Ekoji Obon tenugui for Bon Odori dancing

Making Handmade Obon Tenugui for Bon Odori Dancing

Another craft that I have developed from recycled materials for the Obon festival at Ekoji Buddhist Temple this July 9 is a tenugui.

A tenugui is a small hand towel, 13 inches by 30 inches, made from white cotton typically. We are making ours from recycled bedsheets. I have sewn about 50 so far. My fellow taiko player Dee has ironed most of them, and a wonderful volunteer named Joy made 42 more! My goal is to have about 125 prepared for July 9 – so we are almost there!

When I was looking for ideas for creative reuse crafts for Obon, I reviewed websites from other Obon festivals around the world. There is a special dance that people do at Obon called Bon Odori. Everyone dances in a circle around a stage where a taiko player keeps a beat. I noticed that some Obon organizers encouraged people to bring their tenugui, uchiwa and naruko. I did not know what any of these items were. I learned about tenugui, as well as uchiwa (fans) and naruko (wood clappers). At this year’s Obon we’ll make tenugui and uchiwa (maybe naruko another year!).

My plan was to have Obon attendees use a stamp to put the message “Obon 2016” on the tenugui. I put the year so that maybe people will collect a new tenugui every year.

I researched fabric paint that would dry very fast. I saw an artist at the Nova Maker Faire who was doing this from the store Artistic Artifacts located in Alexandria. On the Artistic Artifacts website, they linked to a Youtube video about how to use these fabric paints:

Here is the exact paint I am using for Obon – PROFab Textile Paints – purple opaque
Next I made a stamp from a piece of scrap wood and craft foam. I had to remember to put the letters and numbers in reverse.
Stamp I made from wood and craft foam
Stamp I made from wood and craft foam

I dabbed on a very thin layer of fabric paint on the letters, trying not to get any in the holes and crevices. I put the tenugui on a towel and pressed the stamp down in the center of the tenugui. When I lifted it up, it looked great!! And it dried in minutes!!

Obon 2016 tenugui for Ekoji Buddhist Temple
Obon 2016 tenugui designed for Ekoji Buddhist Temple

On Sunday June 26 and Sunday July 3, a volunteer named Susan will teach people how to do the traditional dances with this tenugui. I am really looking forward to learning. Why don’t you come? Learn more about Obon and the dance classes at https://www.facebook.com/ekojibuddhisttemple/ – and like the Ekoji Facebook page while you are there!