knits by sachi

Knits for Christmas

How early is too early to start hand making for Christmas?

I used to feel reluctant to work on Christmassy projects before November. I worried I may spoil the fun if I started too early.

However, I didn’t have much choice this year. I am not at all complaining, it is all good thing.

I needed to write texts and draw templates for Christmas felt projects book. Photograph sessions are coming up soon.

On top of that, to my pleasant surprise, I received a lot of commissions from several knitting magazines for Christmas issues.

The whole month of June, I was making Christmas ornaments, Santas, reindeer, dolls and toys!

The very first one to come out was this one; Let’s Get Crafting magazine; Christmas pixies.


I was asked to make three elves, fairies or pixies although I have no idea what the differences are. The kit did not contain skin colour, but I think it worked fine.



The kit has tinsel yarn. I used it a bit for the outfits and the hats. It also has ‘made with love’ labels which help you personalize your gift.

In this issue, I found my Nico cat, knitted by one of their readers!


It is fantastic to see my original pattern knitted by someone else. It is the best compliment. She have had improvised and added her personality which is all so very nice.

The second one is this; Knit Now magazine.


Christmas Teddy and Bunny.

I used James C. Brett Legacy DK for this project. This yarn is 100% Superwash Wool and very nice to the touch. I found it gives nice neat finish. It is inexpensive and surely, it is one of my favorite yarn.

There should be more patterns coming out next month. I am looking forward to seeing them in print with hopefully, beautiful photos.

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Japanese comfort food, Oden

It is getting chilly every day and in the cold weather, we think of comfort food.

comfort food
food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically having a high sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.

Yes, that is right, it tends to be calorific, but it doesn’t have to be.

You can name a few Japanese comfort food; Miso soup, Okonomi-yaki, noodles and Onigiri rice balls. Many Japanese comfort foods are quite healthy. There are sweets as redbean soup and roasted sweet potatoes.

For me, the ultimate comfort food is this; Oden.


Oden is a Japanese winter dish consisting of several ingredients such as boiled eggs, daikon raddish, potatoes, konnyaku yam cake, and fishcakes stewed in a light, soy-flavored dashi broth. Ingredients vary according to region and between each household. Mustard is often used as a condiment.

Oden is often sold from food carts, and most Japanese convenience stores have simmering oden pots in winter. I often cook it at home.

The cooking method is super easy. You can cook it in advance, which is convenient for some occasions.

Ingredients serves 4
For broth

1200cc water
1-2 strips (4cm x 10cm) Kombu sheets
1tsp Dashi granules if you have
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice wine
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp Mirin sweet wine

4 hard boiled eggs
4-6 medium sized potatoes
6 fish balls
Mooli daikon raddish

I cannot get a variety of ingredients for the pot like I used to in Japan, but I manage with whatever available in supermarkets and Asian food shops. It is a bit unconventional, but sometimes I add carrot,shallots, mini sausages and meatballs. In Japan, we cook fried bean curd, yam cakes, octopus, beef tendons etc.

You can be creative and cook pretty much anything you fancy, but the crucial ingredients are Daikon raddish and konbu sheets which give the broth distinctive flavour.

Cooking method
1. Prepare broth.
2. Slice daikon into 1 inch pieces and remove the skin.
3.Remove the corners so that there are no sharp edges. This will prevent daikon from breaking into pieces. I also make cross incisions on both sides so that flavour penetrates.

If you prepare rice to serve with Oden, preserve the white water from cleaning rice. Put daikon and the white water in another pot and cook, uncovered, until a skewer goes through. It is believed that the rice water gets rid of bitterness from daikon.

4. Peel potatoes and place them in the broth. Start heating the pot.
5. Add boiled eggs, daikon raddish, fish cakes and other ingredients you are using. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave it for 2-3 hours.

When I don’t have fish cakes, I use crab sticks. Add them just before you serve since they get too soft and fall apart if you cook them too long.

This is our version.
I know we don’t get much selection, but daikon cooked in this way tastes utterly fantastic and the broth has deep Umami from kombu sheets. I always keep the left over broth and make vegetable soup or miso soup the following day.


Oden can be prepared a day before so that all the ingredients absorb Oden broth. It actually tastes much better the following day.

Cover and re-heat when you are ready to serve. Oden is often served with Karashi (hot mustard).

Here is my little knitted chef. Happy cooking!


Knitted Wine Gnomes for autumn

There was a project I wanted to do for some time.

Gnomes making wine. It is a timely project for autumn.

First, I thought of making little fairies or children in the forest, but alcohol and children don’t go too well. I also wanted to add a bit of humour by creating a drunken one, so, I settle with gnomes.

Gnomes are adults and they can be mischievous, yes?

I searched some images which may give me good inspirations and this was one of them. I found it on Pinterest.


I like the naughty look on their faces!

I always search for images when I plan a project. It is great that we can find loads of photos and illustrations online. My finished work usually turn up very different from the original source, but inspirations often come from other artists’ creations.

It seems that the prints are available from one of the sellers on Etsy.

Now, my wine gnomes.


They are rather young looking and do not have very mischievous look, but I think they are cute. You can see the resemblance to the Pinterest picture in their positioning.


My most concern was the keg size. I needed to make it big. I had a rough idea on stitch counts, but was very nervous at the making up stage. I think it turned out fine.

My drunk gnome is sleeping by the grapes.


And here is the full cast.


I have a friend who owns a winery in France. After graduating uni, she went on studying wine. She passed the notoriously difficult sommelier exam, met a man in life who happened to own a winery and moved to France. Very sadly, he passed away all of a sudden a few years ago, leaving her and their young children. However, she took over the winery and now, she runs it on her own! She is utterly amazing.

Her teenage son is currently in a winemaking school (only in France?)
I would love to visit them some day.

Her winery is called Simon Bize et fils (Simon Bize and Sons) and if you are interested, the website is here:



Mapo Tofu cooking lesson

We should have done more of these cooking lessons at home.


My son has just started university this autumn.

We had have been told that student accommodation was completely full and had to wait until the waiting list opens.
We spent hours discussing other possibilities and looking for alternatives, but did not find a solution. We came to a conclusion of him commuting from home for a while. It is not entirely impossible to do so although the train journey takes an hour and 30 minutes one way.

Just 5 days before the school starts, the school sent him an e-mail to notify him that there was a room available.
It is three minutes away from the campus and reasonably priced. He jumped on the opportunity of course.

We went to shopping in a hurry and got him the basics to start the uni life; bed linens, toiletaries, storage boxes and underwear. We left the cooking stuff since we didn’t know how well their kitchen was equipped.

He moved in last weekend.

This week, I received a long list of kitchen essentials he said he needed. I placed orders online. They should be arriving to him in no time.

I wish I had taught him more about shopping, meal planning, food safety and cooking. He can cook a little, but his repatoire is rather limited.

Just before he took off, he had a go at cooking this dish; Mabo-doufu


Mabo doufu or Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish from Sichuan province. It consists of tofu set in a spicy red chili and bean based sauce. It is very popular in Japan, too. The sauce usually cooked with minced pork meat,spring onion, ginger and garlic. It is very easy to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 packet Tofu
100g minced pork meat
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp grated ginger

300cc chicken stock
1 Tbsp miso paste
1.5 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 tsp red bean paste
1 Tbsp corn starch dissolved in 1 Tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place tofu in a sieve or colander to extract excess water. Alternatively, heat tofu in a microwave for one minute.


2. Heat wok with 1 tbsp oil and cook ginger and garlic until fragrant. Cook meat until brown.
3. Dice tofu and add to the wok.

4. Add sauce and cook, covered for 15 minutes.

5. Add spring onion and cook another minute. Add corn starch and cook until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.


Some recipe has Douchi or black bean sauce, Chinese five spices and other ingredients. You can experiment with whatever you like. A little unconventional, but I sometimes add baby spinach leaves at the end.

If you are not at all keen on spicy food, you can omit red bean sauce entirely and cook it with miso and soy sauce only. We usually go easy on chili. You can cook it in a deep frying pan instead of a wok.

You can buy a smaller Tofu in a paper packet at a supermarket if you are cooking for 1-2 portions.

It is easy and quick. This is one of my son’s favorites and he wanted to learn how to make it. He likes serving it over steamed rice in ‘Bonburi (bowl) style’.

Happy cooking and good luck to all freshers.



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;


And little ones like these;


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.


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.


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
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.

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.


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.


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.



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.



My publisher is running a book offer starting today.


Search Press Art and Craft Books on Facebook

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:

or you can go to Tweeter

Search Press on Tweeter

Singed copy comes with one of these toys;


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


Love to Knit and Crochet interview

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


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;


and the second;


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.



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.

I don’t like sticking pins to animal toys but this is an exception. Hedgehogs have spiky back and I feel less guilty.



Arrival of the new title and the next book

I have received some copies of my newest title, ‘Mini Knitted Ocean’ the other day.
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.


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;




My favorite camels will be in it, too.


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.




Celebration treats

(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.


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.



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.


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

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!


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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