Temari #115- learning

Temari #115- the making of this temari was an exploration of incorporating felt into a temari design. The smaller felt circles are hand dyed wool/rayon felt and the larger circles are repurposed felted wool fabric. On the circles, the blue thread is a perle cotton, and the white is a silk/bamboo yarn with the plies split and the variegated thread is the same silk/bamboo yarn with the plies split that has been hand dyed. The background embroidery thread is a hand dyed perle cotton.

temari 115 penny rug view 1

The design was inspired by penny rugs, which are rugs made of scrap wool felt or felted wool fabric, cut into circles by tracing coins and then joining the felt circles to make a rug.

temari 115 penny rug detail 1

Felt appliqued to a temari ball makes for a nontraditional temari, so there was nothing on internet for me to find to guide me on the subject. So, exploration means teaching myself.  Although this is not the first felt appliqued on temari that I have made, I still had some learning to do about appliqueing felt on a temari.

After stitching beads to a couple of the circles, I found out the hard way that beading should be saved for last if possible: after the circles were appliqued to the ball and after the background was stitched. Thread kept getting hung up on the protruding beads. Very annoying and time consuming to have to untangle with almost every stitch.

So, all those lovely beads (except on a couple circles) were stitched last. Stitching beads on a ball is challenging since there is no back to work from like when stitching beads on fabric. Ideally, I would have used a curved needle to make stitching easier, but I do not have one small enough to work with seed beads. Definitely something I will be seeking for future beaded temari projects.

Another lesson I had learned was that felted fabric, if not densely felted, would tend to ravel along the edges. Hence the necessity for an edge stitching.

Something I had to learned before, but had to relearn, was that felt has a lovely pliable quality in that it can be shaped and deformed to take the shape of a non-flat surface. So the circles appliqued to the ball lay “flat” against the curved surface of the ball with no rippling of the edges. But this malleable felt characteristic can be problematic in that the circles can become deformed enough to make them not regular circles, which in turn means the spacing between them becomes irregular even if they are properly placed on the ball.

I struggled with getting the placement of the circles right for quite a while before realizing that it was the circles not their placement since the ball was accurately marked and the circles were centered on the intersections.

The ball was set aside for quite a few months. And ignored. Finally, I could no longer tolerate seeing it unfinished.

This time I could see the problem; I was trying to make something irregular become regular. Eventually, I found that by using the guidelines as a starting point I could adjust the placement of the circles so that the narrow spacing between them was somewhat uniform. This left the pentagons in the background irregularly shaped, but something I could live with. The one in the picture below is one of the more regular shaped ones.

temari 115 penny rug detail 4

All the circles got stitched down. Then it was time to stitch something in the blank pentagon spaces. I tried a couple designs that echoed the pentagon shape. Not a good idea unless I want to emphasize how deformed the pentagons looked. So, I guess I had not really learned my lesson yet about how to deal with the irregular spacing.

temari 115 penny rug detail 3

Finally, it dawned on me. An irregular pattern in an irregular space. Embrace the irregular.  A random fill pattern based on Chinese ice ray lattice patterns was stitched in the blank pentagon spaces. Okay, I admit that the background stitching is just a distraction and the irregularity of the pentagons are still there; but it is a good distraction and a nice background pattern too.

temari 115 penny rug view 2

More about the temari:

Temari #115 is a C10 division. The smaller felt circles are hand dyed wool/rayon felt and the larger circles are repurposed felted wool fabric. On the circles, the blue thread is a perle cotton, and the white is a silk/bamboo yarn with the plies split and the other thread is a hand dyed silk/bamboo yarn with the plies split. The background embroidery thread is a hand dyed perle cotton.


Temari 95- blooming

Observing the energy and beauty of Spring season is always a source of inspiration; both to work in the garden and to create art that reflects what I see in the garden.

The last temari, #94, was inspired by ferns unfurling. This temari, #95, is obviously about flowers blooming, with no reference to a particular flower, just symbolic of flowers blooming in general.

temari 95 view 1

This is a C8 division temari, so there are 6 faces that are “square” and the tips of each leaf go to the corners of the squares. See where three leaves meet? That would be a corner on cube.

temari 95 wip 1

The leaves are really just two overlapping pointed ovals.

temari 95 wip 2

An X was stitched across the center of both. The X marks the spot that will be the center of the flower. A pin through the flower and into the center of the X made alignment easy.

temari 95 wip 3

Next,  a long stem lazy daisy stitch was used to create stamens and to secure the flower to the ball.

temari 95 wip 4

An X was stitched in the center of the flower as stitching guidelines.

temari 95 wip 5

The flower center was stitched.

temari 95 wip 6

And the last little finishing detail is the little triangle stitching at the intersection of the leaves.

temari 95 view 2

Hand dyed perle cotton #5 thread was used to stitch the leaves and to embellish the flowers. The flowers are made of hand dyed rayon/wool felt.

Felt Leaves and Flowers Temari

Looking forward to spring, this temari was inspired by my love of gardening.

illicium floridanum in snow

There is a wonderful bush in our backyard, Illicium Floridanum, also known as Star Anise.  It is a Florida native that is not supposed to do well outside its deep south native area, but for some reason it does well in our yard in Virginia. The picture above was taken this morning and the one below was take in May a few years ago while it was blooming.

illicium floridanum

It has small dark red blooms that are mostly hidden beneath the canopy of the bush’s leaves. The flowers are charming, but not showy. This bush was the original inspiration for this temari.

illicium floridanum

The first set of felt leaves just looked too big for the ball, so I made them narrower. This, of course, made the triangular areas between the leaves larger, and would thus make the flowers more exposed. With the new leaves, the design no longer reflected the idea of Star Anise flowers being mostly obscured by leaves.

temari 91 c8 felt leaves and flowers

With the design change due to the leaves, it seemed appropriate to change the flowers to suit the new open space.The flowers became a brighter, more stylized and more showy rather than representational of star anise flowers.

This is a C8 division temari. The felt is a hand dyed rayon/wool blend and the threads are hand dyed perle cotton in sizes 5 and 8.

Those too wide leaves that were set aside have a new destiny in another temari, which will be in an upcoming post, if I can work out a couple technical issues.

Hawiian Quilt Inspired Temari

With a Hawaiian name and being a quilter, I thought for many years it would be fitting if I made a quilt in the Hawaiian applique style. Never got around to it.

temari 89 view 1

Traditional Hawaiian quilts are usually a radially symmetric design created by folding the fabric (or paper template) into eighths and then cut along the edges, like making paper snowflakes.

temari 89 view 2

For this temari, a paper template was made to fit the size of the ball. Next, two pieces of hand dyed rayon/wool felt were cut from the template. The felt pieces were appliqued to the ball and then outlined using stem stitch. The thread is a hand dyed 5/2 perle cotton. Little bullion stitches were used in the cut slits for accents in the leaves and seed head.

temari 89 view 3

This temari, #89, is an S8 division with no markings.

Glass Float Temari

This S9 temari was inspired by glass floats, which used to be used to keep fishing nets afloat. Many are found with barnacles attached. This one also has a starfish (or sea star) adorning it.

glass float temari 87 side 2

Side view


In reading about the history of glass fishing floats, they were first produced in Norway around 1840 and other countries followed, with Japan starting around 1910. Even though glass floats have been replaced by materials such as plastic and Styrofoam, many of the Japanese floats are still being found washed up on the Pacific coast.

glass float temari 87 bottom 4

Bottom view


Glass floats are netted then secured to fishing nets. Looking on internet, one can see several different styles of float nets. Some are simple and others more complex. There are even tutorials on how to tie a glass float net. That is how I learned to make one for this temari. The netting just happens to be a simple division, with a north and south pole.

glass float temari 87 top 3

Top view


The starfish was made after the ball was netted. It is made of some of my hand dyed rayon/wool felt and loosely stuffed with scraps of yarn. The surface is stitched with matt glass seed beads in a pattern that was inspired by pictures of real starfish. The red color for the starfish was also inspired real starfish.

glass float temari 87 6

Each barnacle on this temari was machine embroidered on little pieces of stabilizer.  The ends were hand stitched together to create a tube, some stitching over the join was added to disguise the seam and the bottom circles were stitched to the tube to finish the barnacle forms.

glass float temari 87 in progress 1

Next, the barnacles were pinned to the netted ball along with the starfish. After they were arranged, then each one was stitched into place. A curved needle was a necessity in order to stitch the barnacles to the ball.

glass float temari 87 5

I discovered that taking a group off the ball and pinning them to my work surface in the same order helped me to keep them in order and out of the way while stitching each one on. I left all the other barnacle clusters pinned to the ball while working on a group.

This was a good project to finish up on a snow bound day.

bird in snow

Thread, Felt and Fabric Dyed and a Couple Lessons Learned

A couple cones of thread, a couple yards of felt and a couple yards of flannel sat in a pile waiting for days for a time of transformation, which was yesterday. Dyeing day.

dyeing 9

Winding all that thread (3,00 to 4,000 yards) into hanks (or skeins) took a couple days. My sweet canine companion kept me company for much of the laborious process of thread winding. One of her favorite places to nap is in a box half filled with fabric which she can fluff and rearrange to make the perfect bed. The box gets moved around the house so she can be with me in comfort.

Fortunately, all that was needed to prepare the fabric was to cut it into smaller pieces, so that took minutes instead of days.

The first half of dye day was preparation time with presoaking the threads and fabrics and mixing dye concentrate colors. The second half of the day was actual dyeing of fibers.

dyeing 1

The fibers that were dyed are cotton perle thread in sizes 8/2 and 5/2, cotton flannel and 35% wool/65% rayon felt. They were all dyed with procion MX dyes, a fiber reactive dye for cellulose fibers. Although the felt contains wool, a protein fiber, the rayon takes the dye very well.

Since there were many dye baths of different colors, a low water immersion method using plastic zip lock bags is an efficient use of small space. I do think that after experiencing two of the bags springing a leak, that I will switch over to using small plastic reusable containers for dyeing thread in the future. Fortunately, the leaky bags were on a plastic tray, so the escaped dye did not get very far, making clean up easy. And none dripped on the floor or on my furry buddy tucked in her box under the table.dyeing 10

Another lesson learned from this round of dyeing was in making hanks. After each hank is wound, then they are tied at intervals all around with yarn that weaves through the threads and is tied to keep all the threads from tangling while being dyed and subsequently washed. For this, I prefer to use a synthetic yarn for a couple reasons: it does not hold dye so does not leave a dark stripe of color on the thread or yarn being dyed and it does not bleed color and effect the color of the thread or yarn.

dyeing 6

Well, at least that was what was supposed to be used, but somehow I accidentally used a wool yarn on some of the hanks and found a third reason to use a synthetic yarn for tyeing the hanks- the wool shrinks and acts as a resist leaving little white marks on the thread where the dye could not reach the thread. In the picture above, you can see I have pulled the top few threads to the right to show how the thread remained white where yarn acted as a resist.

dyeing 3

Today was wash and cleanup day. All those lovely dyed goods had to be washed and dried, and either folded or wound into twisted hanks.

So, after all these years of dyeing different fibers, I still had something to learn and from that, a couple tips to share: zip lock bags spring leaks and can make a mess so consider a more durable container for dyeing and check the yarn used to tie off the hanks to make sure it is a good choice.

dyeing 5

The two pieces of fabric above are flannel that will be used for making pillowcases.  The picture below shows the folded edges of the felt pieces.

dyeing 2

Dyeing mottled fabrics always yields interesting and unpredictable results. In the pictures below, the one on the left is a full view of one piece and the picture on the right is a close up of a small area about 2″ x 3″.

dyeing 7

And in the next picture, a black dye applied to wadded up felt causes the dye colors to separate, creating areas of interest. This is a close up of a small area. Notice how the felt has a heathered appearance where the rayon took the dye well and the wool did not.

dyeing 8

As inspiring as white thread or fabric is for dyeing, the resulting dyed goods with all their luscious colors are even more inspiring for possible creative endeavors.

dyeing 4


The Creation of a Chickweed Pollen Grain Temari

Chickweed, Stellaria Media, is common and widespread in both North America and Europe. A chickweed pollen grain has a beautiful geometric structure. Before the grain swells up, it looks like a dodecahedron with concave sides.

temari 76 chickweed pollen grain

How could I resist creating a chickweed pollen grain when it encompasses polyhedron structure (a long time interest), temari making (a relatively new interest, only 2 years), felt (a revived interest) and pollen (bane of my existence). Being able to combine several interests and poke fun of my allergies at the same time was a worthy challenge.

The temari developed quite naturally, with each element of the structure and techniques suggesting themselves. When looking at electron microscope pictures of chickweed pollen grains and reading about the structure of pollen grains, I could see the different parts as different materials or techniques.

The electron microscope images of pollen grains found on internet are rendered in grayscale then colored for visual clarity. Here, for my pollen grain temari, I have used “artistic license” for coloring without any extreme diversion from the natural color of pollen.

A chickweed pollen grain basically resembles a dodecahedron, a twelve regular pentagonal sides, except the sides are concave with a circular hole (pore) in the center of each. This outside skin that takes the shape of a dodecahedron, is called an exine (or exospore). Felt seemed like the obvious solution to creating this outside skin. A lovely warm yellow was hand dyed for this project.

pollen grain temari 7

Scattered across the surface of the exine of a chickweed pollen grain are little spines (spinuli) that could easily be represented by French knots.

pollen grain temari 8

Poking through the holes, or pores of the exine are cells that also look like French knots. These make slightly curved mounds in the circular pores. A temari ball as a base would make  a perfect base to create the slightly raised circular areas of knots and create a solid base on which to add the felt exine with its spines.

pollen grain temari 9

The only structural challenge was to figure out how to pad the cavity between the ball and the outer felt skin so that it would keep its polyhedron shape and not cave in with any pressure against it. I thought of couching down multiple strands of yarn, but realized it would be easier if it was a single large strand, which suggested upholstery cording. Then to smooth over the cord shapes, pieces of felt were stitched on top of them, giving it a nicer contour.

pollen grain temari 10

The following are pictures of the work in progress:

pollen grain temari 1

Temari marked as a C10 with felt pentagons- both ready to be stitched on

pollen grain temari 2

Building the dodecahedron shape with upholstery cording and felt on the ball

pollen grain temari 3

Stitching the felt exine together into two parts

pollen grain temari 4

Stitching French knot on ball using a felt template for circle placement

pollen grain temari 5

The two felt halves partially stitched together and adding a few more knots along opening

pollen grain temari 6

Felt exine on ball being stitched closed. A few more knots were added along the seam

temari 76 chickweed pollen grain

To finish the temari, the felt was tacked down to the ball near the circular openings to create the concavity of the sides

This was one of those projects that was very satisfying to make with it presenting an interesting challenge and then having all the ideas come together to create the intended form with a pleasing result.

Hand Dyed Felt

In the past year, felt has reentered my fiber world. During art school year, I dabbled in felt making, creating a number of interesting felt objects. Due to an allergy to lanolin, the oil in wool, I have shied away from working with wool.

But recently, I discovered that working with already felted wool, especially the rayon/wool blend, does not cause itching. Probably due to all the processing and reduced amount of wool.

Of course the selection of pre-dyed felt colors just does not quite meet my needs, so time to dye my own. What a great excuse to dye. I have just started with creating a stash of hand dyed 65% rayon / 35% wool blend felt, but decided to share pictures of the first batch.

hand dyed felt

That lovely warm yellow in the middle of the batch has already been cut up and only a tad bit remains.

An upcoming post will feature the temari that sports a coat of that gorgeous yellow felt. It is a most unusual and unique temari that represents something very common and abundant yet is seldom noticed. Come back soon for the answer to the mystery.