Of Kokeshi And Secret Santa

Gentle reader,

Workplace Secret Santas can be quite fraught with anxiety, especially when you’re perhaps not terribly close with your work mates or have little in common with them. I thought luck was on my side this year, since all my work mates are not only awesome peeps, but most of them are my really great friends even outside of the workplace.

But rather than being on the easier side of the Secret Santa issue, this situation presents all new challenges. When you draw out the name of one your favorite people ever and your budget is $10, how in the world are you supposed to stick to that? I know a lot of peeps don’t take Secret Santa seriously and use it as an opportunity to have a laugh and give gag gifts, but I am not one of them. I’ve never been a fan of gag gifts. I don’t know why. But I digress…

Judith is a doll collector, but I’d just given her a gift voucher to an amazing doll store for her birthday three days before, and I didn’t want to do the same again, and what $10 wouldn’t get her much. At about midnight the night before, I decided to exploit the “make a gift” loophole. I figured I wouldn’t technically be spending any money, because I already had the materials so the $10 budget was no longer an issue. But what to make?  Then I remembered that we’d been oohing and ahhing over a book of Japanese cross stitch designs, and all of a sudden the idea formed: make Judith a Japanese doll; a kokeshi.

Now, kokeshi are traditionally made of wood, and very simple in design. I don’t have any wood lying around, but I have lots of fabric, so after a bit of clicking about Google Images for inspiration and dig through my “useful boxes”, I was ready. I drew up a pattern and got to work. And here she is:


Now, as with any “first editions”, there are definitely things that I’d change about her – if I make another she’ll be narrower at the bottom and less bell-shaped, and I’ll use a different fabric for her face because it was difficult to draw on and a bit smudgey – but regardless of these “lessons learned” I’m really very pleased with her, and Judith seemed to love her.

Wikipedia Fun Fact: The design of "Mii" player avatars on the Nintendo Wii are inspired by kokeshi.

As for me, I did very well in the gift stakes. I’m completely besotted with my dear friend Marelle and she drew my name! She gave me these neat little magnetic bookmarks and told me that the spiffy chap is me and the pretty lady is her. N’awww! And they were a perfect gift too, because of late I’ve gotten in the repugnant habit of dog-earring my pages to mark my place. I know, judge me as you see fit. But! No more! (In case you’re wondering, I’m reading “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” by Mary Roach, and so far I’m loving it).

Raynor & Marelle: In yo bookz, keepin yo place.

What’s the best (or worst) Secret Santa gift you’ve ever gotten?

– R


19 thoughts on “Of Kokeshi And Secret Santa

  1. Oy, worst ever was a cheap-o knit hat from a dollar store. I know this because when my friend and I were Christmas shopping we stopped in the dollar store and she asked my opinion on a hat “for her sister.” I told her it was alright, and a week later I received it as a secret santa gift.. Our budget was $25! Womp womp. The worst part is I went all out for my person.

    Love the doll! The face is perfect!

  2. such a pretty doll face!! i have just bought a secret santa for someone for friday…. will let you know how it goes. love your bookmarks too!

  3. The doll is sweet and I love the fabric choice for her kimono. You drew her face so well and captured a soulful expression that I’m sure any smudging simply added to the effect.
    Oh I tried to read ‘Stiff’ but I found the authors’ commentary and one-liners really jarring – it probably wasn’t something I felt like at the time – so I didn’t finish the book. I Love your bookmarks though – what a great little touch of Victoriana (my favourite!).

    • I was pretty happy with it. I draw onto the fabric with color pencils and then I seal it with a spray of Krystal Kote. This was the smooth(er) side of cotton drill which is a bit of a rough fabric, so it was a little difficult. But, she turned out. ^_^

      Oh, I particularly love her humor! But, I can definitely see how it might be an acquired taste. I’ve see a talk of hers too (it might have been a TED talk?) and was completely taken with her. I’ll let you know what I think when I finish. ^_~

  4. My goodness, you just happened to have kokeshi fabric lying around!? You are one organised crafter! The kokeshi you made is wonderful…

  5. That doll is amazing! Maybe it’s because I’m a lefty but I can’t even see the smudging (you learn to block it out). I’m doing something similar for my secret santa but I can’t let you know ’til it’s finished. I’ve been weary of participating in secret santas ever since I was in primary school when I made a girl cry…

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