knits by sachi

Woodland music band

I think we had a lovely summer this year in the UK. We even had a heatwave quite recently.

It isn’t too easy to let the warm and sunny weather go, but autumn is surely arriving.

We have a few phrases related to autumn in Japan and one of them is ” Geijutsu no aki “, the autumn of artistic inspiration.

So, here are my animals all ready for their music concert.

I have bear, vox and badger;

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And little ones like these;

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When I first thought about the project, I wasn’t too sure how I could make string instruments. First I tried to make the shape with increasing and decreasing stitches as I usually do, but that over complicated the pattern and the result wasn’t too neat. Then, I thought of knitting a quite simple piece and cover a cardboard cut to the shape. That worked much better. A bit cheating, but never mind.

I have made a series of many woodland animals in different sizes and styles. I do like more realistic ones as in my Mini Knitted Woodland, but I enjoyed making these guys, too.

I hope I made the right instrument choices for each animal.

Here is the full cast. There is a deer playing a drum in the back.

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I don’t have much regrets about how I raised my children. They are fit, artistic, academic and the best of all,they are nice boys. But I wish I have given them opportunities to learn a music instrument or two.

I took piano lessons for 18 years from the age of 5. I made some attempts to play quite complicated pieces of Beethoven and Chopin at some point. I guess in 70’s and 80’s, parents were very keen to educate their children to have better lives than they had themselves. My dad bought me an upright piano even before I started school. It must have cost him a fortune!

The piano still sits in my parents’ living room. It is usually forgotten, but my kids did enjoy banging on the keyboard when the were little.

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Okonomiyaki; Japanese savoury pancake

I was looking through my boys’ photo albums and found this photo the other day; My boy enjoying cooking (?) Okonomiyaki at my parents’ house.

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What a precious memory.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like” and yaki meaning “grill”. Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with the Kansai or Hiroshima areas of Japan, but is widely available throughout the country.

I am from the south west of Japan, so that I am more familiar with Osaka-style okonomiyaki which is the predominant version of the dish found throughout most of Japan. The batter is made of flour, water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as green onion, thin pork belly, seafood and vegetables. Some like to add mochi rice cake or even cheese.

There are restaurants that specialize in the dish.
Some okonomiyaki restaurants are grill-it-yourself establishments, where the customer mixes and grills at tables fitted with teppan hotplate. They may also have a diner-style counter where the cook prepares the dish in front of the customers.

However, it is not at all complicated dish and my mum always cooked it at home.

Ingredients (for one pancake)

100g all purpose flour
1 tsp Bonito Dashi granules
1 tsp baking powder
100ml water
1 egg
2 pointed cabbage leaves

This is the basic dough. Cabbage always goes in the mixture in Osaka style.
Dashi granules are available at Asian supermarkets or online shops.

When I first arrived in the UK, I couldn’t find the right cabbage to make okonomiyaki. White cabbage is too hard and tightly wrapped and savoy cabbage is too different from what we have in Japan. Pointed cabbage is similar in taste and texture to Japanese cabbage.

Suggestion for additional ingredients

1 spring onion, finely chopped
prawn, squid or octopus
crab sticks
ham
pork meat, finely sliced
bean sprouts
bell pepper
pickled ginger
cooked egg noodles

This is “How you like” pancake and you can add what ever you fancy.

topping
1 tbsp Okonomiyaki sauce
dried bonito flakes/powder
Aonori seaweed powder
Some like adding Japanese mayonnaise, too

Okonomiyaki sauce is a Japanese BBQ sauce. If you cannot find it, you can substitute it with ketchap and soy sauce mix (1:1). I also found that the popular Caribean BBQ sauce works.

How To Prepare

1. Shred cabbage leaves finely. Mix flour, dashi granules, egg and water. Add cabbage leaves and set aside.
You can add your additional filling at this stage except raw meat if you are using some. Take care not to overwork the dough.

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2. Heat up a frying pan with a little oil. Pour okonomiyaki mixture into a round pancake shape. If using meat, start cooking your meat strips separate from the pancake.

3. Once the underside of the pancake is done, add the cooked meat to the top and flip over to finish cooking.

I am making two at a time for my boys here. I am making one with egg noodles. Strange? but it works.

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When both sides are golden brown and cooked through, spread sauce and sprinkle with bonito flakes or powder and Aonori seaweed powder. Cut the pancake into 4-5 pieces.

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If you are nervous about flipping over the pancake, slide it off from the pan onto a large plate with the uncooked side up and then, flip it over.

I cook in frying pan like this, but we use our electric hotplate sometimes, especially when we need to serve many people. Place the hotplate in the centre of the dining table, and we all cook Okonomiyaki together. We can have a Okonomiyaki party! It is fun!

There are many celebrities who are converted Okonomiyaki lovers. I have seen Jonathan Ross cooks it on one of Gordon Ramsey show. There is also interesting series presented by Ainsley Harriott on Channel 4. He visits Japan and enjoys his first Okonomiyaki (served in Hiroshima style). It is called ‘Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food‘.

Fillings are not mixed in the batter in Hiroshima style. Thin pancake is spread on a pan and fillings are added on top of it.

It is so inexpensive and nutritious. You can be creative and make your own version. Basically, it is a savory pancake with filling topped with sauce. Have a go.

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Giveaway

My publisher is running a book offer starting today.

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Search Press Art and Craft Books on Facebook

#WinItWednesday
We have a SIGNED COPY of ‘Mini Knitted Ocean’ by Knits by Sachi PLUS a mini knitted toy to giveaway!
To enter all you need to do is:
1. Like our page
2. Leave a comment below
3. ‘Like’ the post
Tell your friends by tagging them or share the post! Winner will be chosen at random on 21st September. Good luck!
For more information about the book click here:
http://www.searchpress.com/book/9781782212324/mini-knitted-ocean

or you can go to Tweeter

Search Press on Tweeter

Singed copy comes with one of these toys;

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The seahorse and the sunfish didn’t make it to the book, but I am offering the sample.
Very good luck!

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Love to Knit and Crochet interview

The article has this photo, my favorite amusement park train with happy animals.

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In the current issue of ‘Love to Knit and Crochet’, you will see my interview article, yes, again!

This time the article goes on two spreads, 4 pages. How flattering!
The first spread;

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and the second;

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I received the request some months ago by e-mail from the editor. Attached was the previous blogger’s interview PDF as an example. The pages were colourful and beautiful with lots of photos nicely arranged, and I felt a little anxious about accepting the request. I hoped that the editor can work a magic and make me look nice, too.

And I think she did!

I supplied all the photos. The hardest bit was the photos of my working space. I don’t have a studio dedicated to my knitting and sewing, I just work in a corner of our dining room. I wish I had a posh and stylish studio like I often see in magazines, but I do like my corner. I work most of the day but I don’t have to feel isolated.

The problem is the room is between the conservatory and living room and do not have direct windows. It is bright enough for me to work but photos taken in the room usually look too dark with funny colours.

I tried to do without work space photos, but I knew that the editor wanted these the most. That is the whole point of the interview, isn’t it? To show behind the scene?

So I asked my younger son to carry down the large lighting equipment that my husband uses for e-bay photos and there we go, we tried.

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They are not brilliant images, but I think it worked.

This shelf was made by my son. He made it for GCSE design tech. He scored very high with this one.

It is supposed to be a coffee table and cannot say it is the most convenient thing for my stash, but I am keeping it. Maybe some day, I can tell his children the story.

The article comes with the knitting pattern of this hedgehog pin cushion.
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I don’t like sticking pins to animal toys but this is an exception. Hedgehogs have spiky back and I feel less guilty.

Cute?

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Arrival of the new title and the next book

I have received some copies of my newest title, ‘Mini Knitted Ocean’ the other day.
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It is always so exciting to see my work in print. I am certainly sending a copy to my mum and dad in Japan.

We did the photo shoot back in last summer, so the book has come a long way. Some of the projects were very challenging to photograph and took us a very long time to come up with the shot we were all happy with.

This one was the toughest and we worked on it over an hour.

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Because of the shape and the size of the photo in the page, it was very difficult to fit everyone in!

To the team I confessed that I am a big fan of Denzel Washington and named after him the officer on the left. Then, everyone started to call him ‘Denzel’.

“Move Denzel a bit forward.” “Move Denzel to the right”….. Amusing.

So what’s next?

My next book will be a sewing book. It is a collection of Christmas felt projects.

When I show my knitting book to my friends, some of them said, “It is lovely, but I don’t knit.”
Now they don’t have any excuse not to get involved creating cuties.

The book will have many projects as always. There are quick and easy individual projects and larger sets with many items and characters. I have posted photos of Christmas wreath and Nativity sets. They will be certainly included in the book.

Poinsettia and Holly leaves fairies for Christmas tree;

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Nativity:

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My favorite camels will be in it, too.

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Writing a sewing book is something new for me. I need to produce templates this time. My younger son has been very helpful and did a fantastic job drawing on Word. It took him over five weeks! I think he has more patience than I do.

With this book, you can have lots of fun not only on the Christmas day but days and weeks before it. Isn’t that nice?

I have entire Nativity set knitted as well. I am sure I will get to share the pattern someday.

My lovely team, working on the provisional cover photo for the Search Press book catalogue last week.

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Celebration treats

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(Writing thank you cards for his grand parents in Japanese. He spent more than an hour practicing. Some characters are quite complicated!)

After receiving good results on A-levels last week, I have been wondering how we should celebrate this happy moment of my son’s life.

If his grand parents were here, we would have a big get together. We would absolutely love that.

But unfortunately, all our relatives are in Japan and what is more, my husband was away on his business trip, again, in Japan.

I tried my best and made his favorite sweets; choux puffs filled with homemade custard and whipped cream.

I also made ‘Mitarashi dango’, Japanese treat made with rice flour.
My family loves Mochi and dango. They are both Japanese traditional rice cakes made from rice flour. Our absolute favorite is Mitarashi dango. It is rather humble snack, but I made some for this occasion. I get cravings for them sometimes.

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Mitarashi dango is a type of dumpling skewered onto sticks in groups of 3–5 (traditionally 5) and covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze. It is characterized by its glassy glaze and burnt fragrance.

In the past, I have tried to make some at home following a recipe I found on internet. The instruction said to cook the flour and water mixture in a microwave, so I did. Disaster! Thick, sticky mixture got stuck to the bowl and I didn’t know what to do with it. I managed to roll some of it into balls, wetting hands time to time, but it was such a nightmare. I struggled to clean the bowl afterwards, too, and decided not to try it ever again!

But recently, I found another recipe in a Japanese cooking magazine. The instruction said to add Tofu to rice flour, knead, and make them into balls. Then, you boil them in hot water. This sounded much easier and promising.

So, here I go again.

Recipe makes about 20
100g rice flour, ‘shiratama-ko’
100g tofu

for sauce,
1tbsp Mirin, sweet rice wine
1Tbsp soy sayce
2tsp corn flour dissolved in the same amount of water

1. In a bowl, mix rice flour and tofu and and knead. Add water to achieve earlobe softness. Roll it into small balls of about 1 inch.

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2. in a small sauce pan, add ingredients for sauce and heat it until it thickens. Set it aside.

3. Boil water in a large pan and cook dumplings until they come up to the surface. Cook further 2 minutes or so. It is just like cooking Gnocchi.

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4. Drain water.
5. Place the dumplings on a plate and pour sauce over them.

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Traditionally, the dango are skewered and sometimes grilled, but I was too afraid to mess them up. Maybe next time.

Mitarashi dango made with only rice flour hardens whey they are cooled, but these ones with tofu do not. It was another reason I wanted to try.

My husband just came back from Japan with loads of souvenirs!

Rice cakes, Matcha chocolates and cooking ingredients!

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He got a mini rice cooker for my son, too. My son didn’t want a toaster or a kettle for Uni, he wanted a rice cooker. Fair enough.

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A-level art

A long wait is finally over and the exam results are out.

This is my son’s final piece for his A-levels.

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The photo is not out of focus. It is painted in this blurry style.

The canvas measures 1.5m x 1.0m, and is the largest he has ever done.
I was pleasantly surprised by his rather bold decision. I knew he was more comfortable with A-4 and A-5 sizes.
Large canvas means you have more space to fill in. Pupils are given only 12 hours from start to finish in the studio. You need careful planning and wise time management.

He bought three canvases with 3 for 2 deal at the Hobbycraft and had practiced at home. He had simulated the process, using a similar image.

We all think it was a success.The model is a fellow student from his school. I would love a painting like this if I was her mum, wouldn’t you?

We are invited to the school art exhibition at the end of the last term.

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This is one of my favorites.

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Two years ago when he said he was choosing Art as one of the subjects to study in his Six Form, I just thought it may give him a little peace from more academic studies. He had Maths, Further Maths and Physics. I was half expecting him to drop Art in the second year.

I am glad that he followed his heart and kept it.

I do believe he has a talent, however, I also know the time and effort he puts into his work is enormous. He is always at it and gives more than he is asked for. He has a very strong portfolio.

His art teachers bought some of his work which is very kind of them. Maybe his paintings are worth much more than I know.

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He will be studying architecture in university.

As for me this week, I have another pattern out in Knit Now magazine; turtle family.

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The family consists of five members; mum, dad, big sis, brother and baby. Turtles walk slowly but steadily, and swim incredibly fast. I like turtles.

It has been a good week.

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Summer holidays

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I have lots of happy childhood memories of summer holidays. Every year around this time, I think about them.

Japanese academic year starts in April so that the summer holidays come between the first and second terms.It starts around 20th of July and ends at the end of August. It is the longest time off from school during the year. Homework is often given, however, kids have plenty of time to play outdoors, go camping or travel with family.

When I was in school, we had a couple of assembly mornings to attend so that the teachers could check on us. It was a bit of a nuisance, but it wasn’t exactly compulsory and often, it came with a swimming session which I loved.

Most schools in Japan, public or private have their own pool. It may not come with a roof and only available in summer, but it is fantastic to have one. I spent more time in the ocean, but that was out of necessity. Swimming in clear water was a treat.

After swimming, we were offered ‘Shogayu’ served by dinner ladies.

‘Shogayu’ is a Japanese version of ginger tea. More consumed in winter, it is used as a home remedy to treat sore throat and the common cold. I enjoyed it in summer. It is thick and syrupy since cornstarch is added at the end of cooking.

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Receipe
Ingredients

Serves one
1 Tbsp ginger juice
300ml water
1-2 Tbsp honey or sugar
2 tsp Katakuriko (potato starch) or cornstarch plus 2 tsp water
Instructions

Grate ginger, squeeze the juice.

In a pot, add water, ginger juice and honey, and put on medium heat until just before boiling.

Mix Katakuriko and 2 tsp of water well in a small bowl. Add the slurry to the tea and stir well. Heat for a couple of minutes until it has thickened a little.

When your body is cooled from swimming, having this ginger tea was so nice and comforting.

I am utterly amazed at the achievements of Japanese swimming team at the Olympics. They have been doing so well.
Those swimmers spend 5-6 hours or even more in a pool every day, swimming over the black lines. What a determination and commitment!

And behind every athletes, there are Mums and dads, carers and siblings who have been supporting them. When the athletes are still young, parents accompany to training sessions and galas. There are teachers and coaches and volunteers. It is a team effort, and I have done that myself.

I spent long enough hours waiting around at leisure centres to be able to publish knitting books!

So, well done to Olympians, well done, mums and dads!

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Knitting in summer

You don’t fancy knitting in summer? You can try nautical knits.
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This is a key holder to hang on a wall. I made something a bit useful for a change.

I made this set for Knit Now magazine a few issues back; Summer knits.
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You may not get woolly thoughts much in summer, but making these nautical toys may be nice.

I love nautical theme. Maybe it is because I grew up near a beach. I also like the colour combination of red, white and blue. In summer, I make quite a lot of beachy, summery things.

After the magazine article came out, I knitted more items for this summer knits set.

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This time, I added softer colours as pink and mint green. Using felted tweed yarn for some items worked well. I have also tried anchor and steering wheel of a ship. I thought they may be a little challenging to make but I think I did rather well. The set became much more lively.

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I have seen images of pretty crocheted shells and wanted to make some with knitting. The knitting part is not too complicated. I just knitted long skinny triangle pieces. However, I found it a little tricky to find their perfect length and making up into an attractive shape.

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I also made a bag to keep the items together.
I tried to knit a mesh bag, but I found it rather difficult. Then, I remembered my boys crocheted football bags in Waldorf elementary school (yes, they learned crochet and made fantastic stuff!) and I decided to try crochet.

I could not find a pattern so I made it up. My crochet skill is so basic and I won’t be able to make exactly the same one again since I am not too sure if I recorded the stitches and rounds correctly.

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I am quite pleased with the result. It was worth a try.

I was never been a great fan of cotton yarn, well, until now. I mainly knit toys and for toys, I prefer wool. You can knit firmly and the finish is neat. It isn’t easy to knit tight with cotton.

For this mesh bag, I used cotton yarn and I loved it. I liked the texture and how it felt on my hands. The bag is summery, light and very soft. I really enjoyed the project.

Maybe I should make a bigger one for my shopping. I think there are some patterns for mesh shopping bags online.

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Sea turtle babies; my favorite animal.

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Dory Promotion

This is from my publisher, Search Press Art and Craft Books yesterday.

SPECIAL PROMOTION!!

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To celebrate the release of Finding Dory, which hits cinemas today, we have a special promotion of ‘Mini Knitted Ocean’ by Knits by Sachi.

Pre-order the book and get £1 OFF rrp and FREE delivery in the UK. You will also receive the dory fish pattern from the book early, simply use promo code ‘KNITDORY’ at checkout*.

‘Mini Knitted Ocean’ will be available September 2016, pre-order your copy here: http://www.searchpress.com/book/9781782212324/mini-knitted-ocean

The book was also featured on a cover of ‘The Bookseller’ last week, and there was a brief write-up inside, too!

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It has been a while since we saw “Finding Nemo”. It was released in 2006, three years after we came to live in England. My boys were 7 amd 8.

They spent their early years in Waldorf school and were growing up without television or computer games. This movie was one of few we watched. Actually, it was the first ever movie that my boys watched in a cinema.

They are much too old for Nemo and Dory now, but I am quite intrigued how this new film is made.

Happy knitting Dory!

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