Temari – Braided Kiku Herringbone and colour

July 14, 2011

Use of kiku or chrysanthemum pretty much means one thing and one thing only: the end result will be a stylized flower. Which means colours (bright or pastel) against green (or equivalent dark colour implying light or dark vegetation). The standard in Japanese textiles for colours is ungen  or a range of hues from dark to light (dark red- light red-pink-white). For added drama, it’s common to offset any colours with bands or edging in black and white (or in-between greys). These are the basic “rules” I’ve followed in these experiments with Braided Kiku Herringbone.

Here is the full lineup, with an earlier “normal” Kiku herringbone of the non-braided variety at top left, thrown in to show the contrast between the two stitches. 

So what are the limits or constraints here? The mari is just 27cms in circumference, so we don’t have all that many rows of stitching to play with. Starting small like this helps me to get a handle on the relative geometry before tackling a more standard 30cm ball. All up, I’ve got 6 or 7 rows of stitching for the petals and another 5 or 6 for the petal edging. I simply couldn’t fit any more in because I came to the limit along the marking threads to add any more braided stitches. By starting a 1/3 up from the equator (at roughly 22mm given the 65mm length from equator to pole), a standard measurement in any kiku, you come to create an obi of about 1cm (8-10 rows).

Colour of the background mari

A mari in a dark colour will accentuate the herringbone ‘skeleton’ effect of the stitching. A mari in a light colour will accentuate the braiding texture of the stitching. Because we’re dealing with flowers, I tend to follow Nature: there aren’t all that many green or blue flowers, so one naturally gravitates towards flowers which are red. yellow, orange or purple. This requires the mari to take on a complementary colour (red flower on green, for example. or orange on blue background). The simplest flower will require two colours: one for the petals and one for the background. Working with three elements – petal, petal edging and background – allows me to work with a minimum of three basic colours, so I can work with triadic colour schemes or split complementary colour schemes.

Working with Colour

I don’t work without my colour wheel to hand, or if I ignore the wheel then at least I’m aware of colour combinations which won’t conform to the rules! If I’m going to spend time and effort stitching a temari, then it’s worth five seconds beforehand working out whether I’m playing with the requisite combinations: complementaries, split complementaries, triads or tetrads. This is better than throwing in any old colour for good measure and regretting the choice later on! Sometimes you look at a temari (or painting or embroidery) and think. “Something’s not quite right!” It’s probably going to be a colour mismatch.

The easiest or most obvious use of colour is the complementaries (red-green or yellow-purple or blue-orange). For a more subtle effect, I’ve slipped in a triadics (violet-orange-green).  

* Yellow with blue/white edging, on white mari. This works okay (the same way any two primary colours work together – e.g. red and blue, yellow and red or as here, yellow and blue) , but for a more striking effect, use the complimentaries, i.e.  yellow on a purple mari or orange on a blue mari.

* Red ungen (red-pink-white) with petal edging in black and white, on black mari (dominant Red, against standard black-and-white). Probably the most dramatic in any Japanese colour scheme: shades of red against black and white.

* Red-Violet ungen (red violet – lavender – pale lavender) with petal edging in Yellow-Green, on mari in Old Gold (which turns into a light green with the addition of other colours- !) – complimentary colours of Red-Violet and Yellow Green. This introduces a slight shift from standard Red-Blue-Yellow primary colours or Orange-Purple-Green to something in between! Some purple added to the red makes it more violet and some yellow added to the green makes it yellow-green.

* Orange ungen with contrasting black-and-white ungen, on dark blue mari – complimentary colours Orange and Blue. No surprises here! I find I’m always hesitant about contrasting blue with orange. I think it’s potentially going to be too ‘loud’ a combination. But here, the use of greys seems to soften the edges, compared to stitched rows of contrasting black and white.

* Purple ungen with petal edging of orange and white, on dark green mari – triadic colour scheme of Violet-Orange-Green. This is a pretty “loud” combination and I could have turned the volume down by using some black in the edging, which would have blended in with the almost-black mari. The green mari is so dark it appears almost black so perhaps some of the strength of the triad is compromised.

Marking threads

One thing I’ve noticed is that the colour of the marking threads is extremely important in kiku/chrysanthemum. Normally marking threads are done in metallics, gold or silver. If opting for a coloured marking thread, I recommend using one which is closest in tonality to the stitches closest to the pole. If the first rows of stitches at the two poles are dark, then use a dark-coloured marking thread. If light, use a light-coloured marking thread. Otherwise you get too much of a light-dark contrast, which draws the eye away from the beauty of the braided and herringbone effects. The photo of my red-violet and yellow-green temari is an indication of what not to do and as a result is on my hit list for undoing and starting again! 

Petal edging

It’s possible to leave the petals without a contrasting edge, but one of the interesting design effects of using braided kiku herringbone is that it creates a “W” effect at the edges, contrasting with the “V” of alternate petals. So it cries out to be exploited. With a normal kiku herringbone, you just get the ‘V’ shape all round the outside.

It’s possible to use just one colour in the edging, but that looks too geometric and abstract compared with the desired effect of an interesting ‘flower’. I’ve experimented here with three types of petal edging:

1. a “stripe” of two colours (see all-yellow flower with edging of blue and white, i.e. 3 dark and 2 light, and similar with the orange and white). If I’d edged in white then blue, the yellow would have faded into the white. 

2. white alternating with black (white-black-white-black-white-black-white, i.e. 3 blacks inside 4 whites). This provides a lot of drama. A ‘stripe’ of white-3 blacks-white is also possible. 

3. playing with white-grey-black. In the orange on blue temari, I’ve gone for black-white-two greys in order not to look too predictable



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