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Colourful Japanese temari balls
The amazing colourful patterns of Japanese temari.

As I sit looking out at a wet dreary afternoon, what I need is a burst of colour!  So this seems like a good time to research and write an article about ‘temari’ the traditional Japanese toy ball, some times made by mothers for their daughters and often handed down as treasured heirlooms. 

If you have never seen temari, I would strongly recommend a search on Pinterest, or look at my dedicated Pinterest board, as you will be really blown away by the stunning designs that people create, and marvel at the creativity, skill and dexterity that must go into producing the finished article.

At one point I had an idea to try making one of these beautiful, colourful balls myself however I soon found that, apart from not having the right materials, I almost certainly didn’t have the patience or skill to do it.  So, I now content myself with looking at pictures of other people’s amazing work!

‘Temari’ in Japanese means ‘hand ball’ and the toy itself is a ball made from natural materials, where an intricate pattern is ‘woven’ around a multi-layered spherical core of yarn and fabric tightly wrapped in plain thread.  Some traditional methods even have rice husks at the centre and in modern times you can by the inner ball ready made as well as kits containing everything you need.

Japanese temari

As with a lot of crafts, there is more than one method but mainly it seems that pins are stuck into the plain ball and vibrant silk or satin threads are wrapped around it to create the most fantastic kaleidoscopic designs.

You can find tutorials online, like this one at Instructable Crafts and patterns such as these at if you really want to see what goes into making them.  There even exists a Japan Temari Association to promote the art and tradition of making temari and membership requires several levels of mastery, skill and understanding of the craft and its heritage.

The art of making temari originated in China and came to Japan in the 7th century.  What started as a folk craft has developed over the centuries into a real art form requiring substantial technical knowledge and artistic ability. 

Temari inspired vases

Because of the great skill and time that goes into making it, giving temari as a gift is deeply symbolic, conveying friendship, loyalty, happiness and good luck.  Even nowadays they are given as gifts to loved ones at New Year and other significant occasions. 

Temari made for children sometimes have a bell or some dry rice or pebbles sewn into them to make them rattle.  In the Shinto religion, bells and rattles bring down the gods and ward off evil spirits, as well as making a fun toy for little ones!

The symbolism of temari is always popular in Japan and culturally important.  The temari motif can often be seen used in printed design, on fabric, decorative paper, clothing and all kinds of everyday objects, even food. 

I hope you will also find some joy in the pretty vibrant patterns and maybe take some inspiration yourself!

Inspired by Temari

These little vases are inspired by the shape, colourful designs and spirit of temari.  They are great for small flower arrangements and make lovely gifts.

These bowls and plates are also inspired by the round shape and dense patterns of temari, this time as a topiary ball of sakura, or cherry blossoms.


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