knits by sachi

The family of fourteen

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I love sitting in the children book section of a library. It is full of fantastic ideas and inspirations.

If you are involved in craft, stitching, card making or cake decorating, it is a good idea to spend some time looking through picture books.

Many years ago, my sister introduced me to this series of books called ‘The family of fourteen’ written and illustrated by a Japanese author, Kazuo Iwamura.

It is originally published in Japanese and my children grew up with his books.

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I recently found that the books are also published in English. How nice!

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They are amazing books and have been our favorite. I do not know how many times I read them with my boys.

You will instantly notice the quality of his art work. Each picture is painted with lots of care and details and the colours are utterly beautiful.
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I just love these Fourteen Forest Mice.

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The stories are gentle and sweet. They are snapshots of everyday life of a loving family of three generations; Grandma and Grandpa, Mum and Dad, and their 10 children.

There are not too exciting events in the stories, but that is what I love about the books. Children find comfort and want to hear them again and again.

Stories are related seasons in the forest. Here are some more amazing pictures from the books.
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These books make me want to create my own children book. I would like to make gnomes and fairies and create my own fantasy story with my knitting.

It is still just a thought, but a very exciting thought.

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Eco Tawashi

Eco Tawashi. This one is sold online for charity in Japan.

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The tawashi is a Japanese popular scrubbing brush. We use it for cleaning and washing up dishes.

The traditional Tawashi is called Kamenoko Tawashi, literally meaning the tawashi looks like a young turtle and is made of fiber of a hemp palm.

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It is hard, durable and waterproof and it is suitable for washing kitchen equipment as pots and pans. You can also use it to clean bathtubs or brush off dirt from trainers. It should not be used for delicate items.

These days, “Eco Tawashi” is very popular in Japan.

It is crocheted with 100% Acrylic yarn and you can make one very easily if you know the basic crochet. It is scratch-free, and can be used for dishes and small cleaning jobs. The prefix eco- indicates that it creates less pollution because it can be used without soap or other detergents.

Because the yarn is made of very fine synthetic fibers similar to microfiber, and that this fine-filamented material is the key to magical cleaning.

The best part of using eco tawashi is that you can do dishes without soap. This way, you save lots of water and you don’t need to use synthetic detergent, which drains into our lakes, rivers, and oceans. If your plates are a little greasy, add some baking soda or vinegar, and you’ll be surprised by the results.

My son should bring one to World Challenge in Africa.

Here is one of the very simple tawashi pattern.

Finished Size

4″ (12cm) diameter

Pattern Note

This pattern is in continuous round, without turning or joining at the end of each round, unless otherwise specified. I use Double knit acrylic yarn (8-ply) and 4-5mm crochet hook.

UK abbriviations are used.
Round 1: Make 1 chain, 6 dc into the ring. Do not join in first st — 6 dc total.
Round 2: Work 2 dc in each dc round — 12 dc total.
Round 3: *dc in next st, 2 dc in next; rep from * around — 18 dc total.
Round 4: *2 dc in next st, dc in each of next 2 sts; rep from * around — 24 dc total. Fasten off.

You can see how the stitches are increased. You can make a bigger Tawashi if you would like.

You can find more patterns online. I have found a free pattern on Ravelry:
http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/magically-clean-eco-tawashi

I have made a simple one for my kitchen, but unfortunately, it has been very well used and not too photogenic.

I show you some fantastic designs I found. Eco tawashi making has gained popularity in Japan. It is enjoyed very widely, and many books are published. It is a very good project to be enjoyed from beginner to advanced.
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Aren’t they cute? They are too nice to be used for washing ups.
I may have a go at designing some knitted Eco Tawashi. I can use up my rather unwanted acrylic yarn that way. That would be double “eco”.

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30 a day

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Do you practice the 5-a-day?

We all know fruit and vegetables are part of a balanced diet and can help us stay healthy. It is important that we get enough of them.

The 5 A DAY message highlights the health benefits of getting five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day. That’s five portions of fruit and veg in total.

In Japan, we have a little different approach: 30 foods per day.

You count the number of foods in your meals. For example, if you have a toast, yogurt and a banana for breakfast, that makes three. And if you have a ham and cheese sandwich and an apple for lunch, that gives you three more. You do not count the same food twice, so you do not count the bread you have for lunch. However, if the bread contains caraway seeds for example, you can count that as one.

These days, this approach is losing popularity due to the changes in our life style and diet. We have more foods which are not considered to be too healthy. We also have many processed foods that we don’t know how to count, cereal bars and smoothies for instance. Some also say that this approach encourages us to over eat.

But it is good to include a wide variety of foods. Try counting. You will find it quite a challenge to have 30 different foods a day.

I knitted this for my kitchen to remind me the importance of eating greens.

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Isn’t that nice? Do you feel healthy already?

My green grocer (9 cm tall) has a helper, a big dog to pull his kart.
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The kart and the wheels have a light weight cardboard to keep their shapes. The poles are made with wooden skewers wrapped with yarn.
The awning is just a knitted piece, sitting on top of the poles.

This project is a bit like making items for a doll house and can be enjoyed with children.

It was a lot of fun to make these little veggies. (They are about 1-2 cm,) It took me a while to fill the kart, basket and crate, but it was so rewarding to see the finished set.

Like it?

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Healthy Tofu muffins

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I love soy beans. It is packed with nutrients and very rich in protein. In Japan, we call it “Hatake no niku”, literally meaning the meat of the field.

I get dried beans, soak them over night and cook the next day. You need to cook 30 minutes to one hour. Soy bean is firm and needs to be boiled quite some time, and remember, do not put any seasoning, especially salt. I found that if you add salt to the cooking water, beans stay firm no matter how long you cook them!

I usually make savory dishes with cooked soy beans, but I tried baking with them the other day. I am quite excited with this recipe because it is so yummy and healthy.

It has no added oil, no egg, no dairy, no salt and is low in sugar. You can go gluten-free if you would like. Moisture come from Tofu. You might find the uncooked mixture less runny than your usual muffin recipes, but the muffins will turn out nice and moist.

Since it isn’t easy to get fresh Tofu in water sold in the Japanese market, I buy long-life Tofu in a box like this. You may have seen it at your local supermarkets. It is sold for £1.60 to £2.00 and is usually found in the Asian food or beans and pulses aisles.

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Tofu Muffin recipe

Makes 6
Ingredients
60g cooked soy beans
200g tofu

120g all purpose flour
1 tbsp corn starch
60g light brown Muscovado sugar
1tsp baking powder
1 tbsp toasted sesami (optional)

Pre heat the oven to 180 C.

Mix flour, corn starch, sugar, baking powder and sesami seeds.

Add Tofu as you squashing it with your hand and mix. Mix lightly.

Add soy beans and mix.

Put the mixture into muffin cups and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

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The muffin has gentle, natural sweetness comes from the Muscovado sugar and has nutty taste of soy beans. It is surprisingly soft and moist.

This one became my favorite of all muffin recipes!

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Snow is here

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Some parts of England are experiencing snowy weather.

We moan and groan when snow arrives. Snow causes nothing but troubles. It isn’t much fun to be grown-ups. We don’t know how to enjoy the snow.

But here is the knitted winter set to cheer you up a little.

A big snowman. I wanted to make relatively big one this time, he is about 10cm tall, 6cm in base diameter.
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Kids playing with a sledge
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I have added a little dog, too.

And the full cast. Children are 7-8cm tall. I used Rowan fine tweed again to knit their outfits.

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I heard on the BBC news that “more bad weather is on its way”. I thought TV news should not be opinionated.

Who decided that the rain and snow is “bad”?

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Our fantastic holidays

Two week school break is finally over and kids are back in school last Monday.

We had a very relaxed holidays. Since our relatives are all back home in Japan, we don’t do much celebrations, but we enjoy quiet time within ourselves.

We like it that way.

My younger son, who is a keen racing driver had received a plastic scale model kit of F1 car (like Airfix in UK) from his grand father in Tokyo and was busy building it for 2 and a half weeks.

He used to print out the pattern of a miniature car on a light weight card. You can enjoy paper craft like this, getting free patterns online.

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My son had requested a model kit for Christmas. Neither of my children have been too interested in computer games or techno gadgets. I like them to be involved in some kind of craft for their free time. Creating something using your hands is rewarding and quite often therapeutic.

Here is the model he made. He is very pleased with it.
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Meanwhile, my older son was busy finishing up his art homework.
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As always.

But he also enjoyed drawing the subjects of his choice. These are not photos and done in ink from scratch.

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He just keeps on drawing.

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Teddy Bear’s picnic

With all the excitement of Christmas and New Years, I almost forgotten that my teddies would be in this month’s issue of Knit Now magazine.

I just picked up a copy. This time, my pattern is in an individual booklet! How cool!

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Back in October, I received a request to make a teddies’ picnic set. The editor wanted a complete set with blanket and a basket. What a lovely idea!

I made the teddies and dressed them in my favorite Rowan Tweed yarn. I prefer a little finer yarn than DK to knit outfits to avoid them get too thick and stiff. The bears do not have gussets and are very easy to make. You know I dislike sewing up gussets.

The editor also wanted something British. I included the England flag.

If you live in another country and want to use your country’s flag, it can be done by changing the motif.
I once knitted a bear with a jumper with the Columbian flag. She absolutely loved it.

I was’t too sure what yarn to use for the blanket. I ended up with Rowan Cotton Tweed. I bought this yarn years ago, but since the yarn is Aran weight, I couldn’t find a suitable project for a while.
I originally used this yarn to crochet the flower scarf. Once in a blue moon, I do have a go at making something like this.
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This yarn turn out to be perfect for the picnic blanket. It gives thickness and softness, and the knitting does not curl at the edges.

And I think my teddies are pleased with it.
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Little gems

I just received this from a Facebook friend in Japan.

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What a nice start of a New Year. I am delighted to receive such a kind, surprise gift.

These are candies with sheep design. Aren’t they lovely?

They are made in the same way as Rock candy commonly sold at tourist (usually seaside) resorts in the UK (like Brighton, Tenby or Blackpool).

In Japan, we call this type of candies “kintaro- ame”.

Kintaro, often translated as “Golden Boy”, is the legendary child, folk hero from Japanese folklore.
Kintarō-ame (Kintaro candy) is a traditional Japanese candy with a cylinder-shape, still produced in Japan and originating during the Edo Period, almost 400 years ago. After being sliced, the cylinder’s cross-section shows an almost exact replica of the face. In Japan, when people look identical, they are referred to as “like Kintaro-ame”, as in the English expression, “spitting image”. These days, you get to see many different designs such as cartoon characters, varieties of flowers/fruits. Even custom made candies with brides-and-grooms faces are given as wedding favors sometimes.

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They are so pretty.

I wouldn’t say they are totally free from artificial colouring, but you need to have fun in your life sometimes.

In fact, I wouldn’t eat them anyway. They are too pretty to eat.

The ones I received have pictures of sheep.
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She also showed me the photo from the previous year. This set can be a nice gift for a horse lover.
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When I see something like this, I feel a joy. We, the humankind know how to enjoy life, don’t we?

The package came with a fortune. I got “dai-kichi”, which means super lucky!IMG_7419

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Knitting Chinese Zodiac animals

I have posted the photos of my sheep I made for 2015, the year of sheep.

Here, I have a lamb in another style.

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There are 12 animals signs in Chinese Zodiac. Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and wild boar.

This horoscope originates in China, but it is also very popular in Japan.
Do you know your animal sign? You can find it easily here:http://www.ofesite.com/spirit/chinese/animal2.htm

Even if you do not quite remember your parents’ ages, (sorry Mum, Dad), you would never forget their Chinese animal signs.

My dad’s sign is the rabbit and so is my younger son’s. They are five cycles apart. My mum’s is the snake as my husband’s and they are three cycles apart.

Some of the animals in the calendar may not be very favoured in the Western countries, but these are all considered to be lucky animals in the East. In fact, no animal is particularly disliked in Asian culture.

I enjoyed this project; knitting all the Zodiac animals.

I have rabbit, mouse and wild boar. These are the ones I started with. They all have the same basic body pattern.

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And I challenged a little; the tiger and the dragon. They are popular animals because of their dynamic, strong characters. Mine stay round and cute, but never mind.

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Here is the all cast.
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It was certainly a very fun project.

On the New Year’s day, I saw this photo on Facebook. These are postage stamps published in Japan. After 12 years, she finally finished her scarf.

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Year of sheep

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2015 is the year of sheep according to Chinese Zodiac.

In Japan, when the current year matches up with the same Chinese Zodiac sign you were born under, as a female you get the title “toshi onnna”, literally meaning ‘year’s lady’.

it’s my year. I am going to be the “Year’s lady”. I am feeling lucky already.

The Sheep (Goat) is a Yin energy, a symbol of Peace, Harmonious co-existence and Tranquility. It is also the symbol of the Arts. Perfect!

Some say it is a good time to be ambitious and start something new when your Zodiac sign comes up. I haven’t made New Year’s resolution as such, but I should give a good thought on what I would like to achieve in next 12 year cycle.

For now, I am just innocently celebrating the New Year.

I asked my mum to send me something related to sheep. You get to see a lot of items with sheep motif in shops in Japan now.

She sent me these.
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and this.

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It is a coin case.

You see, she didn’t go expensive or posh. I think she thinks I am still a little girl.
But they are lovely.

I just made a set of sheep, too. And this time, I managed to write up the pattern and publish it online!

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My mummy sheep and baby lamb.
https://www.etsy.com/listing/216522036/mummy-sheep-and-baby-lamb-knitting?

The mummy sheep is about 7cm long, 6cm high, and the baby is 5cm long and 5cm high. It is very very simply knitting of garter stitches, knit and purl and i-cord.

Happy New Year! I hope this year will bring you a lot of happiness.

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