knits by sachi

Joy of slow cooking

My Edamame babies:

Quite often in magazine interviews, I am asked this question:

Where is your favourite place to knit?

It is the dining room. Our dining room is connected to the kitchen and has the largest table. I don’t have to feel isolated because I get to chat with my family when they come in for lunch or a snack. I can also keep an eye on the hob and the oven. How lucky I am to work from home! I cook and knit at the same time. We have an empty room upstairs since my older son has moved to London for his uni, but my workspace will stay right here in the dining room.

I love baking bread and biscuits. I am not a fantastic baker, but I enjoy it very much. Boys used to say they could smell bread outside the front door when they come home from school. It is a nice, homey feeling.

I also slow cook beans. I buy dried, soak them overnight and cook. They taste much better than tinned beans and give you much better value for money. You can cook a lot in one go and freeze if you like.

I am sure there are hundreds of recipes to enjoy beans, but being Japanese, my favourite is the Japanese way, Nimame.

Nimame literally means cooked beans. It is usually simmered in soy sauce and sugar and has sweet, savoury taste.

Ingredients
1 cup dried soybeans
2 1/2 cups water
1 four-inch square of Kombu if you have
2 tbsp mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Directions
1. Soak the soybeans in a large bowl of water overnight or 8 hours. The soybeans will grow four times in size.

2.Drain water. Place the beans in a large pot with water and simmer 1.5 hours until the beans are tender.

3.Place the soybeans in a medium-sized pot with measured water. Cut Kombu into small squares. Add to water. Add rest of ingredients. Place the drop-lid on top and simmer for 30 minutes.

I like adding a little more colours and flavours. I usually add dried Shiitake mushrooms and carrot.

This is home cooking and many have their own recipe. I do not like to make beans too sweet, but if you prefer, you can add some sugar.

If you cook any beans with soy sauce and mirin or sugar, it is Nimame. I cook pinto beans, black beans and sometimes chickpeas in the same way. You can add potatoes, too. So simple, but nutritious and yummy.

We eat Kuromame, Black soybeans for New Years Meal. Eating Kuromame is considered to bring you good health for the new year.

In Japanese, the word ‘Mame (beans)’ means hard working. If someone said to you ‘You are mame.’, he is saying that you are hardworking who never cuts corners. It is a compliment. Traditionally at New Year meal, people ate Kuromame and pray to be in good health so that they would be able to work hard in the fields until you are dark as Kuromame beans.

Kuromame is black soya beans and differs from the black beans we can get at our supermarkets, but I cook black beans the same way with soy sauce and mirin/sugar. It turns out softer and less glossy, but I still like it.

When I was an exchange student in Indiana, USA, my host mother often cooked us baked beans and I loved them. The recipe is different from what we have in the UK. It wasn’t sweet at all, had a smokey flavour and served with cornbread. I can make something similar, but not as good as hers. I wish I had the recipe.

We are having very cold weather with lots of snow and sleet. Staying home and cooking beans is utterly fantastic.

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Christmas Panda

I made up this pattern recently. I was re-making the panda which appeared in LGC magazine some time ago.

These were quite big and knitted in very bright colours. I made them smaller and in classic panda colours.


I thought about dressing it in a jumper, but the jumper would hide the colour pattern of the body. I made him a scarf and a hat and made him look a little Christmassy. I would like to share the pattern here today.

Christmas Panda
Size: 15cm sitting height

Materials
• 15g White, black DK (8-ply)
• 7g red DK
• 3g red and white fleecy yarn in DK weight
• Small amount of brown DK
• A pair of amigurumi eye beads (6mm)
• Strong cotton thread
• Stuffing
Needles
• A pair of 3.5mm knitting needles
Additional tools
• A chenille or tapestry needle
• Scissors

Abbreviations
St st: stocking stitch
St: stitch
K: knit
P: purl
Kfb: k one through the front then through the back (same stitch)
K2tog: knit two together
P2tog: purl two together

Knitting instructions
Body
With white, cast on 10 sts
Row 1 (WS): Purl.
Row 2: [Kfb] in each st. 20 sts
Row 3: Purl.
Row 4: [K1, kfb] to end. 30 sts
Row 5: Purl.
Row 6: [K2, kfb] to end. 40 sts
Row 7: Purl.
Row 8: [K9, kfb] twice, [kfb, k9] twice. 44 sts
Row 9-17: Work 9 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 18: [K2, k2tog] to end. 33 sts
Rows 19-25: Work 11 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Rows26-29: change to Black and st st, starting with a k row.
Row 30: [K1, k2otg] to end. 22 sts
Rows 31-35: Work 5 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 36: [K2tog] to end. 11 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Head
With White, cast on 10 sts. Work as Body to row 6. 40 sts.
Row 7-17: Work 11 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 18 (eyeline): K10, (k2tog) ten times, k10. 30 sts
Rows 19-23: Work 5 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 24: [K1, k2tog] to end. 20 sts
Row25: Purl.
Row 26: [K2tog] to end. 10 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Eyes: make two
With Black, cast on 10 sts.
Row 1: Purl.
Row 2: [K2tog] to end. 5 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off. Sew side edges together to make it into a circle.

Legs: make two
With Black, cast on 10 sts.
Row 1 (WS): Purl.
Row 2: [Kfb] to end. 20 sts
Rows 3-7: Work 5 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 8 (shape ankle): K7, [k2tog] three times, k7. 17 sts
Row 9: P7, p3tog, p7. 15 sts
Rows 10-17: Work 8 rows in st st, starting with a k row.
Row 18: [K1, k2tog] to end. 10 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Arms: make two
With Black, cast on 12 sts and work 15 rows in st st, starting with a p row. Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Ears: make two
With Black, cast on 14 sts.
Row 1: Purl.
Row 2: [K2tog] to end. 7 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off. Stitch the side edges together to make it into a semi-circle.

Hat
With White fleecy yarn, cast on 30 sts.
Rows 1-5: Knit. Break yarn
Rows 6-10: Change to Red DK and work in st st, starting with a k row.
Row 11L K1, k2tog, k10, [k2tog] twice,k10, k2tog, k1. 26 sts
Rows 12-15: Work 3 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 16: K1, k2tog, k8, [k2tog] twice, k8, k2tog, k1. 22 sts
Rows 17-19: Work 3 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 20: K1, k2tog, k6, [k2tog] twice, k6. K2tog, k1. 18 sts
Rows 21-23: Work 3 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 24: k1, k2tog, k4, [k2tog] twice, k4, k2tog, k1. 14 sts
Rows 25-27: work 3 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 28: k1, k2tog, k2, [k2tog] twice, k2, k2tog, k1. 10 sts
Rows 29-31: Work 3 rows in st st, starting with a p row.
Row 32: K1, [k2tog] four times, k1. 6 sts
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Scarf
With Red fleecy yarn, cast on 4 sts and knit until the work measures 25 cm (about 10 inches). Cast off.

Pompom: make three (one for hat, two for scarf)
With White DK, wrap two fingers 30 times and tie the centre with strong cotton thread. Cut loops and trim.

To make up
With fasten off yarn end, sew body half way. With cast-on yarn end, work a gathering thread along the cast-on edge and draw tightly. Sew the rest of the bottom seam, stuff and close body. Make up the head as body and stuff, but keep a small opening. With white, work a gathering thread on decreasing row on the face to make eye dent. Attach eye circles. Attach eye beads. With dark brown DK, embroider nose and mouth with backstitches, inserting the needle from the opening. Close the head seam. Attach ears to head. Make up arms and legs as the body, working from both ends. For legs, thread black and insert needle from the sole and take the needle out from the top of the foot and repeat. Pull the thread gently to shape ankle and flatten sole. Attach arms and legs to body. Attach head. Attach the pompom to the hat and attach the hat to the head. Attach pompoms to the scarf and wrap the neck in the scarf.

Knitting part is simple and there isn’t much shaping.
The pattern is fresh out of my file and has not checked by professional tech-editor. I hope there is no error. Do let me know if you come accross problems.

Happy Knitting!

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Mr Men and Little Miss Calendar!

I am very honoured to be able to design this project; Mr. Men and Little Miss Calendar.
It is a free gift comes with the current issue of Knit Now magazine.

Most people in the UK know the characters, but if you are not familiar with them, Mr. Men is a series of 49 children’s books by British author Roger Hargreaves commencing in 1971. From 1981, an accompanying series of 42 Little Miss books were published by the same author.

I was thrilled when I got this commission earlier this year. The chief editor and I picked our favourite characters, six each from the Mr. Men and the Little Miss books.

I have a nice memory of Mr. Men. The first soft toy I bought for my baby son was a stuffed Mr. Happy. He must have been only a few months old. My older son was such a cry-baby but when he saw the Mr. Happy at a shop, he gave an amazing smile. I had to get it, of course.

I made these Mr. Men just like the one I got for my boy. Size and style are very similar. It was such a joy to create them.

I took some photos before they are off to the publisher.

Both of my boys grew up reading Mr. Men books. Their favourite was Mr Happy, Mr Tickle and Mr Bump. I sent the photos to my older son in university in London. He said the toys made him feel nostalgic. Precious memories.

It would be great if the toys could accompany story times. If they were made by someone close to the child, that would be even better, don’t you think?

Because of the licencing, I am not too sure if the patterns will be available except this calendar, however, I would like to find someone to make it into a book.

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More festive knits

There are lots of exciting knitting magazine issues out now. Exciting for me because they have many of my patterns.

Knit Now has my knitted Nativity.

I have many sets of Nativity dolls made with different materials. These dolls are finger puppets. I thought it would be nice if children could play theatre with the figures.

The set includes Mary and baby Jesus, Joseph, three wise men, three shepherds, ox, sheep and donkey. I got carried away and made more than enough for both hands. The pattern is running in two issues. Both should be out now. Some figures share the basic body pattern so it is not too complicated.

Part 1 is this

and part 2

It is a bit of a shame that you can’t see the animals too clear in this photo.

I like the human figures, but I like the animal puppets very much. They stayed on my table for a while and kept me company.

They can stand on their own. You can stuff the body with stuffing and enjoy as Christmas ornament or put them on peg doll stands.

The new Knit Now magazine also has an exciting free gift with my patterns. I would like to share the news in the next post.

Oh, I was almost forgetting. This pattern is out from Woman’s Weekly now.

The outfits are removable. You get both boy and girl bear patterns.
The commission included the nighties like these.

Sadly, there was no space for the nightie patterns. You can get them from the magazine’s website. The information is included in the article.

I just bought a copy. The issue will be replaced with a new one tomorrow, so hurry!

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Autumn craft fairs

Geijutsu no aki, the artistic inspiration arrives in autumn?

Japan is fully aware of the goodness of autumn. Because their summer is brutally hot and humid, the cool breeze of autumn is very much appreciated. We have words like ‘Shokuyoku no aki’, the appetite of autumn, ‘Geijutsu no aki’, the artistic inspiration of autumn. ‘Dokusho no aki’ means the autumn of relaxing with a new novel, ‘Sports no aki’ is autumn for playing sports.

I guess many of us start wanting to get involved in creative activities in autumn. The weather gets colder and wet, and the days become shorter and shorter. It is nice to sit indoors and spend time in handworks as knitting and sewing.

This may be one of the reasons we have many craft fairs this time of year. Because two of our local yarn shops have disappeared from our high street in recent years, craft fairs offer me good material hunting opportunities. This year, I visited two fairs.

Back in September, I went to Kirstie’s Handmade fair in Hampton Court Palace.

I knew about the event but this was my first visit. Search Press, my book publisher had a stall this year and invited me to do a book signing.

It was very nice to meet our customers and get direct feedback and yes, I sold some books.

I liked the event. I am not too keen on mega-size fairs, and this one was just about right. They had two large marquees for craft stalls and one for food stalls. Not only lots of materials to buy, I came across fantastic artists. I thought these were absolutely amazing.

These are all made with wires and beads!
They are created by South African artisans sitting on street corners. They design and make artwork and decorative objects like these. BOA, the importer supports those artists and most money goes directly to the creators.

To find out more about them, please visit
http://www.boafricandesign.co.uk/

In the same month I went to another fair in Guildford, Surry.

I did not know anything about it until I saw Gillian Harris, one of my favourite fibre artist’s post on Facebook. She is the author of several felting books and the owner of a fantastic shop, Flufftorium in Dorking. It is an utterly delightful shop. http://www.gilliangladrag.co.uk/

I checked the website for the show information and was very much intrigued. I knew it would be much smaller than major craft fairs but I knew the venue and the organizer. They do fairs in quality. I had a feeling that I would get inspirations from the exhibitors.

I quite liked these embroidery kits. The designs are lovely and the fabrics are all pre-marked. These are great projects to engage in during the winter.

There were lots of interesting fabrics, yarns and other materials. I was in heaven!

I made some interesting discoveries and purchases which I am going to use for my next project. Craft fairs are great to get inspirations and if you are a crafter, visiting them is a must.

So what is next? I should look for nice Christmas fairs.

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Christmas knits

The issue with these little elves came out in August while I was away in Japan, suffering from the heat!

Since I started submitting my patterns to magazines, it became my habit to knit Christmas early. I do festive knitting in June.

We had an amazingly hot weather for a week or so in June, but I was knitting Santas, snowmen, elves and reindeers. Thinking Christmas is still far away and the weather being so nice and warm, I don’t get into the spirit, however, I enjoy creating Christmas toys every year. It is one of my favourite things to do.

Magazine editors wanted Christmassy characters earlier than previous years. They said that their readers want the patterns early. I quite didn’t expect the elves to come out in September issue, even before Halloween and all, but I am quite fond of the artwork. I think they are charming. You can surely enjoy them any time of the year.

I get queries for patterns which appeared in Let’s Get Crafting. They have a fantastic website and you can download some of my patterns for free.
Here are some of my previous work.

The latest addition is this one, robins.


They are all downloadable from this page: https://www.letsgetcrafting.com/free-patterns
You will find lots of delightful projects.
They also have a sister magazine, Let’s Knit. You can get more patterns here: https://www.letsknit.co.uk/free-knitting-patterns

The projects are all worked with their covermount kit yarns. To knit my designs using commercial DK (8-ply) yarn, I recommend 3mm knitting needles.

From Knit Now magazine, this kit came out with last month’s issue. See, everyone is preparing early.

The latest issue of Knit Now should have the part 1 of my Nativity finger puppets; Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the three wise men. The following issue will have the part 2; three shepherds, a bull, a donkey and a sheep. I can’t wait to see them in print!

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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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