knits by sachi

CHSI Stitches show

The cool guy I saw at the show:
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I traveled to NEC Birmingham to visit CHSI Stitches show recently.

It is the Europe’s largest trade show in craft industry. If you are in craft business, there may be lots of seminars useful for you to learn business strategies. It is a good place to see craft trends and new products.

Because I had to travel quite a distance, I did not have time to sit down for workshops or seminars, but it was still a lot of fun.

What I notice the most was craft kits; sewing, knitting, crocheting, felting, it seems that everyone is making kits. I guess kits are very handy. You do not need to shop for each material or invest too much money. They give you exactly how much you need for the project.

Some kits come in nice packages and make very attractive gifts. I like the ones come in small tins.

Some authors have their designs put into kits and selling them. It is a lot of effort and investment. Hats off to them.

I like this brand: Edward’s Menagerie by Kerry Lord.

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Her designs are quirky and unique. They are certainly different from typical Japanese amigurumi and I like that a lot. She has a online shop of course.

As for the new product, I found this one: interchangeable straight needles.

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I have seen interchangeable circular needles, but not straight needles. You can adjust the length of needles by adding parts. It is cleverly thought and the finish is nice and smooth. You do not need to worry about your knitted piece getting caught at the joints. It seems they have received good reviews so far. I know I will not need long needles since I only knit small items, but it is still tempting.

If you find it troublesome to carry long needles, these may be good for you. I have a long knitting bag I bought some time ago. I truly love it and I like showing it off, so maybe, those needles are not for me at this moment.

My knitting bag: from Cath Kidston

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I like the retro look.

My publisher, Search Press had their stand as usual. I stopped by to say hello.
It is so nice to see my books on display.

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It seems that they had fantastic visitors.

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Arne and Carlos! I was gutted when I found out that I just missed them! Maybe next time.

Search Press won the best craft publisher of the year again. No surprise there.

I also spotted my Alice at the Practical Publishing stand.

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This is a cover-mount knitting kit which is coming out soon from Knit Now magazine. I got a special permission to share this image here. With the kit, you can make Alice, Rabbit and Cat. They are not tiny and easy to make. I hope many knitters will enjoy it.

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A little about Sake

When I go to Japan, I enjoy Japanese Sake rice wine.
I don’t drink much, but I truly love Sake. Its smell and the taste, how it is served, the occasions associated with, I just love everything about it.

As a child, I thought my dad was strict and a bit scary. I always felt distance between us, but when he had a few Sake on a New Year’s Day, he became talkative and looked truly happy. I loved to see my dad happy.

Being Japanese, I grew up with Sake just like French grow up with wine. I sniffed it and even had a drop or two before I reached to the drinking age. I also loved Sake kasu or Sake lees, the by-product of Sake rice wine.

Sake kasu is what is left after the sake has been pressed out of the mash. It is used in home cooking in many ways to create wonderfully complex flavored dishes. It is used as a pickling agent, to stew fish and vegetables, to make Amazake which is a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol drink. Many traditional Japanese confection and snack companies use a lot of kasu to flavor some of their products. You can find ice cream, chocolate, sweets, cakes and bread flavored with Sake kasu these days.

This is one of them: Sake KitKat.

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When you open the package inside the box, you can smell the familiar smell of Sake. The alcohol content is less than 1% so that anyone can enjoy it.

I like this sweets: Amazake chews. This has somewhat stronger taste of Sake than KitKat but has no alcohol.

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Sake Kasu comes in either hand pressed cheese like texture or mechanically pressed firm sheets.
My mum and I used to enjoy cooking Sake kasu sheets on top of a stove. After roasting, we dip it into sugar and eat it. I was still a teenager then, but Mum allowed me to have some secretly.

Sake kasu sheets contains 8% alcohol, so that you will get drunk if you have too much of it.

Doing something naughty with Mum without telling Dad was a lot of fun! I don’t think I really liked the taste and my pieces had more sugar than Sake kasu itself, but I remember loving the smell of Sake.

During the recent stay in Japan, my older son seemed to start developing the taste for Sake. We tried several different kinds and brands together, hot and cold in small quantities. What I love about Sake is that you can enjoy it at different temperatures. I like it warm.

Sake contains ‘Umami’ which became enhanced when it is heated. It is the same kind of Umami in shell fish as clams. Try steaming clams or mussels with Sake. It is a perfect match.

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I like Sake warm because you can really appreciate the aroma before you take a sip. It is also a safe way to drink alcohol since it is absorbed into your body the same pace as you drink it.

To heat Sake, we use porcelain bottle called ‘Tokkuri’. Tokkuri refers to the shape narrowing at the top.
We use the same word for turtleneck. Tokkuri jumper means a jumper with turtleneck.

My Tokkuri is this one my mum bought for me before I got married. It is nicely hand crafted.

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It is certainly another fun element of being a Sake drinker. You can visit shops and craft fairs to look for a Tokkuri and cups for your Sake.

Dad gave my son a set before we left. My son was very happy to receive his first Tokkuri. He will treasure it.

I have this small bottle of Sake in my cupboard now. You can find Sake at Japanese food shop as Japan Centre in London. You can also buy online. I love the cool looking bottle as well as its content.

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I am very interested this one: Sachi

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And this one: Sachi hime (literally meaning Princess Sachi!!)

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Nothing can be any better than this.

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Omurice

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I did not knit these thinking of the Valentine’s day, but when I made the second mouse, I thought the couple was perfect for today.

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They look cute together.

We don’t do much to celebrate the occasion, but I may be cooking this dish tonight, Omurice. I saw this photo online and it inspired me.

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Omurice is Japanese home style dish consisting of an omelette made with ketchup flavoured fried rice. It is a Western-influenced Japanese food which is developed in early 1900. You may find it a bit odd to use ketchup for cooking, but we often do in our country. Omurice is one of the most popular dish among children and for some reason, grown-up men, too.

My husband and my boys are not exception. My son in London called me up the other day asked for the recipe.
What is great about it is that my younger son eats all minced veggies in the rice without complaining. You can use up left-over rice, a bit of cooked or uncooked meat. You do not need any exotic ingredients. It is versatile and wallet friendly.

Recipe for one
Ingredients
1/4 medium onion
small amounts of chopped bell pepper, carrot
40g chopped chicken meat
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 bowl of Japanese rice
1 Tbsp. ketchup and more for decoration

For 1 omelette
1 large egg
pinch salt, sugar and pepper

1.Chop the onion finely.
2.Cut the chicken into ½” (1 cm) pieces.
3.Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and sauté the onion until softened.
4,Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink.
5.Add the mixed vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
6.Add the rice and stir fry.
7.Add seasoning and ketchup.
Set aside.

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Make a thin egg pancake in another pan, place cooked rice on top and roll the rice with the pancake. I used a square pan but you may find it easy to use a round frying pan.

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If you cannot roll too well, don’t worry. Take a sheet of paper towel and shape.

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Many put more ketchup on top to garnish.

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If you want to cut down on sugar and salt, you can use tomato paste to cook rice instead of ketchup. Some like to top with Demi-glace sauce or curry sauce. There are plenty of room to improvise and make your very own Omurice.

I have also found these cute ones.

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Kids will love these.

I am very curious how my son’s Omurice turned out. He said it went well. He has to take a photo and send it to me next time.

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Penguin workshop

I have been writing for Let’s Get Crafting magazine for sometime now.

The first time when I was commissioned to make multi-coloured pandas, I was not so sure if I was doing the right thing going along with the editor. It was not at all the kind of toy making I used to do, and I was feeling a little anxious using such vivid coloured synthetic yarn. However, I enjoy the monthly challenges now. I am glad that I went out of my comfort zone.

The latest issue is this one; it has my ostriches.

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I was asked to make sitting ostriches. I tried to express ostrich’s character with meaty legs, thin neck and long eyelashes. I could not rely on the colours since the set does not contain black. I also had to be careful not to make the neck too thin so that it can support the weight of the head. I hope they look like ostriches.

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They have heart shaped feet which may go well for the Valentine’s Day.

Back in December, this patchwork teddy came out.

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This design is one of my favorites and it seems quite popular among the readers, too.

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I originally added a ribbon as in the photo above, and I was pleased with how it looked with it, but I guess it had to go because the kit did not contain the ribbon. You can make flowers into brooches as well.

I brought these issues to my local spinners’ group when I ran a workshop last Wednesday. My fellow spinners are such lovely people and they have been very supportive. I know them over fifteen years now.

I offered three projects to try: Rabbit 1 with arms and legs, Rabbit 2 with simple round shape and penguin from Safari book.

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My spinners all wanted to try the penguin! There seems to be something about that penguin.

It was a perfect project to do in two hours and everyone went home with their own little creation. We had so much fun together!

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Love these quirky penguins!

I came home with a pot of Flamingo flower, homemade apple jelly and marmalade. How thoughtful my spinners are!

I have to do this more often.

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All British Yarn

In February every year, Knit Now magazine publishes the all British issue.

It is to offer readers a chance to get to know yarn produced in the UK. Many designs are also related to something British.

Last year, I did this one: St. George and the Dragon.

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This is from the issue last February. I am very fond of this photograph. It came out very nicely.

This year, I decided to submit our Queen’s favorite corgis, which I have posted some photos previously. The pattern includes two cushions and the rug. The cushions can be used to keep your pins and sewing needles.

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I suggested some yarn to the editor, but the ones I believed British all turned out to be non-British. That told me how little I knew about British yarn! The editor’s choice was this yarn; Jamieson’s.

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I did not know this wool at all. You don’t see them in high street shops or online yarn retailers very often. However, I was so excited when I opened the link the editor sent me.

So many colours! They also sell as little as 25g. It is perfect for mini toy knitter like myself.

The yarn is 100% wool produced in Shetland.

It is not silky, baby soft wool like Merino, it is more robust. I found that it gives firmness and clean finish to knitted toys. It is lovely.

When I went to Tokyo recently, I visited the yarn shop owned and managed by Nihon Vobue-sha, one of the leading craft book publisher.

The shop is called Keito, literally meaning yarn.

And in the shop, I found these.

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And these.

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I cannot tell you how excited I was to see these displayed! So far away in Japan, the Shetland wool is loved very much.

The shop was full of beautiful coloured yarns and knitted samples. Knitters or non-knitters, you would want to pick up yarn and try to think what you can create with it.

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I am currently working on another project using Jamieson’s. I would love to run a workshop at Keito shop one day. Surrounded with all these lovely colours, that would be fantastic.

Keito shop: http://www.keito-shop.com/english/

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Mizuko statues and the Tokyo tower

My younger son is very fond of observatories. He wanted to go up on both the Skytree and the Tokyo tower. I said to him ‘Could we just do with either one? maybe the Skytree since that is much taller?’ and he said no. He wanted to take photos of the Skytree form the Tokyo Tower as well.

But this turned out to be a rather interesting journey and I am glad that we made this extra effort.

On the way to the Tokyo tower, we came across this temple, Zojo-ji. It is a Buddhist temple built in the year 1393.

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In their premises, there is a Mizuko garden. Mizuko, literally “water child”, is a Japanese term for a dead fetus or a dead baby. There are rows of stone statues of children represent unborn children, including miscarried, aborted, and stillborn children. Parents can choose a statue in the garden and decorate it with small clothing and toys. Those statues are called Jizō, the guardian of unborn children. They are to ensure that Mizuko are brought to the afterlife.

I knew there are temples which specializes Mizuko kuyo or fetus memorial services, but hadn’t seen a garden like this before. I thought these statues are very sweet.

The little statues, Jizo, are often dressed in red. It is believed that the red has the power to expel evils. What I liked the most about this temple’s Jizo was the red crocheted hats of course.

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I wonder if they are made by local volunteers.

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And we found a rather unique one among them. We found it amusing.

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It was a nice sunny day and I felt such a peace looking at these little ones with toy pinwheels by their sides.

Zojo-ji is on the way to Tokyo tower if you take a subway.

We had visited The Skytree in the same morning so that the Tokyo tower was not too impressive for its height but it is still a famous landmark of Tokyo. I also found a funny sign at the entrance.

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I didn’t know you could walk up the Tower! I understand that you shouldn’t make an attempt under the influence of alcohol, but I don’t think anyone with right mind would even think of trying it.

The first time I visited the Tower was 30 years ago. I had just been accepted by a university. I was young and so excited about the prospect of living in a big city. This time, I was standing the same spot with my two sons who were the same age as I had been then. I felt extremely lucky.

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Visit to Keito dama

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had nice holidays.

We certainly did. We spent two weeks in Japan and it was just amazing.

Apart from the recent emergency trip in November, our last visit was in 2011. My mother was still well so that we traveled Kyoto and Osaka together. It is a shame that she is in hospital now and probably, she will never get to travel with us again.

However, I was determined to enjoy this trip and had planned many things to do during the stay. First, we visited Tokyo.

My in-laws live in Tokyo but hadn’t seen us for quite some time. Father-in-law had gotten us to stay in a nice hotel with a fantastic view of the Skytree.

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One of the exciting event in Tokyo was visiting Nihon Vogue-sha, one of the leading craft book and magazine publishers in Japan. I always wanted to get in contact with Japanese publishers. I was delighted when I received a message inviting me to visit them.

The office I visited was their knitting magazine, ‘Keito-dama’ (translated yarn ball) editorials. Interestingly, the editor I met was a man who is a keen knitter himself. I know there are many male knitters out there, but never had have seen one in person.

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I had brought all my book titles and many issues of knitting magazines. I also gave him one of my little knitted work.

This little cat.

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We talked about knitting and crochet extensively and that was such a joy. Time flew by very quickly.

He gave me a couple of knitting books and the latest copy of their magazine which is full of beautiful designs.

Among many interesting articles, I found this one. It features crochet beaded handbag.

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The article is about how these bags are made with many hours of effort and are treasured by many, quite often handed down from a generation to a generation. What a coincidence! I thought, because I was just given a crochet bag from my mother a few days previously.

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This bag was made especially for my mother as a wedding gift. It means it was made fifty odd years ago!

It is beaded and crocheted. I cannot fathom how many hours are spent to create this. It is a handbag to go with a Japanese Kimono. Although my mother is very well aware that I do not own a single set of Kimono, she thought I would appreciate it since I am a creator myself. I am very honoured.

Mum thinks her life is approaching toward the end. She has given me all her precious jewelries over the last few years. I used to get upset and became teary every time she did this, but somehow, I learned to accept them with a smile.

I will certainly treasure this beaded bag.

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Super easy cream cheese biscuit

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Everyone is busy stocking up food for Christmas, but I am doing just the opposite. I am focusing on eating food in the fridge to limit spoilage and waste. We will be travelling this Christmas.

I am an eco-friendly and frugal shopper and I usually plan meals well. I heard that in the UK, we waste food worth £470 per the average household a year, rising to £700 for a family with children. This does not happen to us and I want to keep it that way.

We are doing well so far and I think we can leave an almost empty fridge behind if I don’t shop much anymore.

However, some products are not too easy to consume quickly, for example, cream cheese. It feels like a struggle to make your way through the entire cream cheese container.

Cream cheese can be an alternative to butter. It has less calorie so, it is good if you are watching your waist line. I used it to bake muffins in the past and that worked well.

I came across this biscuit recipe in Japanese Cookpad: Cream cheese biscuit.

To make 15-20

Ingredients
150g flour
50g cream cheese
50g margarine or butter
50g sugar

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
2. Mix cream cheese, margarine and sugar. Add flour and combine well and roll the dough into a ball.
3. Wrap the dough with cling film and chill for 30-60 min.
4. Make 15-20 small balls from the dough or roll it out and cut out with cookie cutter.

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5. Bake int he oven for 17-20 mins.

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This is the easiest biscuit recipe ever!

I had low-fat cream cheese and margarine spread, but they worked just fine.
I had a lot more cream cheese left, so I made the second batch, adding cocoa powder this time. I increased the amounts of each ingredient a little, too, but as long as you keep 1:1:1:3 ratio, it works. I think you could use butter milk or fromage frais instead of cheese. You can use alomond powder or gluten free flour. Next time, I want to add chocolate chips. It is super versatile recipe and amazingly simple.

The dough does not contain much fat so it doesn’t spread much during the baking. It is soft and chewy inside. It isn’t too sweet, maybe it is less sweet than some of the morning breakfast cereals.

My son loved it. This is certainly one of our favorites.

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In fact, it was so good that I am tempted to buy more cream cheese. Maybe after the trip.

Now, we need to start packing.

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Christmas Felt book

It is always so fun to work in the Search Press studio.

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We have just finished the photography for my next book, ‘Christmas Felt Project’ (title is provisional).

There isn’t any better time to work on this book. The timing is just so perfect. Our designer went out and bought a fur tree, baubles, tinsels and crackers for props. We got radio playing Christmas songs in the background. We were certainly in the Christmas spirit.

For the Christmas publications, the photography is often taken place in summer. You can get a fur tree all year around, but the summer trees has yellow-green tips of new leaves. You may notice branches are cut off at the ends next time you see Christmas tree in a magazine! It is great that we did not need to worry about that detail.

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This is my first sewing book. It opens with easy and quick ornament projects as angels and teddies, and then, move on to larger projects which are a little more involved. It comes with many photos showing sewing steps. I had prepared items in different stages to make the photo sessions run smoothly, but it still took quite a long time just to photograph images to go with instructions.

I find it difficult to explain sewing steps quite often. However, my editor, Sophie, has been so great. She sat by me with patience, taking lots of notes while I carry on sewing. I may be able to improve my writing skill a bit as I work on the text for this book.

The book will have beautifully styled photos as my previous books.

I like images to tell stories. We used props carefully for each photo.

This is our prop room at the back of the studio. It looks like a collection of junks, but many of these items have appeared in my books. They are all so useful.

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We experimented with lighting to create warm atmosphere of holiday season and I think we have achieved it. The photos all look amazing.

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My photographer and designer made up a cute charming story with Santa scene. I would love to show the photos, but I think I should keep it a secret until the book comes out.

Sewing felt was the first craft I really enjoyed as a child. I hope the book will inspire many people of all ages and genders.

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Recent publications

While I was away in Japan, some of my patterns came out in print. Most of them feature Christmas knits. It is the time to get busy with making gifts for your loved ones (and yourself).

Simply knitting magazine UK has this one: Santa, reindeer, elf and sleigh set.

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The request was to make the Santa family with miniature toys. This pattern is in the A-5 mini booklet which comes with the magazine.

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Pattern is not at all complicated, but assembly may require a bit of patience. The sleigh has a cardboard inside for sturdiness. I have added the template and instruction drawings with a help of my son. If you think the sleigh is a little challenging, you may be able to find an alternative, for example, wooden toy sleigh.

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This project is a lot of fun and very rewarding at the finish.
It looks like this with everyone together.

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I have made many Santas. This one is easy to make and is one of my favorites.

Another project is this one: Christmas ponies in Knit Now magazine.

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The pony is knitted all in one. The pattern is surprisingly simple. The blanket has a Christmassy motif, but it can be knitted without it of course. Using multi coloured sock yarn may produce an interesting effect.

And one more.
A few days ago, I received these from America: Toy knits published by Interweave.

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I was invited to submit my work in January so that this magazine has come a long way. It is more like a book than a magazine. It has been carefully planned with lots of time and care.

It contains many many projects and beautifully produced. I can assure you that you will find something you would like to try. There are book reviews and interviews included, and I was very happy to find my book in it.

I have two patterns in this issue; Knitted zeppelin and bunny in a jumper

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Cool, yes?

This is the very first time that my work appeared in a knitting magazine in the US. I hope readers will enjoy them.

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