Temari

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It’s appropriate that this hashioki depicts two permanently attached temari balls because it turns out that temari have two back stories.

 

 

Temari are Japanese handballs (te is a Japanese word for hand). Some people will tell you they are a craft created long ago by ladies-in-waiting at the emperor’s court, and were essentially a smaller version of a similar kemari that was used in a hacky-sack kind of football game introduced from China in the 7th. century. These temari were made from thick thread or yarn wrapped around a round core, and then embroidered with intricate geometric patterns using brightly colored thread.

Others claim that temari are a version of a folk toy made in the homes of poor people from scraps of fabric, particularly old yukata or kimono. Because they were a soft ball children could use them to play indoors when the weather was bad or it wasn’t safe to play outside. There are even traditional rhythmic songs known as temari uta, or temari songs, which were sung or chanted while the temari were passed back and forth.

Of course the reality is probably that today’s temari are descended from both. I treasure the hashioki above because, in addition to being beautiful, it was also a very thoughtful gift from an Etsy vendor named Linda from Chigasaki, Japan.

Temari are still a popular craft today; kits and instruction books abound on the Internet. Today they are made using a styrofoam ball as the base, which is then covered with quilt batting and wrapped in yarn, and then that ball is embroidered with colored and gilt silk thread. The finished products look something like the hashioki above.

I am completely intimidated by the apparent complexity of this craft, so there are no homemade temari in my house. But I particularly like the contrast of angular geometric shapes on a spherical surface. I doubt if any temari owners today allow children to use them as playthings. Instead, they are used as decorations, or sometimes presented as a kind of trophy or commemorative piece.

 

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