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September 2008
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How To Make A Patchwork Ball

This tutorial on how to make a patchwork ball is excellent!  I can see making a few of the balls using the nursery room theme for a new baby, or as a gift for a 6 month old or year old baby.  What a great idea!  This tutorial comes from the BurdaFashionBlog

How to make a patchwork ball



Let‘s jump ahead to the finished ball, so you can see what we will be making. 



In addition to the fabrics, you will need straight pins, needle and thread for hand sewing, stuffing material, a bell for the center (more about this later), and various scissors (for paper, for fabric, for snipping threads). Since the ball is sewn with the English paper piecing method, you will also need 12 pentagons cut from a paper which is a little heavier than normal writing paper – construction paper works nicely.


Here is a photo of the 6 fabrics and the 12 pentagons, printed on construction paper.




Of course, there are several possible options for drawing or printing the pentagons. I printed the pentagons using a word processing program. For a finished ball which is roughly 5 inches in diameter, the side of the pentagons should measure 2 inches. My word processing program showed the pentagon with sides of this length inscribed in a square measuring approx. 8.5 x 8.5 cm. Of course, you can make a larger ball by using larger pentagons – or a small ball with smaller pentagons. The smallest ball that I have ever seen made by this method was made by my son-in-law. He made it for an earring for my daughter. The ball was approx. an inch in diameter!


Cut out all of the pentagons . 


Now pin each paper pentagon to the wrong side of one of the fabrics. Cut out a fabric pentagon, approx. 1/4 inch (seam allowance) larger than the paper pentagon on all sides.  I do this cutting free-hand, but you can first mark the seam allowance around the paper pentagon and then cut, if this makes you more comfortable.


Leave the paper pentagons pinned to the cut out fabric pentagons.


 Here are all 12 fabric pentagons (2 each of 6 different fabrics), all ready to begin.



 Pick up the first fabric pentagon and fold the fabric edges to the wrong side, one after the other, exactly along the edges of the paper pentagon (don‘t fold the paper over). Baste the fabric edges in place. Start the thread with a knot but don‘t tie a knot at the end – instead just take an extra small stitch to make it easier to remove these basting stitches later. In the photo you can see that I have already basted one fabric edge in place and am now basting the next edge. I baste through the fabric and the paper. Some people prefer to hold the fabric edges in place with larger herringbone stitches (from corner to corner) so that the paper doesn‘t get holes poked in it. I‘ll talk a little more about this later. Whichever method you use, it‘s important that the corners are held in place exactly. The paper pentagons keep the fabric in the right shape so that you can sew accurately.



Continue in this manner until the fabric has been basted around all the paper pentagons. Here are 6 basted pentagons – laid out as they will be sewn together to make one half of the ball.



Time to start sewing! Lay two basted pentagons together, with their fabric sides facing. Sew them together along one edge, using overcasting stitches. Make sure that you catch only the fabric folds with your stitching – and not the papers inside! The closer together your stitches are, the more sturdy the finished ball will be. I usually take approx. 20-25 stitches per inch.


 Keep sewing pentagons around one of the pentagons. As soon as pentagons have been sewn to all 5 sides of the center pentagon, you can remove the paper pentagon from the center pentagon to make the work a little easier to manipulate. Just unpick the basting stitches (now you‘ll understand why we didn‘t tie a knot at the end when basting) and remove the paper. Save the paper. It has a few small holes, but it can still be used again for another ball some day – or if you decided to baste with herringbone stitches, the paper pentagon is still in almost pristine condition.


 Now sew the seams between the pentagons which surround the center pentagon – and you will understand why it was a good idea to take the paper out – the center pentagon needs to be folded to do this. It was a little difficult to photograph.



This makes the side pentagons fold up in a cup shape. (Sorry, this photo is a little out of focus and I didn’t notice this until it was too late – but I wanted to show the state of the ball at this step of the construction.)


As a little aside, the pentagons are what makes the ball a ball. You can sew hexagons together with the same method  but they stay flat. 

But back to our ball. Now take the partner of one of the pentagons on the upper edge of the “cup”. Sew it in place on the upper edge of the “cup”, exactly opposite it‘s partner piece. For example, in the photo, you would sew the second red pentagon to the edges of the “V” formed where the green and yellow pentagons meet. Continue this way around the upper edge of the “cup”, sewing (in the photo example) the red, orange, yellow, green, and white pentagons in place, each opposite their partner. Remember, as soon as a pentagon is surrounded, you can remove the paper support. The ball is almost closed. You have one pentagon (blue in our example) left – and you can see that it will be placed exactly opposite the first blue pentagon. This blue pentagon will be like the lid. Sew it in place, but only on 2 sides – the ball must be left open for turning and stuffing!


Here‘s the way the ball looks now. It hasn‘t been turned right side out yet. All paper pentagons have been removed. The final sewing will be easier if you baste the seam allowances on the remaining edges in place. In the photo, you can also see the stuffing. But what‘s the black thing? It‘s our solution to how to put a bell in the ball. 



You can‘t just put a bell in the center of the ball and stuff the ball around it. The stuffing muffles the bell too much. So what we do is take a plastic film can (if you can still find one – if not, maybe a small plastic container like pills come in, or something similar) and drill a few holes in it. This proctects the bell from being muffled but allows the sound to come out (a plastic container with no holes also muffles the bell). If anyone has other good ideas for putting bells in balls, let me know.


Turn the ball right side out and stuff it. First make a little “nest” of stuffing and lay the bell in place. Try to keep the bell in the center and surround it evenly with the stuffing so that it can’t be felt in the center of the finished ball.



Then continue stuffing the ball until it is quite firm. Pin the remaining corners of the “lid” in place and sew the remaining 3 edges closed. Here is our finished ball with it‘s new owner.



 He smiled when he first saw the ball! You‘re sure to get a similar reaction. Give it a try! And have fun sewing

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Pattern Maker, Instructor & Author


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