About a year ago, I met a very interesting man who wanted a very unusual temari.
Bob Hoffman, aka Hoff the Harmonica Case Man, collects, well, harmonica cases. But not ordinary harmonica cases. Rather, he commissions artists to construct working harmonica cases that are also works of art, and last July he commissioned me to make a temari harmonica case.
There were several criteria to be met: the case must accommodate (snugly) a standard size harmonica; the harmonica must be accessible; the case must have a 28" strap so that it may be worn as a necklace; there must be some way to secure the harmonica in the case; and the name HOFF must appear on the back of the case. Furthermore, he wanted a specific color palette: red, blue, black, and gray.
Originally, we discussed the possibility of a flat, rectangular temari (!) to be stitched with a rectangular motif ideally resembling a harmonica. I spent several months pondering this challenge--how would I wrap and stitch a rectangular case? Could I make a hinged case? Eventually, however, I had to scrap the rectangle idea. I realized that the long stitches used in embroidering a temari rely on the convex surface of a ball or egg to hold the threads in place. On a flatter surface, the threads are unstable, and the stitched motif vulnerable to sagging and snagging.
My next thought was an egg, because the oblong shape would accommodate a 4" long harmonica. Rather than making a hinged case, I decided to make an insert in the egg, open at the top for easy access. So, I sliced a styrofoam egg in half vertically, traced the dimensions of a harmonica on both halves, and carefully scraped and shaved the styrofoam until I achieved the right shape and depth.
I then constructed a rectangular box (open at the top) made from thin cardboard and lined with red fabric. I nestled the box between the two halves of the carved-out egg and wrapped it heavily with a base layer of fine wool, as I do with all temari, and then wrapped it again with gray thread.
Next, I stitched a 16-point mandala on the front of the egg, and embroidered HOFF on the back, embellished with small stars. Using the same perle cotton threads as I had used for the embroidery, I knitted a 28" strap--in linen stitch, of course, so that it wouldn't stretch too much--leaving about 10 five-inch yarn tails on each end. I attached the strap by securely burying each of these tails, in many different directions, under the surface of the egg. Finally, I threaded a small hexagonal nut onto the strap. When pushed all the way down, the nut holds the harmonica in the case; slide the nut up a few inches and the harmonica is easily removed.
Fortunately, one of Hoff's first directives was that there was no rush on creating this case! This allowed me to spend the time I needed thinking, problem-solving, and experimenting without neglecting my other Yarndance-related tasks and obligations. This was certainly an out-of-the-box project for me, requiring me to exercise some engineering skills while also teaching me a thing or two about why and how temari work the way they do. And it's a great honor that my work will now be included in Hoff's marvelous, whimsical, and eclectic collection of harmonica cases!