It’s the custom in Japan to send New Year greetings postcards at the beginning of January, but this year I just couldn’t face it. With all that’s been going on in the world, I really didn’t feel like writing cookie-cutter greetings over and over. Instead, I decided to make good luck charm bags as a gift for people who I wanted to send a special message of thanks to for their support last year. I got the pattern for the bags from Saki Iiduka’s book, Sashiko Accessories and Mending, which I reviewed last year.
Omamori bukuro, as these bags are called in Japanese, are sold at temples and shrines. They are believed to bestow the protective power of the gods on human beings, and can be bought for many purposes, such as wishes for a safe birth, passing exams, financial success, or safety on the roads.
In my bags I placed a tiny Amabie figurine. Amabie is a folklore spirit that has gone viral in Japan since the pandemic started. According to legend, Amabie lives in the sea, but comes out to predict good harvests and plagues. Sharing its image is supposed to prevent disease spreading, hence the plethora of covid countermeasures using the image of Amabie in their PR!
Ordinarily, you are not supposed to look inside an omamori bukuro as that apparently negates its power, but since sharing the image of Amabie is supposed to keep away plague, I think in this case it is okay! Besides using them for good luck charms, these little bags would be ideal for putting in some lavender or other herbs and spices to use as scent bags.
The bags themselves are simple enough to make, and take only a few hours to complete. The blue one with white stitching is done with rice stitch (komezashi) and the one with red stitching is rice flower stitch (kome no hanazashi).
The most difficult and time-consuming thing was making the knot! Though I learned to tie a knot or two as a girl guide back in the day, this was a challenge on another level. Not having a sense of how to hold and handle the strands made it difficult to follow the printed instructions, so I resorted to YouTube and found this very useful video. After many attempts, I finally got the knack of it and was able to tie a passable good luck knot.
For anyone who’d like to try making these bags, the good news is that last year I was asked to translate this book, and the English edition is coming out later this year.
May the power of Amabie keep you safe and well in 2021!
I love sashiko. I love its simplicity and complexity, I love looking at it, doing it, reading about it, and talking about it.
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