knits by sachi

Fresh Stitches

Do you know ‘Fresh Stitches’?

It is a blog written by Stacey Trock in the USA. Her blog is huge, with over 200,000 subscribers and a really healthy and active community. She said she loved my books and offered me an opportunity of an interview! I am thrilled!

https://freshstitches.com/giveaway-mini-knitted-book-series-interview-with-sahiyo-ishii/

Her blog is full of delightful amigurumi creatures and I am very pleased that I could take part.
Please enjoy!

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Cream cheese soft cutouts

My little baking children and biscuits made with felt. You can get the patterns and instructions in my new book, Mini Felt Christmas!

The Great British Bake Off is on again! Don’t we love that show? I love it.

For those who are not too familiar with it, it is a British television competition in which a group of amateur bakers compete against each other in a series of rounds. They attempt to impress two judges and one contestant is eliminated each week.

The show has become a significant part of British culture now. It has reinvigorated interest in baking throughout the United Kingdom and many of its participants, including winners, have gone on to start a career based on the bakery.I don’t do much baking since my older son has gone to uni, but the show does make me want to do a bit of baking myself.

I have a rather frugal approach to baking. For me, it is often a way to consume ingredients we are struggling to consume. I improvise recipes or make up my own. I have to admit the outcome isn’t always perfect, however, there have been some pleasant surprises.

Like this one. I call it Cream cheese soft cutouts.

This is what I used
Ingredients
80g light cream cheese
100g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder

1. Beat butter and cream cheese with electric mixer for 1 min.
2. Add egg. Add rest of the dry ingredients little by little and beat until combined.
3. Separate dough in two and wrap each dough in cling films. Chill for 1 hour.
4. Roll out the dough to 5mm thickness between two cling films. Cut out shapes.
5. Bake in the 375 C oven for 8 mins.

The ingredients do not have to be exactly the same as above. You can use salted butter and the cream cheese can be full fat. I used self-rising flour because that was what I had in the cupboard. It goes the same for the sugar. It can be all white.

If you bake just under 10 mins or until the edges are slightly brown, it is soft and moist biscuits. You can enjoy another version by simply leaving them in the oven longer until the surface is completely brown. Biscuits become more crispy on the outside, but still soft in the centre. It was another lucky discovery by accident. (I forgot to set the timer!)

I made them with my son. We loved the both versions.
My original intention was to slice the dough as icebox cookies, but unfortunately, the dough was a little too soft. If you do not want to bother using cookie cutters, you can cut into squares after the dough is rolled out.

This was to use up the cream cheese sitting in the fridge, but we may end up buying another tub to make these biscuits again!

When I was a child, very few households had an oven in Japan. Baking tools are hard to come by, too, but one day, one of my classmates brought handmade cutout cookies to school. They were heart shaped just like these. I could not believe you could make something like that at home! I cannot tell you how envious I was.

Home cooking and baking is to feed your family safe and healthy food, but I think it is also to create precious memories for your children. Because we have easy access to pretty much any kind of foods, our kids may have been deprived of surprises and excitement of discovering new tastes. My sons once said that I had much more interesting childhood than theirs.

But I hope I have created some happy memories of cooking with them, too.

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Mum’s memories

Mum liked Harrod’s teddies. She would dress them in her knitting, recycling the yarns from our old jumpers.

My mum was a domestic goddess. She was very good at sewing, knitting, and crochet. She could even machine knit. She was an amazing cook and loved gardening, too.

Unlike my craft I do for my selfish reasons, her handwork was always for us or for the house. She made clothes for me and my brother. She decorated the house with her sewing and crochet.

I used to love watching her making things. There was calmness around her which seemed to be contagious. She sometimes let me lay my head on her lap while she knitted or crocheted. I remember the smell of her and the dampness of her apron as if it was yesterday. It was a moment I was allowed to be a child and I felt safe and loved. It was such a precious moment and with a memory like this, I can keep on living strong.

I have two cousins I grew up very closely. They are my mum’s older sister’s daughters and a few years older than me. They lived the neighbouring prefecture, but we met up every holiday. Mum loved them as much as she loved me, but sadly as we grew up, we saw less and less of each other. I hadn’t seen them over 20 years until I saw them this summer.

They both came to visit me while I was staying with my father. We shared mum’s handwork for her memory.

Mum used to help me with projects for home economics class. Sometimes, she would be carried away and end up finishing it all by herself.She did that for my cousins, too. One of my cousins said that her homework (done by Mum) was so very well received by teachers and was displayed in the sports hall! My boys found this very amusing and we all had a good laugh.

My cousins took crochet home and decorated their houses with them. They sent me these photos.

The crochet looks perfect in this room.

Some of the smaller pieces are framed. My cousins have done fantastic work themselves, adding their personal touch. They look great together with other items around them.

Mum would have loved these.
I didn’t take her crochet but I have inherited all her needles and hooks. I also have these.

I made the dolls as portraits of my boys when they were little. Mum dressed them in her sewing and knitting. Her stitches are so nice and even. Very neat!

I hope I can create something that my family will treasure forever.

More bears

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The summer exhibition in Tokyo

While I was in Japan, there was a craft exhibition in Ginza, Tokyo.

This is the competition I entered a few weeks ago and my work was short-listed. I didn’t win anything, but I was very pleased to have my work displayed with other talented artists. This is the first time I exhibit my actual knitting to the public.

I wish I was staying a little closer to Tokyo. From my parents’ home, Tokyo is an hour away by airplane. It would have been nice to see other creators work and visitors reactions in person.

Many of my friends visited the exhibition and took photos for me. My sister-in-law and even my brother went! My brother currently works in Tokyo. After spending time with us, he went back to Tokyo and saw the exhibition. I only mentioned briefly thinking it wasn’t really his kind of thing, so I was very touched when he texted me the photos.

For this event, I think the judges were looking for intricate designs with sophistication. Here are the photos I received.

This cat looks so real! I think it is needle-felted.

And the winner of the show was this one;

I heard that mine was displayed close to the winner. I am sure I got a fair amount of attention!

My friend kindly sent me the show program. Unfortunately, a wrong photo was printed. I made multiple entries and the organizer seems to be muddled up. They printed this one, the autumn wreath.

Never mind. This one is one of my favorites anyway. It has little mushrooms, acorns, and berries with owls sitting on top.

My little sleepy owls. I am quite fond of them. Here is the photo I took before they went on the wreath.

The wreath has an autumn fairy with a mushroom cap.

This was such a delightful project. I have the ambition to make a little bigger one with more woodland animals. I need a careful planning when the item becomes bigger, but I am looking forward to working on it.

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Summer in Japan

I think I know why I like creating a little fishing boy. It comes from my childhood memories.

With my boys, I spent 10 days in Japan at the end of August.

Our flight arrived early morning in Kansai International airport. We traveled in a motorway coach for three hours and a local train. It was a 24-hour journey door to door, but a relatively pleasant one.

We were warned that it would be steaming hot. The temperature was a little above 30, however, the humidity was over 80%! The air felt very thick and heavy.

This trip is for my mum’s memorial service. Everything happens very quickly when someone dies in Japan and I missed her funeral. We usually have another ceremony called 49th day. The urn containing the ashes is interred in a ceremony called nōkotsu on the 49th day, and the family stays in mourning until this.

It wasn’t meant to be happy holidays, but we did enjoy the stay. Last 16 years since we moved to England, we never traveled to Japan in the summer to avoid the heat, expensive traveling fees, and the mosquitos. There were a lot of new experiences for my two boys.

My parents’ house is situated in a country side surrounded by rice fields.

One of them was angling at the beach. My brother joined us a couple days before the ceremony and took us to the beach we both grew up.

My younger son had done a bit of angling with his friends, but it was at a pond of our local leisure centre. This time was a bit more proper with three hooks and live baits.

We arrived before sunrise. It gets too hot even in the morning and we needed to make the best of early morning cool air.

My brother threw the first line and his boy was looking after it. Immediately something got caught.

An octopus!

What a catch! It was a good sized one, too, but we didn’t know what to do with it. My brother said he had never caught an octopus. We released it back to the water.

We were aiming to catch ‘Kisu’ or Japanese whiting. They inhabit the bottom layer of water in the marine system and found in sandy flats. They are popular among recreational fishermen in Japan especially in summer since the species relatively easy to access from land based fishing areas.

We caught 9 of them in two hours. May be not enough for a dinner, but we had so much fun.
Mum used to cook his catch, but now she is gone, we had to do all fish preparations and cooking. My brother made them to Tempura, referring YouTube videos.

It took him almost two hours to do this but managed to produce nice Tempura for lunch!

The little pieces are fried spines, the great source of calcium!

Spending time at the beach, remembering and talking about our childhood with my brother was very therapeutic.I should have done this more often.
This may be the first and the last time we spend time at the beach like this, but what a fantastic experience we all had!

After this trip, my younger son seriously started considering living and working in Japan and applied for working holidays. He understands some Japanese but far from being fluent. It will be an adventure. I will miss him terribly, but I wish him a good luck.

My little brave one;

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Knitting on holidays


I am off to Japan soon again.

It is a long flight. Direct flights to Tokyo take minimum 12 hours.

Lots of knitting hours.

I don’t always bring my knitting to holidays. I try to do something different for a change, mostly reading. But when I decide to bring, my knitting kit is very small. Everything fits in a soft pencil case.

I pack my short DPNs, darning needle, tiny scissors and small amounts of wool.

Scissors are always tricky and many airline companies do not like them all together, but by law, we are allowed to take small scissors, those with a 4-inch or shorter blade.

I like these Clover thread clippers. Nail clippers, eyebrow trimmers are also good. Some say thread cutter pendants are prohibited. I have no clue why.

I was given this very cute sewing set last time when I visited Japan. I think I will take this one. These scissors are tiny.

If you want to take a large knitting, I recommend circular needles. You can knit flat with circular needles.I don’t normally do large knitting, but recently, I used circular needles to knit something with over 200 stitches. I started with long straight needles and found it quite difficult. I am a big fan of circular needles now. It is so easy to carry your knitting, too.

I have bought more circular needles. I am still using the original packages. I have to find a good way to keep them tidy.

Another must-have gadget; row counter.
I tried a smaller, slip-on-needle type before, but I like this clicking type much better.

My boys used to love playing with this. I do understand their temptations. You will need to keep it away from children when you are using it!

I like these stitch markers, too. You can hook them very easily. They come in a small soft case that you can keep them. How thoughtful!

It is fun to collect knitting and sewing accessories and I have quite a lot of them.
Another of my favorite; sewing thread set. Isn’t it pretty? I bought it years ago in Japan. I just wanted to have it.

My younger boy once said that he didn’t know there were so many gadgets involved in knitting. I inherited lots from my mum, too.

And they are my treasures with lots of my childhood memories.

All accessories except the mini sewing kit and sewing thread set are made by the Japanese company, Clover.
http://www.clover-mfg.com/en/index.html

Oh, bringing a magazine cover-mount knitting kit is another good idea! This one is out this month; Knit Now magazine. It is a kit to make three-in-one topsy-turvy Little Red Riding Hood. Enjoy!

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Toy maker of the year

The UK knitting magazine, Let’s Get Crafting is running a competition again this year. Click the image to find out details.

As the web page says, you can knit or crochet any toy you like. It can be your own design, a pattern from a book or a magazine. It can be any shape or size and can be used with materials of your choice.

I am not at all competitive, but I like entering competitions. By participating, you get more opportunities to show your work. Even if you didn’t win anything, organizers and judges would certainly see your work and that is already worth trying. Entering became ever so easy these days thanks to email development; filling a form, attach photos and with just one click, you are in! It doesn’t cost you a penny, either.

I would be participating this LGC project if I wasn’t a judge!

Recently, I submitted one of my work to a Japanese hand craft competition. There were several categories; knitting, sewing, felting, jewelry making, and embroidery.

What I submitted is this one: A knitted Christmas wreath.

There was a theme; they wanted something flowery and cheerful. There was a restriction on the size. It must be smaller than 20cm.

I got through the first judging and my work will be displayed in a gallery in Tokyo this summer!

The show will be held at Ginza Seigetsudo Gallery between 29th August to 3rd September.
http://www.lintaro.com

I am telling all my friends and family in Tokyo.

I have a series of knitted wreath. This one is for summer and is one of my favorites.


I showed this photo to the organizer as well, but they preferred the Christmas one. The summer in Japan may be way too hot to appreciate a wooly decoration.

I am currently considering to enter two other competitions, one is in the UK and the other is in Japan. It motivates me to create. I still have many things I want to make.

If you knit or crochet and live in the UK, please enter the LGC Toy maker of the year competition. The winner gets to publish the pattern in December issue if it is original. This may become the start of your new career. You may find it a little daunting to write a pattern if you have never done this before, but the magazine has a professional technical editor who will be able to help you.

It is utterly fantastic to get your work published in print. I still treasure mine.

My first magazine job:

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Konnyaku noodles?

Mum used to wear a head scarf like this when I was very young. I had completely forgotten about such a thing, but recently, the image just popped up in my head.

How funny, these distant memories are coming back to me.

My son is back from Uni for the summer holidays. It is so nice to have him around again. I have been cooking Japanese food every day, including his favorite ‘Niku jaga’ dish.

I learned Japanese home cooking mostly from recipe books, however, Niku jaga is one of few I learned from Mum. I still cook her way. The recipe is here.

She hardly ever used measuring spoons or cups and always went ‘about this much’ as she showed me the cooking method. She added less seasoning than you think you would need and adjust the taste at the end. That works the best.

To make Niku jaga, you can get all ingredients from local supermarket except one, Konnyaku.

Konnyaku is a mysterious food. it is made from the pounded roots of a yam-like plant called konjac. It is jelly-like and has almost no calories, no sugar, and no fat. It contains 90 per cent water. And much of the remaining 10 per cent is made up of glucomannan – a soluble fibre. We consider it a healthy food. The Japanese call it broom of the stomach because it does a great job of cleaning out your small intestines.

In recent years in western countries, it started to gain popularity as a diet aid. There are two different types of konnyaku; block or noodles. The one we see in the UK is marketed as low-calorie noodles.

I have seen it at health food shops and supermarkets but never occurred to me to use it for my Japanese cooking.I always bought konnyaku from a Chinese supermarket. I recently watched a diet special featuring these noodles and suddenly, the idea just came to me.

And it worked! The texture is similar enough and I could use this diet noodles for my cooking. My boys couldn’t tell much difference from our usual stuff. I am very pleased because we love konnyaku.

Such a easy cooking!

When you using konnyaku or kojac based ingredients, it is better to rinse it with hot water before cooking. Konnyaku has a distinct smell which isn’t too attractive, but rinsing it certainly helps and once it is been cooked, you will not smell anything at all.

I am not too sure how everyone else eats these noodles. Eat like pasta with sauce? But we know our favorite way and that is all that matters.

Last time when we visited Japan, my dad cooked ‘sukiyaki’ for us. Sukiyaki is another way to enjoy konnyaku noodles. Dad doesn’t usually cook and we had to call mum in a hospital several times, but boys said that was the best meal we had during the visit. Now she is gone and we need to manage on our own next time. I am sure we will be just fine.

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Mini Knitted Farmyard

My Facebook says I made these four years ago. It has come a long way.

The last week in June, I had a three-day photo session for my next book, ‘Mini Knitted Farmyard’.
I did Safari and Woodland book previously. This one will be a nice addition to the series and I was really looking forward to work on this book. It will include many fun projects; cottages, family car, farmers, shepherds and of course, lots of farm animals. I made tiny vegetables and a cart for my green grocer. It is a bit like playing with a dollhouse.

Actually, I used a lot of dollhouse accessories for photo props. I have a small collection for my dollhouse and I also placed a new order to go with my farmyard. I could not see the sizes of items online so that I just had to take a wild guess.

My farmyard props arrived!

Fortunately, their sizes are perfect for my figures.

Not everything in my farmyard is in perfect proportion to each other anyway. My cottages are too small for farmers and most birds are too big, but I had decided not to worry about sizes too much from the beginning. I think it is fine if the creatures look cute together.

We had very busy days at the studio. I guess I got too excited and had made too many items. There were so many photos to shoot and we even had to drop some of the projects because they would not fit into the book. We even extended from original 96 pages to 102 pages, but still, we ran out of spreads!I am grateful to my editor, May at Search Press. She ever so patiently listened to my requests and is doing all she can to squeeze as many projects as possible. This book will have amazing value for money!

Search Press art team was fantastic as usual. We shot great photos and what a fun we had!

We try hard to get the best effect;

Our art director, Juan and his assistant Emma. I think they enjoyed playing with my creatures.

Each photo tells a story and you will be very much entertained. If my boys were 10 years younger, I would enjoy the book at their bedtime.
Sneak peek;

We still have a lot to do, but the book should be ready early next year.

I wish I could show this book to my mum. She passed away early morning, on the second day of this photo session. She was supportive and always happy to see my new books come out. She would like this farmyard, too.

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Simple rules

Cant’ wait to have new crops. I want to buy proper corns wrapped in husks.

We always try to eat healthy. We have been doing even better since I came across Micheal Pollan’s lectures.

Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.(From Wikipedia)

He seems to be very well known in the States, but I had no idea who he was until the beginning of this year. I feel ignorant, but I am glad that I found him.

I found his lectures on YouTube. He talks about how we can improve our health by changing eating habit. I always thought cooking for my family is the most important task I have on my hands and have been cooking all meals. I never buy microwavable meals or takeaways. We don’t eat at fast food restaurants. However, I am guilty of buying ready-made savory snacks as sausage rolls, pies and scotch eggs occasionally. I have also bought cakes and muffins in plastic packaging.

I haven’t gone to these isles at supermarkets for months now, thanks to his informative talks.

He has 7 Rules for Eating.

Pollan says everything he’s learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

“Eat food” means to eat real food — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat — and to avoid what Pollan calls “edible food-like substances.”

These are from his lectures. Here’s how:

Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. “When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can’t pronounce, ask yourself, “What are those things doing there?”

Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.

Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot. “There are exceptions — honey — but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren’t food,” Pollan says.

It is not just what you eat but how you eat. “Always leave the table a little hungry,” Pollan says. “Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. Oh, yes, in Japan, we say eat until you are four-fifths full.

Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It’s a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love.

He also says ‘Don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.’

I am aware of criticism against him. It is not possible to please everyone of course. But a lot of things he says make sense to me. He also says that truly healthy food do not scream that they are good for you. That is so true.

He hasn’t come up to a miraculous diet, but he has reminded us simple yet very important rules.

I have changed my shopping habit and my son has been cooking his lunch every day.

His favorite seems to be fried rice. We are not completely processed food free and use ham and crab sticks, but I have decided that is OK. He likes flavouring with Korean red chilli paste.

Many of his dishes are his inventions and this is one of them.

I don’t quite know how we should call it. You make Keema curry-like topping with chopped onion, carrot, bell pepper and soya mince. This can be the leftover from the previous night. Heat pan with a bit of oil, spread hot steamed sushi rice. You place topping and make a hole in the centre for egg.


Cover and cook until the egg is done. We like egg yolk runny. He as added a bit of cheese at the end.

Rice has crispy bottom and it is tasty. The topping doesn’t have to be Keema curry. It can be Chilli con carne or any mince cooked in your favorite sauce.

My son has been a very fussy eater. He still is but he started tolerate more vegetables. He now knows the trouble involved in cooking.

We will be enjoying more of these from now on.

Mickeal Pollan is an author of five books: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008), The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006), The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001), A Place of My Own (1997), and Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education (1991). In 2016, Netflix released a four-part documentary series, which was based on Pollan’s book, Cooked (2013) I have watched them all.

Oh, He is very funny and his lectures are entertaining, too!

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