Monday, September 17, 2012

"Temari Or Not Temari?" Tutorial

 Background Information: Temari (literally translated “hand ball”) is a Japanese folk craft that is alleged to have originated in China and was introduced to Japan five or six hundred years ago. Traditionally, the balls were constructed from wrapped kimono fabric remnants and silk threads. They were made by mothers and grandmothers for children to play with. Nowadays, decorative embroidered temari represent a highly valued and cherished gift symbolizing friendship and loyalty.

Recently I've wondered if your don't use traditional techniques whether you should call what you create "temari". That is an ongoing debate but today I share what I do to make a "non-traditional temari"....

1.I start  with a polystrene ball ( traditionally the balls were wound  silk scraps or other organic materials) and begin to wrap with approx 4 ply wool, turning the ball as I wrap. 
2. I then wrap another layer of wool in a similar fashion , this time a 3 or 2 ply soft wool. I have read that temari artists sometimes wrap first with a fine wadding before wool or thread, but I like the firm feel of two layers of wool - hence the non-traditional ! 
3. Then the third layer is sewing thread - I like to use overlocker thread as it is not slippery and makes the job easier for me. The technique requires that consecutive threads should not lie parallel to each other - I am not sure I always manage that, but I do keep that in mind when wrapping. 
4. Once the ball is covered totally with thread - try some simple free form stitches with metallic threads and/or Perle 5 embroidery floss, for example  the "fireworks" in the image above. Barbara Suess, author of Japanese Temari, a Colorful Spin on an Ancient Craft,( Breckling Press)  suggests that this is good idea to develop the skill of stitching on a three dimensional shape. 
Of course if you want to make a more traditional style of temari.... 

4a. Once the ball is covered with thread, divisions on the ball  can be marked out using a simple paper measuring tape.Cut notches at the half way mark and then according to the number of divisions required for a pattern. This technique and patterns can be found on many websites and I found this one to be the best for beginners

5. Using the paper measuring tape, I divided this ball into what is called a simple 8 division. Again consult the temari website for detailed diagrams and instructions. 
6. The fun part of making temari is the stitching and as the above image shows I have started a very simple star design, by taking small herringbone stitches on alternate division lines. I use Perle 5 thread, but Japanese threads are recommended by most temari artists. 

The temari shown here are all very simple to make. I used to look at temari books and patterns in awe and could never imagine tackling something so complex, but starting with basic designs, even free form stitching, and taking some non-traditional shortcuts like using a polystyrene ball have made the process much less mystifying and manageable for me. I hope you will give it a try, too...  I am still trying out complex designs and am still delighted each time a design works! Just a warning - temari can be addictive! 

Postscript  : Many many thanks to my mother who introduced me to temari and passing on her many good tips and techniques. 


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  2. These are just beautiful, I have always admired Temari but they did seem rather too complicated and I never knew how to start them off! Thanks for sharing.
    I have a second giveaway of a pair of earrings from my blog soup do come on over and take a look and enter to win if you get a minute!

  3. Stunning. I am going to have to try this.

  4. beautiful!!!! i am certainty going to make some of these for gifts. thank you ever so much for showing us how to make them.

  5. www.tactualtextiles.wordpress.comOctober 9, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    Hi Wilma,
    I love these Temari.
    Can you email me at please as I am interested in running a workshop with you.

  6. Great explanation and photos - I have wondered how these were done. Thanks. I may even try one!

  7. Hi Wilma
    Yes, I believe that nontraditional temari are temari in their own right.
    I think temari and quilt making have something in common- peoples perspective of what they should be based on what they used to be, which they call traditional. Unfortunately, there is a perception of both as snapshots as if they were frozen in time, which I believe is very inaccurate. At the time the "traditional" quilt or temari was first made, it was different, new, contemporary, and often nontraditional at that time. And now that time has passed, quite a bit more for temari than quilts (at least in U.S.), they are now lumped together and labeled traditional.
    I feel sorry for the avant-garde temari or quilt maker of yesteryear who was pushing the boundaries by being experimental or innovative, only to have their work pigeonholed and viewed as traditional.
    Temari and quilts both have different "traditional" styles which have risen up from certain eras and areas. They did not come from nowhere, but were created by someone. Their style became popular, imitated, and then eventually labeled as traditional, but it was not so during its time.
    If "traditional" temari or quilt makers could be non-traditional in their time and place and still be said to be making temari or quilts, then why can't contemporary artists' work be called what they are: temari or quilts?
    I prefer to think of myself as a contemporary fiber artist, making my own way in the various fiber art forms, taking what I learned from past masters and applying my creativity to create my own unique interpretation of the craft/art. Sometimes this looks "traditional" and sometimes it looks very "non-traditional" aka contemporary, or somewhere in between.
    I have different and far more tools, materials and resources available to me than my grandmothers and their grandmothers, which I am sure they would have utilized if it was available to them and that would have made their works very different.
    Quilts are undergoing a revolution of how people perceive them. Not many years ago, an art quilt, nontradition quilt, contemporary quilt, a modern quilt or whatever you wish to call a quilt that did not imitate the style of a so called "traditional" quilt, which if it was even accepted in a quilt show, was not well received. That has changed dramatically with their popularity increasing.
    With both having a rich tradition of pushing the boundaries, I do believe that it could be argued that it is actually traditional to be nontraditional! Temari are temari and quilts are quilts regardless of whether they are a replication of something made long time ago or creatively push the boundaries of what defines them. By creating ones that push the boundary of what defines them, we are adding to their dynamic and changing history, and maybe what defines them.

  8. Thank you, Kalia, for your thoughts on this - much appreciated.


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