knits by sachi

On the last day in 2013

On the last day in 2013

This is one of my well received work, “Bikers”. It is my personal favorite, too.

It is the last day of 2013. Did you have a good year? Have you accomplished any of your resolutions? Or do you remember your resolutions?

I don’t make resolutions. I don’t write down changes and improvements I want to make although I know it is a good idea to do so.

But I have been keeping in mind to challenge new things, enjoy the experiences and learn something from them.

And surely, I did that this year and am feeling good about myself.

This year in March, I opened my business Facebook page, Knits by Sachi and started showing my craft.
https://www.facebook.com/KnitsBySachi
I got 732 likes today. I am pleasantly surprised.

I started selling my original patterns online. I am not too good at photograph or layout, but my teenage son has been helping me a lot with them. I have found some errors in some of the patterns, but I decided to address the issue quickly and make improvements rather than being too scared to publish patterns all together.

I have two knitting patterns published in magazines.

I started blogging! One is this one of course, the other one is in Japanese.
http://ameblo.jp/knitsbysachi
I am no computer guru. I didn’t have my own PC until last Christmas. I always thought social networking was out of my reach, but I have been taking baby steps and overcoming my fear.

And the book! It has not been out yet, but it is going very well, too.

The best thing of all these is that I initiated them all. I made these happen. I wrote to publishers and showed what I do.
I am a housewife who likes to knit, but I can make myself much more than just an at-home knitter.

And next year, well, I have two books in process and if I am lucky, I might be holding two books instead of one.
And I am signing the third.

You will see more of my patterns in magazines,too.

Thank you very very much for all your help and support. Without you, I could never make these things happen.

A Happy New Year!!

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Japanese paper dolls

Japanese paper dolls

I made these dolls for the New Year’s Day. I am celebrating the holiday with a touch of Japanese.

It is a traditional bookmark dolls called “Shiori” which are made with Japanese printed paper.
You can find making kits at craft shops or online. It is not too complicated and anyone can enjoy this craft.

Aren’t they pretty?

You can use them as bookmarks or stick them to decorate greeting cards. It is a nice idea for a small gift, too.

You can also wrap clam shells with Japanese paper to make 3-D dolls.

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Clams are favoured in Japan especially for weddings, and served with both shells together, the two halves symbolizing the couple. I struggled to find the perfect matches when I made these dolls. No wonder children could have fun playing shell matching game in old days. It is nice not having I-pods and computer games.

We don’t wear Kimonos very often these days, but many of us dress in Kimonos on New Year’s Day. I do not own a set or know how to wear it properly. It takes a practice. But someday, I would like to learn how to wear a kimono.

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Japanese greeting cards

Japanese greeting cards

I found this card in one of the souvenir boxes under the bed.

It was in the New year’s card extras left over form several years ago. Since I had inserted my boys’ photos I couldn’t throw it away.

Here is another design.

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For us, Japanese, New year’s Day is much bigger event than Christmas.
We don’t have the custom of sending Christmas cards, but we send New Year’s Day postcards instead.

Their original purpose was to tell your faraway friends and relatives that you are well, but you can send them to anyone you like. My mum send them to her next door neighbours.

Japanese people send these postcards so that they arrive on 1 January. The post office guarantees to deliver the greeting postcards on 1 January if they are posted within a time limit, usually before Christmas, and are marked with the word “Nenga”, New year’s card.

The official Nenga post cards made by the Japanese National Postal Service come with lottery numbers.
You can win something from postal stamps to sunny holidays, i-pods and digital cameras!

But you may be thinking, wait, you send these cards away to your friends? Yes, that is correct. The recipients get the prizes!

It is fun to design your own cards. These days many people use their PCs and layout photos, words and illustrations, but some still enjoy using pens and rubber stamps. My mother in law is a professional calligrapher so we get to see her beautiful brush strokes every year.

It is popular to have the Chinese zodiac sign of the New Year as their design. Next year’s sign is “horse”.

It is customary not to send these postcards when one has had a death in the family during the year. In this case, a family member sends a simple postcard to inform others.

Even with the rise in popularity of email, the New year’s Day cards remains very popular in Japan. I hope we get some next year, too.

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Sneak preview

Sneak preview

I received the draft of my book from the editor before Christmas.

It is a homework because I have to check all the texts, but it must be the best Christmas present I have ever received in my life.

This is my first ever book. I had no idea how to write a craft book, but my editor is guiding me step by step with lots of patience.

You need to start from somewhere, right?

Early this year, we had the first editorial meeting. We decided what would go in the book with all my animals on the table. My book has 96 pages and we made a plan for each spread. Unlike fiction books without photos, craft books need to be planned well throughout from relatively early stage.

The editor gave me the first draft without texts or photos.

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Then, I sent her the patterns. She placed the patterns.

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Then, the photo shoots. She had the photo lists carefully made so that we wouldn’t forget anything. (Please see my previous blog if you are interested.)
https://knitsbysachi.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/photo-shoots/
Now all the texts are in place. I am checking patterns and writing. I am also adding my drawings(!) to make it as easy as possible for readers to understand the assembling steps and tips.

Photographs came out very beautiful. Now, I am going to make it into a good craft book for everyone to enjoy.

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Fantastic Christmas cake

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I just fell in love with this cake and I had to share it with you.
This is made by my sister in Tokyo. She is not professionally trained, but she is very good at cooking and baking. You can see that already.

When I was a child whipping cream was just coming into the market. Most cakes were covered with butter creams. In kindergarten on my birthdays, I was given a piece of cake with butter cream and a glace cherries on top. It was very sweet and heavy, and I cannot say it was my favorite.

The first time when I discovered the whipped cream, I could not believe there was such a delightful thing on earth. It was so light and pleasantly sweet. I wanted to sleep in it!

It was 40 years ago now. We can find anything in supermarkets, We have an abundance of delicious food. But sadly, it became more difficult to experience such a special moment.

Her cake reminded me that excitement I had forgotten for many years.

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And Santas! They are so cute! I certainly got inspiration for my craft from them. Yes, I am going to knit them next year.

She lives in Tokyo and I didn’t get to taste the cake of course, but her photos made me feel very happy.

I had a very nice Christmas.

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Wonderful Christmas card

As always, I have received nice Christmas cards this year.

One of my favorites is from Japan, and it looks like this.
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Isn’t it beautiful? The gate in the picture is the famous one in Asakusa temple in Tokyo. The card is published by Greeting life inc., and you can see more of their designs on their website; http://www.greetinglife.co.jp/english/e_card1.html

They have a series of greeting card designs with these tiny little Santa visiting all over Japan.
The cards are so beautiful and cute, I just want to collect them all.

Looking at one of these Santa cards, my son once said “How can the Santa visit all houses with children? This is more realistic.”
He was just starting to have a doubt about the existence of the Santa. Funny.

I received this card in a post from my friend. It is hand drawn with crayons. SCAN0121
The card is not printed. She spent some time drawing this for me. I feel very honoured and I will certainly treasure it.Merry Christmas, everyone! I wish one of these Santa would visit you tonight.

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Making goodie bags

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These guys are in my goodie bags.

I just love goodie bags. I like receiving them of course, but I enjoy making them, too.

I keep hundreds of transparent candy bags, ribbons and stickers at home so that when I want to make a gift for someone I can always quickly do so.

Here is this year’s goodie bag for Christmas. It has Japanese candies, cookies, chocolates, my handmade knitted charms and the card I made with my design. I like to show the affection to the person with a personal touch.

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It doesn’t cost much or doesn’t take a long time to make, but I have fun doing this. All my friends and fitness instructors get one.

If you enjoy a hand craft, it is a good opportunity to show others who you are and what you make. People always appreciate a small gift from you.

Would you like to try?

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Spending holidays alone

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I have spent many Christmases alone when I was younger.

I lived in New York and in London, leaving my parents in Japan. My salary was basic and couldn’t afford the high air fares to go see my family. I had also promised to myself that I would not return until I became more successful in my career. I was young and I had my pride.

I didn’t hate spending holidays alone although some people seemed to think it was not the right thing to do. “You can’t be alone on the Christmas day!”. Some said. The first Christmas in England, one of my work colleagues invited me to stay over at his house which he shared with his girl friend and a roommate. We spent Christmas eve eating chestnuts and chocolates while watching his video tape collections.

On the Christmas day, he took me to his parents’ house for dinner. I did feel a little uncomfortable and missed my own parents a little by spending time with someone else’s, but this is certainly one memorable Christmas. I appreciated him for looking after me. He was very thoughtful and kind.

I think he had a real holiday spirit.

It is all right to spend holidays away from your family, thinking about your loved ones. It isn’t too bad to spend time alone. You might feel a little lonely and isolated because all others seem to having fun. But it is just another day. You can enjoyed the freedom. I used to do all the things I wanted to do alone and also, I rewarded myself with the best present I could afford.

And possibly, you might be touched by a warm heart of unexpected someone.

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Nativity dolls

Nativity dolls

This is the Nativity set I designed this year.

I usually make one or two Nativity set a year. I have four versions including this one now.
One is made of felt fabric and cotton stockinette. They are stuffed with wool. This is small, simple and easy to make. I would like to publish the template may be next year.
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Based on the design above, I knitted a set similar to this one last year.
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I have a larger set made with fabric. Human figures are about 10cm in height. The original doll templates come from the book, “Nature Corner” by M. V. Leeuwen (Author) , J. Moeskops (Author) and I improvised them. This is one of my favorite books. I bought it many years ago in Japan and still treasure it. It is translated into many different languages and mine is in Japanese.
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The set comes with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, two shepherds, three kings, a donkey, a sheep, an ox and a camel.
The book does not give you templates for animals so I collected them from other sources over the years and changed the sizes to fit into the set.

This year’s knitted Nativity is based on this set.

I found knitting is very versatile. I have worked with many different materials, but yarn is my favorite. Knitted pieces are stretchy and you can create almost anything with yarn.

Making dolls with knitting is a little more difficult than needle felting because you wouldn’t know how the end product would look like until you sew the pieces together. You cannot sculpt as you work. I have many many trials and errors but I think I even enjoy the challenge.

Knitting is so exciting!

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Super easy felt ball

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This is a super easy craft. These balls are wet felted in a washing machine!

You will need

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*30-40g Wool fleece with basic quality (sorry, not shown here)
*30-40g Fleece for wet felting as fine Merino wool in different colours
*Plastic net for food packaging or unwanted pantyhose
* a bell
*a small plastic cup with lid

You may find it easier to work with a small round plastic case as the one from the toy vending machine.

1. Place the bell in a cup and wrap it with fleece with basic quality. Stuffing wool fleece is all right as long as fiber isn’t too short.

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Pull the fiber and wrap. Try to make a firm round ball.

2. Wrap with Merino fleece. First tease the fiber and lay thin layers on top of each other.

Teasing fiber
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Place on the ball
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You don’t need to wrap the ball tightly this time. The ball can be just covered with fluffy layers of fleece. But do be generous with the fleece and wrap until the ball is at least three times of the original size.

3. Place the ball into the net.DSCF5332
and tie the end
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You can make more than one at a time.DSCF5336

4. Put the balls into a washing machine with your wash, full cycle with detergent.

5. Take them out of the net and dry. Done!

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