It's always about this time of year when people first start to mention *whispers* Christmas, but believe me I've been thinking about it for months! Apart from the fact I absolutely love it, I have to make sure I have something suitable for that perfect gift whatever a customer's skill level or budget.
Although I don't stock specific 'Christmas' products, there are many items which people buy as gifts, for example bundles of fat quarters, charm packs and kits. If the recipient is into sewing then the fabric itself is the gift. Other times a customer will make up the bag, cushion or whatever, and give that.
One thing that is always popular in the run-up to Christmas is the Mini Rice Bag Kit. When I am at a show, I always get lots of people saying they've made it on a workshop with me in the past or they've bought a kit before, and more often than not it has led to them making many more Mini Rice Bags for family and friends. They are just so versatile!
So, what is a Mini Rice Bag?
Similar bags to these are called Komebukuro (kome = uncooked rice, bukuro = bag) in Japan. They were traditionally made from scraps of fabric stitched together, then filled with rice and given as an offering at a local temple. These bags were to celebrate and give thanks for a good harvest, so the fabrics used were often cheerful and bright. Although made from scraps of used clothing, genuine antique komebukuro are relatively rare these days and very expensive to buy.
As I mentioned, I've been selling this kit for quite a while and used to teach workshops on it, but it never seems to get any less popular. I think because the price is very reasonable, it is often bought as a Secret Santa or stocking filler, or a 'little extra' present.
So it seemed fitting to revamp this little kit using some of the lovely new indigo/non metallic fabrics I've been getting recently. Many of these designs are by the famous Japanese manufacturer Sevenberry.
I always make these bags by hand and they don't take long at all, but you can also make them by machine, which is useful if you decide everyone needs one for Christmas!
In the kit you get 12 squares of fabric ready-cut. The bag is reversible, so you can choose which to have on the inside and which on the outside. All these pictures are of the same bag.
You also get the drawstring (this comes in different colours) and of course the instructions, which are in full colour with pictures to help you.
The whole thing comes in a little bag with a bright, colourful label in case you want to give the kit as a gift.
In Japanese crafts it's all in the detail, so the instructions also teach you how to make these dinky toggles to go on the end of the drawstrings - you'll be putting them on every bag you make! I also like to topstitch around the bag with a contrasting thread (in this case, a sashiko thread). Not only does this add to the handmade charm of the bag, but it finishes it neatly, too. If you don't want your stitches to show, you can do this on the machine.
So, who's on your 'nice' list this year to receive a Mini Rice Bag Kit?
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I started Japan Crafts in 2006 and have been bringing wonderful fabrics and techniques to people in the UK ever since.