Fabric scraps and the art of omiyage

Vacation is a time to relax and break out of habits, but that doesn’t mean its time to put down my needle and thread. I find it extremely soothing to have a hand sewing project that I can enjoy while sipping on my morning coffee. Its a bit challenging in the winter months when there isn’t enough daylight but as soon as spring comes along I notice I pick right back up on this morning ritual of mine. We were in Barcelona this year as the clocks sprung us forward officially into spring and I was sure to plan ahead and pack supplies into my already busting-at-the-seams case.

But there is more to this story, so perhaps I should explain that I very much believe in the tradition of omiyage. The Japanese custom of gift-giving resonates with me deeply. The idea of presenting a small gift when traveling to or from friends and loved ones is an important part of etiquette and there is a lot to learn from the highly complex tradition in Japan. The ideal omiyage is something transient, perishable, and thus food goods rein supreme at the top of the charts. This way you are not burdening someone with something unnecessary that they need to take care of or commit space to in their home. Now the thing is, Japan has a support structure for this, but when it comes to the US nothing really stands out as an ideal, iconic small gift. Maybe I am missing something obvious. What really represents New York and isn’t a bad tourist trinket? I just don’t feel we have an equivalent to the dainty, well packaged, perfect box of treats that other countries have.

plush bunny faces made using leftover fabric and lace scraps

As cooking or baking is simply out of the question for me the next logical answer to the gift-giving conundrum is craft. Admittedly this breaks the rule of being perishable, but it allows the gift to be sincere and from the heart. (And I will not be offended if anyone discards their gift, it is theirs to do with as they please.) Equally important in this approach is that the item share something of both the giver and the recipient. And that brings us back to a freshly brewed cup of coffee, breathtaking sunrises from a rooftop flat in Barcelona, and a mish-mash collection of fabric scraps, lace, beads and satin flowers.

Literally in the last moments before our flight the idea came to be to make plush bunny badges. The item needed to be sewn by hand while away, so I squeezed in a few quick stitches to shape the face and the ears before dashing to the airport. What I particularly like about this project is that it uses up little pieces of lace and fabric that normally would be discarded. Waste is waste and now I feel justified with my basket of odds and ends I have held on to for so long. Given the frenetic pace at which the materials were packed its very fortunate that in the end they worked well to make cohesive pieces. All-in-all I am pleased with the outcome and hope that the recipients enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.



Valentine’s Fabric Hanging Mobile

When I think of Valentine’s Day, I instantly gravitate to things that are hand made.  The love that goes into creating something unique. And those little imperfections, that you can’t get with something manufactured, really capture the sentiment of the holiday.

valentines hanging mobile

My studio at home, where I do all my sewing and crafting, has begun a transformation.  I love the space and focused for a long time on the furniture and layout.  Now it is time to put an artistic stamp on the place.  So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day I added this simple fabric hanging mobile to the studio window. I’ve hung it from the curtain valence so that it can spin freely over the window panes.

fabric scraps diy decorationsHow To Make It

  • 4″ fabric squares – I had a batch in pink, white, and red. You can usually buy pre-cut quilt squares on eBay for a great price.  This will give you a variety of prints without having to buy a lot of fabric from say JoAnn Fabrics. The number of squares you need depends on how many items you want to dangle from your mobile.  I used 18 squares.
  • Pinking shears
  • A branch of small fake flowers
  • A few random buttons
  • A few bows or other embelishments
  • A small amount of stuffing
  • A skein of embroidery floss
  1. Using the pinking shears cut out two squares at a time into circles and or hearts.
  2. Embellish as you wish using the bows, buttons and fake flowers.
  3. Making sure the wrong sides of the 2 pieces of fabric together, sew close to the edges around the shape to bind them. Be sure to leave a small gap/opening about a 1/2″ wide.
  4. Put a small amount of stuffing inside the opening.  Don’t overstuff.  You want just enough to give them a slight poof. You don’t want them to be too heavy either or they won’t float nicely on the mobile.
  5. Stitch the opening shut.
  6. Cut a piece of embroidery floss to random lengths for each strand in the mobile.  Mine range from 14″ to a little over 20″.
  7. Tie the end of each strand into a small loop.
  8. Thread the other end of the stand into a large eye needle.
  9. Hand sew the strand carefully through the center of the sandwiched layers of one of your circles/ hearts.  The first one should rest on top of the knot of the loop.
  10. Add more circles by tying knots a few inches above each circle and sewing the strand through the center.
  11. Finish the top of each strand with another loop.  Leave it large enough if you want to hook it over say a chandelier.  In my case I used very small safety pins and attached them to the hem on my window curtain.

I’ll have to explain how to make the little ume blossom strands another day.  Photos of the steps are needed to properly explain. So for now, happy crafting everyone!