Here it is, the super secret birthday present revealed. It's a kokeshi doll. Many thanks to Michelle McLaughlin at Suncatcher Eyes for the pattern. It didn't turn out quite like I'd hoped, but it's still pretty darn cute.
I may experiment a little bit and make myself one. The reason I made it for my friend is that she lived in Japan for a couple of years while her dad was in the Navy. And then we both took Japanese history in college.
What I learned from this endeavor: my embroidery skills need serious work. That's a butterfly in her hair and flowers on her dress. Yes, if I hadn't told you, you never would have guessed. They just look like a bad attempt at embroidery.