Temari thread balls: A lesser-known Japanese art
This month, Ethy Denardo is hosting a workshop on Temari, or decorated Japanese thread balls, at Comstock Public Library.
“They say that hundreds of years ago in Japan moms would make balls out of their leftover silk remnants for…to make toys for their children," she says. "And so that’s how it started I believe is balls, toy balls for kids made out of silk. And some of them I understand were wound so tight that they would even bounce.”
Temari are usually very colorful and come in all kinds of designs like flowers and geometric patterns. When I talked to Denardo, she was working on a gray ball decorated with black, white, and gold thread in a kind of spider web pattern.
To make a Temari ball, Denardo covers a Styrofoam ball in a thick layer of yarn. Then she goes over it with a layer of sewing thread. Denardo says she used a glow in the dark white thread on the gray ball. She says some Temari makers put beads on the ball or even put a small bell inside.
Before starting the embroidery, Denardo uses golden thread to mark the ball like a globe.
“There’s a north pole and a south pole and an equator,” she says. “And that’s kind of what the stitching guidelines help me to follow the pattern.”
Denardo stitched loops around the guidelines, alternating with black and white thread. She says, once she’s done covering the ‘latitude lines’ and the poles, she’ll work on the equator.
“Then we stitch a band at the equator which is called the obi," Denardo says. "And an obi is a term from a Japanese kimono and that’s the sash that holds it all together.”
Denardo learned Temari from her former boss just two years ago. Since then she’s been pretty busy filling requests.
“Right now, I have three sisters in law in Minnesota I’m getting balls ready for,” she says. “I have a new niece. I have seven balls that I’m trying to get done for my daughter in law that are all in complimentary colors to her new paint scheme. And want to make…we have a work exchange or a gift exchange at work and I want to make a ball.”
Denardo is trying to get a group of people together to work on Temari. She says she doesn’t know why more people aren’t fans of the art.
The beginner Temari class on Thursday is full. But Denardo says, if you’re interested in Temari, you can check out the book Japanese Temari by Barbara Seuss at Comstock Public Library.