Today I am going to show you how I make simple votive bibs (涎掛け) for my kitsune (fox) messenger statues! These are not essential by any means but I do think that the spirits appreciate them, and they look pretty!
What are the Red Votive Bibs For?
The red bibs are placed on the kitsune statues (as well as other messenger statues in other shrines) by worshippers of the kami as an act of devotion. This distinguishes these statues from any other sculpture, and can be seen to also be an offering to the animal messenger itself.
As well as the bibs, it is common to offer what is believed to be the kitsune’s favourite food – Inarizushi (fried tofu), which is very sticky. Therefore these bibs can also be assumed to keep the fox clean whilst it eats these delicious offerings!
The colour red itself is a powerful symbol of Shinto and is closely associated with various kami, especially Inari Okami. In Japanese folk belief, red is the colour that dispells evil and disease.
How to Make Votive Bibs
A simple bib is very easy to make and can make your home kamidana look even more special! You can place them on the traditional kitsune statues or any other messenger animal figures or deities you may have that correspond with your faith. Remember that these bibs are associated with Shinto and keep that in mind when mixing traditions though.
What You Will Need:
- Your kitsune statues or any other statue or icon you want to make a bib for.
- Red material. I used ‘bright red’ 100% cotton material from this Ebay seller.
- Red (or any other colour you want) cord or thread. I used twisted braid cord from here.
- A needle
- Red thread
- A piece of paper (any will do)
The first thing you need to do is to measure the size of bib you want to make. For this, I use paper to make a rough template. Hold the paper up to the neck of the kitsune and mark with pen the approximate size you would like.
Next, cut out the bib template and measure it again against the statues’ neck. You can judge for yourself the size you want by looking at shrine statues and their bibs.
Using the template as a guide, cut out the fabric. NOTE: You will want to cut the fabric larger than your template. It is also important to leave extra fabric at the top which will be folded over. Don’t worry about the fabric being cut super straight at this point. You can check the photo below to guide you:
Next, you’ll want to fold over the edges of the fabric. The cotton I used retained its shape once folded, some fabrics will not. In this case you may want to use pins to hold it into place. Do not fold over the top edge of the fabric at this point.
The reason for folding the edges is to stop the bib from fraying and to give an overall straighter and neater appearance. If you like, you can fold the edges over twice, this is useful on material that is especially prone to fraying. Bare in mind that these bibs are small and very fiddly – don’t strain your fingers too much!
Now comes the sewing! Carefully using your needle, sew small stitches along the folds like in the image below. Don’t worry about any fraying, you can trim it later. Leave the top of the bib unfolded for now:
Now you need to fold over the top part of the bib! Sew along the bottom of the new fold as shown below. Do not sew up the sides! Now you will have a loop in which to thread the cord. (Please note the second photo below is viewed from the other side of the bib). Also, don’t worry too much about your stitching! As you can see, mine is not perfect! Trim any thread or frays before the next step.
Cut a piece of cord at least 30-40cm in length and thread through the ‘tunnel’ you have just created. Don’t worry if in the process the cord gets frayed (as it is sometimes difficult to get through), the excess will be trimmed off later.
And now your little bib is ready to attach to your figure! To tie it, I place my figure upside down and facing towards me on my lap and use a regular shoelace tying method. It’s the only way I know how to make a bow, but it works! I then gently pull at the longer bits of cord until a nice loop is made!
Here you can see one of my kitsune wearing their new bib!:
I also made one for a hare statue I have on my Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto shrine:
So there you have it! How to make a very simple but effective votive bib for your shrine guardians! Of course there are many different types and styles of bibs so be creative! This is just intended as a quick guide on making a very simple kind!
I hope you enjoyed this post and if you’d like to see more of this kind of content, please let me know!
読んでくれてありがとう! Thank you for reading!