Looking for a different kind of embroidery project? First carried by Buddhist monks from China to Japan over 600 years ago, today, Japanese temari balls are carefully crafted and cherished as ornate gifts. Made from silk (traditionally the material left over from kimono production), temari balls were first used by schoolchildren, who used them to play various Asian versions of beanbag ball games. However, this game ball made of “leftovers” has quickly become something much more treasured. When stitched and pieced together with care, temari balls are beautiful, intricate pieces of art, often given as gifts to symbolize friendship and loyalty. Especially on New Years, mothers traditionally make a temari ball to give to their daughters. A gift of a temari ball is believed to bestow happiness on its recipient, and still today they make wonderfully unique gifts, home décor, Christmas ornaments, or even jewelry.
Temari balls are made by skilled artisans, who patiently wrap yards and yards of yarn and sewing thread around wooden, styrofoam, or fabric cores. Pins are placed into the ball, around which the artisan wraps the thread in order to make geometric, symmetrical patterns – as beautiful and detailed as a kaleidoscope. Temari artists often attach tassels or use special embroidery threads — silk, metallic, rayon, and even pearl! — to add to each ball’s unique beauty. Sometimes rice or jingle bells are even added to the center of the ball to make it rattle “for good luck”.
No need to be a professional Japanese artisan to try construction of these fun and artistic pieces for yourself — online Japanese School provides an instructional video of Chiyoe Kubota, a master of Temari, to show beginners how to give this project a try at home. A blog dedicated to the crafting of Temari also provides an easy how-to on how to make these crafts for various uses and occasions. Don’t fancy yourself much of a seamstress?
“Temari: How to Make Japanese Thread Balls” book provides detailed instructions.
For those of us who perhaps feel less artistically inclined, but still want to enjoy the beauty of temari balls, they are easily and relatively inexpensively purchased online: