Temari: progress with hito hude gake stitching

November 12, 2012

For quite a while now, I’ve been working away on my First Proper hito hude gake: a large temari ball made up of lots of tiny flowers in the characteristic two colours.

It’s been slow-going: 33.5cm circumference bright red mari, with #10 cotton markings and #8 pearl cotton in yellow and dark purple for the flowers. This is the North Pole and I’ve added a third row of yellow and purple just to see the effect of a third row of stitching. I’m relieved that the purple is “showing up” because so far it hasn’t provided a strong enough contrast with the background red. The fear that the purple wouldn’t work has put me off finishing it. It’s vitally important that tonally the flower stands out from any background colour. I add a little bit every day.

Today, I thought I’d work up a simpler version, a “teaching ball” if you will, given that someone somewhere will ask me to explain hito hude gake. For that, I need a small ball with large stitches all in #5 pearl cotton. So I’ve adopted Barbara Suess’ idea of a 14-face ball with nice big stitches.

I’m a sucker for Venetian Red from my calligraphy days when I would love using white and black ink on russet red Canson paper. Here I’ve wrapped division lines on a small 24.5cm ball in ecru-coloured #10 cotton (an ancient, tightly-spun Coats cotton). The division lines on the second ball were a lot more even when I realized I could wrap the markings continuously around the ball, renzoku-style. I measured 2/7 the way between pole and obi as required for a 14-face foundation, but had to adjust some of the wrapping because being even out by a millimeter can look obvious on such a small ball.

One ball (right) I will do very simply in the two-colour, standard hito hude gake stitching – continuous stitching around the ball in one colour from North Pole to South Pole, then a contrasting colour from South Pole to North Pole. Sooner or later, an intermediate-level temari stitcher has to sit down with the instructions provided at www.temarikai.com and elsewhere to work out what’s going on. Whatever instructions you follow, the key will be clear diagrams and ultra-clear photography, which is why you can’t go past those in Barbara Suess’ book on Temari Techniques. Until I saw her clear diagrams, I was convinced I could only learn this with a temari teacher by my side, explaining things verbally as I went. But, folks, it is possible to teach yourself the mysteries of Junction Stitches! For first timers, it’s essential to number all your pentagons so you can travel between the poles correctly. I really do recommend stitching a 14-face ball, based on a S4 before moving to a C10. And my “teaching ball” clearly shows that you can achieve a nice look relatively painlessly.

I’ve today wrapped a similar second ball for the same yellow and orange hito hude gake stitching, but first have added some light brick red kiku (in effect, a lighter tone of the russet red) in each of the squares and hexagons. This idea I picked up from temari aficionado, Joan: basically it’s a very clever use of the negative space between the hito hude gake and using the “free” division lines. The hito hude gake flowers will sit on top of the kiku/chrysanthemum background. I’ve started the first stitches at the North Pole in yellow.


Barbara B. Suess, Temari Techniques: A Visual Guide to Making Japanese Embroidered Thread Balls. 2012: Breckling Press.

www.temarikai.com – a temari Internet portal

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