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  Using Japanese Books          

        Most people are more than skeptical about investing in Japanese publications, but with a little bit of common sense, one can enjoy them tremendously. If nothing else, the photography in them is fantastic and worth the purchase price alone if you are truly an admirer of the art. However, the Japanese manner of instructional presentation is much more graphic than textual. This means that the diagrams contained with the general method and individual pattern instruction is such that one can easily interpret the context (remember that old "a picture is worth a thousand words" thing?)

        Perhaps the most difficult thing to adjust to is the Japanese publishing format. It's right to left (as opposed to Western left to right), so that puts the book spine on the right, not the left. The cover opens left to right, then pages are read from right to left. Additionally, Japanese text is oriented vertically, rather than horizontally. That means that characters flow in single columns rather than in lines, and is read top to bottom. With a little bit of remembering, this is something easy to adjust to.

        Rather than learning how to read Japanese, one needs to learn to read "Temari-ese", just as one would learn to read music for example in order to play a tune. Some practice and experience soon results in this. Learn the diagrams for the standard divisions, and you're more than half-way there. As Sarah R. told us way back in the beginning of TalkTemari: "Firstly you've got to study the photos and diagram very closely.  Each ball (for the most part) has a colour picture as well as a black and white one on the same page as the diagram. The ball in the black and white pic is  usually at a different angle than the colour one so you get to see a different part of the pattern.  Useful!  If the ball in question has an obvious obi with north and south poles you can count the number of divisions and take it from there.  If there are squares or hexagons on it, then it will be an 8 combination  ball.  If there are pentagons then it is a 10 combination."

        "On most balls the stitches build up in an outward direction so you can see the top layer of threads and from there work your way back to the centre of that bit of pattern and you can find the start point. Remember that Japanese writing goes from back to front, top to bottom and right to left.  The pages of colour pics usually number the balls and also give you the page number for the instructions.  By looking for the corresponding black and white pic you'll find the instructions and should also find the page number referring back to the colour pic.  It is worth studying the characters a little so that you can recognize some of them like the ones for "page" for instance (webmaster's note: it looks like a little mountain with a dot and has a regular number under it     ).  The top right hand corner on the instruction page usually tells you whether it is an 8 or 10 combination ball or how many segments or divisions it is.  You will also find the circumference of the ball in cm and the diameter as well,  though  some books I have found will only give one or the other. I would recommend that you use a similar size ball to the one you are attempting as large patterns do not fit on small balls and vice versa. They can be adapted, but that's another chapter!"
        "If you then follow your way through the list of instructions you will find that the numbers of the colours used are listed in brackets. While they don't relate to the brands we use, usually, it does tell you how many colours are used altogether, which is not always apparent from looking at the colour pic.  You then get on to characters in bold type.  These are the important ones as they tell you, with reference to the diagram, where  and in what order to stitch.  They use Japanese characters as well as "A,B,C..." or "1,2,3..." to indicate where the stitches lie and the order .  I'm afraid that  not being able to remember what the characters are, I tend to refer to "T, Box, Fuji..." as this is what the equivalent of "ABC" looks like to me."  Webmaster's note: the Japanese have many ways of counting, ordering, listing, etc.. but in temari the first three characters are i, ro, ha:    ロ  ハ  and as you can see, Sarah's correlation was not far off!

        Using these hints will actually get you going; as mentioned in the books listing, it's recommended that you get a little experience first before diving into Japanese books, but on the other hand, they are not out of reach. Get a grasp on the standard divisions and the basic stitches & styles, and from there pieces will fall into place. Studying and trying things from the Japanese books is a wonderful learning experience. And, prior to TemariKai.com developing as it has since 1998, there were no other pattern sources to speak of, so the original group of us spent many hours (and still do!) on what lovingly became known as "Crack the Code" - figuring out a Japanese book pattern. Sometimes a person did it on their own and shared it, other times it was done collectively on TalkTemari.

        Don't be afraid of trial and error - especially the error. While you may not come out with the design you set out to stitch, you'll usually come out with something, and it can be just as pleasing and interesting as the one you were after. Just because it doesn't match the original goal doesn't mean it's not a temari; it's just a different one. You also learn a lot in the process, too.

With thanks to Sarah Robinson, Sr.

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