knits by sachi

Happy Mother’s Day

bee 2

Today is the Mother’s day in England.
I don’t know why but we celebrate the Mother’s day in May in Japan. In fact, I believe many countries do and England is the odd one out.

A few years ago, I sent my mum flowers in March. She was puzzled of course, but I guess it is nice to receive flowers at any time of the year.

For the Mother’s day, I knitted this honey bee mum and the little boy bee.
I used to love watching Japanese animation series called “Minashigo Hachi” (Orphan Hachi) as a child. I got the inspirations from it. It is a story of a little bee named Hachi who is separated from his mother after evil hornets attack their hive. Hachi sets out on a journey to find her.

download (4)

He is often bullied by larger insects and reptiles, but some insects are kind and helpful. Humans are depicted as evil who destroy the environment. It is a TV program designed for young children but it deals with the theme realistic and serious as well.

His mother is the Queen bee. I remember her very beautiful with the large fluff around her neck. She had a pretty face and a tiny waist. My mummy bee isn’t that gorgeous looking, but I think they look happy together.

Happy Mother’s Day!

5 Comments »

Japanese paper dolls

IMG_0136
As I learn to make Waldorf dolls, I started wanting to explore more in doll making.
There are so many different dolls, but I chose Japanese dolls. I guess I wanted to get in touch with my roots and learn more about my own culture.

I remembered that my mother had a large Japanese paper doll in a glass case at home. She said she made it by herself at a WI meeting years ago. It is a gorgeous lady doll wearing a traditional kimono. I certainly wanted to try this craft and got myself these books online.

IMG_1004

The book has very clear, well detailed step-by-step instructions.
IMG_1006

It has the flat doll projects and the 3-D doll projects. I had a go at the flat ones first and move on to a little more advanced dolls.
DSCF0155
IMG_0134

The 3-D dolls have the basic frame which is made with thin wires wrapped with cotton wool. I bought small polyethylene balls and wrapped them with tissue paper for the head. I could not find all the materials that the book suggests, but I could use alternatives.

The books have projects with the dolls wearing modern outfits, and these gave me inspirations for my knitting.
IMG_1009

Unfortunately, I don’t think these books are translated in English. I hope someone will take on the task. It is utterly fantastic to create dolls with just using paper.
IMG_0131

For me, shopping for paper is as exciting as shopping for yarns. In fact, I love all craft materials.

Once my friend said that I have as much material stock as a small craft shop which ran out of business, and I think she wasn’t too wrong. But all craft give me ideas for knitting and the best of all, I enjoy them all.

5 Comments »

Chinese Jiaozi

DSCF4304
A few years ago, my son had a couple of Chinese friends in school. They were exchange students away from their family, living in a boarding house.

Once my son had some Jiaozi, Chinese dumplings in his lunch box. The boys were impressed by the look of my homemade Jiaozi, and asked my son if I could make some for them. Soon I was making extra lunchboxes every day!

Jiaozi is a type of dumpling originates from China, but they are also commonly eaten in many other Asian countries. It is very popular in Japan as well.
These dumplings typically consists of a ground pork and/or vegetable filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together or by crimping.

Here are my Jiaozi.
img_0901.jpg2

Ready-made Jiaozi pastry is widely available in Japan, but since it is not easy to get it in the UK, I needed to learn how to make it. I didn’t even think of making the Jiaozi pastry when I was living in Japan.

But fortunately, I found making the pastry is surprisingly simple.

Recipe to make 20-25
Ingredients

Pastry:
70-80 mL water
150 g strong flour

Filling:
100 g ground pork
2 large leaves of Sweetheart cabbage or Chinese cabbage, blanched in hot water
green onion
*vegetables of your choice, finely chopped
Garlic, finely chopped
Ginger, grated
Soya sauce, salt, and pepper
Chinese five spices (optional)
Sesame oil

Dipping Sauce:
Soya sauce
Vinegar
Chili oil (optional)

You can add any vegetables you would like; spinach, bamboo shoots, shiitake mushrooms, etc. Blanch leafy vegetables and chop finely.

1. Mix the water and the flour to a dough that should not be sticky. Add more water if required. It is a quite tough dough. Kneed in the bowl for 5 minutes.
Wrap the dough in a cling film, and let it stand for 20 minutes.
2. Cut the dough in 25 pieces (I am cutting the dough as I go here in the photo) and form each of them to very thin discs with a diameter of about 10 cm.
IMG_0884
IMG_0887
Filling:
1. Blanch the cabbage leaves for a couple of minutes to soften the leaves. Cool them and squeeze water. Chop finely all vegetables you are using. Some say the amount of these ingredients should equal the amount of meat, but I tend to use more vegetables than meat. You can also use prawns or tinned tuna instead of meat or go vegan. Do it as you like.

2. Mix all ingredients together, and add some salt, pepper, soya sauce, and sesame oil for seasoning. Mix it all very well.

Making and frying the Gyoza:
3. Put some of the filling onto a piece of dough. Remember that the filling should suffice for 25 pieces.
IMG_0888
Close the gyoza. While closing it, fold the edge of the front layer about 6 times as shown on the image. If you are using ready-made pastry you need to moisten the edge of the dough with water, but this homemade pastry does not require moistening.
Jiaozi 1
IMG_0897

Fry the Jiaozi in a little bit of hot oil until the bottom is brownish.
IMG_0898
Add about 2 tbsp of hot water and immediately close the lid so that the dumplings are steamed and cooked through.
IMG_0899
After a couple of minutes, open the lid and let all the water vaporized. Then remove from the heat.The bottom should be brown and crispy.
Dipping sauce: Mix the same amounts of soya sauce and vinegar together.

These dumplings can be steamed or cooked in a soup, too. They are healthy and delicious.
Warning: If you have teenage boys, you will need to make a lot!

2 Comments »

Call for Submissions

IMG_0923

I receive the call for submissions regularly from Knit Now magazine. This time it is for the Autumn 2014 issues, from September to November.

Already! We haven’t had a summer yet, but I guess the magazine needs to plan issues way ahead.

They are open to any ideas of patterns; accessories, garments for all ages and genders, homewares and toys.
They also give us topics or themes. This time, they are looking for

The Collections:
* Down to the Woods: designs with foxes, owls and hares.
* Go Big or Go Home: The oversized sweater and accessories and garments that are quick to knit with chunky yarn.
* Celtic Inspirations: Cables and colourwork inspired by the Celtic tradition.

So, I have been thinking of the autumn. Woodland and red leaves. The fox and the raccoon above is my new design.

I also made squirrels.
IMG_0917

I have owls, too, and some knits of Halloween characters and ornaments.
It is so hard to choose!

I still have two more weeks until the deadline. Let’s see what I can come up with.
It is so fun to design toys.

If you are a knit designer or have your original designs you would like to publish, please take a look at this link here.

2 Comments »

Knitted sea life

I have knitted sea life creatures before.

DSCF3362

And the ocean animals.
DSCF3377

This is the penguin adventure story. My little penguins travel around the world to meet polar bears on the North pole. They encounter many interesting creatures and people on the way.

Many people are confused about the animals on the northern and southern end of the earth. May be it is because we see greeting cards with polar bears and penguins illustrated next to each other.

My little story is to help children understand clearly where these animals live. It will be fun if they can play with knitted animals as they listen to the story.

It can be another fun book idea.

Recently, I also had a go at making a mermaid. Mermaid is one of the most popular person among little girls and I thought about entertaining mermaid lovers with this little doll.

IMG_0592

Yes, I even knitted coral reef. I thought she would look too lonely without company.

I guess it has been our dream to be able to swim deep underwater for a long time without coming up for air. It must be amazing if we could do what a mermaid can do.

But see, you can knit your dream, too.

7 Comments »

Wet felted pouch

IMG_0681

Wool is utterly amazing. You can do so much with wool.

Wet felting is a good craft project for everyone to enjoy. In Steiner education, it is introduced in kindergarten. Have a go if you have never tried.

You need
*30g Coloured Merino wool
*About 50cm x50cm, a sheet of bubble wrap
*2-3 tsp any liquid soap
*500ml warm-hot water in plastic water bottle
*a sushi mat or a piece of plastic rug stopper (optional)

IMG_0684
You know the heat and soap felt wool. You make soapy warm water in a plastic bottle for this project. You can use any soap, but since you will be rubbing the wool for some time, it is best to choose one which isn’t too harsh for your hands. I sometimes use body wash with mint chocolate or strawberry cream fragrance. It smells gorgeous!
A sushi mat or plastic rug stopper is to stop your project from slipping. You can also rub against it once the wool is felted quite firm.

Steps
1. Cut the bubble wrap to make the templates. This is going to be close to the finished size. Make the base corners round. You do not need to worry the length of the template since you can control it when you are layering the wool.

Make two templates like this one.
IMG_0706

2. Place one of the template on the Sushi mat or plastic rub stopper if you are using one. Tease out Merino wool and lay it out horizontally (first layer). This is going to be the inner colour and you will not see it when it is finished.
Make sure your wool go over the edges about 1 inches.
IMG_0686

3. Squirt soapy water just enough to make the wool damp.
IMG_0687

4. Gently press down the wool with another sheet of bubble wrap template.
IMG_0688

5. When the fleece is wet, remove the top template and set it aside. Gently lift the fleece with the original bottom template. Fold the excess fleece on the edges.IMG_0689

6. Repeat the step 2 and lay fleece horizontally on this side, too. You do not need to go over the edges too much this time. Repeat the step 3 to 5.
IMG_0690

7. Now you should be back to the side you started. Lay out a different coloured fleece vertically this time, going over the edges about 1 inches again. This colour will be showing at the finish.
IMG_0691

8. You can add some patterns at this stage.
IMG_0692

9. Repeat the step 2 to 5.
10. Lay out the fleece vertically on the other side and repeat the step 2 to 5.

11. Start rubbing the fleece. Gently over the bubble wrap to start. Once the fleece starts to felt you can rub a little more vigorously. Use hand towel to soak up excess bubbles if it becomes too sudsy.
IMG_0693
12. When the pouch has taken shape, remove the template inside. Place your hand inside the pouch and rub its edges and corners. At this stage, you can also cut one side of the top edge to make a flap if you would like.
2
13. When the pouch is firm and well felted, rinse it under the running water.
14. Squeeze out water and let it dry.

IMG_0694

Add beads, embroidery or needle felting if desired.
IMG_0708

Here are the pouches we made at spinners’ group.
IMG_0771

You can make almost anything with felting; hat, scarf or jumper. You can make room boots, too.
IMG_0696

4 Comments »

Melon bread

IMG_0753
Melon bread?? What is that?, you may be wondering.

It is a type of sweet bun originated in Japan and my family’s absolute favorite. They are made from a dough covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie dough. The name comes from the appearance which resembles a melon and not the flovour. However, recently it has become popular for manufacturers to add melon flovouring to melon bread. Variations exist, including some with a few chocolate chips between the cookie layer.

Since you cannot buy melon bread in shops in the UK except Japanese grocers in London, I bake these at home sometimes. I baked 10 of these last week thinking my boys could have some for afternoon snack and the breakfast next morning, but only two survived until the next day.

Yes, they are yummy.

Would you like to have a go? It is not too difficult.

Recipe

Ingredients to make 10
for bread
300g strong bread flour
1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
2 tbsp sugar
8g butter
1 tsp salt
50cc milk
150cc water

for cookie layer
130g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
60g butter, softened at room temperature
50g sugar
25g beaten egg
2-3 drops vanilla

Make the bread dough. Knead 15 minutes, and let it proof 40 min. To see how to make the basic dough, please go here.You can let the machine bread maker do this bit.

To make the cookie layer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Shift flour and baking powder and add to the mixture and combine. Shape the mixture into a ball.

Wrap the cookie dough with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

When the bread dough is fermented (first rise), punch down, then portion out into 10 pieces and round them into smooth, round balls. Rest them for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take the cookie dough out of the fridge and cut it into 10 pieces, roll them into balls, too

IMG_0742

Sandwich the cookie dough between two sheets of cling film and roll it out about 10 cm in diameter. IMG_0743

Cover each bread dough gently with a cookie dough, smoothing the edges of the pastry dough. NOTE: DO NOT cover the Entire bread dough with the pastry dough. Leave the bottom 3-4 cm uncovered. The dough needs the space to expand.
IMG_0744

Stamp the patterns on the outer layer and leave to proof for the second time for about 20 mins.
IMG_0745
Bake in a pre-heated oven (180 c/350 f) for 25 minutes.

Here they are.
IMG_0747

3 Comments »

Book cover

Here is the book cover!

3

My first book is almost done. The text has been checked by an expert pattern checker and it should be error free.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate her work. I don’t know how she check each pattern, but she has done a brilliant job. Not only pointing out my errors, she has given me many good suggestions.

The book should be sent to a printer soon. How exciting!. It is a bit like seeing my child off to a long journey.

At the very first editorial meeting, I was told the book would be hardcover. I was secretly a little disappointed because personally, I do not like a craft book with hardcover. But it seems the plan has been changed and it will be softcover.

The book cover is one long panorama shot of the safari and, it wraps the book all around. Nothing will be lost for the spine of the book.

As for the font, my designer worked very hard to fit the title in the limited space. The cover needs to stand out among many books even with the thumbnail size. We have chosen a little thicker, bolder font.

On the inside flip of the back cover, you get to see my photo, too!

screenshot 2014-02-28 07.05.08.png2

My editor even added that I used to work in the City!
That is right. I am no born knitter. I only started to knit after my second son was born.
I am hoping to encourage non-knitters and beginners as well as enthusiast with this book.

9 Comments »

Wet felting

We made these at the local spinners’ group last week.

IMG_0771
Wool is such a versatile, magical material. You can sculpt it with warm soapy water. With wet felting, you can make seamless bags, pouches, boots and even garments.

I hadn’t have wet felted for quite some time. I do like felting, but it does takes a while for fleece to felt. Doing it at home alone in the kitchen could be a little tiresome.
2

But at the spinners group, we have company. We discuss about the designs and the colours and, we give each other compliments.

We also talk about our everyday life, of course. We rub wool and rub some more as we chat. It is so fun!

I usually go for vivid colours when I do felting, but this time I chose more subdued colour combination.

It looked like this when I finish felting.
IMG_0694

And I added some needle felting.
IMG_0708

The finished pouch is thick and strong.

Here are some more samples that my tutor made to show us.IMG_0681

Interested?
Wet felting is suitable for all ages and skills. It is used a lot in Waldorf education.
I am writing a tutorial soon.

Leave a comment »

Gingerbread house

IMG_0475
A gingerbread house! A house made with cookies, chocolate and candies!
It is a dream house for little children.

I loved the story “Hansel and Gretel”. As a child, I innocently believed it was a story about two lucky children who found a gingerbread house in the woods. I was fascinated with the idea of finding a house made with sweets and didn’t care to know what the story was really about.

Many years later I read it again and was very shocked to find how cruel this story was.

There is a famine in the village. The children’s pathetic father tries to leave them in the woods because his new wife tells him to do so.
The children finds the witch’s gingerbread house. The witch offers them to stay with her planning to fatten them up and eat them later.
The children are clever and rather cunning. They managed to fool the witch and shove the witch into the oven and slams and bolts the door shut, leaving “The ungodly witch to be burned to ashes”.

I am not too sure if this is a story I want to tell to small children at their bedtime.

I always wanted to knit a gingerbread house. I recently made one finally.

IMG_0477

To make it look like made with sweets, I added colourful bobbles. I used Snow Flake chunky yarn for frosting cream effect. I made the same sized house with a empty cereal box and encased it with knitted pieces.

My gingerbread tale is about two lucky children and a kind witch just as I believed when I was little. No famine, no cruelty, no cannibalism.
IMG_0476

I enjoyed this project very much. I want to make another one for Christmas.

14 Comments »