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Temari, literally "hand ball," is a traditional Japanese craft involving balls of brightly colored thread embroidered with intricate designs.

Believed to have originally been kemari, or "foot ball," this was a game introduced from China in the 7th century. Kemari was played by a group of children, who kicked a deerskin ball high in the air. The object was to keep the ball off the ground and in the ten square foot playing field. The point was not only to make a high score, but to show off graceful kicking form. The game was popular in the Emperor's courts, but samurai considered it frivolous. Hacky Sack is one of its direct descendants.

Temari, basically a game of catch, was a pastime of the children of nobility. The balls were made from thread and scraps from old kimono. After the introduction of cotton into Japan, the balls were made of more inexpensive cotton and introduced into the lower classes. In the feudal periods, this game became again popular in the noble classes, because it could be played indoors when wars with neighboring clans made outdoor play unsafe. The game evolved into bouncing the balls and chanting nonsense rhymes similar to jumprope rhymes, and the balls began to be wound in bright colors and beautifully embroidered.

After the introduction of rubber into Japan during the Meiji era, temari went out of style, replaced by rubber balls. However, because of the strong tradition behind temari as an art form, it survived industrialization to this day. The balls are traditionally given to young girls by their mothers and grandmothers as New Year's gifts.

Temari patterns range from the simple to the complex, drawing inspiration from natural phenomena, such as spiderwebs, nets, leaves, stars, and waves. Flowers like chrysanthemums and plum blossoms are popular designs, as are interlocking geometric shapes - squares, diamonds, and even circles. The designs were once regional over different areas, but with the advent of mass-media communication, several temari societies have been created, in which designs are registered and shared.

A method of creating temari has been refined by Diana Vandervoort, involving a styrofoam sphere at the core, as opposed to the wadded up paper used currently in Japan. Cotton batting is wrapped over the styrofoam, then yarn, then thread. Guidelines for stitch placement are wrapped on in bright metallic floss, and fastened in place. Finally, bright mediumweight cotton embroidery thread is stitched onto the ball in the desired pattern.

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