Thursday, May 28, 2009

Delft blue

"Delft" was made as a present for someone who loves blue and white china. I didn't have the exact shade of blue stranded cotton I wanted, and when I went to buy some, it was actually called 'Delft Blue'.

As this Bauble was to be displayed on a shelf, I made a little velvet 'donut' for it to sit on.

This time I laid the design out differently, working a line of embroidery that followed the seams from one intersection to the next - a peak, a vally, a peak, a valley - 3 times in all, dividing the ball in half. Can you see what I mean?

Then, starting in the centre of the top section, I worked a floral design, like the centre of a china plate.

The bottom section has formal trees, radiating from the centre bottom, where I also signed the piece.

It took about a week (on & off) to complete the embroidery, and I'm well pleased with it. So, I think, is the giftee.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Size matters

CAUTION - ugly pictures!
The Baubles you've seen so far are just the ones I consider fit for publication, but there were others...
So far I had been using a simple 8 piece pattern from an old craft book. Then I went looking for other possibilities, and found these juggling ball patterns, free downloads in PDF format.
I experimented with a few of these, but the only one I liked was the dodecahedron* - made of 12 pentagons, or 5 sided pieces. Only trouble was, it's tricky to sew by machine. It can be done, but I suspect handsewing would be just as fast.

Eventually I settled for an adaptation of my original pattern, based on an equilateral triangle, with slightly curved sides. After several attempts, I arrived at a template that gives me a Bauble slightly larger than the early ones, exactly 12 inches in circumference. I discovered that maintaining an accurate seam allowance is vital; even a fraction of an inch difference multiplies considerably over 12 seams!

Stuffing a bauble is an art, one I wish I could say I've mastered! But every so often, I wind up with a funny-shaped, definitely not-quite-spherical object. Perhaps the seams don't match, or I mucked up the closing stitches.

I've learned to turn this to my advantage by using the 'failures' as design balls - happily drawing on them, trying out new techniques, sticking pins in them, wrapping rubber bands around them, testing paints and generally having a good time.

I've learned a lot about the geometry of spheres with these balls, and even read further on the subject at Wikipedia.

*Until recently, words like dodecahedron, and terms like Platonic solids, spherical geometry and great circle were not a part of my everyday vocabulary - I'm the one who failed Geometry at High School, right?
(I failed at Art too, by the way, because I 'couldn't draw'.) So who's laughing now, Mr B----?

Sunday, May 24, 2009



I decided to see if I could create an earth-friendly Bauble. Fabric, from a repurposed shirt - check.
Embroidery thread, well I have boxes of the stuff, much of it from op-shop and garage sale finds - check. Stuffing, fibre-fill from Spotlight - uh,uh, I don't think so!
So, what else could I use to fill my Bauble? I tried winding strips of rag into a ball. It was
  1. not quite round
  2. very dense and heavy
  3. hard to stitch into
I didn't think using cut-up rags as stuffing was likely to work - too lumpy. I suppose I could have frogged an op-shop sweater and made a yarn ball, but hey, life's too short.

Finally I settled for cutting up plastic supermarket bags. I sliced up half a dozen with my rotary cutter, then six more - my word how that stuff compresses! In the end it took 21 bags to make a nice firm ball.
I wasn't entirely happy with the result, could have been rounder, quite hard to reposition the plastic once it was in there. And it didn't feel right, not much 'give', and again, too heavy - more of a cannonball than a playful ball, if you know what I mean.
And that was important, because I had plans for this one - it was to be a present with a message.
"Live, love, laugh, be happy" for someone beginning a new phase of her life.

I chose a Mexican colour scheme, and embroidered the words first in chain stitch, then surrounded them with the brightest flowers I could devise.

As you can see if you look closely, I never finished it.

It just didn't feel right.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Perhaps I should just clarify something here. In my last post I claimed to have discovered/invented Baubles.
As far as I know, that's true - the name is certainly my creation.
I've never seen anything like them before, and have searched online without finding anything remotely similar. I recently bought a copy of Jinny Beyer's "Patchwork Puzzle Balls", but she only makes a passing reference to embellishment.
A bit surprising really, you'd think someone would have thought of it by now.
So, dear readers, if you know of anyone else doing this, I'd love to hear about it.

There are other, beautiful textile balls called Temari - a traditional Japanese handcraft, you can read about them here.

And the name? Well, if you look up baubles in the dictionary, you find this -
child's toy, plaything; a showy trinket or gewgaw; the baton of the Court fool or jester; a foolish matter; a paltry thing.
Since they are undeniably pretty and fun to play with, and serve no useful purpose that I can think of, Baubles seems an appropriate name.

Jesters carried a mock sceptre, also known as a bauble

Seriously Hot

Did I mention that when I first discovered/invented Baubles, it was late January, midsummer in my part of the world? One heatwave followed another, and it was too hot to think, let alone do any Serious Stitching.

But I made another ball anyway, and this time tried a new form of embellishment - needlefelting. I used some space dyed knitting wool, followed the useful tennis-ball line, and this was the result.

It was ...OK, I suppose, but not very exciting. I think these balls need to hold your interest enough so that you keep turning them over, to examine all the details of the design. On that criteria, I'd only give this one about a 4. (I have a habit of rating my creative work on a score of 1-10). But at least I knew that needlefelting was another embellishing possibility - though it does weaken the underlying fabric, so the ball might not have a long life.

By now it was February, and we had the worst day of all - 47C heat (that's around 116.6F) and a howling North wind. I listened to the radio, as the tragedy of the Black Saturday bushfires unfolded across the state. By Sunday, we knew that nearly 200 people were missing, and whole towns had been destroyed.
As I listened to the stories of tragedy and destruction, I worked on another ball, which became my personal reminder of Dorothea MacKellar's words on the beauty and the terror of this wide brown land of ours.

I called it "Fireball".

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


So of course I made another one. Beginning with a plain blue ball, I applied scraps of fabric, using various textures and shades of blue/aqua.

Then I embroidered some scrolly, leafy patterns in light greens, and added some sequins for a bit of bling.

There's actually an underlying design this time. I was beginning to discover some of the possibilities of layout on a spherical shape - a very different proposition from designing for a flat, two-dimensional surface.The first thing I discovered was how to create a "tennis ball" line, very useful for planning embellishments.
Here's how I did it.
I'd used a simple 8 piece pattern for the ball (more on pattern possibilities in a future post).

This gives you 6 intersections - the points where 4 segments meet.
It might help to describe them like points on an Earth globe. Point #1 is the North pole, #2 the South Pole; 3,4,5 &6 are evenly distributed around the Equator.
If you imagine a circle drawn around the points 1,2,3 & 4, and then draw a curved line connecting these, voila! You have a continuous line like the one on a tennis ball.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A discovery

The first Bauble was the result of one of those happy "what if?" moments. Needing a small baby gift, I made a little stuffed fabric ball in bright cottons, like this one.

Very cute, fast and easy. I made a couple more, just for fun.

Then I thought Wonder what else I could do with these?
So I tried a little experiment.

I made another ball in plain calico, and I sewed patches all over it, mostly browns and greens.

Hmm, now what? Embroidery, maybe?
We seem to have a woodsy theme going here, so how about some leaves and wildflowers?

Several days passed, and finally it was finished – I called it "Wildwoods".

I was pleased.