knits by sachi

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.

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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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More Christmas projects

I love Christmas Nativity and every year, I make at least one set of Nativity dolls. I have many sets in different designs but never get tired of making a new one.

It is certainly a lovely story with many characters including animals. It is just perfect for a doll maker like me.

This year, I made two sets with felt fabric.

One is very simple. It is this one.

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The figures are very simple without arms or legs and they all share the same basic template. It only took me half a day. Baby Jesus sleeps in a walnut shell comfortably.

This is very cute, and I was very pleased with it, but I just had to make a large set with all players including animals.

So, here I go.

The first part: Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. If I can make the main characters right, I know the set will work.
Then, I added shepherds.

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Animals are a little more challenging because proportions do matter, but I think I did all right. I made bull and sheep lying down to create the feeling of intimacy.

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Now, three wise men.
They are my favorite. I get to enjoy decorating with embroideries, beads and ornaments.

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My camels are dressed up nicely, too.

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And here is the full cast.

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Advent Calendar

A couple of years ago, I knitted this calendar.

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It is my improvisation of Alan Dart’s calendar published by Sirdar yarn. He knitted it in Christmas red and green and added yellow ribbon in the centre of the panel. I decided to have more fun with colours and went for pastel look.
The toys in the pockets are all my original design.

I have seen lots of calendars in different styles, but I still like this simple panel with pockets.

This year, I made one with felt fabric.

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I could use the knitted calendar as the template for this project which made the process very easy.

I thought about making it with red and green initially. You need a large felt sold by metre, but soft natural colour is not easy to find. I could not find anything I like online, but luckily, the owner of the haberdashery in my little town helped me get this cream colour. The fabric is slightly thicker than felt squares, and that worked very well.

I chose simple font for the numbers for easy cutting and sewing.

All is done with hand-sewing. I thought I would get better control over stitches and finish would be neater that way.

And here are the toys to go in pockets.

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Yes, I made a lot. Well, you need at least 24 of little toys. Or 25? Do you need one for the Christmas Day?
Never mind.

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It is so enjoyable and satisfying to work on a large project like this. I enjoyed every minute of it.

I wish my boys were a little younger, but they did give me compliments

Maybe I will get to make full use of it with my grandchildren.

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Christmas craft

I knitted this wreath earlier this year. I made it especially for the Knit Now magazine so that it was made in summer. (Took a little effort to get into the spirit…) Instead of making toys, I wanted something to decorate home this time.
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We feel like making something when Christmas approaches. Even if you are not involved in any craft usually, you may want to join a workshop or two and make something special for your home or someone special.

I remember making my first wreath many years ago in America. I wasn’t at all doing any craft then, but I enjoyed the workshop very much and proudly brought my creation home to show it to everyone.

I design many things all year around but still, I feel very creative in December.

I still knit a lot, but this year, I started to sewing a bit more. It works very well, doing sewing and knitting projects going at the same time. Sewing takes much less time than knitting. It is good to try the idea with sewing first and see if it works.

Hence, I am much busier than before, always having a go at new projects.

Recently, I made this felt wreath.

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I cut two cardboard circle rings and glue them together. I sew green felt to encase the cardboard and sew felt leaves and flowers.

I had no vision or plan at all when I started it. I made a poinsettia flower and decided I need another. I added holly leaves and berries, but I thought I needed something more. Then, came the little angel, acorns, oak leaves and pine cones.

I wanted to make a cute wreath without getting it look too childish. I think the angel was just right.

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Once I started to see how I wanted it, things got easier and quicker. It took me good three days and a quick run to a haberdashery to get the ribbon. But it certainly was very exciting and fun three days and I am happy with the result.

Just a little final touch, a dove.

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I was quite pleased with the angel and decided to make more.

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I am going to knit them next.

Handmade ornaments are great. You get to see them every Christmas for many years.
I still have the stockings my boys made in their kindergarten. They are simple felt stockings but very lovely.

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