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Making the  Dodai Mari

        Making or choosing the mari (ball) is the first step in temari making, prior to preparing it for stitching by wrapping. While many beginner references may start people off with using Styrofoam balls for the dodai mari, making the mari is as much a traditional and essential part of the craft as marking the ball and stitching the design - it's something every temari maker must learn how to do. On top of that, you'll have a much better outcome for your efforts, and likely one that will last longer (Styrofoam and its relatives are subject to heat and disintegration over time). The feel in hand that a made-from-scratch mari gives to your finished project is wonderful. More importantly, when you make your own mari bases, it usually gives a more substantial  stitching surface. Perhaps the one - and only one - exception to allow use of Styrofoam and equivalents is if the temari is going to be hung in ornamental arrangements; Styrofoam will cut down on overall weight, if that has to be considered.

        What to use for the mari core truly is a matter of personal preference... in a sense Temari is an age-old recycling project since it's believed the original mari were made from scraps of old clothing and kimono, plant material - anything that was available and not otherwise being put to use. That can still hold true today, though we are not limited to old kimono! Almost anything that can be formed into a ball shape can be used - but caution is advised to be sure that it is dry, non-decomposing /able material. However, the most recommended and traditional filling today are komegara: rice hulls.

        It might be hard to believe, but it is easier to make a mari from scratch and have a smooth, even, symmetrical, round ball than it is to try to keep a pre-formed ball round while wrapping it. There is a law in nature and science that says that if you apply equal pressure to a mass (lump of stuff), that  mass will take on the smallest surface area - which just happens to be (by natural definition) - a sphere. This translates into making a mari as: if you wrap the base material using constant/even tension while keeping it moving, you get a round ball. Honest - it's really so. Therefore, you'll find that true temari crafters make their own mari regardless of what they might have been taught in a class or read from a book.

The basics to make a dodai mari are easy:

        What you can use for the core (the very inside of the dodai mari) is limited only by imagination for the most part - you just need to be sure that it's not going to deteriorate (i.e., rot) - it needs to be dry, free of bugs, mold, natural oils, etc.  This has been a common discussion on TalkTemari, and over the years the favorites that have emerged are: rice hulls, poly fill stuffing, pieces of old socks, sweaters, t-shirts, etc. (any old clothing of light to mid weight, cut into small pieces - the smaller the piece the easier to mold into ball form); old nylons; dryer lint (honest); scraps of old fabric, yarn, etc; plastic grocery sacks, shredded paper from cross-cut shredders; true economists will save their thread trims (called bits, orts, etc) and when they can no longer be used to stitch with, bundle what's left into a mari core...  Almost anything that is dry and can be molded into the form of a ball can be recycled into a mari core. Traditionally, rice hulls (Komegara) are used in Japan in modern day (in addition to recycling materials that have been discussed), and these give a wonderful mari base (see the Rice Hulls page for info on how to use and where to get them). Another modern material both here and in Japan is poly fill stuffing (like used in crafts and sewing).

        You'll likely need to contain whatever the material is you are using in a small baggie (or old nylon stocking or lightweight sock). If you want to insert a noisemaker, this is the time: bury it in the core material. Twist the neck of the bag or sock to hold it closed and trim off any large amount of extra. Smooth the remainder out around the ball-to-be.  If using something like plastic grocery sacks or batting, etc., that can just be wadded up and either covered with batting or wrapping, you may choose to not put it in something before proceeding - just wad it up. There is some question about whether what you use for the mari should be something that you can push pins in completely (to their heads) - when you place marking pins. Obviously there is no rule but, my thought is you are making a mari, not a pincushion. Certainly the stitching surface needs to be such that you can securely take a stitch and also so that it will hold a pin but whether the mari needs to be something that must allow a pin to be completely inserted is personal preference.

       It is optional whether to use a layer of batting under the wrapping layers. This is a matter of personal preference both here and in Japan - you will see it used in some Japanese books and not in others. Some Western books and teachers include it, others not. There is no set rule.  It can aid nicely in smoothing things off and adding to the stitching surface; if not used you'll usually need to wrap a bit more to create the deeper stitching base that the batting can contribute to. If using it, you only need to cut a few pieces to lay over the core and trim the excess - no need to do fancy "fitting" etc since it's going to be wrapped completely. Just remember to trim off any overlapping corners or edges so that you don't create a lump. Personally, I do use batting, and always the lo-loft thinner weight. Lo-loft is easier to form around the core and does not create lumps. Regular hi-loft can be more difficult to manage and even with trimming tends to make some lumps that can be hard to smooth out when wrapping.

        Another option is using fabric strips to smooth out the inner core. This is an older Japanese method, not seen too often today but, one to consider. Tear old fabric (think something like muslin or old sheeting) into thinner strips (1 inch or less), and use them to wrap and cover the mari base. It's another method to smooth and round things and provide an additional layer to the stitching base. This same option can be used with lo-loft batting. Again, there is no rule that says you must or shouldn't.

        Now it's time to begin wrapping. Wrapping needs to be completely random - no two wraps should be exactly parallel to each other. This is accomplished by keeping the ball moving at all times - this is not like winding of a skein of yarn, it must be always changing. Begin with medium worsted-weight yarn, and wrap smoothly and evenly all around the ball, covering the under layer. Switch out to yarn about half the weight, such as fingering or shetland, and again wrap another smooth layer, evenly distributed, completely covering the under layers. Change to thread; either a single strand, or several strands, of regular sewing thread. After evenly covering the under layers, drop to one strand if you were using multiple, and continue, smoothing the ball in your hands as you wrap (think like making a snowball) - and keep wrapping. When the mari surface is smooth and even, completely covered in a randomized single strand of thread, you are done.

        All of this may sound like it's creating a huge ball - not. You'll learn to gauge your starting mass (core), and you really should not be adding more than 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick "shell" to it collectively through all of the layers.

        Note too, if you want a larger mari, start with a larger amount of core stuffing. Don't just keep wrapping. Plan ahead for the size you'd like. If you need/want a larger mari, then adjust the core size accordingly, so that your wrapping layers are still the same thickness as if you were making a smaller mari. In other words - use more rice hulls, not more batting/yarn. This goes back to the applying an even pressure to a mass and it forms a ball and that it's the random wrapping with even tension that supplies that pressure. The pressure has to be on the mass, not on the layer(s) of wrapping. If you are using a small mass of rice hulls (or other stuff) to make a 32cm (4 inch) mari - the mass of rice hulls becomes "lost" if you are adding copious amounts of wrapping on top of it. The extra wrapping is absorbing the pressure of the wrap, it's not being transferred to the core material - and consequently it becomes harder to get and maintain a round ball. On the other hand, if you have a larger mass to begin with, so that the wrapping layers are of the same approximate depth as a smaller mari, the pressure from the wrapping IS transferred to the core, so nature again helps you to get a round mari, just like a smaller one. I so often get comments or questions from people about why it's more difficult to
make a larger mari that is round - most often this turns out to be why.

        Remember, the total depth of the "shell" - the wrapped layers over the core - should stay about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch, 1-2 cm. This also gives you a consistent stitching surface, regardless of the size of the mari. So - larger ball, larger core, easier to have it come out round.

        What happens when that mari comes out not so round? Wrap some more, paying attention to shaping it a bit more, and then redo the thread wrap to polish it off.

         You can view a photo tutorial for making and wrapping a mari; please use it in conjunction with this text.

        Some temari crafters like to add "good wishes" when they make their mari. A common modern day good wish is to put a new penny of the year you are making the temari into the mari. A more traditional and old tradition is that Japanese artists may put a blessing on a slip of paper buried under the wrapping where it cannot be found.  The Japanese people believe that as you make a ball you are thinking good thoughts of the person who will receive it and because the blessing is silent it goes to Buddha (God). He keeps it in his heart. You as the recipient must look to Buddha (God) for all blessings because you know not which one you are to receive. And, it is common for the stitcher, especially when making a temari for someone, to offer a prayer or good thought with each stitch taken.               

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