Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tutorial: Amish Puzzle Ball

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There are some tutorials on the web for a puzzle ball or clutch ball but very few explain the 'puzzle' part of the ball and many actually sew all the pieces together discarding the puzzle component altogether.

This is how I learned to make an Amish puzzle ball from the women in the Mennonite community near my hometown in Missouri.



The puzzle ball is intended as an educational toy. It can be grasped by babies and taken apart and reassembled by older children. It fosters small motor skills which stimulate brain development and abstract thinking abilities.

A puzzle ball can be made with fabric scraps of all types, preferably woven materials. You can use satins, velvets, calicos, denim, wool suiting, corduroy, whatever you have on hand. You can use felted wool, old blankets, sweaters. Stuff with wool, cotton, or other natural stuffing if you can. Not only do I detest the idea of a baby chewing on plastic fibers such as fiberfill, that stuffing tends to be too insubstantial for a puzzle ball. A good puzzle ball is solidly made. 

Use the tutorial here or scroll down for the link to a downloadable PDF.


Find a circular bowl or plate that is the desired size of your finished ball. Trace 6 of these circles on the wrong side of the fabric. Cut out the circles. Cut the circles in half and then in half again to make 4 wedges from each circle. You have 24 wedges. I'm using a 5" embroidery hoop here.

Now you need a pattern for the tops of the ball wedges. Trace the rounded edge of one of the quarters onto a scrap of reusable paper. Match the rounded edge in mirror image and trace the other edge of the ellipse.

Cut 12 of these ellipses.


With right sides together, match the round edge of the ellipse with one round edge of a wedge. Sew together using a 3/8 inch seam allowance. If you are making a smaller ball or not very good at sewing curves on a sewing machine, hand sewing is your best bet. A larger ball can be machine sewn easily.

Repeat on the other side of the ellipse, sewing the other rounded edge to a second wedge. Sew one side of the wedge together and halfway down the other side. Turn this piece right side out.



Now you can see the wedge shapes you'll be sewing, sew 11 more. Turn all right side out. Stuff solidly and whipstitch or ladder stitch your wedges closed.

Use button thread, quilting thread, or embroidery floss to join the top corners of your wedges together. You want to sew three circles together made of 4 wedges. Sew tightly enough to keep pieces touching but loosely enough that the wedges are not smashed together.
Now here's what makes the puzzle a puzzle! Leave one of the wedge circles as is with only the outer tops joined. Take the second circle and imagining the inner points numbered 1 through 4, sew points 1 and 2 together and sew points 3 and 4 together. That circle now looks like a mouth opening. Take the third circle and sew all the inner points together closing the circle.




To put the puzzle ball together, work the 'mouth' circle over the fully closed circle, like a rubber band. Point all the inner points to the inside center of the ball. Next work the open circle of wedges over the combined circles. Point all the inner points to the inside center of the ball.

When the ball is put together is doesn't look or feel like it can be taken apart. And when it is in pieces it doesn't look like a ball at all! That's the puzzle of the puzzle ball.



HAPPY STITCHING!



 

And remember - I have a free embroidery pattern for you. Just sign up to get a free embroidery pattern with stitch and color guide, photo guide to printing patterns on fabric at home and more.

17 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your tutorial! I really like the puzzle ball I made using your instructions. =)

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! They really are remarkable.

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  2. Thank you for the excellent instructions that include the "puzzle" part of the puzzle ball! I was getting frustrated sifting through all of the patterns online that just sew the pieces all together. Fantastic work! :)

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    1. Thank you and I'm so glad you found the answer to the puzzle here. We'll just have to keep sharing its surprising secret and keep this lovely tradition alive and available.

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  3. I knew I'd seen this somewhere the other day - the Handmade Cooperative. It's fabulous!!! Great to see 'old' games revived.

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    1. Haha! Yes. It's over at Handmade Cooperative's blog this week: http://sweaterdoll.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/freemade-amish-puzzle-ball-tutorial.html
      It's a great group of Australian hand-makers.

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    2. Thanks, Pam! Readers, for nine more incredible free tutorials, check out Threading My Way's features: http://www.threadingmyway.com/2015/11/threading-your-way-features_29.html

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  5. You are a star - thank you so very much for this excellent tutorial!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad you like it!

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  6. Thank you very much for your great tutorial. Best one I've come across for the amish ball.

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    1. Wonderful! I hope you downloaded the PDF for your convenience. And please feel free to share. :-)

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  7. I had an Amish Pin Cushion that belonged to my grandmother who passed away in 1977. It was one of those things that I cherished with all my heart.
    One of our dogs thought it was a toy and she tore it up. I am been trying to find the pattern and then I could remake it and i wanted to make some for my daughter in laws. I hoped to see where I could add a picture of mine. I just cherish this item. Thank you for putting this on the site for use (sbidaho@yahoo.com or 208-240-7737). Thank you

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    1. I don't think there's a way to add photos on this blog, but I'm so glad you found the tutorial here. Did you download the pattern? (link is in the article) I'd love to see what you make. Click on my "Contact Me" page for all the ways to get ahold of me so I can share your photos.

      And if there's any way for you to edit your comment, you might want to avoid putting your phone number there for everyone in internet land to see. I'd hate for someone unscrupulous to get it.

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  8. I read your tutorial after reading a couple of others. The light bulb came on while reading yours. It is well-written and easy to understand. I am going to try making a couple, well, at least one. ;) Thanks for the tutorial.

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    1. That's wonderful! I'm so glad the instructions were helpful to you. It can feel a bit tedious to make 12 of the little wedges but when you fit it all together, you'll be wanting to make another!

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