knits by sachi

Let’s Knit May issue

May issue of Let’s Knit magazine is now out in shops.

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This one comes with my Farm animal knitting kit. You can make sheep, dog, cow, pig and mouse with the yarn in the packet. Exciting!

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But it was very tricky and difficult to make this kit.

First, we had to choose colours and amounts of each ball considering where to use main and contrast colours. I made samples using my own yarn. Originally the editors wanted the animals bright and vivid for the magazine to stand out among many other competitors, but after seeing my animal samples, they decided to go for natural colours. I think it is nicer that way.

After agreeing with the colours, the kit went to production. I re-knitted the animals with the kit yarn to alter the pattern, but I found the yarn much thicker than commercial DK yarn and had many trials and errors.

But I know it was worth it.

The patterns are super simple and easy. They share similar patterns, too. For body, you knit a square and sew four corners to create legs. I like simple patterns and detest gussets with passion. Knitted pieces are stretchy, allowing you to shape after sewing up. I don’t see much point in over complicating knitting patterns for toys.

This issue has more exciting news; the mascot for the Yarn Shop Day.

I have received an honour to design the mascot for the big day this year! I was asked to make an elephant, so here it is.

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I chose soft yellow so that it can be a boy or a girl. Readers can choose any colour they like for the elephant.

The elephant is named “Tiny”. It seems he has a mate called Chris, the monkey. Tiny sits about 12cm and for me, it is not so tiny, but with the monkey Chris, he does look Tiny.
You can pick up their patterns at the YSD participating shops on Saturday.

Tiny and Chris

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Yes, the Yarn Shop Day is next Saturday, and I will be at C & H Fabric shop in Tunbridge Wells with a fellow author and editor, May Corfield. She has written crochet books; 20 to make crochet granny squares and 20 to make crochet hearts. We will be doing a book signing and a workshop.

I am going to do an easy toy knits workshop.

For example, these animals. They are all made with knitted square pieces, no increase nor decrease.

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This way, children or non knitters can have a go. Some can be made with garter stitches so that you don’t have to purl.

I hope many will come see us.

A Happy Yarn Shop Day!

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Challenging commission

Lovely photo.
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Many knitting magazines come with cover mount knitting kit these days.

I mentioned in the Facebook some time ago that I received a rather interesting commission.

It is to knit two pandas using six different coloured yarn, each weighing about 20g.

Six different colours! And it doesn’t have black yarn.

The kit came with wooden needles and two pairs of black beads to use for the eyes.

This is very different from what I normally do.

I have done kits for Knit Now magazines in the past, but these were quite small and not too difficult. I got to do the design first, and the editor order the kit. I had the freedom to choose the needle size, yarn weight and amount of yarn.

But this time, I had to make up the design using the kit I was given. The yarn is thicker than commercially available Double Knit yarn, giving you less yardage, and the needles much fatter than my usual 2.75mm.

And the colours! How am I supposed to make two pandas with six different colours? And they are so vivid and bright!

This is completely out of my comfort zone!

I drew a few designs and coloured them in with colour pencils. They will be very quirky, and I don’t do quirky too well. But never mind. I was determined to produce something with a bit of my own style.

Work in progress.

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And I managed producing pandas at the end.

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I could go very wild with colour combinations and knit ears in different colours from eyes and limbs, but I was afraid that the result may get too confusing. The colours were crazy enough already.

I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea. I am more comfortable knitting small toys with natural fibers in soft colours.

But I remember once that one of my followers said although she loved all my work, her arthritis hands do not allow her to make small knits. She enjoys knitting, but cannot make small toys. These pandas may work well for someone like her.

They may be good for people with visual impairment, too. My brother has colour weakness and cannot differentiate some of the subtle colours. And small children may like these exciting colours.

To be honest, I was more worried than pleased when I received this commission. But to my surprise, I found myself enjoying the challenge very much.

I hope many people will get involved making these quirky pandas.

Another kit arrived. This time, i am to make cat and mouse.

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Interview article and my new projects

In this month’s Simply Knitting magazine, you will find this.

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My interview article!

It is done by answering the questions the editor send me, so there was no interview session as such. I supply most of the photos, too, but it is still very flattering to appear in this page. I have been a fan of the magazine and knitted many toys designed by Alan Dart.

Like this one. Guys from Shawn the sheep.(I knitted from his pattern with a bit of improvisation.)

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I didn’t even dreamed of seeing myself in this magazine a few years ago.

Like I said in the interview, I am no born knitter. I learned the skill from a mum in a parent and toddler group. She was ever so patient and showed me from the very basic; how to cast-on.

She was a fantastic knitter with her stitches so clean and even. Mine looked horrible. They were like bad teeth needing orthodontic braces. It is often said that knitting is good for mental health, but it certainly wasn’t for me then. It frustrated me and only caused more stress I didn’t need.

But I am glad I kept practicing.

Now I think I should have took each step more slowly and enjoyed my skill develop. There is no such thing called “bad knitting” is there?

I did have a go at making scarves, hats and even jumpers, but from very early on, I was always more interested in teddies and bunnies. I learned different techniques through toy making. By knitting a small jumper for a teddy bear, I learned a variety of stitches, cable and bobbles and the circular knitting. I also learned working with colours and fair isle knitting the same way. It is great to try something new without committing to a large project.

I so love knitting toys.

Recently, I have been making a little more practical and useful things, for example, coin cases.

Like these.
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These have inner cotton linings and quite sturdy. Some have zippers, some have clasps. I practiced a bit of fair isle, too.
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I like girly stuff.

I can sew to a certain degree, so that working with zippers wasn’t new to me. But I have never made a purse with clasps.

I took YouTube lessons and got the basic idea how to attach the clasps. It is great, the YouTube tutorials.

I made up the knitting pattern. I had pretty sock yarn that I was dying to use and it was perfect for this project.

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I think I am getting hooked with these purse making now. I also made a mobile sock.

This is fun!

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Knitted Ferris Wheel

Can you guess what I am up to?
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I like doing small projects which only take a day or two, but sometimes, I get this urge to get involved in a little bigger project.

I still take a small step at a time. I quite often set it aside to make time for magazine commissions and other jobs.

I have written about my knitted amusement park projects and that is one of them.

I added another item to the park, and this time, it is the Ferris wheel.

I have to think hard and plan well before I started knitting. I didn’t want it to go too wrong and re-knit it again and again.

First, the design.
I researched on handmade Ferris wheels. It seems some people have made them with cardboard, plywood, plastic bottles or carton boxes. I didn’t find any knitted one. Maybe I am the only one who even think of knitting a Ferris wheel.

That is good, I want to be the first to knit it.

The actual wheels normally have the seating gondolas between the front and back panels, but I decided to place them in the front so that you can see the figures better. I didn’t want my little animals to be hidden.

So the gondolas hang in front of the wheel.
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I cut two pieces of cardboard in circle, stick them together with masking tape and wrapped it with tissue paper. If I covered this part with knitting, I thought it would be too heavy.

The supporting box is covered with knitting. I placed ceramic beads inside the box so that the wheels would not fall over.

Then, my babies and their friends. This is always the fun part!
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The wheel has six gondolas and two figures go in each one.

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I had no idea why it is called Ferris wheel. Apparently, it is named after George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. who designed and constructed one as a landmark for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

We live only one hour away from London, but never been on the London Eye, the giant wheel on South Bank of the river Themes.

I should have a go someday.

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Eight treasure stir fry?

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Easter is one of the events that I wish my kids were still little. I used to love egg hunt with my children, and we visited many parks and National Trust gardens to enjoy it.
Now my kids are way too grown up, and I guess I have to wait for grandchildren to arrive some day.

We don’t eat much chocolate at home, but I love those tiny chocolate eggs. They are very cute.

They reminded me of quail eggs. In fact, I bought quail eggs instead this year. No sugar.

I know it is not too common to cook quail eggs in England. The bird is often eaten, but not the eggs. I have seen mini scotch eggs, but that is pretty much all I know.

In Japan, it is opposite. It is very difficult to buy the bird, but we often enjoy the eggs.They are boiled, peeled and cooked in soy sauce or fried with bread crumbs. They are also favoured for Bento box (lunch box).
I found incredibly cute Bento box art with quail eggs on internet.

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I love this one. It is perfect for Easter! It is too cute to eat!
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My favorite dish with quail egg is “Happosai”, literally meaning eight treasure stir fry.
It is stir fry with lots of lots of different kinds of vegetables. Basically, you can add any vegetables, meat or shell fish and add the sauce at the end. I am sure each family has their own recipe. My mum used to include quail eggs in it, and now I cannot think of Happosai without them.

Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:

Hakusai/Chinese cabbage 3-4 leaves
50g Broccoli
1/4 bell pepper
mangetout
1/4 carrot
3 shiitake mushrooms
1/2 tin bamboo shoot
quail eggs (hard boiled) 12 eggs
100g pork (can be chicken, ham or any meat)
5-6 large prawns
4 crab sticks
1 tsp grated ginger
Sesame oil

sauce
300cc chicken, pork or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp rice wine
white pepper to taste
1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 1 tbsp water

How to make:
1. Chop up all the veggies and meat.
2. Mix the sauce ingredients except corn starch. Set aside
3. Cook the pork in a frying pan. Add the ginger.
4. Add the veggies.
5. When the veggies are half cooked, add sauce, eggs and prawns. Cook for a few minutes
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6. Add corn starch and cook until the sauce thickens. Done!

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This is how my mum used to cook. Some people like to add oyster sauce or soy sauce, but I like this simple salt and pepper flavouring.

The beauty of this dish is that you can add anything in your fridge. This time, I added a bit of corn kernels and tofu. You can cook pretty much any vegetables together. If you are vegetarian, you can use chicken style Quarn pieces or chick peas.
The dish can be enjoyed over steamed rice or egg noodles.

You can feel very healthy just by looking at it? Happy Easter.

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Quilting challenge

I have done a variety of craft, but I have never done quilting. In fact, I have never even thought of trying the craft.

Quilting seems to require a lot of precision and commitment. People make large throws, bedspreads and table runners. I always found it daunting. This is certainly a skill you develop with lots of practice, and I have great respect to quilters.

But I wanted to make something using this patchwork method; a small play mat for my Hare and tortoise set.

I made a knitted version a couple of years ago for Knit Now magazine.

This one. It is one of my favorite.

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I found very stretchy white fabric in my stash and decided to sew some bunnies with it. For tortoise, I am using felt.

I tried my first sample. I thought it worked well.

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Then, made the whole lot for the game.

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Now, I needed a mat. This is where quilting come into play.

Did I have any idea how I should do this? Not at all. I watched YouTube and got a basic idea. It is a very small mat, it cannot be too difficult or is it?

Yes, it is small, but you do need a lot of patience and precision. I did simple maths wrong at some places and I had to pick stitches and sew again. What I found extremely helpful was the fabric roller cutter that I invested just for this project. I don’t know how I manage without it. It was a star buy.

After some trials and errors, I came up with this.
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I know, I know, it is far from perfect, but I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself. This is my very first patchwork and I even used sewing machine for it.

And my animals look happy on it.

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It is good to go out of your comfort zone and try something new.

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Yaki (roasted) Onigiri

Almost good to eat? My knitted Sushi box.

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I thought we bought a very large bag of rice the last time when we shopped at the Asian supermarket.

20kg of rice!

But it is gone, all gone! I have to buy Japanese rice from local supermarket for now.

Japanese cooking is popular now, and Sushi rice is widely available at supermarkets. Many people even enjoy making Sushi at home in the UK.

Sushi rice costs more than other kind of rice for some reason, but I have found cheaper alternatives.

To make Sushi, you certainly need short grain rice which are much stickier than long grain rice, but you do not have to buy rice categorized as Sushi rice. You can use pudding rice or Paella rice. I recently found packets sold simply as “short grain rice”. It looks and tastes exactly the same as Sushi rice, and sold for £1 per 500g.

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My boys loves steamed rice. If they had rice and soy sauce, they are happy. I occasionally make Yaki Onigiri, Grilled rice balls.

Yaki onigiri is a crunchy savoury rice balls, with or without filling. It is often eaten as snack or lunch and made with my boys favorite two ingredients, rice and soy sauce. They are grilled until the rice is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

I make them in a frying pan, but you can use your oven. You can even BBQ.

Grab some hot rice and mould it into a triangular or round shape with your hands, making sure to compact the rice as much as possible to stop the onigiri from falling apart when you grill it. I make them into triangle shape, the conventional way.

Very lightly grease the pan and cook until the both sides are crispy.

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Brush with soy sauce.

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You will enjoy lovely smell of soy sauce being cooked.
Done.

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My mum sent me lots of lots of Japanese food recently for my son’s birthday. She sends me large parcels three times a year. We absolutely love them.

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If you travel to Japan, make sure you visit supermarkets. It is so much fun just to browse, and I am sure you will find many interesting items.

[Only available in Japan; so many different flavours of Kitkat.(I an not too sure if I want to try “Watermelon flovour” or “Apple vinegar” but “Caramel macchiato” sounds good)]

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Baby step to a dream

My builders and an architect.

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Having waited for 5 weeks in agony, my son finally got an interview invitation from the university. This one is his first option.

He applied for the architecture course along with other 1400 applicants.

The applicants were told to submit 5 drawings with specific instructions, and wait. If the school liked your work, you would get invited for an interview.

Only 400 would get invited. If you didn’t, you are out of the game.

I have seen my son’s work and was confident he would get an interview, but we both were getting more and more anxious.

But yes! He got it. He is invited.

Initially, he was looking for automotive design courses. Ever since he was little, he has been drawing cars and had an ambition to become an automotive designer. But at the same time, he had a strong interest in studying architecture.

Just a week(!) before the Ucas deadline date, he finally decided to go for the architecture.

His trip to Kenya may have influenced on his decision. He worked with locals to build a school, which people desperately needed. He engraved the school sign board at the end of the project. Somewhere in a remote place in Kenya, there stands a school sign with his writing on it. I think it is rather nice.

My son says he is not too interested in building fancy or quirky buildings to become a famous architect. He doesn’t need to build another Shard. “I just want to design something to help people live comfortable life.”, he says.

He quite often draws war zones and natural disasters with sadness. I think he is very kind-hearted.

Hiroshima dome where the atomic bomb hit in 1945.

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Tsunami, 2011.
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He also paints spaces and buildings.

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He certainly has great interest in this area.

Choosing your future is really tough, but I wish him very good luck.

He produces lots of artwork everyday. I believe in his talent.

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Knitted St. George

The new issue of Knit Now magazine has one of my favorite work, St.George and Dragon.

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When we got the call for submissions, the brief was to make something all British. Hearing the word British, the first thing which came up to my mind was St. George, our guardian saint.

Never mind he came from Turkey.

I have had made a set in the past.
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But this time, I wanted to make baby George. We have a little George in our Royal family. This is to celebrate his birth, too.

I also changed the design of the dragon. When I made the previous set, I thought the dragon should have a bit longer tail. The wings also needed some improvement.

But I kept its friendly look. I don’t think I can ever make a scary dragon no matter how I try. I am Japanese.

In Asia, the dragon is commonly the symbol of nobility, solemnness, holiness, and good fortune. Throughout the history of China, Korea, and Japan, the dragon (or the concept of the dragon) has been a part of people’s daily lives.

I grew up watching the animation program, Nippon Mukashi Banashi (Japanese folk tales), An omnibus-format TV series consisting of anime adaptations of Japanese folk tales. In the opening song, this little boy was flying on a dragon. I always loved this image, and it may have influenced on this St. George project.

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He is lovely.
We truly love dragon in Asia. We love it so much and even included in the Zodiac animals. It is the only legendary animal in the calendar.

Do you know how the twelve animals were chosen? There are several different stories, but the one I like goes like this.

The Chinese God of Heaven told animals to come to the meeting if they wanted to be in the Calendar. First come, first served, he said. Cat asked Rat to wake him up in the morning, but Rat forgot the promise and Cat over-slept.
That is why cats cannot stand the sight of rats.

Cute story for children, no?
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I don’t think the magazine project is too complicated, but there is a little tricky bit in the dragon. You can see some step-by-step images here.

If you start now, you will have your own set before the St. George’s Day. (image shared from Knit Now FB. I love this photo)

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Winter wreath

I find the month of February quite depressing, and I am sure I am not the only one.

Exciting celebrations is long gone and is a distant memory. The days are still short, the weather is not very kind. It is cold, wet and miserable.

And we still have some weeks until the spring arrives.

May be because of all this, I am knitting flowers, lots of flowers recently. Subconsciously, I may be trying to cheer myself up.

I love all bell shaped flowers, Lily of the valley being my favorite. We have lots and lots of bluebells in early summer here in the West Sussex. I have loads in my garden, too. This time of year, we get to see snowdrops. They must be tough flowers, blooming in this cold weather. Every time I see them, I get a bit of strength from them.

They look very cute by the window.
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Wanting to have a go at a bigger project with flowers, I decided to make a wreath with winter theme.

I thought making snow effect was a little too ambitious, so that I chose subtle colours; white, pastel pink, soft green and yellow.

And for the centre, I made winter child fairy, all dressed in white.

Work in progress; I make all pieces first and arrange a little by little.
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Making these tiny pompom was tricky. I cut a forefinger with large scissors. Ouch.

Flower knitting patterns are quite simple but takes time to knit each petal and assembly. It is nice to see the work coming along nicely, and when it is done, it is utterly rewarding.

Ta-dah!

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My robin goes on the top.
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Yes, it is dark and cold and miserable outside, but if I could make this with my knees wrapped in a blanket, I am very happy.

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