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How to Make Japanese-Inspired Ornaments
Submitted by Pam on Wed, 11/12/2008 - 06:00
These pretty decorations are based on an ancient Japanese craft known as Temari. They begin with a styrofoam ball, wrapped in thread. This forms a beautiful and functional base for embroidery.
Here's a picture of some traditional Temari. They can be a little complicated to make, so they're really best learned from a book or a live class. However, this tutorial will teach you to make the thread-wrapped ball, and then decorate it in some simpler ways.
You'll need a styrofoam ball (I'm using a 3" diameter one here) and a large spool of thread. You can often find spools of serger thread at craft stores on sale, and these will make lots and lots of ornaments.
Begin by winding the thread around the ball. It should be snugly wound.
As you continue winding, turn the ball around so you're winding in lots of different directions. As you practice, you'll find a rhythm of winding the thread with one hand and turning the ball with the other.
Place the thread spool in a plastic container on the floor between your feet. This helps you pull the thread from the spool more easily, so you can wind more quickly.
Your goal is to wind until you can't see any glimpse of the styrofoam beneath the thread. On average, this takes me about 15-20 minutes.
When you've covered the ball completely in thread, cut it, leaving a strand about the length of your arm hanging from the ball. Thread the end of this strand onto a needle - the other end should still be attached to the ball. Then, use the needle to make a series of large stitches all over the ball, in all directions. These stitches will anchor the thread to the ball.
Stitch until you run out of thread, and then cut the end close to the ball.
The thread-wrapped surface is great for embroidery. Here's how to begin a strand of floss: first, make a very small knot in the end of the floss. Pass your needle into the ball, skimming it just under the surface, as shown. Bring the needle out where you want your first stitch to begin.
Pull the thread through until the knot rests against the surface of the ball. Then, give it a little tug.
The knot will slip under the threads. And you're ready to begin stitching,
Here's how you end a piece of floss: when you pass your needle into the ball on the last stitch. bring the needle back out someplace away from your stitching, as shown.
Cut the loose end close to the ball.
Those same basic techniques will work with thread, too - so you can applique felt or fabric to your ornament. You could also sew on ric rac, or ribbons, or buttons, or beads. So many possibilities!
Or, if you're not into sewing, try this nice, instant-gratification version: use pins to stick some pretty sequin shapes to your ornament. I'm using sequin pins here, but you could also use colorful glass head pins for extra zing.
If you want to create a hanging loop for your ornament, just make a small stitch at the top with some embroidery floss.
Tie the ends of the floss in a double knot, and slide the knot around so it rests against the ornament.
And if you find you want more temari in your crafty life here is a tutorial for making Christmas ornaments using thread wrapped balls and shisha embroidery.
And check out this tutorial for thread wrapped egg shapes decorated with simple embroidery stitches. Perfect for Easter!