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  Using Rice Hulls (Komegara) for Dodai Mari Cores 

       Rice Hulls One of the oldest and most traditional materials for making mari for is komegara - which literally translates as "rice shell" or "rice skin" - what we call rice hulls. It is just what it says it is - the outer husk removed from the grains of rice when it's polished (it's the outer husk that makes brown rice brown). While "brown" rice may be an established food item in the West, Japanese culture still evolves around polished, or white, rice, and virtually all rice in Japan is winnowed and milled. Thus, there is a lot of of komegara volume created, and, as always, the frugal necessity of Japanese life found the hulls being used in various ways. They are a filtering agent for brewing, both sake and beer; they are also used as a matrix for pickling and preserving foodstuffs, garden mulch, in fireworks, burned as a fuel, and the ash can further be used in cement formulas. The product is not as widespread in the West, and the uses are generally limited to brewing and garden mulch.

        As a dodai mari core, rice hulls are great, and "mold" (almost like a good snowball) when making the mari, which makes it very easy to construct a round mari as you wrap. A rice hull mari has a wonderful "in-hand" feel - just a little heft to it but not too much. Most folks that try rice hulls generally end up being converted to them for being the best mari core material (considering they have been used in Japan for hundreds of years for this, we probably shouldn't be surprised).

        A small volume of rice hulls are placed into a small baggie, stocking, or even wrap in plastic wrap, twist the neck closed, smooth out the top of the bag, and then mold into a ball as you begin wrapping. They are very malleable (easy to shape and mold) because of their size and composition. A pound of rice hulls is about one gallon in volume. About an ounce of rice hulls fits nicely into a sandwich baggie or stocking (about 1/2 - 3/4 cup, give or take) and results in a mari about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in size depending on your wrapping. A canning funnel (wide neck) is a great help in filling a stocking or sock.  A pound of hulls can yield about 12 to 16 mari of this size but   this also depends upon your wrapping habits. This is only to give a rough idea of "how much does what" - it will vary with each person depending on your bagging and wrapping techniques. there is no set formula. It is also important to remember that you are adding batting, yarn and thread layers - so you don't start with a bundle of rice hulls that is your "finished" mari size. The rice hull quantity needs to be figured with this in mind. A little bit of trial and error with some practice will quickly have you cranking out komegara dodai mari. There is no set formula or iron-clad "right or wrong". Rice hulls go a long way, relatively speaking, and you most likely don't want to buy intoo the commonly marketed quantities of 10 pounds (or more), unless you are prepared to divvy up with a lot of temari making friends.

        Rice hulls are a bit tricky to locate in the West, since as mentioned above they are not a commonly or widely used commodity. The choices are garden or nursery suppliers, or brewing supplies, and both of these options tend to offer very large quantities. It is strongly recommended to avoid the garden variety. They are sold for mulch and soil stabilizers. They are quite dirty and generally come with other contaminants, including those that walk and/or fly (remember, if they are going into the garden, that's probably a plus, but not for your mari core). Cleaning and drying them is absolutely required. The best way (though not foolproof) to dry and "decontaminate" them is to give them time in the microwave. However, as mentioned, this is not foolproof, and you will always run the risk of the stuff rotting inside your temari. Those obtained from brewer supplies are a cleaner product on all counts, since they need to meet food-industry and FDA standards. They have a virtually indefinite shelf life as long as they are kept dry. However, that "dry" also means flammable, like paper or wood, so store them accordingly.

        You can view a photo tutorial of using rice hulls for mari making; please use it in conjunction with this text.

       If you use noisemakers in your mari core, you will want to be sure to use a small box or other "solid container" to house it, since anything with openings will allow the hulls to fill it, which will muffle if not deaden the bell or noise. When bagging hulls or making your mari, use a little care since they are lightweight and will blow around very easily, and are a bit dusty. Be sure not to be in a drafty place (or have a ceiling fan on. And don't sneeze. Ask me how I know.)

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