take a few stitches across the center opening to
seal it up, so your filling won’t leak out.
4. Turn the otedama right side out. Fill with the
filling of your choice, stopping when the filling is
1" from the edge of the fabric.
5. Turn a ¼" hem to the inside of the remaining raw
edge of fabric (Figure 5). Then, repeat Step 2 above
to gather and close.
6. Sew on some felt leaves. You can even embroider
some veins on the leaves for an extra touch.
Variation: Otedama Animals
Animal otedama are popular in Japan today,
and they’re a fun way to get kids excited about
juggling. To make the owl, dog, and fish otedama
shown on page 50, begin with a piece of fabric
that’s 4¾"× 7". Follow the basic instructions
through Step 9. Then, to make an owl otedama,
fold the top seam down in the center. Take a few
stitches to hold in place (Figure 6). Add felt and
To make a fish otedama, run a gathering stitch
across the unfilled part, about ½" above the top of
the filling. Pull the gathering stitch to make a tail.
Add felt or fabric fins, and felt or button eyes.
To make a dog otedama, flatten the top of the
otedama so that the 2 corners stick out to the sides.
Take a few small stitches through each corner to
create ears. Add felt or button embellishments.
Embellishing Your Otedama
Since otedama are made for juggling, you’ll want
to make sure anything you use to embellish yours
is attached very securely — an otedama can take
a fair amount of abuse through throwing, catching,
and dropping. When I make animal otedama,
I attach felt cutouts by stitching them down along
every edge with a tiny whipstitch. If I add buttons,
I sew them on with doubled thread, and make
sure they are very secure.
You can glue embellishments on as well, but
when securely sewn on they seem to stand up
better to the rigors of juggling.
Learn to Juggle!
Some good resources for learning to juggle:
Otedama: Traditional Japanese Juggling Toys and
Games by Denichiro Onishi (Heian International,