The word “tsutsumu” means “the Japanese art of wrapping items in an attractive and appropriate manner.” I’ve long loved homemade gifts and Sophie received many this holiday season. My mom made this one. Wrapped, it looks like this.


Unwrapped, it looks like this—a delightful play land perfect for a strong and budding imagination. Sophie loves it.

My mom discovered the project in a Japanese sewing book, which she found in a small shop in California.

The project proved more difficult than many things she’s made for us, in large part because the instructions were, well, in Japanese.


But it’s just a lovely plaything for Sophie. Unwrapped, Sophie moves small, wooden animals and trees (from Haba) around on Japanese linen. When finished, she simply piles the wooden pieces in the middle of the fabric, pulls the corners together, loops them shut and stores the entire package in a wooden cubby in our entry. (Although, it’s probably more accurate to replace “she” with “I” in that last sentence.)


“In Japan, it is said that giving a gift is like wrapping one’s heart.” —Kunio Ekiguchi