I’m prepping mari balls for an upcoming one-day class: a Simple 4 division in multi-coloured bands. Essential for stitching obi since about 80-90% of all temari have an equator “waist sash”.

Apart from the skills of starting/finishing stitches and wrapping a band, there’s also the skill of interlocking, best achieved by reversing the needle as you pass under a previously stitched band.

Stick around for more images of my class preparation in the coming days and weeks!


Where’s Rod?

August 16, 2014

Dear Reader

Apologies for not posting recently. I have two excuses.

The first is that I’ve taken a year off to go to Art School and so I’ve been knee-deep in Photography, Sculpture, Printmaking, Drawing and Painting since the beginning of the year.

The second is that I was inexplicably locked out of Yahoo some months back. Yahoo! ignored my customer complaints so my active participation in the online temari community is now up in the air. A severe blow was my having to abandon the Japanese Textiles Study group of Complex Weavers which had a private Yahoo! email group as its centrepiece. I am no stranger to changes in the virtual world: I began my kumihimo commentary with LiveJournal and posted photos of my temari religiously at Community Webshots for many years. The loss of nearly a thousand images on Flickr was a blow, but I’m not done-and-dusted.

While Fine Art has taken centre-stage for the moment, I’ve not abandoned my commitment to craft methodology. Not that there’s any difference between “art” and “craft” when it comes to things Japanese – what is functional is beautiful and what is beautiful is functional!

Stay tuned for more of my work in the kumihimo and temari fields.







Some works-in-progress from the last month or so of stifling heat and humidity…

[Top} 36cm circumf, pearl cotton 8, an experiment in C10 multi-face. It is helping enormously to work the foundation C10 divisions in one colour (here red) and then additional divisions (e.g. 32-, 42-face, etc.) in an alternative color. Barb Suess’ book has clarified for me the most efficient ways of stitching multi-face division lines, over and beyond the initial layer of C10 threads.

[Left] 28.5cm circumf, pearl cotton 5, a C10 using basketweave. This is really basic basketweave, but works as a good introduction. The hardest thing is to be patient with the seemingly endless amount of grooming required when working double-threaded. They say double-threaded is ‘quicker’ but I’m finding it no so much.

[Right] 28cm circumf, pearl cotton 8, a more complex C10 design variation on the basketweave at left incorporating the color scheme of the ball at top. This is the ball at left pushed to a higher level of complexity, with extra faces. While the basketweave works for a succession of pentagons (e.g. the ball at left), problems arise with combining pentagons with hexagons in this one. I can’t quite see my out of this for the moment, but I’ll see where it takes me.


Preparing to take an online tutorial shortly on C10 multifaces, I experimented with laying down stitches on a 36cm circumf ball in singles of pearl cotton 8, with yellow (42 faces), then purple then pink, finishing with double-threaded white and red surface stitching. I think the progress from 42 to 122 and 322 (which my progression is not) is referred to as “M3″, a multiple of three based on the foundation of 12 faces.


The first step involves laying down a routine C10 (12 faces) and pinning/tacking according to Barb Suess’ excellent instructions on the website of Temari Challenge at Yahoo! Groups. I tacked the yellow lines with the same black sewing thread used on the mari.

The second step involves going from pentagon to pentagon, filling in the blank spaces (half way between each yellow) with purple thread, but without tacking. I’ve learned to leave pins in the center of each pentagon as I work.

The third step involves filling in the available spaces with pink, again halfway between the previous yellow and purple. On this occasion, I move around the ball, renzoku-style, rather than inside each pentagon by pentagon. Stitching these starts and finishes at the sides of the pentagons. The threads start at the pentagon sides, veer towards the centre of a pentagon, then veer away at an angle of about 120 degree, on to the next pentagon. This involved tacking as I went, securing the last thread to go over all the others. The downside of this is it creates not straight lines but wave-like whip-stitched tacking. Hopefully the online tutorial will help me re-think this process.

The next step was to remove the black tacking thread of the yellow threads: it shows given the fine lacey-look of the whole.

The final step was to add some surface stitching, here in white and red, a minor consideration on this occasion given the focus on laying down (correctly) the rows additional to those for 42 faces.



Inspired by a traditional hemp leaf pattern (asanoha in Japanese) done on a S4 structure by Barb Suess in her latest book, I decided to ramp up this design to a Complex 10.

I decided to jump straight to a 42-faced C10 instead of ramping up via a series of potential intermediate steps: Simple 4 to Complex 8 to Complex 10 (12 faces). Why 42 faces? Working in either pearl cotton 5 or pearl cotton 8, I decided 42 faces was an appropriate number for the relatively small, 34.5cm circumference, ball. Perhaps with a 40cm circumference ball, I could contemplate doing 92 faces.

Mari. I started with the 34.5cm mari wrapped in a warm grey colour. Not a cool grey (battleship grey with a distinctly blue tinge), but one which tended to a redder “brown”.

Division lines. I used a pearl cotton 8 in light blue (color #799).

Here’s the S4 model in the background and one of the twelve pentagons of an ordinary C10 highlighted with white pins:


Here’s the addition of division lines for a 42-face.  After doing all this work, I discovered an easier way of adding 42-face division lines proposed by Barb Suess on the Temari Challenge Yahoo! group.


Surface stitching

Then it was a matter of adding some hemp leaf/asanoha stitching in a very dark blue pearl cotton 8. I added pearl cotton 8 off-white/beige in the center pentagon, though it’s not strictly an asanoha shape. Stitching asanoha requires some careful thought about how the pointy star points project out from the six corners. I’ve learned to stitch around the main axis and not around the two side spokes projecting away from the corner. This applies to both the pointy stars and the framing stitch around the small hexagon.


I then extended some of the dark blue beyond the first pentagon so I could stitch a border around the pentagon with two rows of pearl cotton 5 in a mid-blue, allowing for a tack in red at each corner.



Here’s some more information about the temari ball (center, bottom). The design is a simplified version of one in a Japanese book. I’ve called it a “rainbow renzoku” because it relies on a sequence of five rainbow-colored stitch threads (purple, blue, red, orange, yellow) repeated in that sequence around the ‘equator’ of the C10, leaving a ‘north pole’ and ‘south pole’ pentagon in a separate color. It’s a renzoku or “continuous-thread” because both the white and the accompanying color progress in one continuous thread around each of the small pentagons (see below).

I decided to do a 12-faced version before doing it in a larger version with more faces. The photo above shows the division lines done in grey 2/20 weaving thread. You’ll notice I’ve removed it in the finished purple and red panels, as per the Japanese exemplar. You can also see the five “stars” done in bright orange pearl cotton 8. You’ll notice that I did a little tack in the last stitch of each ‘star’ to pull them into the desired shape.

The next step is to add the white, here incomplete to show the starting point (“12 o’clock” position):


When stitching both the orange and the white/coloreds, it’s important to aim the needle as close as possible to the middle of each triangle – I can’t stress that enough. It helps to start as stitch as close to the outside boundary of each pentagon to minimize the black “gully” between each of the panels. I don’t particularly like the black “void” between each of the colored components, but I need to stitch the design before I get ideas about adjusting it to my own taste. My other big dislike is the color next to the white in two rows. It would probably work better, with more subtlety with a gradation from white to dark color in three rows.



Here’s a photo of tiny temari balls, complete with a centimeter ruler so you can get an idea of their size.

The ones at left are from Japan; the mari is made of rice hulls and the stitching thread is very fine silk, approx. 12cm circumference.

The ones at right were made by me several years ago. The formal term is temari obi yubinuki, or ‘temari made with an equator band in the style of a Japanese thimble ring’. Like most stitchers attempting this style of temari, I was disappointed at the time by the uneven edges. There are all sorts of different obi designs possible, but these ones are  are taken directly from the yubinuki thimble ring tradition: the purple/orange and red/green are ‘bicolor scales’ (the Japanese use the word uroko, evoking dragon scales which is a common design element in yubinuki and kumihimo). The mari  are approx 18-18.5cm circumference and have been stitched with thick pearl cotton 5. The three are all based on D8 or have 8 equal divisions or segments around the ball.

For anyone with the Takahara and Oonishi yubinuki books to hand, the beginner ‘bicolor scales’ pattern is at page 22 ring 13 and page 81 (Takahara) and page 29 and 60-61 (Oonishi). The chequerboard pattern in orange and white is a slightly more difficult pattern – see page 37 and 81 (Oonishi).


I’ve made teenie temari on occasion, admittedly in a hurry and not with very fine thread. Probably the smallest ‘proper’ tiny temari  I’ve made (that is, with any degree of finesse) is a white flower with purple obi, second from the left, at 15.5cm circumference, done entirely in pearl cotton 8.

Creeping up stealthily on stitching yubinuki thimble rings, I want to develop my competency with fine thread by practising on temari obi yubinuki first. So my next step is this: work up a dozen or so small temari at 14cm circumference with pearl cotton 8, progressing eventually to pearl cotton 20, 40 and 60 if I can find colors which aren’t light pastels, given I’m entering the (Western) domain of crochet.

To this end, the black temari in the centre is a S8 or Simple 8, chosen specifically because the basic yubinuki thimble ring patterns are based on 8 divisions/segments. Why black? Yubinuki stitcher ‘Chloe Patricia’ notes that while red is often a very common color for thimble rings, she prefers black, presumably because the highlighting effect it has on the stitched thread colors.

Previous experience with temari obi yubinuki has taught me several critically important things. These issues are tucked away in Ginny Thompson’s thorough discussion of temari obi yubinuki at http://www.temarikai.com, but are worth singling out here:

* limiting the width of the obi as much as possible – the stitching looks more convincing on a flatter rather than strongly curving base; the temptation for any temari stitcher is to go for a third the way up from the equator to the poles (the common aesthetic ‘rule’), but that will make for too wide a band;

* add (and secure by tacking) division lines marking the desired width of the band – these can in fact be removed when the ball is finished – but above all make sure they are as parallel as possible at all times (since they affect the finished look of the edges);

* stitch above (not around) the outer additional division line marking the width of the band;

* the division lines and equator (here in a gold pearl cotton 20) need to be very securely tacked so they don’t move;

* a pin in the north pole position has to be in position the whole time I’m stitching the ball – knowing which direction is “up” is critical;

* the start position (koma 1 or “1” in the printed instructions) and the direction for stitching around the ball has to be unambiguous – so a green pin will be going above koma 1 and a red pin further away (the one denoting “start” and the other “finish” will become permanent reminders of the correct stitching direction: needless to say, these pins will stay in position until I’ve done with stitching the ball.


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