|How clever is this?|
I'm having a little bit of fun with the name of this thing, because I suspect that the usual names it goes by — Montessori ball, Amish puzzle ball — are not entirely indicative of its actual origins. I could be wrong about that, of course, but I like calling this my pandemic puzzle ball.
When this item popped up on my YouTube feed, I knew I had to make one. While the first tutorial showed the ball being completely sewn together, I saw another short video that demonstrated how it can be made in separate components so that it can be taken apart and put back together as a true puzzle.
How neat is that? Obviously, that version was the one that I had to make!
And maybe you'll think the same when you see just how easy this is. This project is a learning opportunity for every sewer, testing skills to the point of near perfection. You'll be sewing small curves repeatedly until you're super confident about doing it. Then you'll be practicing — and perfecting — that much appreciated technique of ladder stitching to close a seam invisibly.
After all of the above, I probably don't need to say this, but my usual disclaimer applies: this is not my own creation. The words and pictures that follow are my own, but the idea itself can be found all over the internet in various formats. Wish I knew the actual "inventor" to give full credit.
You can easily DIY your own pattern for this, but to get started right away, feel free to download my templates. They will result in a ball that is about 5", but you can also enlarge the templates by whatever percentage if you want something bigger.
Apart from that, you'll need fabric, some polyfil (or equivalent) and some embroidery floss.
1. Cut fabric using whatever templates you decide on; you'll need 6 circles and 12 "petals".
|Cut required fabric...|
Cut each of the circles into quarters to get 24 "wedges" in total. I cut my directional fabric (the elephant print) on the bias to get a variety of angles on the resulting pieces.
|Cut circles into 24 "wedges"...|
2. With right sides together, place a petal piece on top of a wedge piece and pin, matching the curved edges.
|Twelve pinned sets with twelve wedges left over...|
Repeat until you have 12 wedges left over.
3. Sew along the curved edge. (Use a 1/4" or 6mm seam allowance.)
4. Now grab one of the remaining wedges and place it right side up. Take one of your sewn pieces and place it on top, flipping the petal piece back so that its raw curved edge is lined up with the raw curved edge of the new wedge piece underneath.
|Match the remaining wedge pieces...|
Pin and repeat for all other pieces.
5. Sew around this second curved edge, and repeat for all other pieces.
6. Now match up the two straight edges of each piece and pin if needed. Sew down one side and around the point. Leave a turning gap (about 1.5") and sew the remainder.
|Sew along the sides, leaving a turning gap...|
Snip away the corners where indicated by the arrows. Be careful not to cut into your stitching.
7. Press open the seam along the turning gap. (This will make the hand sewing part so much more pleasant and easier later.)
|Press seam allowance open...|
8. Turn each piece right side out and stuff with polyfil.
|All twelve segments turned right side out and ready for stuffing...|
9. Use a ladder stitch to close up the seams. The best way to start is to bring your knotted thread up from underneath one side of the pressed seam — right through the crease — as shown by the arrow below.
|Loose ladder stitching...|
Then take your needle and thread to the opposite side of the seam and — following right along the crease of the pressed edge — make a small stitch. Go back to the other side and make a similar stitch; again, right along the crease. Repeat until you get to the end.
You can keep your stitches loose as shown above until you're done. When you're ready, give the thread a tug and the seam should "magically" close.
GENERAL LADDER STITCHING TIP: If the edge you're closing is straight, you can make longer stitches; if however, the edge is curved, keep the stitches short.
|Ladder stitching pulled closed...|
Knot your thread and bury the end by pushing your needle through the stuffing, pulling it tight and snipping the thread.
By the time you do this for each of the twelve "pillows", you'll be an expert at ladder stitching!
10. Use embroidery thread to connect these segments into three rings, each consisting of four segments.
|Make three "rings" out of the twelve segments...|
Connect them only at the corners of the petals. (If you're especially handy, join the pieces neatly with a cross stitch; I wasn't too particular or fussy about how I connected them.)
ASSEMBLY (or PUZZLE SOLVING)
To assemble, pull one ring through another to create this...
|Two rings joined up...|
... and then wrap the final ring around both to finish.
|All three rings wrapped together...|
Didn't quite get that? Hey, it's a puzzle — figure it out! ;-)
|For an idea of finished size compared to my original template...|
The ball you see above is going to be a new baby gift. Here's another that I made for myself, out of the cut remnants from my tropical leaf rug and a coordinating print from the Boundless DECOdent collection.
|A puzzle ball for me and Fritz...|
Fritz likes to balance on it. (In fact, it makes a perfect sized stool for him to sit on, in case you're looking for a matching gift.)