knits by sachi

Mum’s memories

Mum liked Harrod’s teddies. She would dress them in her knitting, recycling the yarns from our old jumpers.

My mum was a domestic goddess. She was very good at sewing, knitting, and crochet. She could even machine knit. She was an amazing cook and loved gardening, too.

Unlike my craft I do for my selfish reasons, her handwork was always for us or for the house. She made clothes for me and my brother. She decorated the house with her sewing and crochet.

I used to love watching her making things. There was calmness around her which seemed to be contagious. She sometimes let me lay my head on her lap while she knitted or crocheted. I remember the smell of her and the dampness of her apron as if it was yesterday. It was a moment I was allowed to be a child and I felt safe and loved. It was such a precious moment and with a memory like this, I can keep on living strong.

I have two cousins I grew up very closely. They are my mum’s older sister’s daughters and a few years older than me. They lived the neighbouring prefecture, but we met up every holiday. Mum loved them as much as she loved me, but sadly as we grew up, we saw less and less of each other. I hadn’t seen them over 20 years until I saw them this summer.

They both came to visit me while I was staying with my father. We shared mum’s handwork for her memory.

Mum used to help me with projects for home economics class. Sometimes, she would be carried away and end up finishing it all by herself.She did that for my cousins, too. One of my cousins said that her homework (done by Mum) was so very well received by teachers and was displayed in the sports hall! My boys found this very amusing and we all had a good laugh.

My cousins took crochet home and decorated their houses with them. They sent me these photos.

The crochet looks perfect in this room.

Some of the smaller pieces are framed. My cousins have done fantastic work themselves, adding their personal touch. They look great together with other items around them.

Mum would have loved these.
I didn’t take her crochet but I have inherited all her needles and hooks. I also have these.

I made the dolls as portraits of my boys when they were little. Mum dressed them in her sewing and knitting. Her stitches are so nice and even. Very neat!

I hope I can create something that my family will treasure forever.

More bears

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Knitting on holidays


I am off to Japan soon again.

It is a long flight. Direct flights to Tokyo take minimum 12 hours.

Lots of knitting hours.

I don’t always bring my knitting to holidays. I try to do something different for a change, mostly reading. But when I decide to bring, my knitting kit is very small. Everything fits in a soft pencil case.

I pack my short DPNs, darning needle, tiny scissors and small amounts of wool.

Scissors are always tricky and many airline companies do not like them all together, but by law, we are allowed to take small scissors, those with a 4-inch or shorter blade.

I like these Clover thread clippers. Nail clippers, eyebrow trimmers are also good. Some say thread cutter pendants are prohibited. I have no clue why.

I was given this very cute sewing set last time when I visited Japan. I think I will take this one. These scissors are tiny.

If you want to take a large knitting, I recommend circular needles. You can knit flat with circular needles.I don’t normally do large knitting, but recently, I used circular needles to knit something with over 200 stitches. I started with long straight needles and found it quite difficult. I am a big fan of circular needles now. It is so easy to carry your knitting, too.

I have bought more circular needles. I am still using the original packages. I have to find a good way to keep them tidy.

Another must-have gadget; row counter.
I tried a smaller, slip-on-needle type before, but I like this clicking type much better.

My boys used to love playing with this. I do understand their temptations. You will need to keep it away from children when you are using it!

I like these stitch markers, too. You can hook them very easily. They come in a small soft case that you can keep them. How thoughtful!

It is fun to collect knitting and sewing accessories and I have quite a lot of them.
Another of my favorite; sewing thread set. Isn’t it pretty? I bought it years ago in Japan. I just wanted to have it.

My younger boy once said that he didn’t know there were so many gadgets involved in knitting. I inherited lots from my mum, too.

And they are my treasures with lots of my childhood memories.

All accessories except the mini sewing kit and sewing thread set are made by the Japanese company, Clover.
http://www.clover-mfg.com/en/index.html

Oh, bringing a magazine cover-mount knitting kit is another good idea! This one is out this month; Knit Now magazine. It is a kit to make three-in-one topsy-turvy Little Red Riding Hood. Enjoy!

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Toy maker of the year

The UK knitting magazine, Let’s Get Crafting is running a competition again this year. Click the image to find out details.

As the web page says, you can knit or crochet any toy you like. It can be your own design, a pattern from a book or a magazine. It can be any shape or size and can be used with materials of your choice.

I am not at all competitive, but I like entering competitions. By participating, you get more opportunities to show your work. Even if you didn’t win anything, organizers and judges would certainly see your work and that is already worth trying. Entering became ever so easy these days thanks to email development; filling a form, attach photos and with just one click, you are in! It doesn’t cost you a penny, either.

I would be participating this LGC project if I wasn’t a judge!

Recently, I submitted one of my work to a Japanese hand craft competition. There were several categories; knitting, sewing, felting, jewelry making, and embroidery.

What I submitted is this one: A knitted Christmas wreath.

There was a theme; they wanted something flowery and cheerful. There was a restriction on the size. It must be smaller than 20cm.

I got through the first judging and my work will be displayed in a gallery in Tokyo this summer!

The show will be held at Ginza Seigetsudo Gallery between 29th August to 3rd September.
http://www.lintaro.com

I am telling all my friends and family in Tokyo.

I have a series of knitted wreath. This one is for summer and is one of my favorites.


I showed this photo to the organizer as well, but they preferred the Christmas one. The summer in Japan may be way too hot to appreciate a wooly decoration.

I am currently considering to enter two other competitions, one is in the UK and the other is in Japan. It motivates me to create. I still have many things I want to make.

If you knit or crochet and live in the UK, please enter the LGC Toy maker of the year competition. The winner gets to publish the pattern in December issue if it is original. This may become the start of your new career. You may find it a little daunting to write a pattern if you have never done this before, but the magazine has a professional technical editor who will be able to help you.

It is utterly fantastic to get your work published in print. I still treasure mine.

My first magazine job:

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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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Woodland music band

I think we had a lovely summer this year in the UK. We even had a heatwave quite recently.

It isn’t too easy to let the warm and sunny weather go, but autumn is surely arriving.

We have a few phrases related to autumn in Japan and one of them is ” Geijutsu no aki “, the autumn of artistic inspiration.

So, here are my animals all ready for their music concert.

I have bear, vox and badger;

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And little ones like these;

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When I first thought about the project, I wasn’t too sure how I could make string instruments. First I tried to make the shape with increasing and decreasing stitches as I usually do, but that over complicated the pattern and the result wasn’t too neat. Then, I thought of knitting a quite simple piece and cover a cardboard cut to the shape. That worked much better. A bit cheating, but never mind.

I have made a series of many woodland animals in different sizes and styles. I do like more realistic ones as in my Mini Knitted Woodland, but I enjoyed making these guys, too.

I hope I made the right instrument choices for each animal.

Here is the full cast. There is a deer playing a drum in the back.

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I don’t have much regrets about how I raised my children. They are fit, artistic, academic and the best of all,they are nice boys. But I wish I have given them opportunities to learn a music instrument or two.

I took piano lessons for 18 years from the age of 5. I made some attempts to play quite complicated pieces of Beethoven and Chopin at some point. I guess in 70’s and 80’s, parents were very keen to educate their children to have better lives than they had themselves. My dad bought me an upright piano even before I started school. It must have cost him a fortune!

The piano still sits in my parents’ living room. It is usually forgotten, but my kids did enjoy banging on the keyboard when the were little.

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Joy of felting

Since needle felting has been introduced, wet felting has lost its popularity a little.

Wet felting is the process of reducing its size through the use of hot water and agitation. We all know that you should not wash 100% wool jumper in a washing machine. Wet felting is to do that on purpose.

Needle felting is the art of taking loose fibers – typically colored wool and using barbed needles – ‘punch’ them into the same fiber or another piece of fabric.

Wet felting may take a bit of skill and understanding of how fiber behaves during the process. You would also need a working space, hot water and soap. Your hands and table get wet and soapy, and this may put you off.

But I enjoy wet felting. I find it very therapeutic, rubbing wool with warm soapy water. I forget immediate worries and I feel I can stay calm rest of the day.

Just as knitting, I like making little creatures like these.

Three fat cats;

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and pocket bears in felted version.

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I made some finger puppets and a dolphin, too.

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Recently, I found the joy of creating these; felted purses.

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This is a fairly easy project. I wrap a polyethylene ball with merino fleece, pour hot soapy water over it and rub it. That is all what it takes. If you do not like getting your hands wet, you can put the wool covered ball in an old stocking, tie the ends and felt it in a washing machine.

I did have some trials and errors. My very first purse was too small relation to the clasps I had and the second one came out too thin. But surprisingly, I wasn’t too disappointed. I think I just enjoyed the process of rubbing wool.

To make the purse sturdy, you need three thin layers of merino. If you pour hot water as you lay fleece, it is much easier to handle.

Felting process takes 30- 45 minutes depending on the size of the ball. I like felting without music or television, but if you have a company who can chat with you, that would be fun, too.

I dry the felt over night and then, attach the clasps.

Did I know how to do that? No, it was a new experience for me. I just learned it from watching YouTube. I needle felted dots and hearts afterwards.

I originally wanted to make many small coin purses, but I ordered large clasps online by mistake. I was shocked to see them when they arrived. 10 of them!

But never mind, I can make a large purse.

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Lots of coins can go in this.

Wool is utterly amazing.

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BBC Get Creative

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I am so pleased to announce that my work is included to BBC’s Arts, Get Creative website.

http://bbc.in/1NJhRaN

I don’t quite remember how I found out about the programme. I guess it was through the Facebook. BBC4 was looking for creators who can participate their new programme by sending them photos.

Yes, that simple, so why not?

I sent them the photos of my favorite knitted carousel of course, but this time, I sent the photos of all rides I created for my knitted amusement park.

I also included this one, my knitted street performers.

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If you grew up in Japan in 1970’s, you may be able to tell where I got this inspiration from.
This is from one of the animation series aired on Sunday nights, “Ha ha wo tazunete 3000-li, (7000miles in search of mother)”. It is loosely based on a small part of the novel Heart (Cuore) by Edmondo De Amicis, an Italian writer.

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The plot focuses on Marco, a young boy who lives with his family in the harbor city of Genoa, Italy during a depression period in 1881. Marco’s father, Pietro Rossi, is a manager of a clinic who dedicates his time to treating poor patients. The family runs into financial difficulties and Marco’s beloved mother, Anna, goes to Argentina to work as a maid to earn money. Sadly, she becomes ill and the family loses contact with her. Worried Marco decides to head to Argentina on his own in search of her.

But he is only 9 years old!

Marco takes with him his older brother’s pet monkey, Amedeo and together they sneak aboard the ship bound for Brazil. In Brazil, he meets a puppeteer called Peppino and his family, whom he knew from Genoa.

This is the family I knitted. Marco is in the centre with two puppets.

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The family consists of the father (with the music box, I made him look much younger without his mustache), the older daughter who is gorgeous and amazing singer/dancer, the young daughter at Marco’s age who is a good puppeteer and the baby girl.

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Amedeo, Marco’s pet monkey, dances with the little puppet.

It is a lovely story. We need to have more of these for young children.

I have no idea of how the BBC programme is going to be, but it is supposed to go out on Thursday 9 June at 9 pm.

I hope the programme has included my lovely puppeteer family.

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Quilting challenge

I have done a variety of craft, but I have never done quilting. In fact, I have never even thought of trying the craft.

Quilting seems to require a lot of precision and commitment. People make large throws, bedspreads and table runners. I always found it daunting. This is certainly a skill you develop with lots of practice, and I have great respect to quilters.

But I wanted to make something using this patchwork method; a small play mat for my Hare and tortoise set.

I made a knitted version a couple of years ago for Knit Now magazine.

This one. It is one of my favorite.

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I found very stretchy white fabric in my stash and decided to sew some bunnies with it. For tortoise, I am using felt.

I tried my first sample. I thought it worked well.

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Then, made the whole lot for the game.

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Now, I needed a mat. This is where quilting come into play.

Did I have any idea how I should do this? Not at all. I watched YouTube and got a basic idea. It is a very small mat, it cannot be too difficult or is it?

Yes, it is small, but you do need a lot of patience and precision. I did simple maths wrong at some places and I had to pick stitches and sew again. What I found extremely helpful was the fabric roller cutter that I invested just for this project. I don’t know how I manage without it. It was a star buy.

After some trials and errors, I came up with this.
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I know, I know, it is far from perfect, but I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself. This is my very first patchwork and I even used sewing machine for it.

And my animals look happy on it.

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It is good to go out of your comfort zone and try something new.

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Winter wreath

I find the month of February quite depressing, and I am sure I am not the only one.

Exciting celebrations is long gone and is a distant memory. The days are still short, the weather is not very kind. It is cold, wet and miserable.

And we still have some weeks until the spring arrives.

May be because of all this, I am knitting flowers, lots of flowers recently. Subconsciously, I may be trying to cheer myself up.

I love all bell shaped flowers, Lily of the valley being my favorite. We have lots and lots of bluebells in early summer here in the West Sussex. I have loads in my garden, too. This time of year, we get to see snowdrops. They must be tough flowers, blooming in this cold weather. Every time I see them, I get a bit of strength from them.

They look very cute by the window.
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Wanting to have a go at a bigger project with flowers, I decided to make a wreath with winter theme.

I thought making snow effect was a little too ambitious, so that I chose subtle colours; white, pastel pink, soft green and yellow.

And for the centre, I made winter child fairy, all dressed in white.

Work in progress; I make all pieces first and arrange a little by little.
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Making these tiny pompom was tricky. I cut a forefinger with large scissors. Ouch.

Flower knitting patterns are quite simple but takes time to knit each petal and assembly. It is nice to see the work coming along nicely, and when it is done, it is utterly rewarding.

Ta-dah!

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My robin goes on the top.
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Yes, it is dark and cold and miserable outside, but if I could make this with my knees wrapped in a blanket, I am very happy.

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Happy Chinese New Year!

It is early this year, the Chinese New Year’s Day.

Since 1873, the official Japanese New Year has been celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar, on January 1 of each year. So, we do not have celebration as Chinese people do, but you get to see the dragon dance in China towns. It is a exciting day for many.

I knitted this dragon dance set last year. This is my favorite piece.

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It was fun to knit this dragon and I could use up my bright Ferrari red yarn that I did not know what to do with.

This year, I have this one; Children with panda bear.

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I am quite pleased with how they came out. And the fortune cookies, they are also made with felt.

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I also made the wall sign.

This character Fú (we pronounce fuku in Japan) meaning “fortune” or “good luck”. Mounted Fú are a widespread Chinese tradition associated with Chinese New Year and can be seen on the entrances of many Chinese homes. This is often displayed upside-down on diagonal red squares. I have heard that the phrase an “upside-down Fú” sounds nearly identical to the phrase “Good luck arrives” in Chinese.

We do not have this tradition in Japan. When I first saw the Fú sign in a Chinese restaurant in London, I thought someone put it up the wrong way up by mistake. My sign here is not hang upside down. Being Japanese, I prefer this way. I do not feel too comfortable hanging the “luck” letter upside down.

But I think it is all right.

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Again, this is done with felt. I cut out the letter and sew it onto the fabric.

and the knot? I have this book, “Chinese knots for beaded jewellery” by my publisher Search Press. The instruction is very clear and I could make this pretty knot!

Happy Chinese New Year!
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