Preparing for a Stitch-A-Long… A Challenge!

These days I have put my Japanese Temari Certification work on hold for a bit to focus on fulfilling a promise I made in January.

The online community of temari stitchers knows as “Temari Challenge” is an open group of over 900 people that I am proud to be a part of.

Each year, members of this group suggest temari patterns that they would like to learn to stitch, and volunteers step up to lead these as “stitch-a-long”s. During the year, the leaders study and stitch the patterns they have picked, and then break the process of making that temari down into steps. They lead the interested members through each step, giving plenty of time for questions and discussions after each stage. Finally, those that finish the ball share pictures of their work, and everyone is inspired by their accomplishments.

Stitch-a-longs are a great way to expand your skills and try new patterns. The discussion periods help everyone involved, even teaching members things they didn’t think to question or examine! It really brings together members of the community in a fun way.

Leading a stitch-a-long is also a wonderful way to get experience teaching. No matter how much preparing you do, there will be questions and issues that arise that you couldn’t have anticipated. But working through them with the group, and seeing everyone’s final temari makes the challenges and extra efforts worthwhile.

This year, members suggested doing a stitch along for what I feel is a VERY advanced temari.

The Stitch-a-long challenge design, from the Japanese book “Musasino Flower Temari”.

This pattern, from the Japanese book “Musasino Flower Temari” (ISBN#978-4-8377-0112-5) is on a large base (bigger than a grapefruit!), with a very complicated division (226 faces!). It involves doing continuous path motifs, and there is a lot of stitching!

The one thing I love more than stitching temari, is teaching others how to make temari. And my long term dream is to be able to make more of the advanced techniques and patterns accessible to English speaking stitchers. (Right now we have some great beginner and intermediate resources available, but hardly anything for advanced topics.) I love the advanced and intricate designs, and I really do dream of bringing these tough topics to more people, especially folks that don’t have access to or can’t gleam much insight from the very short write-ups in Japanese books.

So… what did I do when this crazy ball was requested? Why, I volunteered to lead it of course! I knew that this will probably be one of the most advanced stitch-a-longs the group has done (at least since I have been active in it). But this is my chance to try out my hand at doing just what I dream of…making something complicated more understandable.

So now it’s August, the month I declared that I would do this stitch-a-long in. I’ve been working on this ball since July, and it has been slow going. Ironically, it is not a temari that I would have been naturally drawn to stitch on my own, but I am glad to be doing it. I wanted to make sure my example will be different enough to highlight some other options to what the book example shows. In doing so, I have picked some colors that I’m not entirely happy with. As I’m going, I’ve made a few small changes, but mostly I’m running with it.

My example ball in progress.

Along the way, I’ve taken oodles of photos and notes of what I did at each step, and how I broke the process down. Now I’ve been going back through all those notes to construct some step-by-step techniques to do the very complicated marking, as well as the continuous motif stitching. I am pretty sure the members that will participate in this stitch along will have a large variety of skill sets and experience, so it is a huge challenge to know what level to try to teach to. In the end, I’m breaking things down into a lot of steps, hoping to help more beginner members through the process, and also thinking that the more advanced stitchers can skip information that they might already know. It’s hard to please everyone, and I tend to be super long winded anyway!

And I’ve never written directions for anything this complicated before. I’m learning a lot, and sometimes I find I’m having to invent my own language just to reference all the right lines and shapes (because boy, there are a lot of them). Thank goodness for diagrams! I have only finished the instructions for the guidethreads, and I have over 40 illustrations.

My faithful assistant Maxwell and I working hard writing up directions for this stitch-a-long.

So as I write this, I’m a little apprehensive. I’m hopeful that this stitch along will be a huge success. I hope I don’t disappoint anyone participating. I hope I will be able to answer all those questions I know I can’t predict. I hope stitchers will find my instructions helpful, and not too wordy or over-done. I hope I can be witness to some people pushing themselves, and learning new things, and creating beautiful new temari that they otherwise might not have attempted. Yeah, like I said, I dream big!

4 thoughts on “Preparing for a Stitch-A-Long… A Challenge!

  1. Hi Jen, just wanted to let you know I wouldn’t have been able to stitch this temari without your step by step instructions. Thank you so much!

  2. Extremely successful and amazing stitch-a-long. It was illuminating to see how the process came together. As Jane said, I would never have been able to stitch that design without your awesome designs and instructions.

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