One of my favorite memories from my boys' kindergarten years in Japan was an event held every year. The oldest children in the school would work for weeks preparing all sorts of items for a huge play store. They'd make toys, fruit and vegetables, sushi, sweets and ice cream, jewelry and bags, all from recyclables. Some of the materials they used included newspaper, milk cartons, water bottles, straws, shopping bags, gift wrap, plastic wrap, cardboard, toilet paper rolls, etc. Meanwhile, the younger children in the school would make their own little shopping bags, wallets, and money, and then the store would open, the young ones would troop in, and the older ones would proudly "sell" their gorgeous little creations. This always led to weeks of exciting follow-up play in our own home.
Making handmade items for house play or store play seems to be really popular here. Adult make things like felt sweets. Children make their own versions from paper and recyclables. The sushi shown here is quite easy for children to do.
First of all you will need a few of these or some other similar styrofoam packing. Here, this is used to wrap fruit in in the grocery store. To be honest, I'm not sure if they even use this back home - if not, you can easily substitute with styrofoam peanuts, shredded paper, or even small amounts of wadded up paper towels or tissue.
Make a small cylinder using the stuffing of your choice, then wrap it with black construction paper and tape. Cut to the length you want your sushi to be. That's all there is to it! Add on bits of red maguro (tuna), green cucumber, or yellow pickles with glue and then line them up in a little container (such as take-out sushi containers). You can cut the green "grass" that comes inside take-out sushi, and then use a wadded up small piece of green construction paper as wasabi and pink paper as pickled ginger.
Children get a real kick out of play food, especially if they make it themselves. I'll be posting more tutorials for other play store items in the next few weeks.
(Hi all and welcome - I'm so glad you're here. if you're visiting from the Crafty Crow be sure to check out this post for a little, bento-related giveaway)
I love working with felt - it is so easy for the novice sewer like me and it's suitable for handsewing, which is easier to do in a house with constant distractions. I have a few Japanese craft books about making homemade toys for children and I fell in love with this project - an utterly adorable little geometric shape set made of felt.
My boys loved this sort of thing when they were little - all the pieces (usually wood or plastic in commercial sets) come in triangles, squares, and circles, and you can make endless patterns and pictures with them.
What I saw in the book was made with primary colors, which I think looked fantastic. In the colorway I chose here, organic, natural shapes might work better than severe geometric lines - I can even envision basic shapes like trees (with little apples to put on them), simple houses, cars, animals, people.
Now, this wasn't handsewn and it was incredibly tedious to keep changing thread on my sewing machine (and to sew those tight little circles), but I think the end result is a lot of fun. It goes in a little cloth bag and makes an ideal travel toy. Here's my quick tutorial - all the pieces are made of double pieces of felt sewn together. Trace squares, triangles, and circles onto paper first and then cut two layers of felt for each piece. For variety some of them can be different colors on each side - just choose a thread which looks good with both. After sewing, do a final trim with scissors.
On another note, I had so much fun the other day. I went to a huge Japanese craft store called Yuzawaya. It's quite far from me, so I rarely get to go these days - no more than once or twice a year. It was such an exciting day for me.
I've been wanting to build up a fabric stash for so long. I have so many projects burning away in my head and I can't even begin until I have a few more scraps and pieces here. Plus the boys are always coming home from school telling me they need an extra handkerchief (required), lunch mat (also required), little bag, etc. I'm still not happy with my stash - I love Japanese fabric and feel lucky to have such sheer variety here but I am longing for more vibrant patterns by my favorite designers who are hard to find here. But the longing is eased somewhat. One thing which helped was that I was able to pick up a bunch of fat quarters as well as a bias tape maker. As soon as I got home I started experimenting:
I'm really looking forward to being able to trim things now! One of the first things I tried doing was making a skirt for Mia out of linen and putting on a newly trimmed pocket pocket, but she wouldn't try it on so I could hem it. I'm afraid she might not be a linen girl....Or it may be that she was disappointed that it wasn't pink.
I'm hoping it will help if I add some of these
but I think she would really prefer a riot of color, the brighter and pinker, the better.
I don't know if she's going to be happy with the material I picked in this pile below to make her a little dress. It's a very light fabric but definitely lacks the vibrant punch she seems to love - it's a dark navy with teal colored flowers. The purple floral and solid fabrics are also for a dress for her, and the brown mushroom and blue dotted quilted materials will become book bags for each of the children.
I also picked up a bunch of plain linen and linen-cotton blend fabric. I love the soft colors. I have a few secret projects planned with this, mostly gifts so I can't say more right now!
Then, I found myself on another floor which I had totally forgotten about. The seventh floor of Yuzawaya in Kichijoji is chock full of beads as well as zakka kits. Amazing! I got so excited. There were a bunch of zakka kits on sale and I picked up a few, including this little kit for a water bottle holder
There were many other kits there too - for placemats, coasters, even fabric slippers. I already started one kit, though the embroidery and button and strap are not on there yet. This is for a cup bag which is, again, another required item at Japanese school (preschool, not elementary). You bring your own little cup to school for lunch.
and then I picked up a bunch of little bits of trim.
This is also the kind of place where you can pick up small bits of cotton fabric bundles like this, which is so fun to dream about.
There were so many other goodies- I picked up an embroidery hoop as well as some beading tools I'd been needing and some packs of beads, like the ones below. No matter what craft you do, there's something there - for needle felting, basket making, flower making, metalwork or leathercraft, mizuhiki, lots and lots of washi (Japanese paper), knitting and crocheting, etc.
There! Now don't you feel like you went to Yuzawaya with me? minus the sore arms (no shopping carts!) and legs...
I felt well enough to take Mia to the park yesterday. (Pregnant with number four and had been on bedrest for an interminably long spring). A welcome opportunity to take photos of my girl. It's tsuyu here, rainy season, though yesterday was just cloudy. These photos were taken at Arisugawa Park, a small park which boasts a lovely bridge and two waterfalls, lots of ducks and turtles, crayfish and tadpoles. A small, welcome oasis for city-dwellers like ourselves.
I also got to walk my younger son to school. Children typically commute to elementary school on their own in Japan, but I like to walk along when I can, especially with the younger one.
First graders wear these yellow hats so they'll be more visible. My older son wears a blue hat in winter and a white hat in summer. Children also all use this special kind of backpack called a randoseru. Other than this and the gym uniforms they have, they don't have any uniforms or required clothing in public elementary school. They do have lots of required bags though. The little bag hanging down from his backpack contains his lunch mat, his toothbrush, and a cup. They also need bags for swim wear, gym wear, art supplies, and other such things. My next sewing project is to make some handmade bags for school.
First graders at my sons' school also cover their backpacks with this neon yellow cover, again to make them more visible when walking to school. There's nothing like the sight of new first graders in the spring, which is when the school year begins here. They are referred to as pika pika no ichinensei, or bright and shiny first graders.