Kanzashi Fabric Folding

It would be interesting to find out how many of us also have a stash of fabrics. I’m not talking about linen and Hardanger fabric. No, I mean the beautiful printed fabrics–holiday, plaid, specialty, and more. Somewhere upstairs there are at least 4 large totes of fabric and I don’t buy just a fat quarter…no, I buy a full yard. So, I am always looking for ways to use the fabric. Because I rationalize that if I occasionally use even a little patch of fabric, I am authorized to buy more to restock! Classes are a great way to learn new techniques. I wrote about several ways to embellish with fabric in a past newsletter.

Another great way to learn new techniques is with cool tools and well-written books. Today let me show you how to use both to create beautiful Japanese fabric flowers that are derived from traditional hair ornaments called kanzashi. Going clear back to as early as 12,000 BC, a single thin stick was worn in the hair to ward off evil spirits. Then Chinese influences changed how women wore their hair. Now it was left long and tied back and with it the hair accessories changed. Then by 1600 AD, more hair adornments were used to keep the hair put up. Ornate and complicated hairstyles became popular in the Edo period which stretched from the 1600’s to mid 1800’s. This trend allowed craftsmen to design fine hair combs and headpieces. Interestingly, some of those decorations had a secondary purpose as weapons! Also, the hair style changed depending on the person’s age and position such as a geisha in training. Today the traditional hairstyles are still used by brides, geisha, and those performing traditional ceremonies. You can learn more at the Japan Powered website.

There are even seasons for the hair styles. For November, the Japanese maple is often the inspiration with its beautiful fall colors, also from the Japan Powered website.

Trips to view the autumn leaves are very popular in Japan. This is the Akigawa Gorge, just an hour from Tokyo.

Here is an interesting fact. East Asia and North America trees have yellow, orange and red leaves in the fall. However, European leaves are mostly yellow. When Europeans saw paintings of the American fall landscape, they thought the painters were taking artistic license because they had never seen red leaves in person.

In the past century the beauty of the kanzashi caught the attention of a younger Japanese audience who wanted to add adornments to their clothing. Thus came the art of the folded fabric flower, called tsumami kanzashi. This “new” art form was officially recognized in 1982 as a traditional Japanese handcraft practiced by professional artisans who apprenticed for years to learn the craft.. Thankfully, you and I now have the resources available to create these fun flowers for ourselves.

I started with this new book, Japanese Fabric Flowers. Learn how to create 65 different flowers and turn them into jewelry, hair ornaments, pins, and embellishments. A majority of the flowers do not take any additional tools. The book is filled with beautiful pictures, wonderful diagrams and written instructions. Here is a sneak peak.

Some of the flowers are made with Kanzashi Flower Maker templates. Nordic Needle sells several sizes. Here are some of the flowers I made.

They are super easy. Let me show you! We are going to make the Large Gathered Flower.

Decide on the type of flower you want and pick out the fabric. I decided to do something like a sunflower.

You fold the template over with the fabric inside, right side out, and it snaps into place.

Cut around the fabric and stitch through the template, following the numbers on the template..

Remove the template and carefully gather up your thread to create a petal.

Don’t cut your thread! Repeat this process for your next petal. For this flower you are supposed to create 10 petals.

Once you have all the petals made, take out any slack between the petals and tie your beginning and ending threads together. Spread the petals out, “fluffing” out the petals until you like the arrangement. Use a button or a fabric yo-yo for the center of your flower. And just like that, you have created your first flower! A word of warning, they may become addictive!

Here are three others that I made from different templates.

Small Orchid

Large Rounded Flower

Pointed Extra Small

You can recycle things like men’s silk ties too! Here is one that is made from two ties and finished with a pin back.

Since I have some on-going crazy quilt blocks, I pulled one out and did a quick arrangement of the four flowers. I think they will work just great! It would be fun to do a design using lots of different Kanzashi flowers making a permanent, floral bouquet.


We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit www.nordicneedle.com. A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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