Temari balls – combining colour

December 19, 2009


With the Christmas temari as illustrated below, I started with the traditional red/green/white combination, which of course is simply white added to the Red/Green complimentary. I can’t say I’ve seen black added to the Red/Green very much. I tend to approach temari very much from the perspective of hana or flowers, so green is invariably the ground and other colours the figure, green the background or “frame” for flowers of other colours.


You might notice the ball in the bottom right hand corner, bottom row. Here, in working the red/green combo, I also came upon a red-purple (“dark watermelon”) and yellow-green (“pea green”, “apple green”) but because of the colour shift causing quite a visual clash, they had to be used judiciously with the red/green combination. In the example using the white wrapping style,  I used these colours by themselves. From the other examples you can see they can be inserted alongside the red/green when many tints and hues are used, where they tend to get lost. 

I’ve always liked the yellow-green/red-purple complimentary, reminiscent of purple grapes and green olives. A Western Australian bead jeweller uses this combination very effectively as the colour scheme of her website.


I’m now pursuing the Red-purple/Yellow-green complimentary, which is halfway between the opposites of Red/Green and Purple/Yellow. The strong purple/bright yellow complimentary is used from time to time in temari, especially favoured in day-lily designs – grand purple flowers with yellow stamens, sometimes framed or surrounded by green or with a green obi.

In my most recent example, I used shades of yellow-orange (with yellow-green of a sort) on a tint of purple.

The stripes interlocked over the poles are yellow-orange, next group of stripes are a brighter orange (harder to keep parallel) and the ones further out, closer to the equators, are a light watermelon-red. So I’ve consciously moved from yellow to red via orange outwards from the poles.  Because I inadvertently misplaced the yellow-orange stripes according to the original pattern, I felt I had to add a yellow-green stripe to “frame” the shades of the focal ‘flower’, another of my references to flowers as the underlying basis for temari surface design. The green was also necessary to fill out the blank spaces around the equator. And the green as a cool colour helps to cool down the hot and lively colour palette. I left the gold jiwari intact because of the subtle sparkle they generate and the architectural structure visible on the lavender; it might have been possible to remove them for a more ‘free floating’ look to the stripes.

The pattern comes from the Cosmo 3 book (text summary on p.65; colour photo on p.13) – black-framed monochromatic stripes on a 27cm circumference mari. Mine was 28cm circumference with stripes of 5 threads (4 being unlucky in the Japanese context because of the shi/shinden – the number four and death – and something I generally adhere to in stitching temari) within single black threads. These look on the thin side, but on closer inspection balance quite well with the lavender negative space. 6 threads of each colour in each stripe might be the way to go with a 28cm circumference mari. The pattern recalls another one in particular, where the spectrum yellow-green-blue is paired with a pink red (recalling the Red/Yellow/Blue triad). Black outlined stripes are somewhat common in temari.

In terms of technique, my orange stripes temari marks an improvement of my skills with stripes, especially placing the starts and finishes of the threads with few tell-tale “splits” in the stripes. Can do better, though. Also it’s necessary to work ‘away’ with the needle and returning ‘from afar’ when changing direction or moving to stitch elsewhere on the ball – it has to do with predictability of the physics of a thread changing direction; not working with this discipline results in a noticeable thinning of the stripe in places. The hardest technical aspect involves staying on different sides of the jiwari in the case of the red and green stripes; the transition is made when the stripes go under other colours. Next step is to do another one, this time getting the stripes in the right position: north/south and east/west on each pole, not NE/SW and SE/NW. A design variation might be to have two sizes of stripe: the polar interlocked ones very thick and the others very thin, or vice-versa.

Cosmo Book 2 (pp.22-23) provides the second conscious experiment in the red-purple/yellow-green complimentary. I’ve fudged the “true” complimentary with use of ‘adjacent’ oranges, but the basics of the colour combination are still present. To make the kiku look more complicated, I’ve done them with the needle threaded singly instead of double and I’ve used a different colour in each row: two oranges (consciously more yellow than red), two (light) greens, two purples and a white. The additional jiwari were self-consciously done in a dark rose perle cotton 8, mindful of a ‘red-purple’ look in the centre of each kiku. Working kiku stitch in confined spaces (28cm circumference mari and each quadrant of the diamond split into three) is always very hard on the fingers. The most important element for me is toning down any strong contrast between the kiku and frame, which will probably be in a mid-red purple. Rather than using a green in the frame around each kiku, I used green in the kiku instead.

The geometrical segments created by the additional jiwari to make the 12-pointed kiku ended up being the same as used in this earlier example (red/yellow/grey on white):


2 Responses to “Temari balls – combining colour”

  1. Hi Rod,
    I am cirriuos. have you made all these beautiful Temari’s. I only saw 2 in Japan and unfortunately none I could buy, not easy to find. But I did find a very nice book.


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