knits by sachi

Knitting on holidays


I am off to Japan soon again.

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

Lots of knitting hours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Toy maker of the year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am telling all my friends and family in Tokyo.

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


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

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

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

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

My first magazine job:

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Konnyaku noodles?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such a easy cooking!

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

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

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

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Mini Knitted Farmyard

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

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

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

My farmyard props arrived!

Fortunately, their sizes are perfect for my figures.

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

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

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

We try hard to get the best effect;

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

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

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

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

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Simple rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

He has 7 Rules for Eating.

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

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

These are from his lectures. Here’s how:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

We will be enjoying more of these from now on.

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

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

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Hiyashi Chuka, Japanese summer dish

The summer in Japan is brutally hot. The temperature usually stays below your body temperature, however, the humidity is unbearable, averaging over 70 % in the hottest months. With the rainy season of June, Japan is in the subtropical climate zone. It is like to be in a permanent sauna!

Do we feel unwell because of the heat? Sure we do. We have a word, Natsubate translated as ‘summer fatigue’.

You may feel physically tired, lose your appetite and have trouble sleeping. If you feel those symptoms, it is likely that you have Natsubate.

Natsubate is the consequence of hot temperatures and humidity during summer. Air conditioning doesn’t help much. In recent times, it has been said that Natubate happens not only due to the heat but also to the overuse of air conditioning.
It is very important to take care of yourself with healthy life style and good nutrition.

I used to lose appetite during the hot months and only food I could manage was cold noodles. My favorite was and still is cold soba noodles but it is mainly carbohydrates. To add a bit more nutrients, I like this dish; Hiyashi Chuka to serve my family.

Hiyachi Chuka literally means “chilled Chinese”; however, it is a Japanese dish with chilled egg noodles and various colorful toppings. Popular toppings include strips of egg crepes, cucumber, ham, and crab sticks. Soy sauce or sesame based dressing is poured over the noodles and toppings.

In Japan, you can get fresh egg noodles suitable for this dish. I used to think it is not possible to enjoy Hiyashi Chuka without these noodles, but recently, I discovered that you can use dry noodles available from local supermarkets.

I use fine noodles like this one.

All you have to do is cook noodles according to the package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water. Drain water well and place noodles in a large bowl. Place any toppings you fancy. I like adding vegetables, too and often serve it with cooked bean sprouts, green beans, mangetout and corn kernels. Here, I also added steamed chicken breast.

For sauce: to serve one

3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 Tbsp rice wine or white wine
1 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp white sesame seeds (roasted/toasted)
1/2 Tbsp English mustard

You can be creative and add a bit of chilli sauce, ginger, coriander etc.
It is colourful, nutritious and easy to make. The flagrant sesame oil and vinegar stimulates appetite and you will recover from Natsubate in no time.

I have this distant memory of having this noodle dish with my mum. It was at a tiny restaurant in my home town many years ago. I don’t remember what we were doing on that day, which restaurant it was or why we ended up there. It wasn’t remarkably tasty noodles either. I just remember me, my mum and Hiyashi Chuka. Now my mother has terminal illness and permanently in hospital, I sometimes think of these little things.

I heard that it would be a very hot summer this year in Japan.

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Magazine interview

Someone wrote about my career recently and made me sound like a knitting super star.

This article came out in Let’s Knit magazine published in the UK.

The Queen of Cute! I have never been called a queen of anything. I am very flattered.

I did a one page short interview article with them some time ago. It was before any of my books came out and was my very first interview. I sent a copy to my mum. I still have the issue myself.

I supplied most photos. My book publisher, Search Press kindly offered some images as well, like this puppies photo. This project is included in A-5 size mini book, 20 to make tiny toys. It is one of my favorites. I am pleased that it is included in the article.

I submitted this photo. It is one of my knitted amusement park project, airplane ride.

My knitted carousel was in the same page, and apparently, these attracted many interests. I would love to publish these patterns some day. Knitting part is not too complicated, however, the assembling requires good explanations, possibly with step-by-step photos.

Also, the airplane project needs a little bit more work. Each airplane is hanging on the edge of a skewer and they don’t always stay like this. Here I confess, some of the airplanes turn upside down when I let my hands go and I had a bit of trouble taking photos. I have to sort something out to fix this. May be I should tie a string to the top side of the airplanes to keep them right side up.

The characters are rather sweet and I do like this project.

I have a baby,

a giraffe,

a penguin,

and a little bear.

The article comes with the aardvark knitting pattern. It was another unique request from the publisher. I didn’t even know what aardvark was until I got this commission.

He is wearing a multi-coloured jumper, but it is knitted with a sock yarn and you don’t need to knit in fairisle. The jumper has a button in the back and is removable.

I hope many will enjoy him.

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Omiyage from Japan

Omiyage (souvenirs) from Japan again! My husband is travelling quite often recently.

We have the tradition of ‘Omiyage’,gift-giving. Omiyage is translated as souvenirs, however, they are not to be kept for yourself. They are the gifts bought for your friends, family or colleagues. You think of someone while you are away and bring something back for them.

If you travel to Japan, you will notice there are hundreds of tourist shops everywhere filled with local produce and sweets. They are all packaged very nicely, often containing individually wrapped packages inside. These are designed for Omiyage.

I do think they are a little over packaged with plastic bags and paper wraps. Some dislike this tradition all together because they feel the obligation to buy gifts whenever they travel.

I like it. I like buying gifts thinking of someone, and of course, I love getting Omiyage, too.

Usually Omiyage goods are associated with the a specific region; I had requested sake this time and my husband got me a three bottle set from Kyushu region.

Roughly, there are four different types of Sake

Junmai-shu (rice only; no adding of distilled alcohol)
Honjozo-shu (a tad of distilled alcohol is added)
Ginjo-shu (highly milled rice, with or without alcohol added)
futuushu (cheap mass produced sake)

The sake rice is milled before it is used for production. In general, the more the rice used in brewing is milled before being used, the higher the grade of sake. In fact, this is the clearest definition of the ascending grades of sake. Top quality Sake are made with rice that has been milled to remove at least the outer 50% of the original size of the grains.

Some sake are made from rice only, however, some have added alcohol.
Cheap sake has copious amounts of distilled alcohol added to it at the final stages to increase yields. These are just like mass produced jug wines. If you ever tasted sake in a restaurant outside Japan and felt it was too bitter, there is a good chance that the sake was rather a humble grade with lots of added alcohol. Good quality sake should not taste bitter.

Sake with higher grades has had a very small amount of alcohol added to it and this is not to increase yields, but rather the use of alcohol in this very controlled manner helps to enhance aroma and flavour. In fact, all sake which enter competitions has small amount of alcohol added.

If you would like to try real sake without travelling to Japan, you should try a restaurant with good sake list, like this one in London: Sakagura

My husband also brought lots of soy sauce coated rice cakes for my son. They are thick, crunchy and full of flavour. Interesting thing is their ingredients are the same as sake. These rice cakes are made with outer layer of sake rice grains which is removed at milling stage. Nothing goes to waste and the rice cakes taste absolutely amazing.

I am working through the second bottle now. I enjoy tiny bit every day.It is utterly fantastic.

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My knitted Alice(s)

I received this copy from the editor last week. It is Knit Now magazine with my Alice knitting kit.

It was a lot of fun designing this project. From this kit, you get five different coloured yarn to make these three characters. Isn’t it clever?

Yarn is 100% acrylic but is nice, soft and easy to knit. This one is my favorite kit yarn. It doesn’t have unattractive gleam that synthetics often has and looks more organic. It gives you good yardage which makes my job a little easier. I kept the pattern simple. I hope many will enjoy it.

Talking of Alice, I made another Alice set recently, The Wonderland finger puppets.

I absolutely love working on a project with many characters like this. It takes time, but it is rewarding when you finish. It is fairly easy once you make the basic prototype. I start with the main character to make sure the project works.

So, I made Alice and the very important companion, rabbit.

I thought about making them all the same size, but I decided to make animals smaller to enjoy variations. They turned out cute that way.

And Diddle Dee and Diddle Dum. They are supposed to be chubby and short, but I didn’t want to make them too ugly.

The difficult bit was Queen of Hearts. I wasn’t too sure how to express the ‘heart’ bit. I tried with her hair and I think it worked OK.

I wanted to make 10 puppets for each finger, so I added the King of Hearts and the cat. I also made playing cards. I am quite pleased with how they turned out.

And here is the full cast.

This set will be great for children’s story time, but with or without small people, they are still very much enjoyable.

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Patterns in magazines

This pattern was out last week. I was lucky to spot it at a supermarket.

It is in Woman’s Weekly published in the UK. Editors are always so busy and I don’t get notifications of when my patterns get published. Editing weekly magazine must be tough and I don’t know how they do it. I guess I have to be diligent and looking out for my work.

This is one of the quirky requests I often get from editors, otherwise, I would not even think of knitting robots. They named them Knitbots. Clever!

I like getting requests. It is rewarding when I succeed to meet their brief and receive nice compliments. I also enjoy the challenge, but the best of all, I get inspired to create. Sometimes, I carry on having fun, making similar items after I finish my commission.

Some time ago, I made these dummy holders for the same magazine.

I missed the publication for this one. I haven’t got a slightest clue when these came out. Dummy holder is far from what I need at this moment, but surprisingly, I very much enjoyed designing them. I finished the original request and continue making more holders. It is a bit silly, I know, but I made ladybirds, flowers, chicks and all sorts of things as a motif.

I also discovered that they would make nice brooches, so that I made even more. Animal faces are simple and cute, and seasonal items are also fun to make.

To be honest, there have been some commissions I initially could not feel too excited about. I thought they were not my style or anything I fancy knitting, however, I always ended up having lots of fun with them. I think I truly love creating knitted toys. It is very important for me to work with other people.

This knitting kit is out from Knit Now magazine this month. Making knitting kit is tricky and needs careful planning. I hope many will enjoy the project. This magazine if out for a month, thank goodness, so you have a bit more time to buy a copy from a shop.

As for the missed publications, Woman’s Weekly is putting up all knitting patterns on their website soon. Once it is activated, I will post a link on this page.

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