way back when i first started bentoing, i took note of the extremely cute leaf-like and gingham flag picks used by gifted bentoist akinoichigo-san… they always looked so homey and bright and sometimes even vintage, really adding a special touch to her already-absurdly-amazing bento creations. (by the way, i don’t read japanese, but i think akinoichigo-san recently posted about a book she has coming out… you better believe that will be going straight in my amazon.jp cart!!)
anyway, i think i assumed she was buying these picks from some super-secret, cool-japanese-ladies only bento supply store, or something… but then i started seeing american craft and design blogs going crazy over washi tape. washi tape is a pretty fabulous product — it’s made of japanese paper that comes in tons of beautiful patterns and colors, and the “sticky” side is actually not too sticky, so that it will adhere to a surface but can also be easily removed (without ripping your paper or leaving tacky residue behind). a hot trend in crafting now is using washi tape to edge bookshelves, to decorate big wooden letters for kids’ rooms, and to spice up collages. if you want to take a look at some good suppliers, i recommend the etsy store pretty tape, as well as the online craft store tinted mint.
another use for washi tape, as it turns out, is for making fun food picks for bento! it’s really easy to do:
- buy some plain old, grocery store wooden toothpicks. rip approx. 2″-long sections of washi tape off rolls of your choosing.
- in the center of each section, place the end of a toothpick on the sticky side of the tape. neatly stick both sides of the tape together (i find it easiest to work from the toothpick outwards to the end of the tape, and i use my fingernail to “seal” the tape closest to the barrel of the pick).
- using small scissors (i like these manicure scissors i grabbed at an H-mart a few months ago), cut the end of the tape “flag” in a design of your choosing (i have demonstrated a “pinking shears”-type effect, a traditional pennant, and a leaf shape).
- voila, you’re done! stick ‘em in something small and pop ‘em in a bento!
UPDATE: maki, of the always-informative-and-interesting websites just bento and just hungry, recently posted a comment noting that washi tape is not meant to be used on or around food (it may contain chemicals and artificial, non-edible dyes), and recommending that bentoists be careful not to allow the tape part of these home-made picks to touch the food when the bento box is closed (or when the contents get shaken up in a backpack or purse). adults can probably manage this when including in their bento lunches, but to be safe, i would probably not use this kind of pick in a child’s lunch, as a child might be more likely to put the actual pick in his/her mouth!