Friday, July 22, 2011

Free Fabric Balls Tutorial

***UPDATE 15/03/12: I have finally gotten around to making up a pdf for my own pattern that I have since used after making the original green and blue fabric ball you will see in this tutorial. I have never been totally happy with the finished shapes when using free patterns I found online. They never gave a really nice, spherical ball. I know...I'm fussy! 

So I got hubby to help me with his wonderful computer skills and we came up with a pattern that is based off a perfect sphere and I'm very happy to say it has produced lovely, round balls! In the end, you will always get a little bit of irregularity cause that's the nature of stuffed toys but you just squash it back into shape and it looks great again. Here's a pic of a few I made Sam for Christmas! I put bells/rattles inside each one.


Hmmm...these actually look a little wonky and out of shape. lol Maybe I need to get a better pic. But anyway, they are definitely better overall. I also have a couple of tips I have learnt that help to get a better ball.

1. Use a shorter than normal stitch length...about 1.5-2mm. This allows for firmer stuffing and seems to minimise breakage and give smoother seams.
2. Stuff it as much as you can! It looks so much better and retains a much better shape if it is firmly stuffed. Just keep stuffing until you can't fit any more in! I said to stuff it firmly in the original tutorial but I want to emphasise....stuff it EVEN MORE FIRMLY! My original ball really doesn't look that wonderful now.

You can download my free fabric ball pattern right here! Please feel free to make this for yourself, friends, or even to sell in small quantities!***




Well I finished my first project since starting this blog and am very excited to tell you how it went. I have been planning to make some fabric balls for my boys for Christmas and wanted to make a trial ball to see how I liked the pattern and if it worked. Here's what I found. I will probably have to post a 'perfected' version of this tutorial at a later date. You will discover that I can be a bit of a perfectionist at times...I just like my sewing to be neat. Although other times, I just want something finished so am not as picky. :-)

PLEASE NOTE: This is quite a simple project but I have just explained lots of little things in detail to make sure it is nice and clear and to help you get good results. So don't freak out if you think it is a bit long!! Also, the photos are from my trial and I used fabric I didn't care too much about so they're not the prettiest. I will make sure I take more photos next time when I use my good fabric. :-)

I am always trying to improve my tutorials so PLEASE feel free to comment if you have any suggestions or if you simply like it! Thanks!

Fabric Ball Tutorial

Requirements
- Fabric scraps of choice
- Sewing thread
- Filling
- Bell/Rattle (optional)


1. Print out your template and cut it out. The template includes a 1/4 inch seam allowance. I used a free template from Grand Revival but am in the process of creating my own so I will post that at a later date. Here is the post from Grand Revival and here is Grand Revival's template. Edit: Get my pattern here.

2. Pin template to your fabric and cut out 6 segments. I chose to cut out 2 segments each of 3 different fabrics. To get a nicer shaped ball, cut the pieces on the bias (at a 45 degree angle to the grain of the fabric).


3. Arrange your pieces in the order you want them to appear around the ball. For example, I used teddies, green, blue, teddies, green, blue. Then pair them up starting at the beginning. Eg. teddies and green, blue and teddies, green and blue. Place each pair of segments with right sides together and pin ready to sew the seams. Stitch down 1 side of each pair using a 1/4 inch seam. Press all seams open. Clip a little of the excess seam allowance off carefully near the ends so that when you sew the pieces together, the point where each piece meets isn't too bulky.


4. Place 1 side each from 2 pairs right sides together and pin. Make sure you choose the correct segments so that the ball follows the pattern if you chose to do one. Also make sure you pay careful attention to make sure the existing seams match up if you would like the end of your ball to look neat and all seams to meet up at one point. This can be fiddly but is well worth it. Once you have it pinned in place, stitch the new seam. Again carefully cut away excess seam allowance at each end and press the seam open. You will now have 4 segments joined together like the picture below.


5. Using the same method as in step 4, pin and stitch the last pair of segments on to 1 side of the first 4. Don't forget to continue your pattern of fabric and carefully line up the existing seams before sewing. Cut away excess seam allowance at each end and press seam open.

6. Pin the last 2 sides together lining up the existing seam allowances. Leave about a 2 inch gap in the middle for stuffing. Cut away any bulk in the seam allowance at each end and turn ball out the right way. If you can manage it without ironing major creases into the rest of the ball, press the ends where each segment meets. This will help them sit flat and look neater. Also press the seam open so that the section that was left open for stuffing has a clearly defined edge for when you sew it up later. Don't worry if the point where all the segments meet isn't neat...you will find a solution for hiding this in step 8.




7. Stuff the ball with polyfill or other soft stuffing. I found that if you stuff it firmly, it keeps a nicer shape. If you want to include a bell or rattle, insert it into the middle of the stuffing keeping it at the centre. Then stitch up the opening. Be careful to stitch along the ironed edge to keep the seam even. Otherwise you will get a wonky line along this seam that is quite visible once the ball is finished.

8. If you didn't manage to get the segments to match up properly, you can cover each end with a circle of fabric hand stitched over the ends. You could also use buttons or stitch on small iron on patches. It isn't too hard to sew it up neatly though so don't give up if you don't get it the first time. :-)



So that's it! The finished ball. I wasn't 100% happy with the shape which is why I am now drafting my own modified shape thanks to my wonderful husband who can make 3D graphics on the computer and then make a flat net for me to use. :-D Hopefully that will help me get a better sphere. Despite that though, Max got a hold of it and absolutely LOVES it so it just goes to show it doesn't have to be perfect. 

48 comments:

  1. thanks for your tutorial and pictures. I am going to attempt one of these this week!

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  2. Thanks and good luck! My 5mth old loves his. Would love to hear how you go! I actually need to make a few more of these too...lots of friends having babies. :-)

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  3. Thank you for the wonderful tutorial! I tweaked it just a bit to add taggies (just for some more interest for my niece) as well as some noise makers made out of an unused plastic easter egg and some old beads left over from beading projects. Turned out splendidly! I'd share pictures but not really sure how to do that...I don't really blog. But I will certainly be keeping an eye out on your page here now ;) Thank you again! Hopefully my new niece will get a kick out of it!

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    1. So glad you liked it and found it helpful! Hopefully I'll have some more tutorials up in the coming months. My life has been at a standstill for a few months because we tossed my oldest son's nappies and had a real fight finishing off toilet training and as a result, this blog has suffered. He's pretty much got it now so life is beginning to return to normal again. Hope to see you around. I love hearing from readers. :-)

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  4. Thank you Ashley! I'm so excited to give this a try.

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  5. Thanks so much for the pattern...I also downloaded the Grand Revival one as well. Thanks for all the wonderful tips too!

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    1. No worries! It's always great to have a few patterns and tutorials to compare. Have fun!

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  6. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you sharing your pattern. Although I did not make a small ball and needed to adjust the patterns size, I found it very helpful in making my project.

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    1. Glad you found it helpful Kristine!

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  7. I tried this template this week to match some collections I had made for baby room collections, and they're wonderful!! Thanks so much for the template!
    Pics of my attempts here http://bazaarcollective.com/2013/02/20/festival-preparation/ :)
    aisling

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    1. They look fantastic!! Thanks so much for sharing the photos! I love seeing how others have gone with the pattern. :-)

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  8. I'd love to give this pattern a shot, but I'm unable to open it, unfortunately. The link looks to be http://www.stitchesandlove.com/stitchesandlove/Fabric%20Ball%20Pattern.pdf, but it's showing as an invalid page. Any ideas?

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    1. Hi Jonathan, I'm really sorry about that. I've been having troubles with my web hosting and it just went down a day or two ago. My family and I are in the middle of a gastro bug right now so I am planning to get it fixed as soon as we are all better. Hopefully it will be back up in a couple of days.

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    2. Finally! It's working again. :-) Wow, we went from gastro to surgery but are hopefully all on the mend now. Enjoy the pattern!

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  9. Thanks so much! And I'm glad to hear y'all are starting to feel better. :)

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  10. Thank you for your wonderful pattern. I used it to make this plush (http://j-flora.blogspot.fr/2013/08/boom.html).

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  11. fabulous idea, thank you for the tutorial :)

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  12. Thanks for sharing, too much fun making these!

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  13. I used your pattern to make a fabric balloon ball for my great nephew. He loved it!

    http://geraniumfarmhodgepodge.blogspot.com/2013/09/balloon-fabric-ball.html

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  14. http://www.stitchesandlove.com/stitchesandlove/Fabric%20Ball%20Pattern.pdf isn't up there now, but the external link still works.

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    1. Hi Roy! I just checked the link and it works for me. I'm not quite sure what you mean, sorry.

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  15. Can't wait to make this for a project, thanks soo much!!

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  16. I have been working on a document describing in great mathematical detail how to design and make a variety of geometric juggling beanbags. I researched and studied the beach ball concept (as I call the type of ball design you're discussing, which is technically called a hosohedron) as best I could (there seems to be very little information about how to make one out of flat panels), and my understanding is that you can use a set of simple rules and formulas to draw patterns (even by hand if you have a compass) for beach balls with any number of panels greater than one. There are two rules regarding the design of the beach ball panel (according to my understanding):

    1. Length × 2 = width × number of panels = circumference of the ball. That is, the length of the panel must be half of the ball’s target circumference and the width must be equal to the circumference divided by the number of panels.

    2. The curve is circular.

    The formula to calculate the radius of the circle that will form the curve for a beach ball panel is:

    Curve Radius = (W^2 + L^2) ÷ 4W

    Where W = panel Width and L = panel Length.

    Once you have decided on the number of panels you want to use and their size, and calculated the circle radius (r), the easiest way to draw the panel is to draw a line of length 2r – W, set the compass to the correct radius (if you’re drawing the pattern by hand), and then draw the arcs/circles centered on each end of the line. Their overlap zone forms the panel shape. To confirm you drew the panel correctly, measure it and make sure it follows the first of the two design rules above.

    The shape this method results in for a 6-panel ball is quite a bit slenderer than your pattern, so it might be interesting to see which results in a more spherical ball. My panel has a width:length ratio of 1:3 while yours has a ratio of 1:2.55. I have only made 4-panel beach balls so far. I'd be interested in hearing your approach to designing the panel. Anyway, I hope this helps.

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    1. Oops, I forgot that your pattern includes the 1/4" seam allowance and mine does not. That would indeed make it wider in relation to the length. When I remove the seam allowance, our patterns appear to match. Great! That's further confirmation that my method is correct.

      So if anyone uses my method to draw the patterns, remember that it creates the stitching pattern. To make the cutting pattern, simply draw everything the same but increase the radius of the circles by the desired seam allowance.

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    2. Hmm, no, our patterns still do not match now that I've done some more careful testing. I drew a pattern in SketchUp that has a stitching width of 2.09" (to produce a 4" diameter ball with six panels), added a 1/4" allowance, and then matched its length with a screenshot of yours in PhotoShop, and mine is still much slenderer.

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    3. Wow, this is fascinating, I am teaching geometry through sewing to my class of 9-12 year olds so this is really great for me. Do you have the formulas for any other 3D solids?

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    4. I have formulas for hosohedrons with any number of panels as well as a spherical tetrahedron, spherical cube, spherical octahedron, dodecahedron, equidistant cuboctahedron, deltoidal icositetrahedron, and a few variations of the icosidodecahedron. Here are CG images of these structures and photos of my actual beanbags.
      http://www.joshuaclifton.com/CGBalls.jpg, http://www.joshuaclifton.com/Samples.jpg.

      If that looks like what you want, email me using my online email form and I'll see about sending you the formulas and instructions, or my entire document: http://www.joshuaclifton.com/ContactMe.php

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  17. This is awesome, thanks so much, I will be making these with my class next week.

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  18. Just in time for me to make a couple for my grandson's first birthday! Thank you!

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  19. Thanks for a great pattern
    Lynn xx

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  20. Could this be converted to a balloon ball?

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  21. I love this! I just made one and it took only a few minutes! The ball completely my set of various shaped baby blocks to be sold (hopefully) in my Etsy shop. Thanks so much for being generous and sharing this tutorial with us!

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  22. thank you for the pattern, I'd really like to give this a try. Denise.

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  23. thank you..i have made about 80 balls using a pattern that calls for 8 wedges....some of them look like pumpkins...also ..I like to cover my ends and the slip stitched part with yoyo,s..i was afraid to put a noise maker inside....but I had also though about the easter egg approach....I would duck tape the ball closed as a further precaution...

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  24. The link for your new pattern is not working for me :( I really would like to to try this.. it seems you got a really nice ball shape that I am having trouble getting.

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    1. Hi! I just tried the link using both Safari and Google Chrome and it has worked perfectly each time. Maybe you need to update adobe in your web browser?? If you don't have any luck, you can email me through my profile at the top of the page on the left and I can email it to you. :-)

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    2. ok yeah my boyfriend tried it for me on his computer too on both safari, chrome and i tried mozilla but we couldnt get it to work. I just emailed you. thank you.

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  25. i just finished making a felt orange following your insructions. Thank you for such detailed instructions. The pattern was great, and the perfect size. I was wondering if there is any special way to sew it closed without the stiching being visible. Thank you!

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    1. Yes there is! Learn to sew what is called the blind stitch. I love it. Here is a YouTube video showing how-
      https://goo.gl/images/hA6ctk

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  26. Hello Ashley...thank you for your fabric ball pattern....want to share something with you that you might like to include in your patterns....to me this is amazing! My grandchild was given one of these and I can't believe how simple the idea is! You make your fabric ball....and leave the opening for stuffing....but you put a balloon inside then blow it up! This makes such a fabulous ball to take when you travel....takes up no space and is light to throw around so no damage is done! And when the balloon breaks or deflates...or you're packing up to move on......you simply put in a new balloon and start again! Hope you like this idea!

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  27. Thank you so mich for posting this. I only found it now, but it is an awesome guide for my Christmas present :) Yay!!!

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  28. I tried other patterns and yours is significantly better. Thank you for posting! Now, if only my hand stitching were better, I'd have the perfect (poke)ball for my son!

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  29. Thanks so much for sharing this pattern! I wanted to let you know, your first "here" link has a virus.

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    1. Hope you enjoy it. I edited my post to remove the first 'here' link. It didn't have a virus, I had just cancelled my website so that's why the strange page showed up instead. Thanks for letting me know though! I completely forgot about it. :-)

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  30. hello! going to try this ball today - looks great! can i just check if your template allows for a 1/4 inch seam? Thanks!

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