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Marking & Marking Thread Help and Tips  

        Remembering that there is a difference between marking and dividing, marking is generally defined as the laying down of thin thread, to create specific smaller areas (usually symmetrical) on the mari surface. These threads are called jiwari.  After the important centers, points & intersections are indicated by pin placements when preparing the division, the pins are connected with jiwari.

        Marking threads are usually metallic (but are not required to be), and usually a bit finer than what the design is stitched with (again, not required). The marking threads will often become an integral part of the overall design, so try to plan ahead and choose accordingly. On occasion, the pattern will direct you to mark in invisible jiwari - use a matching thread to the mari wrap, so that the lines blend into the mari wrap and are not seen in the finished design. This can be accomplished by using pearl cotton (#8 or #12; you can use #5 but it tends to show due to gauge), or a double strand of sewing thread in the same color as the mari wrap. There may be other times that after the design stitching is complete, the jiwari are removed.

        Marking the mari can be compared to "connecting the dots" - placing jiwari from appropriate pin to pin to create specific subsections on the mari that will be used to stitch the design. Use enough tension to keep the threads straight, but don't pull the pins out of alignment, skew the mari, or damage the thread. As you place the marking threads, lay the thread purposely from pin to pin, in straight lines. Be consistent in placing the thread on one side or the other of the pins as you go, all throughout the process. This may seem insignificant,  but it's not. Pins generally have a shaft diameter of close to 1mm. By not being consistent in staying to one side or the other you are introducing that amount of error into where the marking thread is being placed. If we were working on a flat surface it probably would not mean much. But, temari are worked on spheres and the laws of spherical geometry take over. Don't fear this as being "deep math" - it's not. The only thing needed to remember is that when working on a ball, mistakes grow as you progress. A little tweak here becomes a big tweak not too far later on. A 1 mm error in placing a marking thread way back here in the beginning can indeed make a big - bigger - difference down the road as you are working your design. Check out the illustrations in the "Little Things" of the TemariKai Toolkit for thread placing.

       Do not remove the divider pins until you have tacked the main intersections of the markings. Even though you should be keeping an eye on things for symmetry and accuracy as you go, check and adjust things as needed once all the marking lines are placed. Remember, the object is to get things as even and accurate as possible - but, in reality no mari is perfectly round so there will be some minor "offs" (key words are "some" and "minor") - usually within 1 mm or 2 is fine. However - it's important to remember that the more involved the division and design, the more important accuracy and precision are when it comes to a round mari and accurate, sharp markings. A tack stitch is a tiny back-stitch taken across the intersection of two or more marking lines. They should be tiny, and virtually disappear.

       Everyone has their own thoughts on "how much to tack". The point is no matter how accurate your marking is now, as you handle the ball through the stitching process things are going to shift around a bit. Tacking at least some strategic intersections is a must - such as major centers and corners. Some people prefer to do as little tacking as possible (and may just leave some of the marking pins from the division in the mari as they stitch). Others find a "happy medium" and tack between 30 to 50 percent of the intersections in addition to the major centers. Yet other people find that tacking all of the intersections is what helps them create their best outcomes. In reality, you will probably find that as you begin temari, you tack a lot - if not all - of the points. As your skill and confidence grows you may find that you can ease off a bit and concentrate on the major centers/corners. When you tack be sure to take a tiny stitch, on a horizontal orientation through the lines (i.e., have an even number of marking lines on either side of the needle entry and exit of your tacking stitch. See the "Little Things" in the TK ToolKit). You tack with the same thread you used for the marking lines, or some people will use a finer yet matching metallic. Another option is to tack the marking lines (no matter what was used) with the same thread as you wrapped the mari in. This comes in handy especially if you are using a more "extravagant" marking thread, and/or a thicker thread.... and if doing this you can just move from point to point without having to bury the thread under the mari, since it won't show on the wrapped mari.
        It's worth noting that no matter how technically great a stitcher you may be or become, your skills will be negated if you don't take the time to hone your skills in making mari, dividing and marking. There is no substitute for taking your time and developing a good hand for neat and precise work. The most beautiful temari design can have everything distracted from it because of workmanship that shows haste, and/or lack of attention to detail. And indeed, these attributes are at the core of Japanese arts and life overall. To not take the time to work neatly, and continue to develop one's skill is dishonorable  (no matter what one may be doing). Skill in making mari and preparing it for stitching with dividing and marking is just as important as the actual stitching of temari. They cannot be separated.

       There is no set "path" that you must follow in placing marking threads as you are laying them down on any particular division.... most stitchers find ways to be conservative with thread without compromising quality. Japanese books will sometimes show various "paths" but there is no requisite other than being sure all the points are connected as required, intersections are sharp and neat, and the threads stay in place either through friction on the mari and/or tacking.

        Removing marking threads in order to complete or enhance a design is fine - not traditional, and most times the standard is that the jiwari become an integrated part of the finished temari. However, there are times when it just doesn't work and the lines are removed. If you know in advance that the design calls for this at the end - plan accordingly when you lay the jiwari and tack them in place. Don't weld them on so that it's impossible to remove them later on. I've found the best way is to snip the thread in between two tacks or centers; this leaves you, hopefully, enough thread that you can use a smaller needle, thread it up and anchor the ends. A needle threader can be very helpful in trying to harness a short length into the eye of the needle. When snipping, be sure not to cut any of the mari wrap, nor the stitching threads.     

        Finding and choosing marking threads is a common question. Just as stitching threads, marking threads are entirely up to the stitcher as part of the artistic composition of the temari. In general however, the marking thread (jiwari) is a decorative thinner metallic, but some patterns may call for it to be the same as the stitching threads or even be done in "invisible thread" - the same as the wrapping threads.

       Choosing a marking thread therefore becomes a matter of personal preference for most designs. Usually jiwari becomes an integral part of the completed design (although on rare occasions you may even remove marking threads after the design is completed). Very often on a temari the last stitching done on a temari is "embellishing" - that is, stitching that adds the final "pop" to the design, and often is done in the same metallic thread that was used for marking. This may be the final round of the design, or some extra accent stitches (or both). This work may be done in the same thread as the marking or it may be one that makes more of an impact while coordinating with the marking and stitching thread.

       Metallic threads tend to be a bit more expensive than pearl cotton. However, there are some good choices for both common use as well as for a more special project.  A common mistake is to purchase a thread that is too fine - for example thread sold for decorative machine embroidery; for the most part they are too fine for regular use with the common #5 pearl cotton.

       A relatively inexpensive and easily obtainable option, especially for beginners and to use when teaching the gold lame thread sold in the jewelry sections of craft stores (just be careful to not get the elastic version). It is a 2 or 3 ply lame that is rather close in gauge to a #5 pearl cotton, and for the trial and error that always happens with us as we learn, this is a cost-effective material. Another high favorite that is used by many stitchers (both beginners and experienced temari makers) and well-recommend is  the DMC metallic sold on a spool for hand embroidery. It is packaged on a card and will be found by the pearl cotton in a craft store: DMC Art # 282, a 43 yard spool for about $2.70US. It's a 3-ply thread that gives just enough contrast to use as marking and embellishing thread. It usually is available in gold, light gold and silver. Red and green may be found around the holiday season.  Both of these threads tend to be more readily available (as in craft stores) than some of the specialty brands usually found in needlework shops (brick and mortar as well as online)

       One word of caution: the metallic pearl cotton offered by DMC is quite difficult to work with. Metallic floss also can be difficult because of the special needs of working with multiple strands. DMC also has a line of threads called "Light Effects" - these too are stranded and are more for use as a blending filament or as multiple strands. This is not to say "don't use them" - needless to say they may be perfect for certain projects. Just be aware that common consensus has been that they need some extra effort.

       After this, the sky tends to be the limit - many brands are available. Some of the more well known are: Kreinik, Rainbow Gallery, Caron Collection, Kyo, Olympus, YLI ...  and in the end each person will find their personal favorites. Among these companies, these threads will good general use (remembering that other threads from these folks may find a nitch in a special project). An online search will lead to both online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

       In the end nothing works other than some trial and error to see what you like to work with and what works with your style. This is certainly not a comprehensive listing and as always, the only "rule" is if you can stitch with it, then it's probably ok. Just remember to balance the threads in your project for artistic appeal - the first and most important one being yours.

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