Temari balls – kousa/all-over pattern (2)

December 13, 2009

Having done a small series of simple surface designs from Christmas, I’m drawn once again to more complex Intermediate designs. If they don’t end up requiring a lot of undoing and redoing of the stitches, they invariably result in a ball I know I’d do a lot a better if done a second time. Surface patterns of Intermediate Difficulty rarely if ever work perfectly the first time. I invariably  end up with a lot of “second-rate” kousa and Intermediate temari balls: too good to throw away or  redo completely, not good enough to be really really proud of and show off to others.  The end result is most often: “can do better!” but there is enormous satisfaction in having-a-go, working out how something is done, pulling it to pieces and putting it back together again.

This weekend’s ball – done during the first real days of high summer, that cross-over point between very humid hot days to vividly bright hot days – is from Sarah’s Notebook number 49. It’s not immediately clear from the photo exactly what’s happening with the individual elements, but I came across the same surface design in Ozaki’s Cosmo Book 7 – photo on page 12, ball no.2 and pattern with abbreviated summary of instructions on page 70.  The much clearer photos of the Ozaki book inspired me to have a go.

The photos reveal the following three elements:

(1) Probably what grabs your eye first is the silver metallic threads at the pole and the four-pointed ‘star’ effect of the jyouge douji black or dark green areas in the 1/3 of the space closest to the poles. The first row is silver metallic and the rest are worked up close towards the pole.

(2)   Slabs of dark green under the JD threads. These in fact are in the 1/3 of the space in the C8 squares closest to the  boundaries of each of the eight faces of the C8.

(3) The red triangle bits are where the slabs of dark green meet and are in fact stitched as interlocking in and around the slabs of green.

The photo in the Cosmo book shows these elements more clearly. The Sarah Notebook isolates each of these three elements and recommends stitching them in the order 2,3,1 as above. The Ozaki book comes with no diagrams to assist.

Working Method

 A 25cm ball is good because it doesn’t take ages and if you make mistakes, any undoing or redoing won’t take too long either. Anything smaller would be too fiddley. Anything larger will take more than an afternoon to stitch.

Mari: the Sarah Notebook doesn’t specify a mari colour, but it is in fact an orange-red, though you won’t appreciate it till you’ve finished the whole ball. The Cosmo one is in a light purple/lavender colour. I did mine in a burgundy, which next to the black of the squares turned a dark brown. The mari colour doesn’t show too much, but enough to demonstrate that a reasonably light colour is probably optimal.

Jiwari: both specimens call for metallic thread, with additional divisions in the same metallic thread forming the “outline” of the jyouge douji and the squares. Obviously it helps enormously if the jiwari are placed within a few millimetres of exact measurement, as does a near-perfect ball! I didn’t tack my jiwari in place as usual because I thought the tacking would show – what is important though is to check the measurements over all the ball before you start stitching.

Element #1, the squares. Sarah’s is in dark green; Ozaki’s is in black. I went for black. Having the “edge” of the square in metallic thread and allowing that metallic thread to show through means the meeting up of the bits at the “hems” isn’t as tough as usual. You go up to the metallic thread jiwari lines without covering them completely. The darkness of the mari underneath also helps with the nudging-and-fudging. There are only eight of these big squares so it’s done quite quickly. Don’t tension stitches too much; just enough to cover the jiwari. It helps to measure the 1/3 required away from the four points of each square TOWARDS the pole, and not 2/3 outwards from the pole; that way you will have an approximately equal number of rows of thread, which helps in the visual effect of the triangles to come.

Element #2: stitch the interlocked triangles. Sarah’s Notebook uses a tartan/plaid effect with green and red; Ozaki uses an ungen effect with two hues. I opted for 8 triangles of two similar colours. The temptation is to “tighten” up the squares by making nice triangles; don’t – follow the curve of the ball a bit more so the triangles are in line with their borders from pole to pole. They thus become “rounded” triangles; this means not so much tension when stitching. A total of 10 rows, five in each colour.

Element #3: as with most Intermediate Level designs at this stage, I get quite tired from all the concentration and often find the last stages the most difficult or fractious. It’s not clear from the photos in either book what happens here except a standard jyouge douji, that is a merry-go-round pattern from one pole to the other. I’ve opted for an “interwoven” approach which has resulted in a noshi “bump” where threads intersect, i.e. you go round the ball once and end up where you started, then do the other contrasting one. I recommend however doing a complete sequence first, followed by the other. This way, you will get two complete layers of threads one on top of the other where they intersect.

Finishing. I finished off with some contrasting pink at each of the pole positions, mainly to hold the jiwari in place. How to hold these securely is difficult because any tacking may be highly visible. Often I tack with the mari thread, but this can show. Also I secured the threads at the “equator” where they meet with a single stitch; this is not used or implied in either of my two models.

Temarkai Pattern 99TB01 at www.temarikai.com is a very similar surface design: we’re talking four triangles again in each hemisphere of the ball, interlocked around bits which are related to the eight square ‘faces’ of the C8 . The only difference is the stitching at the poles which links everything together.

Terry B there clearly states the implications of doing it small (3″) and large (4″) and how the mari can show through: the smaller the ball the less ‘distortion’ in the triangles. Interestingly he talks about stitching the ‘squares’ TOWARDS the pole, whereas the instinctive method is to work TOWARDS the square jiwari lines. Presumably the tension created by the triangles “tightens” things up in this regard. I will have to try this next time!

The end result is a dark, moody temari, typical of any work using bright colours on a black or near-black background. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the square/triangle dichotomy is at the heart of a lot of kousa or all-over patterns. And after mastering these in relation to Combination 8 divisions, they can obviously be reconfigured using Combination 10 for a more complex look. And yes, if I did it again, I’d use something like a lavender light colour as a mari background. Is a “light” version possible? We are familiar with the “stained glass” effect of bright colours on white; I’ve uploaded previously a quite small ‘stained glass’ temari, done on white. The same could be achieved if the pole ‘flower’ was done in white and the mari was a mid-tone, again like lavender. I noticed in reviewing things last night that the coloured triangles went right up to the start of the green ‘pole flowers’, right up the silver jiwari borders of the pole wrappings. Also the idea of tacking the intersections in a contrasting colour like pink or white has been used to good effect in at least one other Japanese temari I’ve seen, so it is “permissible” and can add substantially to the overall visual effect.


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