fillings and flavouring.
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Knitted UK police officers

I had a go at this; a police car.
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You may not be too familiar with UK police vehicles if you live outside Britain. This is how our police car looks like. It has yellow and blue checker pattern on the sides. I think Britain likes the checker pattern. We have it on the sides of fire engines and ambulances, too.

It isn’t too easy to make square shapes with knitted toys since they get stuffed with toy filling. But I like the soft, round appearances of knitted toys very much.

It is also tricky if you want it to resemble a certain make of cars.
But I am quite happy with this one. My son could tell that it was a Range Rover.

We have a variety of police vehicles in different makes in Britain. You wouldn’t see this many in Japan.

I made police officers, too, of course. That was the fun part.
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I like the UK police officer uniforms. It is interesting they wear different hats.
Basic headgear is a peaked cap for men, and a round bowler style hat for women. All officers wear a black and white diced band around the hat which I tried my best to make for these figures here.
I have a model for the lady officer on the right. She is our local officer I see patrolling in the town center occasionally.

And the officer with the Custodian helmet. This is very British. I always wonder if it isn’t rather heavy. These are worn by male Constables and Sergeants in English and Welsh forces, I think.
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I browsed images of police officers in early 1990’s. They dress in very long thick coats with custodian helmets and look very respectable to the point almost scary. I don’t believe they could run after thieves with that full gear, but I guess it wasn’t their job.
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I have an armed officer, too. He looks a bit too cute.
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Halloween is approaching, and I asked one of my boys if he could dress in a uniform for a day, what uniform it would be. He said a police officer.

And you know what? That would be mine, too.

Knit Now Issue 40

I thought this issue was due out next Thursday, but I was wrong. It came out this week already.
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You get many of my original patterns this month. You may remember my woodland animals I told you about previously. They are all in here.

And the magazine comes with this booklet.
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Yes! Special Christmas gift collection.
I submitted these patterns for winter months issues (from December to February), but the editors wanted to get them all published much earlier. That means you will not see my patterns after this issue for a while, so I hope many readers will enjoy the collection.

You will see this;
Eskimos and igloo,
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Winter penguins,
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Little Santa and Rudolf.

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Oh, you are going to get very busy!

I am shocked to see the cover saying ” top designer Sachiyo Ishii”. Top designer? Top designer!

I wasn’t given a chance to check the patterns in the booklet. Maybe the editors ran out of time again, but I am hoping there aren’t any errors. If you find any problems or have queries on patterns, please let me know.

This is such a nice and cute photo and I love it! If you live in Britain, you need to rush to the news agent first thing in the morning today!

Torn paper art

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I was going through my bric-a-brac box and found this.

It must have been souvenirs from someone. In Japan, we have a custom to get souvenirs to friends and family when you travel. By the look of the pictures, I think it came from Hokkaido or North regions of Japan. The picture is a head of a wild boar.

I found another one.
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It is a bull. They are both lucky animals and included in Chinese zodiac animals.

I don’t recall receiving them. May be my husband got them from someone. They are colourful and pretty.

These are paper plates decorated with chigiri-e, torn paper art. Japanese Washi paper, similar to mulberry paper is torn by hands and pasted to the paper plates. I think these are meant to be used to serve Japanese confectioneries.

I have tried chigiri-e art myself in the past. It is the simplest art and anyone can enjoy it. Just one thing to remember; do not use scissors at all.

I made some into bookmarks. I added Japanese brush writing for more Japanesey look.

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Just as E-tegami, the picture letter, with this art, you can be clumsy and still make beautiful piece.
It is my kind of art.

Children can enjoy this. It is also widely practiced in nursing homes in Japan.

I found this picture on internet and cannot resist sharing. It is so cute.
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There are some professional artist who specialize in this art. If you think you are no good in painting, you may want to have a go at Chigiri-e art.
You might have a hidden talent. You never know.
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Knitted penguins and zoo keeper

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I was inspired to make this set by watching one of documentaries on television.

It is a comedian, Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience aired on BBC one.
We see him attempt a number of jobs including hairdresser, refuse collector, male model, police officer and you name it, just about anything. In one of the shows, he was a zoo keeper.

One of the tasks he was assign to do was to feed penguins. At the lunch time in this zoo, penguins march outside their living quarter, following the zoo keeper. Visitors can enjoy watching penguins at close-up. It is one of the zoo attractions.

The penguins have been doing this every day of their lives and are expert in the lunch time march.
Rhod has never done this before and feeling a little nervous.

He tried to lead the penguins, but none of the penguins followed him. They do not trust a stranger, even with a bucket full of fish. May be they had decided to give him a hard time just a little.
Funny.

Here are my penguins.

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I made them much smaller than previous designs to go with the zookeeper.

The ones I made for the safari book is this one. They are one of my favorite.
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The new design is only about 2cm in height and they breed very quickly!

My knitted gym instructors

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Another new exercise craze? Kettlebells. But did you know they were developed in Russia in the 1700s, primarily for weighing crops?

I hated excises when I was a child.
But last 20 odd years, I have always been a member of a gym somewhere and have been quite active.
Recently, I switched my gym membership to the family membership. Now everyone in my family get to use the gym, the pool and join in the fitness classes.

I didn’t pressure anyone. I introduced my older son to the spin (indoor group cycling class) and circuit training, and he enjoyed them. He started to bring his best friend. My younger son also joined.

My husband was very active in his teenage years playing tennis, but he has been busy with his work in adult years and hasn’t done much excise at all last two decades. But seeing us going off to the gym, he finally decided that it was his turn.

He came to a fitness class with me last week. We have been together over 17 years, but this was the very first time we did a fitness class together! He also got an induction for the gym and quite motivated to improve his fitness levels. I am very happy for him.

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This is our instructor, Tracy. She teaches Body pump. The black thing by her face is a head mike.

One of the fun in the gym is you get to wear any colour you want. Some of our members dress in shocking pink and luminescent yellow. Our instructor looks great in very well colour coordinated outfits. I came up with making a set of instructors figures in her class.

Here is an aerobic instructor. I gave her the leg warmer and dumb bells.
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And a personal trainer,
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and pilates instructor with Yoga mat.
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Here is the full cast.
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I always paid a great attention to the diet of my family. I am the only one who goes to grocery shopping. My family eats what I buy and eats the food I cook. I believe there isn’t any more important task than cooking and feeding your family. Mums have an enormous responsibility.

Now, I am paying for the family gym membership. I will be nagging if it goes to waste!