knits by sachi

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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Japanese summer treat

I have just received the next issue of Let’s Get Crafting, Knitting and Crochet magazine.

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My cat is on the cover! How exciting!

The cover mount kit has a collection of warm colours this time. The cat’s body is knitted with the orange and yellow gradation yarn. If you knit stocking stitches following the pattern, you will get this colour effect naturally.

I found this yarn surprisingly soft. It is 100% acrylic but it feels almost as nice as wool. Maybe because it is not plied. It also gives you much more yardage than other yarn in the kit. I am quite pleased with how the project came out.

The cat is accompanied by two friends mice.

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The colours make me think of the recent hot weather we experienced in the UK. On Tuesday, the temperature reached to 32 degrees in the South. I am sure lots of ice creams and lollies are consumed on that day.

As a child, my favorite was “Kakigouri”, a Japanese shaved ice dessert flavored with syrup and a sweetener.

It looks like this.
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Popular flavors include strawberry, lemon, green tea, grape and melon. Some shops provide colorful varieties by using two or more different syrups. You can also make it very easily if you have the machine. Syrups are available from supermarkets if you live in Japan.

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The machine is usually hand operated and nothing is at all complicated. You freeze water in the cup provided and shave the ice. The machine spins a block of ice over an ice shaving blade.

What I loved the most about Kakigouri is we could have a lot of fun together as a family. We would gather around the kitchen table and my dad would shave the ice as rest of us anxiously watch our favorite treat made. In 70’s,families spent much more time together.

It is similar to a snow cone but has a much smoother fluffier ice consistency, much like fresh fallen snow. I don’t think you can make this with food processor which is a bit of a shame.

A few years ago in London, I let my boys have their very first kakigouri experience. They had it with green tea syrup and sweetened adzuki beans. They absolutely loved it. You can get it virtually everywhere in Japan. I wish we could do the same here.

Or maybe I should import the machine.

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English summer and strawberries

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My wild strawberries are going really wild in the back garden this year again. I am busy on weekends just to keep them under control.

However, it is such a lovely plant. It is very English, too. We don’t get to see them much in Japan.

My mum used to enjoy collecting china, and Wedgewood’s Wild strawberry was one of her favorite designs. I have given her five sets of cups and saucers on her birthdays. She still treasures them.

She would love my real wild strawberries.

I guess the English climate is perfect for strawberries. We can buy 400g packet for less than £2.00 at supermarkets, but in Japan, it usually cost more than £4.00. They are usually grown in greenhouses with lots of TLC.

Strawberries were treat for us when we are growing up. The price hasn’t change much over the years but the average Japanese household income was considerably lower then. Having strawberries in the fridge excited me. It still makes me happy.

Wimbledon’s “Strawberries and Cream” is well known. We enjoy strawberries in many different ways, but I think “Strawberry shortcake” is our national favorite.

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They are so pretty.

It must be the most popular and classic cake in Japan. Whether it’s for birthdays or Christmas or any type of celebration, we enjoy Strawberry Shortcake all year around. My grandfather used to buy a whole cake for Christmas and personally deliver to our door. It was super special.
The cake is usually made of 2-3 layered sponge cake with fresh strawberry slices, whipped cream filling, and whipped cream frosting. The sponge cake is very moist, airy, light, and it’s not overly sweet.

I make the sponge without adding any oil to the mixture.

Ingredients for 20cm cake
3 eggs, separated
100g flour, shifted
100g sugar
1tsp vanilla

This is all. Beat egg white until the soft peak. Add sugar little by little and make meringue. In another bowl, whip egg yolk until it is double in volume and the colour turns creamy lemon. Add flour and vanilla to the egg yolk mixture. Add meringue and mix until combined. Bake in the preheated 180C oven for 25 mins.

For filling and frosting, I usually add 1 tbsp of sugar to 100ml whipping cream. Chill your bowl and cream so that cream will stay cold longer.

In Britain, we don’t see sponge and whipped cream combination much for cakes, but is is worth a try.

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This boy is 18 now. In this photo, he is trying to make a piece sign with his fingers but hasn’t quite managed it.

I should make a cake to celebrate when he goes off to university.

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Orange Page

I have been subscribing a Japanese lifestyle magazine “Orange Page” since I came to England. It has been over 10 years now, and I still look forward to receiving each copy.

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It comes out biweekly. It has lots of home cooking recipes as well as tips and information on a variety of things such as health, craft and needlework. I honestly do not know how the publisher manages releasing issues so often with so many pages. And it only costs 350 yen per issue which is under £3 pounds! (in today’s awfully weak sterling rate)

If you read Japanese, you can subscribe magazine from this site. https://www.japancentre.com/en/products/271-orange-page-biweekly-magazine

Just a few days ago, I received another issue, and this one had a curry recipe collection.
As I mentioned in the past, we love our curry. It may be a little different from the original Indian curry, but we often cook it at home.

The magazine was featuring T-shirts with curry logos. Funny.

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I saw many interesting cooking ideas in the magazine, and some are very new to me. For example, there are detailed step-by-step instructions on how to make chapatis. After my son came back from World challenge in Africa, he said he really loved chapatis over there. Maybe we should have a go at making some at home.

My mum used to make this dish with curry spices and she would call it “dry curry”. I think “dry curry” is the curry without much liquid, which resembles to Keema curry. But my mum would stir fry cooked rice with spices,the same method as egg fried rice.

I cook it at home and it is one of my boys’ favorite.

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It is so easy and quick. It is a good way to consume leftover rice, too.

Recipe for one
a bowl of cooked rice (as much as you want to eat)
1/4 onion, minced
small amounts of chopped pimento, carrot, green beans or any vegetable of your choice
minced beef (or any meat)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp pureed tomato
1 tsp Worcester sauce
salt and pepper

I cooked it for boys’ lunch so that the portions is bigger.

Stir fry vegetables and meat with seasonings. Add cooked rice and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

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That is about it. I can’t think of any further instructions.

I think my boy can manage that when he starts living on his own for Uni.

If you are interested in Japanese home cooking recipes, you can find a lot here: https://cookpad.com/uk

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More publishing updates

This month’s Knit Now magazine has my little boy on a goose.

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Obvious where I got the inspiration from?;”Wonderful adventure of Nils” by the Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. Isn’t it great if we could fly like that?

This can be a toy, but you can also enjoy it as a room ornament. If you knit the goose with good quality wool, the wings will have volume and be sturdy enough to be hanged as a mobile.

Also for this month, you can see my knitted baby rattles in “Let’s Get Crafting”. I was requested to make two or three rattles from the cover-mount kit.

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They are much bigger than my usual knits, but it is always fun to do something a little different.

And finally, this book has just just gone to the printer. From Search Press 20 to make series, “20 to make mini knitted charms”. The book is already listed here: https://www.searchpress.com/book/9781782213758/mini-knitted-charms

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I have posted some photos of my tiny dangler knits a while ago like these.

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I shared the pattern for this little bird which should be still available from previous post.

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The link is this here.

The editors liked the idea and decided to make a book with them. I created some new designs for the book, too.
The projects are tiny, but knitting is very straight forward and take only 10-15 minutes.

This time, the projects were sent to a freelance photographer. I am always nervous about sending projects away and getting the photo shoot done without my presence, but the photographer did a fantastic job. Not only all the photography techniques have been perfect, her styling is outstanding. I could tell she spent a lot of time and care for each shot.

The book is bright, cute and very girly. This is exactly how I wanted.

The book should be available in autumn. Christmas is arriving early for me this year.

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Publishing updates

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I think my next book, “Mini Knitted Ocean” has gone to the printer by now.

There was a bit of change in publishing schedule, but the shipment should arrive to the warehouse sometime in September. I cannot wait.

This book is dedicated to my dad who taught me the love of ocean.

I wasn’t too close to my dad when I was growing up. He was a man of few words, and I used to feel distance between us. He was strict and also very temperamental. To me, he seemed to snap all of a sudden with no apparent reason.

He worked for the local paper factory as an engineer in shifts, and often worked on Sundays, too. But in summer, he would take me and my brother to swim after work almost everyday. We were very lucky to be living so close to the beach. It was only a few minutes away from our company flat by bicycle.

I visited the flat a few years ago with my boys. How nostalgic I felt! It is not in use any longer, but I was very please to be able to see it still standing there.

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The beach and the paper factory my dad worked for 40 years.

Now in his late 70’s, my dad is kind, generous and gentle. He loves his grandchildren to bits.

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In spring and autumn, we came for angling and foraging shell fish, and in winter, we enjoyed walks and flying kites. It is not a fantastically pretty beach with dark grey volcanic sand, but I have so much happy memories and I absolutely love this place.

Each fish I knitted for the book, I thought about my dad and the beach.

My brother still comes here every so often with his young son. Last summer, they caught 182 sardines! Surely, they had a feast on that day!

Recently, my publisher kindly posted this image on the World Ocean Day. I guess I am allowed to share the image here.

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Isn’t it a pretty photo? You see the Yellow Submarine in the back.

The book is fun and full of quirky characters. I experimented many new ideas.

It also has deep sentimental value for me and I think it is very nice.

I hope the book will reach to many people. I hope my dad will like it, too.

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Joy of felting

Since needle felting has been introduced, wet felting has lost its popularity a little.

Wet felting is the process of reducing its size through the use of hot water and agitation. We all know that you should not wash 100% wool jumper in a washing machine. Wet felting is to do that on purpose.

Needle felting is the art of taking loose fibers – typically colored wool and using barbed needles – ‘punch’ them into the same fiber or another piece of fabric.

Wet felting may take a bit of skill and understanding of how fiber behaves during the process. You would also need a working space, hot water and soap. Your hands and table get wet and soapy, and this may put you off.

But I enjoy wet felting. I find it very therapeutic, rubbing wool with warm soapy water. I forget immediate worries and I feel I can stay calm rest of the day.

Just as knitting, I like making little creatures like these.

Three fat cats;

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and pocket bears in felted version.

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I made some finger puppets and a dolphin, too.

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Recently, I found the joy of creating these; felted purses.

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This is a fairly easy project. I wrap a polyethylene ball with merino fleece, pour hot soapy water over it and rub it. That is all what it takes. If you do not like getting your hands wet, you can put the wool covered ball in an old stocking, tie the ends and felt it in a washing machine.

I did have some trials and errors. My very first purse was too small relation to the clasps I had and the second one came out too thin. But surprisingly, I wasn’t too disappointed. I think I just enjoyed the process of rubbing wool.

To make the purse sturdy, you need three thin layers of merino. If you pour hot water as you lay fleece, it is much easier to handle.

Felting process takes 30- 45 minutes depending on the size of the ball. I like felting without music or television, but if you have a company who can chat with you, that would be fun, too.

I dry the felt over night and then, attach the clasps.

Did I know how to do that? No, it was a new experience for me. I just learned it from watching YouTube. I needle felted dots and hearts afterwards.

I originally wanted to make many small coin purses, but I ordered large clasps online by mistake. I was shocked to see them when they arrived. 10 of them!

But never mind, I can make a large purse.

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Lots of coins can go in this.

Wool is utterly amazing.

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