I’d never heard of them until a couple of weeks ago when a booklet of college extension courses and workshops showed up and mentioned a weekend class teaching this “beautiful Japanese art of decorative embroidered thread balls.” I was curious, so I made a short stop at the University of Google and was entranced. True to my DIY nature the thought of signing up for the workshop never entered my mind. I ordered a book which was probably unnecessary, but it was nice to have a reputable guide to the basic tricks for establishing the geometry. And then I pulled out my stash of embroidery floss, some thrifted yarn and serger-thread spools and dove in.

Keeping the dorodangos company
My two completed temari keeping the dorodangos company on the window sill.
Dogwood design, a work in progress (ran out of white embroidery thread).

I’m running out of embroidery thread already. These things are addictive! Sophie suggested that at my current rate of 3 temari a week I could easily complete enough to fully decorate our Christmas tree (and the rest of the house) by next December. I’m pretty sure I’ll run out of steam soon, but for now it’s really gratifying.

I’ve been starting with 8 cm styrofoam balls. I wrap them with about 5 mm coating of light wool yarn, and then start with the “mari wrap,” which is done using regular sewing thread. You can see it as the bright pink layer in the dogwood design shown above. It takes a long time to get the mari layer opaque and consistent. The mari wrapping can be boring if it’s all you’re doing but is easily accomplished while listening to a podcast or chatting to your family.

Then with pins, marking threads and folded strips of paper you mark poles, map the circumference of the ball and start dividing it into sections in various orientations. Temari designs are organized by their basic hemispheric geometry, the commonest being quarters, fifths, sixths, eighths and compound eighths.

Years ago we had great fun making dorodangos. Temari and dorodangos are sort of the yin and yang of Japanese decorative spheres. They look pretty neat together on the windowsill.


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