Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Temari, Anyone?


Amazon Books

Embroidery on a sphere sounds pretty intriguing, I think, and the Japanese have this down to an art in the form of temari, which are wrapped, “embroidered” balls that are both decorative and meaningful. I’ve been captivated by temari for a while and itching to try it myself some day. That day has (almost) come; I’m a step closer to learning the craft, anyway…

While at Lacis in Berkeley, I didn’t buy a whole lot of embroidery-related supplies, but I did buy books, and one of them is The Temari Book.

The Temari Book

The book includes instructions and patterns for making thread-wrapped balls. Temari are given as gifts by the Japanese for a variety of purposes – to mark the birth of a child, for example.

The art of making these beautiful little globes of perfectly arranged and colorful thread has grown in popularity lately here in the States, and apparently around the world. The most recent issue of Inspirations Magazine (Issue #62) attests to this. In this issue, you’ll find a thorough article and instructions for making your own temari, including making the thread-wrapped core. You’ll also find a temari challenge (with prizes) in the issue!

If you are new to temari (as I am!) and want to try your hand at it, you might want to invest in a book. However, this book…. well… I like it in some ways, but in other ways, I don’t. Normally, I don’t have trouble picking up a book and “getting it” pretty quickly, but I found I had to re-read and think through the steps in this book a few times before really getting what the author was instructing, on some points. On other points, I didn’t have a problem. Since I’m not too familiar with the craft, I don’t know, really, if the difficulty is me, or if it’s this book.

One thing I do like about the book is the inclusion of non-traditional forms, such as the egg shape. In fact, this is probably what sold me on the book. I like the idea of making temari for gifts – Christmas gifts, housewarming gifts, etc. Being able to make an egg-shaped “temari” would broaden the gift-giving perspective, I thought.

I started squizzing around the internet a bit, looking up Temari, and found a few very good websites that look helpful for the beginner.

Temari.com has a nice section on tips for beginners. The website is Diana Vandervoort’s, who is an author of several books on temari and also has produced a how-to video that goes along with her book, Temari: How to Make Japanese Thread Balls.

Another great site is JapaneseTemari.com. Here, you’ll find a history of the art, some interesting and fun ideas for temari, and, best of all, a good selection of free temari patterns.

Edit: (added at 10:00 am…) I forgot to add the website temarikai.com, which is actually the first website I ever read in depth on the subject of making temari. Don’t be put off by the first page of the site, which is predominantly text. The how-to section is really thorough, with tons of excellent instructional information!

I’m thinking about investing in one of Diana Vandervoort’s books and keeping The Temari Book (above) as a resource for ideas.

In the meantime, I have to admit that I did buy two thread-wrapped cores while at Lacis, too.

The Temari Book

I know it seems a bit like cheating! And, trust me – they were kind of an extravagance, at $14.95 each! But I justified the purchase two ways (I’m always having to do this to myself!): 1. Time is money. It will take time to get a perfect core ready for decorating; 2. Since time is money, if I save time by cutting to the “fun” part of decorating, then I’ll know that much sooner whether or not I want to spend the time learning the craft, right? If I find it to be as fun as I think it will be, then I’m pretty sure, in the future, I won’t mind making my own thread-wrapped core.

Ok, do I really have to justify the purchase?!

So, what about you? Has this form of “embroidery-on-a-sphere” ever interested you? Have you made temari? Do you have any specific books to recommend, or resources for the beginner? Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know!

For now, I’m off to set up some flat-surface embroidery!


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(21) Comments

  1. I tried it for the first time recently, with a pattern in Inspirations (here's my attempt: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aliented/3588053429/)

    I've found that getting a neat core isn't too much of a problem (I've done a few cores now, mainly out of old socks) but it's getting the equally divided markings that's driving me batty. No matter what I do they are never *quite* right and the pattern ends up being wonky. Start with the pre-marked ones- I wish I had!

    Also, I'm not sure if I'm just getting older and slower, but it takes quite a while for me to think through all the instructions and geometries to work out how the pattern works. I like them a lot, but right now it's taking too much brainpower and so my thread wrapped sock cores are likely to languish a bit longer before I approach trying to mark them again.

  2. Oooohhhh yes, I've been tempted but so far have resisted … but … I don't think that I am going to be able to resist trying my hand at these.

    Same type of stitching but on a ring instead of a ball AND they are stitch related. Toooo tempting 🙂

  3. I swear – you must have a hidden camera in my workroom! I've been slowly accumulating all the "stuff" for temari, but just haven't had the push to get started. The book that really cleared the concept for me was "Japanese Temari" by Barbara Suess. Really great "walk before you run" designs. There was also a very intriguing article in the last issue of Country Bumpkin's Inspirations, with instructions for more of an all-over single color textural design.

    BTW: where were they at Lacis? We spent over an hour looking at everything and I never saw them!
    I am SO jealous…..


  4. In my humble opinion, I think they're cool, neat, pretty and interesting but for me to try my hand at something else right now would just be creative/inspiration suicide. You have the means and the talent (to spare) to give it a go. I'd love to see your outcome.
    (Admire and drool) now that I can do.

  5. Years ago one of my children made a thread wrapped star. Not nearly as complicated as your temari but same idea. She used a 6 pointed star shape and wrapped threads carefully around the star shape, laying the threads side by side which created a beautiful effect. We still have it and use it on our Christmas tree each year. Wonder what that craft is called.

  6. Hi Mary,
    My sister showed me how to do Temari last year in October, and for 4 months I did nothing else. Since then I've made more than 50.To start, I recommend the Japanese Temari" book by Barb Seuss; It provides an easy, step-by step introduction and explanation, and you can learn the essential stitches. Then you can branch out to ther books. Another book is by Mary Wood. Another wonderful website is http://www.temarikai.com with many free patterns and resources. It also has a Yahoo group associated with it (as does the Japanese Temari web-site).
    If you would like to see my work, check out http://www.flickr.com/photos/jane_from_illinois/sets/72157610703734691/
    I talk about them in my blog http://www.worldembroideries.blogspot.com

    Just be careful, making temari is very addictive.


  7. I have made my first temari before last Christmas. I've bought a book about them in a language which looks very nice (japanese…). Of course, I cannot read in japanese, but I made it. Later I found another book, translated into russian from english. I like it more. There are some very good advice for making core easier and instructions are quite clear. This books is Temari by Margaret Ludlow ( http://www.amazon.com/Temari-Traditional-Japanese-Embroidery-Technique/dp/1861080808 )

  8. Yes, I've managed to finish one and just thinking of doing my next one. There is an article "oliver twist temari" in Inspirations magazine issue#62. Beautiful new design with clear instructions. Must see!

  9. Third recommendation for Japanese Temari by Barbara Suess (spelled Suess, not Seuss). I stumbled across it while looking at embroidery books at my local library, checked it out, and kept it for three months. (Thank heavens for an easy renewal policy!) It's very good about teaching the basics through explanation and a series of projects that start out easy, and goes on to some very beautiful patterns. If I had any money, I'd be buying it.

    Welcome to the fun of Temari! I actually enjoy making the cores, but the divisional markings are tough. The book mentioned above has some great suggestions for determining spacing, my problem comes when trying to secure the marking threads – I try to secure them with a small stitch of the same thread, and they always end up slightly twisted, no more than a thread's width, but it's heavy thread and it throws off the final design. You'll have to come up with a fix and share it here. 🙂

  10. Oh gosh, another thing I should try to learn! I've been put off by the miles of thread required and really thought they might be too cost prohibitive. I shall follow your experiments with interest.

  11. One day I'll try this technique.
    Our guild did have a class but..
    They started with a base of a styroform ball, covered it with thread. EGA now has a correspondence course but don't how good the instructions. And just an FYI – Nordic Needle has the starter balls in three colors (red, black, white) for $10.99 each.

  12. I have also been wanting to try this but making and marking the ball first seemed to be too time consuming for a first try so I think buying the prewrapped balls would be a better way to go and then you can get to the fun stuff sooner! I also like seeing the thimble rings. I had never heard of them and would like to try them also.

  13. Yeah! More temari stitchers. Like Jane said, beware, it is addictive! I wrote Japanese Temari, A Colorful Spin on an Ancient Craft for beginners. Yes, I followed your path through the books and websites mentioned. So much fun and learned so much. I wanted to name my book Simple Temari but my publisher wouldn't go for that. I really did try to simplify each step.
    Hint for anonymous about securing marking threads: if your marking thread is heavy, don't tack with it. Tack with a thinner thread the same color.
    I hope you all fall in love with the craft like I have.
    Barb Suess

  14. Hi, all!

    I'm glad to see there are so many interested parties or enthusiasts for this subject! Now I'm really excited to give temari a try! I'm glad to know that Nordic Needle carries starters, too – very good to know! I'll look those up!

    Barb – thanks for stopping by! Funny. I ordered two of your books, based on the recommendations here – the temari one, and, through a used bookstore, I ordered the one on kimekomi, which sounds really interesting, too – the picture on the cover actually sold me.

    I'll let you all know how it goes, once I launch in. I'm hoping it'll be something my teenage nieces & nephews would enjoy doing, too…

    Thanks again for all the comments!

  15. I have wanted to try Temari for ages, but I was intimidated by the marking of the core evenly…I am glad to know I can buy one with the hard part done, so I can enjoy the fun part! 14.95 is not really that bad, when weighed against my sanity! I know it would drive me nuts doing the spacing…

  16. Yes, Yes, I think Temari balls are so beautiful – the patterns the colors make… And it is another way to use lovely fibers.
    I am not sure what size Temari balls you found at Lacis but Nordic Needle also has them, 8cm in red, white and black for 10.99.
    I have wanted to learn how to do these for along time – your blog and all the other comments from your readers is the inspiration I needed to say "No time like the present"
    You never need to justify buying needle art supplies: thread, books, fabics, necessary toys.
    Stitching is our mental therapy, gifts, being creative, happiness.
    Sharon ~ Modesto, CA

  17. Yes, temari is addictive I have been doing them for awhile now and finally thanks to the help of a good friend the marking is getting easier. Yes, believe me it does get easier, especially if you have a friend who can bail you out when you are stuck. One of my favourite books is the Barbara Suess one I find that the instructions are clear, the diagrams excellent and the patterns work out well. I am presently working my way through it.

    Joan – Richmond B.C. Canada

  18. I have to agree Barb's book is my favorite. And many people find the Anna Diamond book you pictured rather frustrating. I do own it but haven't stitched anything from it. I do like a some of the color combinations so I will probably use it more for color inspiration rather than design inspiration.

  19. HI MARY,
    I just read about you and what you said about the temari’s .I love them and have done some awhile ago now.It’s the marking of the balls is the trickiest thing to learn .so once you do get it right and you will with practice it will be lovely to see as you do more how gorgeous they are.anyway I live in Australia and would love to hear from someone here .no one had heard of them in the past so only this week my craft group had a specail day all about things in craft for Japanese.well hope you have a go at them I would like to hear back from you.bye for now.

  20. I am learning to make a temari ball at my quilting & needlework club. We are using a 75mm polystyrene ball. You can use a 65mm ball but it is easier to start with a larger ball.

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