Knitted animal accessories

Knit Now magazine kindly posted photos with nice comments on Tweeter and Facebook.

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In this new issue, you will see these of my design.

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These animals have button holes in the front legs and buttons in the back legs. They can be connected with one another. You can attach one on a bag or a baggy handle.

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Or on a baby’s wrist.

I have been making many many knitted toys, but I realised that haven’t designed baby toys much. I should make more.

In the past, I did try these ones.
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And these.
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You often see these baby rattles made of wood. I think I can attach bells to make them more interesting.

I thought of knitting them, because I remember my sons use to bang their heads with wooden rattles and cry. These are soft and squeezy and feel very nice.

When my first son was born, my mum gave me the rattle that I used as a baby. She also gave me the personal child record. She had them all these years. Both my children used the rattle and hopefully, it will be passed on to their children.

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I weighed 3940g (8.68 Ibs) when I was born! A big baby!

Some things are absolutely priceless.

Knitted carousel

Ta-dah!
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I came across this lovely painting done by the author of children’ book, ‘Gasperd and Lisa’.

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I believe there is a carousel near the Eiffel Tower. He has added his personal touch and the painting is so beautiful. This is one of my favorite of his work.

And here is Gasperd and Lisa.

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You don’t usually see giraffe and elephant on a carousel, but don’t they look sweet? This is what is great about art. You are allowed to paint anything.
I fell in love this picture and I started toying the idea of creating a knitted carousel.

It seemed to be a little daunting project, but I drew the basic design and gave a good thought on how to build it. The important issue was the size. I did not want to make it too big or small.

I did not try to be too clever and make the carousel actually work. That would be too ambitious.

So, this is just an ornament, a cute ornament.

First, I made horses. I made four. And knitted the base circle stage big enough for them.

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I inserted circle cardboard panels to keep its shape. It is stuffed with toy stuffing and in the centre, it has a polyethylene block to support the pole.

The awning is knitted in the similar way as the base stage. It just has a round top. I added a little bobbles on the edge.

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And of course, I need little children to ride the horses.

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Although the horses do not go up and down, you can turn the carousel if you place it on a flat slippery surface.

I used to love carousels as a child. I liked to sit on a horse sideways, feet dangling off from one side so that I would feel like a princess.
I would love to visit the carousel in Paris at night like in the painting of Gasperd. This is in my must-do-once-in-a-lifetime list.

BBQ idea

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May be because they have spent their early childhood in Japan, my boys have developed absolute love for soy sauce. I am sure they can survive anywhere in the world if they had soy sauce.

I wonder when we develop taste buds.
During my pregnancy, I was advised not to take too much dairy food when I reached to ninth month since babies like lactose and tend to grow big and heavy quickly, making the delivery tougher for the mother.

My older son was born in Chislehurst, Kent. When he started eating baby food, our health visitor came to our house for consultations on baby food. She opened all kitchen cabinets and told me to get rid of sweet baby foods, including the ones flavoured with fruits. I thought she was being a bit nosy then, but I am glad that she gave me that advice. My children prefer savory, and never too interested in sugary foods.

So, back to soy sauce.
It is very handy and versatile. You can enjoy as a dipping sauce or in cooking. In summer, we use it for BBQ. Our favorite is ‘Yaki-morokoshi’ or grilled corn.

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It is the sweetcorn usually flavoured with soy sauce and sometimes butter. The flavour is so distinct that you can find potato crisps, pretzels, even Kit Kats with yaki-morokoshi flavour.
No, I have never had this sweetcorn Kit kat. I have to try it some day.

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Yaki-morokoshi got that addictive combination of saltiness and sweetness. At summertime festivals, you can find stalls selling them.

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You can easily make these at home. Just boil the corn for 5 mins and BBQ over the grill. I would roast it without flavouring first. When the corn is browned a little on the outside, brush with soy sauce.

You can add butter and/or Mirin sweet wine to soy sauce if you would like.

There are some different makes of soy sauce. We prefer Japanese brand as ‘Kikkoman’.

If you want to go gluten free, choose Tamari sauce. Tamari is a little darker and stronger in flavour, but quite similar to soy sauce.

Regular soy sauce is made by cooking soybeans with roasted wheat and other grains and adding it to a salty brine to brew, then sit for a period of time to ferment. This mixture is then pressed to extract the dark, brown liquid.

Tamari on the other hand, is made a bit different. It is known to be the liquid byproduct that forms when making miso paste . When the soybeans are cooked down to ferment, no wheat is added to the mixture, which makes it a great alternative for those that have gluten intolerance.

Boys like burgers and sausages, but they also enjoy grilled vegetables when we BBQ in the garden. Soy sauce goes very well with any vegetables.

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I knitted the corn in the photo some years ago. I could not find the pattern anywhere in my files, so I tried to make one again. The corn kernels are made with bobbles on knit rows. The finished piece naturally curl and has the shape of corn without any further effort, but the problem is, it is a very tight knit. And you cannot use bigger needles because if you do, kernels lose the shape somewhat. My hands ached for a few days afterwards. I guess the pattern needs to be kept unpublished or I need to come up with a better pattern. Shame.

Nice and warm weekend is arriving to England. Let’s enjoy BBQ!

Animal brass band

I am not a collector, but I do love cute little characters of cartoons and animations.

I had the Hello Kitty phase when I was very young, and Snoopy!. I still love Snoopy.

But my absolute love for many years is these guys: Gasperd and Lisa.
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They are the characters of the children’s book written by Ann Gutman and illustrated by Georg Hallensleben . It is originally published in France and is translated in many other languages. Lisa is the white one and Gasperd is the black one. I don’t know if they are dogs or bunnies, the author doesn’t say, but it hardly matters because they are so cute.

There is another series called Penelope. She is a koala.
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And here are her friends.

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Ever since I saw this elephant, I wanted to create an animal marching band.
As the first project, I tried this; an elephant with a drum of course.
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I gave him a full costume.

Then, I started adding more members.
The next one is a hippo. I worked from large animals to smaller ones. I also have a bear which you will see in a group photo.

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I have a little mouse. He is one of my favorite.

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I have also added human figures. I made them quite small. They are smaller than the dog or the cat and wearing the same costume. In my little fantasy world, humans do not dominate animals. We live in harmony side by side.

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And here is the full cast.
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This project was so fun!
Can you here their music?
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When I was in primary school, I joined a band. I still remember the excitement when I wore the uniform for a parade. I feel very fortunate to have sweet childhood memories.

Knitted June Bride

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I am trying to knit one seasonal set per month and for June, I chose the wedding theme.

Yes, June for “June Bride”.

I wondered where the tradition of “June brides” came from so that I did a quick research. It seems that the tradition dates back all the way to the Roman times when they celebrated the festival of the deity Juno and his wife Jupiter, who was the goddess of marriage and childbirth, on the first day of June.

England has the perfect weather for wedding in summer. I can understand why June bride is popular. In Japan, June is the rainy season and it rains literally every day. Japan is an Asian country after all. There is the rainy season followed by a very hot and humid summer with lots of mosquitoes. Not very nice.

So, June used to be the least popular month for weddings in Japan, but not anymore. Some people in the wedding industry were very clever and introduced this June Bride tradition. Marrying in June is very lucky, they said, and now, all wedding venues are fully booked in June.

Japanese wedding customs fall into two categories: traditional Shinto ceremonies held in shrines, and modern Western-style weddings. You could have a Buddhist wedding, but it is much less popular. Japanese tend to celebrate happy moments in shrines and mourn deaths in temples.

I do not think Japanese are superstitious, but they still consult the Japanese calendar, ‘Rokuyo’, when they plan important events. There are lucky days and unlucky days in the Japanese calendar.
http://www.seiyaku.com/customs/rokuyo-about.html

It is a little strange to avoid having a western style church wedding on a Butsumetsu, unlucky day because it is the day Buddha died. But people still avoid unlucky days in the calendar.

I truly enjoyed making this knitted wedding set.
Usually, I make the main characters first. In this case, bride and groom.

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Then, I added children.

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I always thought kids in wedding ceremony look so sweet. I think I wanted to create this set just to enjoy making these little ones with flowers.

I have older ones in the back. They are going to hold the bride’s veil.

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Here is the full cast.

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It is sunny and warm today. I am sure many will enjoy happy celebrations this weekend.

Summer knits

Here is the latest Knit Now magazine.

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It has lots of great ideas for summer.

We are lucky to have the cool and dry weather in summer here in the UK. In Japan, it gets so hot and humid. I wouldn’t fancy knitting at all unless I have my air conditioners running full blast.

My mother used to crochet lace when it was hot. I remember her making a large table cloth and even a cover for my up-right piano.

This issue has lacy knitting patterns. I am not too good at knitting soft and delicate garments, but these are tempting.

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I tried a little summery knit, too; a flower girl with a sun hat.

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I used cotton yarn for the head and limbs.

I rarely use cotton yarn for my knitting. I find most cotton DK (8-ply) yarn are thicker than wool and a little hard to make toys with, but I had this rosy pale pink cotton yarn that I have had quite some time and decided to have a go. It may be a good material for summer.

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This Knit Now issue comes with a toy knits booklet and I found my patterns in it. It was such a pleasant surprise for me. I didn’t know about it until yesterday.

The articles are extracts from my two books, Mini knitted safari and Mini knitted woodland.

Here is the lions.

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and badgers.

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Talking about badgers, I found this tiny badger the other day.

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My friend needle felted it. It isn’t possible to make it any more smaller!
She gave it to me for a Christmas many years ago. Handmade gifts stay with you forever.

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How to cook sun-dried radish

I made this gnome, thinking of my dad back home. He enjoys growing vegetables and flowers in his little garden.

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Every few months, my mum sends me dried ingredients for Japanese cooking. Recently we received this.

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This is Kiriboshi daikon or dried, shredded daikon (mooli) radish.
This one is 100% homemade. My dad grew daikon radish and my mum shredded it and dried it in the sun.

At some time in the past. all our ancestors must have relied on drying as a means of preserving food, especially vegetables. We still use this method for some of the vegetables in Asia.

Dried shiitake mushroom is well known, but I think Kiribosh is much less familiar to the Western culture.
White daikon radish is shredded into strips then dried, traditionally in the sun. The drying process brings out the sweetness and concentrates the flavour. It is rich in calcium, vitamins B1, B12 and iron. It has lots of fiber and very low in calories.

It’s rather smelly in its dried form which can be rather off-putting, but the smell goes away once it’s soaked in water. It can be reconstituted by soaking in cold water for about an hour then rinsed. Drain away the soaking water before using. It’s quite neutral in flavor, and takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it in. Traditionally, it is cooked in soy sauce, mirin rice wine, sake and a bit of sugar.

Kiriboshi Daikon: serves 2

25g; Dried kiriboshi daikon radish
50g: carrot, cut into long thin strips
1 piece: aburaage (fried tofu), cut into long thin strips or 50g dried tofu mince
3-4 mange tout, cut into long thin strips
1 tsp: cooking oil

200ml: Dashi stock or water
1 tbsp: soy sauce
1 tbsp: mirin rice wine
1 tsp: sugar

1. Soak the dried daikon for 30 mins to 1 hour. It will increase 4-5 times in volume. Drain water, rinse and squeeze water from daikon.

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2. Heat the oil and stir fry carrot and daikon about 2-3 mins.

3. Add fried tofu strips or mince. Add all cooking sauce ingredients and cook for 15 mins over low heat or until the liquid is reduced to 1/3.

It is tasty, healthy and my family absolutely loves it.

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You can keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days. It taste even better the second day.

This dried radish my mum sent me was very nice. Maybe because it was shredded slightly thicker than the shop bought ones, but of course it isn’t the only reason. It is packed with love.

The radish went so quickly and I don’t have much left. We will enjoy the rest in miso soup.

Intrigued? You can purchase kiriboshi daikon at Asian supermarkets, natural food shops or online.

The garden gnome in the first photo will be in one of the up-coming Knit Now magazine. The article contains the pattern of the gnome and all the bits to go with him. He will be a nice to present for someone like my dad.
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