Covering Spheres with Fabric

In the 60s and 70s, "boutique" Christmas ornaments became popular. These Victorian- style ornaments were styrofoam balls covered with fabric and decorated with elaborate beadwork. This same idea can be put to use using stitched fabric. This idea is shown in the December, 1995, issue of Just CrossStitch Magazine, but detailed information was not given in the magazine about how to do it. Here's my remedy.

1. Determine the *circumference* of the ball you want to cover.

2. You will be making diamonds. The height of the diamond should be half the circumference of the ball. The width of the diamond should be a 1/4 of the circumference, if you want to cover the ball with 4 segments. (If you want more than 4 sections to cover the sphere, divide by that number instead of 4.)

C is circumference; X is number of sections in which you want to divide the sphere. Note: Four sections is about the minimum you should consider because coverage will be a real bear. The example in Just CrossStitch was 6 sections.

3. The problem with the diamonds will be the places I've marked *. This is where you'll likely have gaps at the seams. (This will occur at the three analogous places, also.) You may want to "round out" the outline of the diamond to more of a curve. You probably also will want to extend the top and bottom of the diamond just a tad (such as 1/8"), for better coverage. If there is excess at the meeting point, you can clip it off.

I strongly suggest making paper patterns and attaching them to your ball to see where the gaps are and how to adjust the diamonds for better coverage. When you get a pattern that fits, save it! Because you'll be covering the seams, you can have teensy gaps (no wider than 1/8", I'd say, depending on the width of what you cover the seams with. (If you're making twisted cord, make it first so you know its size!)

4. When you're satisfied with the shape of your diamonds, cut your fabric. Center the stitching in the diamond, of course. Let's hope that the fabric you've stitching on is not so open that the styrofoam shows through and you have to apply a "lining"!!

(It's easier to cover the ball using fabric cut on the bias, so if you're not planning to cover the ball with stitched fabric, cut your diamonds on the fabric bias.)

5. To attach, use glue and sequin pins (these are little straight pins, about 1/2" long) at the top, bottom, and a couple of places along the sides of the diamond. I prefer Elmer's White glue to a glue gun for this; you don't want too much glue. Run the glue along the edges of the diamonds. Use as little as possible to do the job to avoid lumps and oozes, but raw styrofoam soaks up an amazing amount of glue and you'll probably have to use more than you suspect in order to get adherence. Put a couple of sewing pins in to hold the fabric while the glue is drying; place the pins along the edges, where any holes will be covered. You'll either leave them in and cover the heads with the cord/ribbon, or you'll pull them out when the glue is dry, according to your preference. Go away and do some stitching on something else until tomorrow so this has plenty of time to dry.

6. Cover the seams with braid, twisted cord made of floss, lace, rickrack, ribbon, etc. Glue this on carefully so you have no oozes. It won't take as much glue as putting the fabric on the styrofoam.

7. If you feel fancy, thread beads/sequins/pearls onto hatpins and create a little spray of baubles at the bottom of the ornament (think of a chandelier) and at the top (kind of a crown). Also consider curls and loops of ribbon, artificial flowers, dried plant materials (including whole spices), and whatever else you'd like. You could also make loops of twisted cord made from floss; consider putting some metallic fiber in these cords (probably #4 or #8 braid; blending filament probably will be too flimsy to show up).

8. It's also possible to make little spines of beads following the seams (now covered) by threading beads/etc. on pins (try regular sewing pins with plain heads for this); these can be different heights, depending on the size pin you use and how many beads you thread on it. After the pin is threaded with the beads, I dip the tip of the pin into the Elmer's before inserting it in the ball; this helps secure it. Done up with all this adornment, now you've got a "boutique ornament."

Next Christmas I'll take some pictures of my ornaments like this and post the gif here to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

9. If you're starting with an ornament, there will be a hanger sticking out of the ball to start with; use that! If there's no hanger, take a 1.5" length of pipecleaner and bend it in half and shove it in. Or a paperclip or a piece of wire or something like that. Dip the ends in glue before pushing the hanger in.

10. Store these ornaments carefully so you don't squash the loops of ribbon and flowers.

This is sort of a trial and error process until you get a pattern that fits the ball, so do make a paper mockup before you cut your precious stitched fabric! I've made lots of these puppies, using velvet/satin/moiré/etc., and they're always some of my favorite ornaments on the tree. (My mom makes huge ones--12" diameter balls--and calls them "kissing balls." Guess what happens when you catch your sweetie under one?)

copyright 1996, Martha Beth Lewis

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