Making a Japanese Pin Bowl
By Susan Fletcher
Japanese pin cushion bowls have become popular recently and as it turns out, despite their tiny cuteness they are really functional.
Plus they have that Wabi-Sabi (happy-imperfect) handmade zakka (heart-smile) quality about them. I love those concepts.
Actually I also love using those words!
The one below is made with tiny scraps of dyed yarn fabrics pieced together.
What follows is not exactly directions, it's more my little wabi-sabi adventure.
But if you are a maker it may be useful - or maybe just amusing...
First you'll need some bits:
I used a piece of already stitched fabric (did I mention the first great thing about these pin bowls? They use small scraps of fabric, always a desirable quality in a project to me!) Then scissors, needle, thread, stuffing, and a tiny bowl.
Note: In making future bowls I figured out that these little wood bowls need a piece of fabric 5" x 5" to make the cushion ball the right size for the bowl. Draw your circle to the edges.
But that was future bowls, for this one I just went by 'guess and by golly'!
I used a water glass to draw a circle on the fabric for cutting a circle which I guessed to be the right size. Then I used sashiko thread to stitch a running stitch around the circle (because it is the thread I had close by and I didn't want to get up and look for some other thread :-)). Any thread strong enough to pull up without breaking will be fine.
Below is a different pin bowl being made.
Next I pulled the sashiko thread up until I had a sort of pouch and I stuffed it full of polyester stuffing.
And then things went a little sideways...
Once the fabric cushion was stuffed and round and tied closed, I intended to simply glue it into the bowl with E6000 but it turned out the bowl was bigger than my round ball. Hmmm.
I guess this is why other people use patterns...
I ended up gluing a layer of batting into the bottom of the bowl and then gluing the fabric ball on top of that. It would have been better to have made a bigger fabric ball in the first place but this worked fine once the glue set.
For later bowls I cut the fabric circle from a 5" square so that the ball it made was a snug fit and continued as follows below.
When you pull the running stitching up and stuff your fabric to make a ball, there will be a messy excess of fabric lump on the bottom. I tied it shut, trimmed off the worst of it, and roughly flattened it before pushing it firmly into the bowl to see if all was good. Here is a photo of the bottom of one being closed up.( I could have trimmed this one but the fabric was soft and it didn't seem necessary.)
Then I removed it and spread glue around the sides of the bowl keeping it about 3/8" lower than the top edge. Finally I replaced the fabric ball in the bowl and used elastics to hold it in place while it dried. I wanted to be sure the fabric stayed tight against the top edge of the bowl.
(The two photos above are from other pin bowls I made later. They are rather addictive to make!).)
Of all the pin bowls I've made this one and the blue pieced one are my favourites, but I started taking pottery lessons about a year ago and am working on making some tiny pottery pin bowls. The one at the top in this blog is my first pottery one :-)
Here is another: (Ignore the bent needles- I took this photo for Broken Needle Day)
Final note: You can get E6000 glue in a hardware store. As well as fabric-to-wood it is also good for gluing fabric-to-metal for clasp purse frames.
Enjoy your project making!