Temari balls – Ehime style

December 11, 2009


Matsuyama, SHIKOKU

I’ve mentioned temari from Ehime or Hime previously. Hime is derived from Ehime, the name of the prefecture around the city of Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku in the south of Japan, far from the madding crowds of urban Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. I gather temari have a very public face here, used in great numbers in static public displays. Shikoku is a very rural area and I’ve mentioned it in relation to the pilgrim coats and Shikoku 88, the Buddhist pilgrimate route around the island visiting the 88 temples and shrines.

Surface design

The use of wrapped layers over a plain or “cross-hatched” mari are the defining characteristics, with the traditional noshi design motif formed at each intersection of threads on the equator. Sometimes the equator is marked with a definite obi wrap and sometimes left plain.

The one above is a somewhat simplified version, created outside Japan by Joan. The pattern is available at www.temarikai.com. I’ve used a bright yellow mari and over-wrapped it with perle cotton #8, thinner than perle cotton #5, in acqua, red and white, with some final lavender and metallic thread holding everything in position.


Here the noshi design motif  – the tied bunch of dried abalone strips as an offering of friendship (becoming “wishing papers” in English) is more strongly defined than in the traditional Ehime pattern. I call these “cousins” of the Ehime style. As usual, they are not my original patterns – the one on the left (perle cotton 8, with defining “ribs” from an antique 1950s yellow synthetic yarn) is in Anne Diamond’s book and the one on the right (perle cotton 5) is from a Japanese book, and was done with a variety of pinks to honour the cause of Breast Cancer in October 2008.

Working method

They use rather a lot of thread, which is probably their major (and only) drawback, but the overall effect is worth it.  I find a more suitable working method than threading the normal way is to reverse matters by inserting the needle into the mari and tying a ‘burying’ knot so you can wrap with the full ball of thread. Obviously you need to deploy keeper pins at the equator to keep everything bunched up properly. I guess it’s possible to lay down the obi first, rather than last. It’s possible to have no obi threads. The ‘looping’ associated with tying each of the noshi can be incorporated into the stitching of the obi as you go; it can be tough physically, in which case you may need pliars to work the needle. A big part of the visual effect of the noshi is the sculptural effect at the equator at the various cross-over points; getting five or so even turns at each noshi knot requires attention; the tendency is to rush when so close to the end of proceedings!

The real thing

To be realistic, you won’t get the same breathtaking effect of Ehime by using perle cotton. Ehime/Hime really rely very much on the ultra-glossy reflectivity of either silk or rayon. That, plus the cross-hatching of individual silk/rayon threads on the mari. They are not as rare as you might imagine: keep a close eye on eBay and other online auctions.


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