the power of a paper doll

Another Hinamatsuri tradition includes floating a straw or paper doll down the river in certain areas of Japan which symbolizes a protection for the image of the person the doll represented. In other words, you make a doll that looks you then you would rub it over your body to pick up anything bad you needed to get rid of (early ju-ju?) then float it away on a tiny boat for a prosperous year.

There are a very obvious problems with this tradition even in modern Japan where the tiny boats/dolls get stuck in fishing nets so now, the dolls are floated away but someone then goes and collects them all, takes them to the temple and burns them to release the bad ju-ju.

Having grown up in Phoenixville (PA) and spent my childhood summers in Ashville (OH and yes really!), I am very familiar with the power of fire for cleansing, rebirth and new chances.

There are lots of fancy ways you could make a paper doll model of yourself. Here are a couple fun websites where you can turn yourself into a Powerpuff Girl like this:

Or a Disney character like this:

I decided a plainer backdrop would be easier to cut out…

So I am going to cut this out and … we’ll see. I don’t know that I need to float away or burn just now (beyond a bath with candles). 😉

Powerpuff Yourself

Disney Yourself

There are also lots of hinamaturi related paper doll printables out there for personal use on pinterest and Google if you’re motivated.

What are you going to do today?

a peach boy for girl’s day!

Hinamatsuri (which means Doll Festival) is not just about dolls. It is also referred to as Momo no sekku which means Peach Festival. On the lunar calendar, March is peach blossom season.

My absolute favorite fairy tale growing up was the story of Momotaro. His legend has him springing forth as a baby from a giant peach found in the river by his poor elderly (adoptive) mother who, with her husband, had wished for a child. Momotaro is also a warrior of virtue and justice. Plus he has a dog, a monkey and a bird for best friends so really, what isn’t to love about this tale? (For an easily read aloud version, go here: Their audio version is a bit dreary but there is one on this link too).

My dollies love to read so I decided to make them their own copy of Momotaro. Baxley Stamps has some wonderful versions up online including the 1911 (& 1940 reprint) version as well as a Swedish version (that I couldn’t resist having a dear friend who is Swedish). There is also an excellent write up of how books were bound at the time. I highly encourage you to read through the text when you have time.

To make your own book, you’ll need to print out this handy PDF:


I’m going to caution that I used 11 x 17 paper because it required less taping. Home printers likely aren’t going to accommodate that. A copy center will be able to print the single page for you relatively inexpensively or your local library may have a printer/copier that can handle the larger size paper (standard is 8.5 by 11). If that doesn’t work for you, drop me a line and I will reformat to the standard size for you (or if you’re not in the US and need a different size paper, let me know!).

Before we start cutting, let’s fold things so all our pages are even.

Fold the panel with the cover (the first image)back so you can see it using the edge from the rest of the paper to line up your fold on the top and bottom of the sheet.

We’re going to fold all the outer edge seams first so we need to skip a panel and fold up again. Repeat this until you have folded every other edge. It looks like this now:

To fold the inside seams, use your outside seams as the “edge” folding each “inside” by meeting the two “outside” seams towards each other. When you’ve done them all, it looks like a simple fan fold:

Now we need to separate the sections. I used scissors. An exacto knife, straight edge and cutting mat would be ideal to maintain your size but scissors worked (your book is formatted to 2 inches wide by 3 inches tall). Using the photo below as your guide, separate the sections by rows. Try to keep them in order or use this photo for reference again later! Trim off the extra paper on the top and bottom only for now (as shown)

To connect the sections, use the excess white on your edges by folding them over to create another seam. Fold one in and one out so you can overlap them,

align and secure (with tape or glue, I used tape). Repeat this for the third row.

The front cover also has excess white before it. That’s ok. Fold that around towards the back and secure it (with tape or glue) to the back leaving the back cover free (sorry, I apparently missed that step in the photos).

To hide that white strip, wrap the back cover around (trim the spine to width if your paper is thinner than mine). You can see here that my spine ended up shorter than my book. That happens. I trimmed the bottom edge of the book carefully with scissors at the stage.

Next we need to secure the spine. No more extra book now!

I used regular Scotch tape. I find that if you lay the tape flat and set the book on it, it’s easier to align. I’m showing that here using the edge of my desk. Once I had it aligned on the tape (extra above or below the book is ok, you can trim off extra tape after the book is together) so the tape would go past the spine (so it makes contact with the front cover), I pressed down on the book and carefully rolled the tape up around the spine and front of the book to secure it.

I then used both hands (only one shown, guess where the other one was) to firmly press the spine down on my desktop to square out the spine.

This step isn’t required but it does make the spine look nice.

To show you the scale, here is the book with the tape dispenser. I think they make a lovely couple.

Did you know the story of Momotaro? What do you think of a baby hatching from a peach?

printable wagashi

Hina Matsuri is approaching faster than I want again this year! Last year, I had the best of intentions to make some hishimochi out of clay for my dollies. That clay is still sitting in the wrappers in the clay drawer but hey, at least I bought it (one step closer).

I wanted the dollies to have something for Friday so I started thinking about what I could do with the time I have between now and then and it hit me … do a printable!

WARNING: This printable is a full out craft.

I used white cardstock. I recommend using a thick paper or cardstock. You could also draw these shapes and colors out for yourself if you don’t have a printer.

The first printable is for hishimochi, a traditional tri-colored rice flour dessert for hina matsuri. To make them, use the printable pdf at the end of this post and follow these instructions. Cut where blue lines are in sample. Soft fold (lightly crease with fingers, do not press the folds) the tri colored sides and pink tabs so you have what is basically a box top with the pink section. Continue soft folding the tri colored sides around the pink tabs taping or gluing as you go around. Tuck the extra tri colored sides into the alternate side and secure (with tape or glue). Enjoy!

I did try these as boxes instead of open bottomed and they look sloppier. You can try it for yourself by leaving an equal amount of white to the pink under the lower striped piece if you want, just be sure to give yourself a tab(s) to secure the bottom.

The second printable is for suama, another rice based mochi dessert. This is not for the mildly skilled or easily frustrated. I’m sorry about that. I encourage you to try it but not beat yourself up if it’s not for you.

See, it already looks complicated, doesn’t it? This one is both incredibly simple and awesomely frustrating. The first thing you want to do it cut out each shape with lots of space around it remaining. Before you start trimming the piece, you need to make two hard creased folds (shown in red). (Note: This is not obviously easy. I had to practice. Print out a few extra for yourself just in case. Once you’ve got it – you’ve got it. The first one can be a doozy! Stay with it and you’ll be fine).

Next, cut around the entire outside of the shape starting with the curves. You need to cut the “inside” sides of the curves to continue all the way to your fold lines on their respective sides. Then you can cut the straight outer sides and lop off the extra pink end left as a folding guideline. (The photo does not show the curves cut first but trust me, do it that way).

Fold at both ends of the curves to create the curved parts as the “face” sides of your treat (shown in yellow, do not fold any of the curved part that has become like a tab).  On either side of your folds, you now have a skinny tab (indicated here on one side by the green bracket). You need to fringe that so it will tuck in when you bend it around the curved tabs. Straight cuts to the fold work but I found that tiny triangles worked better because of the limited space. Do whatever works for you!

Next, flatten out the fringe and roll the piece between your fringe around the curved tabs. (I could not take a photo and hold the piece but I found it worked best to use both hands to create a gentle curve by smoothing the paper over my thumb).  You will have extra paper and that’s ok. I tried this multiple times and depending on how you cut, this piece is not going to always be the same length so you intentionally have extra! Fold the extra bit while you have things marked and cut it off. You’re now ready to assemble your treat.

Fold the fringe all in, wrap it so the curved tabs are OUTSIDE this time and secure the bottom to the piece you have curved around (with either tape or glue making sure to hold your piece if you are using something that has drying time!). To secure the curved tabs to the fringe, you can use glue or I found that a single long skinny piece of tape (I used regular old Scotch tape in a strip that I cut to eliminate the texture from the tape dispenser’s edge as well as cutting in half widthwise) over the top only secures the entire piece. (Note: if you have too much extra “face” pieces, you can trim them with a scissor).

Here are my sequential attempts (front to back). I started out with a fading design but it didn’t look as good so I ultimately just switched to a solid color.

If I haven’t totally lost you, here’s the pdf.

Printable Wagashi for Hinamatsuri

(Wagashi are Japanese confections. Mochi are made with rice flour.)

hina matsuri set (joy, joy, joy)

Hina matsuri is also referred to as Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day in Japan and is held in March. Why am I posting about it now?  Because I won this on an ebth auction…


Isn’t it grand? For scale, Janie was happy to get the first look. It’s 13 inches high and 11 inches wide.


You see the tiny Emperor and Empress and three ladies in waiting dutifully presenting their sake.


The musicians look ready to play!


Here’s a great shot from above.

from above

I have honestly never seen a set like this. Here are two photos from the auction site. Yes, there was a door that isn’t on what I received.

IMG_8927 crop IMG_8934 crop

The auction site has offered some kind of credit (not sure what yet, it took three weeks to arrive!) for the missing wood around the door and handle. When I was first alerted I had won the bid, the shipping calculator for the site was not accurate and said I had to pay $290 for shipping! I was so panicked, I called them. They’re still having trouble but they manually checked me out for under $50 which included bubble wrapping and lots of foam peanuts (environmentalists note that they will be reused via my daughter’s workplace – yay!).

What is this new site, you ask? It’s called Everything But the House or EBTH because they sell estate contents (but not the house, get it?). You can find them here:

The auctions are held online but linked to many major cities. If you’re in one of those cities, you’re golden if you can make the pick up windows (there’s no flexibility and you can’t directly contact a seller) and not pay shipping.

Overall, I’ve been pleased. I also won the doll I mentioned in my last post (who I will probably wait three weeks for as well). I bid on a few things I didn’t win and that’s ok too.

I realize I am spilling the beans to you about this fabulous site which reduces my own chances of winning if I really want something but, Readers, you are SO important, you should know these things too!

They have Tiffany jewelry too…and random furniture and art and … if you can think of it, you can probably find it. There are also Barbies and baby dolls and “vintage” dolls. I call those used most of the time to be honest. The bottom line is if you know what to look for, you can find some great deals. That said, if you search for American Girl, you will find several items. Someone who knows dolls knows about the site because some stuff spikes in prices. These are used dolls, after all. Know your limit and stick to it.

For more on the hina matsuri display tiers and meaning, you can check out wikipedia for a great explanation.

Truth be told, my daughter did the final bidding for me as I was at my son’s senior awards banquet. My sister helped her pay for it because none of us had ever seen this kind of set at such a perfect scale. (Watch it be something you can get on a street corner in Japan). Having no idea of its actual value, I don’t know if we paid a fair price but I’m over the moon so it was worth it to me (whereas I am sure I did very well with the doll bundle).

Now…I just have to figure out how to display it for the dolls before March. We’re definitely having a big party this year! Hishimochi for all! (that’s the little green, white and pink striped treat on the trays in the next to lowest tier)


Happy Hina Matsuri!


To celebrate Hina Matsuri this year, Kumiko and I made a paper screen.  Here’s how we did it:

I found an image online that I then divided into four panels before printing on standard letter sized cardstock (landscape format) and then cutting out:

screen panel 1  screen panel 2  screen panel 3  screen panel 4

I used paint stirrers for the legs and strapping tape (since that’s what I had).


I marked off the height I wanted to adhere all the panels at so they would be uniform (I lined them all up and marked them at once but I missed that photo somehow).


Then I fixed the tape to the stirrer folding it back at the edge and holding it carefully while I set the panel on it.  I used two stirrers for each panel affixing bottom then top on each.


To affix the top was tricky but if you hold the tape and line up the outer edge, it’s not too difficult.

I did this for each panel.


To make the screen fold like I wanted, I taped the outer two panels together while they were flat on the table (yes, that’s Dr. Phlox on the tv.  Double check that your panels are in the order you want before taping!).  This allows for an “away” fold.


I pressed the tape into the corners for a snug fit.


The “in” fold was trickier.  I faced my two sets of taped panels together (again, checking to make sure I had the right order before taping) and taped the middle while everything was stacked to allow the extra room when open to fold in.  It looks like this when you unfold it and lay it flat face down.


You want that gap.  All that’s left is to stand it up.



Kumiko nicely modeled for size.  She is, of course, 18 inches.  The panels were 10 inches tall.  At some point, I may try this again with a larger image to make more like a room divider.  Kumiko says it’s perfect if you’re sitting on the floor.

For more Japanese doll themed fun, check out these two awesome doll creation crafts based on traditional Japanese dolls:

Daruma Doll

Kokeshi Doll

There’s also this fun Kitsune-ken game to try (like rock paper scissors but better)

And this: 

May your dolls be put away in time for other things

May your past be left where it should

May your belly be full and

May your family be plenty.

Happy Hina Matsuri to my doll family!

Love you all, Dollings!