I wanted to make Sonya a fabric soccer ball. (For Rice alums and chemistry nerds, it’s a buckminsterfullerene molecule or “buckyball“).
While I know that other people have surely made these before, I couldn’t find any online tutorials, so I made my own template, which you can download here.
First order of business: cut out 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons from a variety of fabric scraps. (I glued the template shapes to cardboard in order to make them sturdier for repeated tracing).
Then, I used tailor’s chalk to outline my 1/4 inch seam allowance on the wrong side of all the beautiful shapes. I just happened to have a stack of purple batik print fat quarters in my craft drawer for years, waiting for this project!
Then I carefully started piecing the shapes together, using my marks for the seam allowance to start and stop 1/4 inch from each edge. I used a really short stitch length (1.6 was the smallest my machine does), and I slooooowed down the speed.
First, I sewed a pentagon and a hexagon, right sides together. Then I opened those up, and started going around attaching hexagons until I had a flower— a pentagon center with five hexagon petals.
The first trick to making a soccer ball is to add new shapes from left to right. For example, after attaching the first hexagon petal, attach the second petal to the first hexagon, then to the pentagon center. When you sew the second petal to the pentagon, you fold the first hexagon corner inwards and sew carefully on the marked line you drew for the seam allowance to make a nice, sharp corner where the three shapes meet.
The second trick is to have the pieced-together shapes right side up, and then whichever shape is being sewn next should be placed wrong side up so that you can see the drawn line for the seam allowance. It sounds complicated, but it makes sense after you do it for awhile—
Whenever I had to attach a pentagon, I started with the left petal, then worked my way around, always creasing the previous petal inwards to make the next 1/4-inch seam. I just chose pieces at random, trying not to have two shapes cut out of the same fabric touch, but if you wanted to plan out how the fabric pieces attach, this is how a soccer ball looks unfolded:
Eventually, the project became 3D! I could see the makings of a deflated sphere! And I kept adding pieces until I came to the last tricky-to-attach pentagon. Then I sewed up three sides of this last shape on the machine and then gently stuffed the ball with polyfill.
To finish up the ball, I found this great tutorial. I had to use a few pins to hold the seams in place, but my ladder stitch was nearly invisible. Drex had to turn the ball over in his hands a few times before he found the last pentagon.
Hooray! It turned out beautifully! The finished ball measures 30 inches in circumference, or roughly 19 inches in diameter.
44 days until the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa!