Books by Barb

Book Temari Techniques

Book Japanese Temari

Japanese Kimekomi BOOK



The Language of Temari

"Easy flow of communication promotes learning, discovery, and creativity."

We don't walk alone - thank goodness! For the past 15 years that I've been stitching temari, we (meaning me and a growing number of temari stitching friends around the world) have strived to bring the knowledge of our group forward by experimental stitching with a lot of ripping out! We've poured over temari books from Japan that we can't read. Studied the diagrams and photos until we succeeded in copying the work of the masters in Japan. This ongoing study continues in TemariChallenge Yahoo group and in certification work done by members of the Japan Temari Association. It's been an exciting time for me and many other dedicated stitchers, to say the least!

In the last few years, the JTA has been extremely helpful and open to include us in their organization. We have one main contact and mentor who speaks and writes excellent English. I met her in 2011 when I travelled to Japan with two friends. With her guidance, I was able to put together a glossary of temari terms. This was a wonderful learning experience for me. Being able to communicate in English is an absolute necessity for me and for my students and temari stitching friends. Easy flow of communication promotes learning, discovery, and creativity. As we learned to talk about temari in English, our knowledge grew by leaps and bounds!

You can download your free copy of my glossary to enjoy. Please remember that these translations have been approved by the JTA and are in general use now in the English speaking world. For the story behind "kiku herringbone stitching," please visit this page.

Terminology is sometimes a touchy subject in many areas of craft and art. I firmly believe that acceptance is the key. There will always be different words for the stitches, even throughout Japan. It's not my place to dictate which words someone else should use. Let's just try to communicate and get on with the learning and stitching and creating.

Here are some relevant passages from my book Temari Techniques:

Temari Terms (Page 2 in Temari Techniques)

In choosing words to describe temari techniques, stitches, and patterns, I felt it was important to honor the traditions of temari makers in Japan who have been stitching for hundreds of years. In most cases, the English name used for the term comes directly from a translation of the Japanese name. For instance, masu kagari means “square stitching” and kousa kagari means “crossed or layered stitching.”

In some cases, the direct Japanese translation is too long or too awkward to be used as the English name. For instance, this is the case with mitsubane kikkou kagari, which is translated as “three wings or feathers arranged like on the end of an arrow and tortoise shell stitching.” I shortened this one to “tri-wing stitching.” In this book, you will find both the English and the Japanese names for each technique, hopefully avoiding any confusion.

Language of Temari (Page 7 in Temari Techniques)

During the last five to ten years, there has been phenomenal growth in the number of temari stitchers outside Japan. This is mainly due to the ease of communication facilitated by the internet and an increased number of English language temari publications. Temari artists scattered around the world no longer feel isolated or that they have to “reinvent the wheel” each time they begin a new design. Communication, often instant due to the internet, has allowed the sharing of temari techniques to foster a quick growth of skills for individual artists.

"Without words we all understand, skills developed through trial and error cannot be easily communicated to other artists."

With so much of our communication shared through the written word, developing a common temari language has been essential for our technical and artistic growth. Without words we all understand, skills developed through trial and error cannot be easily communicated to other artists. Stagnation in learning and creativity occurs when we can’t meaningfully share our individual discoveries. Of course, there is common temari terminology—in Japanese! Non-Japanese temari enthusiasts have found the need to develop an English equivalent for common Japanese terms. Even the ability to precisely describe simple concepts, such as the placement of a stitch on a particular thread guideline, makes written patterns easier to understand and more accurate. When we learned to recognize temari stitches by translated English names, we made them our own and became comfortable designing with them. Each new discovery in Japanese needed corresponding English terminology. The English language of temari is still evolving. As the years go by, some terms may win out over others by more common usage. In the long run, it doesn’t matter which terms we use as long as we can understand one another.

Temari enthusiasts are attracted to this unique craft for many different reasons—the colors, designs, symmetry, or simply the allure of an ancient craft. Feeling a connection to the past while pulling a threaded needle through the ball can be just as meaningful as discovering a brand new design. This is one time when past, present, and future go hand-in-hand. That’s the beauty of temari.

Barbara B. Suess
October 8, 2015



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