Going public with my hobby: Japanese Temari
The last two years I’ve begun a cold-weather hobby – making temari. I remember seeing a really cool embroidered ball in a Dwell magazine and wondered what it was. After some google research, I found out it was a Japanese temari ball, made from yarn and embroidery thread. I had been looking for something to make for Christmas gifts whilst watching HBO and Food Network marathons, and I was pretty sure that knitting was not for me.
Temari balls originated in China, but the practice was introduced to Japan around the 7th century. Original temari balls were made from the remnants of old kimonos and used for hand ball games. After kids started playing with rubber balls, the practice of making temari turned into an art form instead of a toy-making craft. Women would compete to make beautiful and intricate patterns.
Today, temari is still a craft practiced in Japan, but people all over the world have picked up the hobby. They are given as gifts of friendship or as a New Years gift from parent to child. On the last few temari that I’ve made, I added a loop so it can hang as an ornament or on a stand. I hope I haven’t offended any purists out there.
Making temari does require a bit of concentration. To create the ball (mari) you wrap either a styrofoam ball or another core with layers and layers of yarn, then several layers of thin serger thread. Now this is where you really have to concentrate – you treat the ball like a globe, carefully marking the equator and longitude lines with pins and thread. But after you get going on the pattern, you can stitch along on autopilot while watching a movie.
Interested in trying it? Here are the resources that I used to get started.
- The only book I’ve purchased on this topic, and highly recommend, is by Barbara Suess: Japanese Temari, A Colorful Spin on an Ancient Craft. Every temari that you see on this blog post, with the exception of the red ball with the mini green and white poinsettia-looking flowers on it, is based on a pattern in this book.
- Also, her website www.japanesetemari.com is a great resource for ideas, patterns and step by step instructions.
- Thread: Most of the temari that I’ve seen uses #5 perle cotton, which is thicker than embroidery floss. I buy mine from www.herrschners.com, but I’m sure your local craft store has thread (if there is such a thing as a local craft store where you live. I’m not holding my breath for one in Haiti…).
- Other tools: The TemariKai shop on etsy offers ready-made balls without a pattern on them. This speeds up the process so you can get right to the stitching, but it’s a lot cheaper (and you get more temari street cred) if you learn how to make the balls yourself. She also sells flexible little tape measures, which help with marking the guidelines.