手まり (lit. hand-ball) are handmade balls embroidered with geometric designs. Originally intended as a toy, over the centuries temari have become more elaborate & decorative, evolving into a traditional Japanese craft and art form. My interest in temari is purely as a personal hobby, and I have had no instruction in traditional methods. There are people out there who are hardcore temari craftsmen (training, apprenticeship, testing, certification, etc) … so I should look elsewhere if you want to see what it looks like when done properly.

my temari (10 images):

I make my temari out of solid fiber … I save all my random scraps of thread, fabric, yarn, bunny fur, etc. to recycle and use for the ball base. When I am making a temari as a gift, I like to write a message to the recipient on a tiny piece of paper, which I roll up and hide in the center of the ball. I have also experimented with small bells inside the ball … but haven’t ever been completely satisfied with the sound produced. Everything is wrapped tightly with yarn until a round ball is formed.

Once it is as round as it can possibly get using yarn, I switch to thread and continue tightly wrapping. This process takes some time … and a LOT of thread. The ball will become perfectly round … eventually … and a firm, perfectly round base is essential for stitching the geometric designs. The ball is then measured (I use a skinny strip of paper), divided, and the divisions marked & stitched with thread. Different divisions are used for different patterns (some more complicated than others), but since my favorite pattern is the kiku (chrysanthemum) design, I often divide the ball like a globe (with an equator, longitudinal lines, north & south poles).

Finally I can begin stitching the design. Silk thread is traditional, but many people in the states use pearl cotton (size 3 or 8) or even embroidery floss. However, I like to use tatting thread (size 10 or 20). It takes a lot more stitching to fill up the design since the thread is much thinner, and it is also not as forgiving as far as placement goes. Tatting thread is tightly twisted, very smooth/mercerized, and holds a round shape … so if placement is off, individual threads won’t squish or blend their “fuzzyness” together to hide imperfections. The firm, round shape of tatting thread also means that the threads have a tendency to “roll” out of place … another reason they need to be placed just so. But the reason I like tatting thread (apart from liking a good challenge) is that it is a much higher quality, more durable thread. It has a nice, smooth sheen with and will hold up to handling without any frizziness.

I think my favorite part of stitching temari is the way the design gradually develops and gets better and better … it keeps things interesting throughout the process. I don’t always have to plan everything out ahead of time … I can intuitively add and layer colors as I go. Consistency and accuracy are a must, but it is still a mindless repetitive task that doesn’t require much mental concentration … and by “mental concentration” I mean counting (which for some reason uses most of my system resources). Unlike other crafts (like knitting or crochet) where I have to count stitches, stitching temari is something I can do and still allow my mind to wander … without screwing things up too badly.

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