ARTeries: Sarubobo – Addictively Sweet!!!

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Arteries - exploring embroidered expressions with Arlee Barr

And now for something completely different from the usual ARTeries fare! Fibristas and Fibristos, i introduce to you: SARUBOBO.

baskets of Sarubobo

I’m not one who’s much for cute or plushie, quite frankly, but when i saw these, i fell in love. The scope for ornamentation, storytelling and possibly odd materials really had me thinking.

Sarubobo (baby monkey) are Japanese good luck charms, tiny simplistic figures that symbolize good fortune, happiness and fertility. Newly wed couples are given baskets of them for luck and babies, travellers carry them as safety amulets and children are given them as gifts of love.

They couldn’t be easier to make either! A circle and a rectangle, and some tiny scraps of fabric and you can tell a tale. Group them, pose them, frame them, fun and funny, sweet and silly, trade them, give them as prezzies. Scale them up for pillows and soft furnishings!

pillow Sarubobo

All you need is a 5cm (2”)circle, and a 5x6cm(2x 2 1/2”) rectangle, add a seam allowance as well. This is the basic size of most of them, but scale up if you have difficulty with tiny pieces–these are hand sewn because of the dimunitive size. (I sized up by half an inch as it seemed so small to sew on even by hand!) Gather the edges of the circle and draw tight, stuff and sew closed to create a puff ball head. The body is created by sewing the points to themselves making tiny arms and legs, with a small opening in the belly to insert stuffing. Sew the belly slip closed, sew the head on–Sarubobo in seconds! There’s a quick pictorial tute here on Mairuru’s blog.

I’ve seen them strung on ropes like acrobats, attached to keyrings, with elastic on their bellies for use as napkin rings, large as life for costumes(!), sewn to pincushions and as mascots.

Colour plays a part here too:
Blue – for luck in study and work
Pink for luck in love
Green for luck in health
Yellow for luck in money
Black to remove bad luck
Red for protection from bad things, for luck in family life and childbirth
White for luck with property
Purple for banishing evil spirits

Thought i’d try my hand at a couple too:

Arlee Barr's Sarubobu Doll

First, a very wierd baby: couldn’t resist using the rust marks as eyes and then needlesculpted the mouth. Looks like there’s been surgery on the belly recently!

Then a cat:

TigerCat Sarubobo
TigerCat Sarubobo

Triangular sequins for his ears! I also found that if you stuffed the head very firmly and drew really tight with the gathering thread, that the head would be better formed and easier to attach to the body: use a strong thread for this step and more stuffing than you think you need.

See Also

And sometimes despite your best efforts, something will go wrong:

Alien Bug Sarubobo
Alien/Bug Sarubobo

The fabric stretched,  one leg was too small and the body contorted. SO, forget the head part: it’s a one armed alien or bug!


1. If you want a certain motif on the fabric to be a “face”, set it slightly off centre on the circle. Though traditionally they have no features, it’s fun to add a little extra personality here.  2.If made larger, you could probably sew on a machine if you are dextrous and patient.  3. Embroider, cross-stitch, add hair and features, make them into little animals! They won’t be traditional, but they will be yours 🙂

Each one of these took half an hour to make, mostly because i fiddled with details. You could probably get them down to 2o minutes and create herds, gaggles, flocks, crowds! Have fun!
TigerCat vs Alien Bug Sarubobo~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Arlee Barr is a Canadian artist, working primarily with textiles. She describes herself as “curious, eccentric and just a little opinionated“.  Surrealist in thought, Fauvist at heart, Arlee likes the eclectic, explorative and absurd. Sprinkled around the interwebs, she can be found hanging around her fantastic blog.

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