Soft Toys & Amish Puzzle Ball

Updated: Feb 7

Learn how to make stuffed patchwork cube, stuffed patchwork cube with felt letters, stuffed patchwork ball, and the Amish puzzle ball.


I had some polyfiber left after I made the stuffed fabric letters, and thought I could use them to make simple soft toys for the son. I made four. The simplest was a cube, and the most complicated was the Amish puzzle ball.


I made these over 2 years ago, and at the time did not take many photos of them, so they will look worn in some of these photos which I only took recently. But you can see how they fare with detergent, the washer, and the dryer!


This post is quite heavy on geometric terms. Here are some illustrative definitions to save you some Googling:

Geometrical shapes mentioned in this post.


Patchwork Cube


The patchwork cube today - after countless laundry cycles.

This was actually the last of the four that I made. And it was the only one machine-sewn, because I had just gotten a mini sewing machine prior to making this. So the sewing was a BREEZE. No patterns were needed as it was just six squares sewn together. I also placed a pet jingle toy inside to give it a bit of audio interest.


A cube is made up of six squares.

One problem I faced was that I could not stuff it as densely as I liked, because I realised that the more I stuffed, the rounder it got and the less it looked like a cube. Perhaps some piping for the edges would have helped?


Here are some in-progress photos I found in my archive:


My first sewing machine - a mini, made the sewing of the patchwork cube a BREEZE.

The patchwork cube freshly made, in 2016. Seen here next to the patchwork ball.


Patchwork Ball


Patchwork ball in its present condition.

This was the first one I made out of the four. After much Googling, I found three common types of patchwork balls:


Type 1: The Beach Ball

You could make a "beach ball" type by sewing together 6 to 8 lens-shaped pieces. Here's a good tutorial with pattern by Ashley of Stitches and Love.


Type 2: The Pentagon Ball (This is what I made)

You could sew together 12 pieces of pentagons to make a dodecaherdon. When stuffed, it becomes a smooth sphere! Here's a good tutorial with pattern by Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps.


A dodecahedron is made up of 12 pentagons.

Type 3: The Soccer Ball

If you're ambitious, go for the "soccer ball" type with 20 pieces of hexagons and 12 pieces of pentagons that form a truncated icosahedron. Here's a good tutorial with pattern by Dorene Blauvelt of Seasonal Chapters.


Here are some in-progress photos I found in my archive (I made Type 2 - the pentagon ball):


I basted the pentagon pattern papers to small pieces of fabrics. This way, I didn't need to cut exact shapes of pentagons from the fabrics. I simply used the pattern paper as my sewing guide.

100% hand-sewn. This was before I had a sewing machine.

Patchwork of the pentagons was beginning to take form.

The freshly-sewn patchwork ball.


Patchwork Cube with Letters


Patchwork cube with felt letters. I used the same safari-themed fabric left-over from my stuffed fabric letter project.

This is simply another patchwork cube with a felt letter sewn onto each of its face. This project was really my experiment with felt. Six sides in a cube, six letters in the son's name. This project was bound to happen, wasn't it?


Because the letters were small, I was confident enough to free-hand draw the letters. So there was no "font". I just wanted it to be bubbly.


I used blanket stitches to attach the letters onto the squares before sewing the squares together into a cube. Alternatively, you can use iron-on fusible felt.
Sew the letters onto the squares before sewing the squares together to form a cube.


Amish Puzzle Ball


Amish puzzle ball in its present condition.

I did not know Amish puzzle balls existed before my research on fabric balls. I was immediately fascinated by it.


I found three types of Amish puzzle balls:


Type 1: True Amish Puzzle Ball

This type you can disassemble into three puzzle parts that you can put back together a reform the Amish puzzle ball. Here's a good tutorial by Allison Dey of SweaterDoll. Her pattern is only available for sale in her Etsy shop. But it's easy to draw your own! Scroll down for instructions.


Type 2: Fixed Amish Puzzle Ball (This is what I made)

This type has identical components and looks exactly the same as the true Amish puzzle ball in its assembled form, except all the puzzle parts are sewn permanently together. Because the ball cannot be disassembled, it is essentially no longer a "puzzle" ball. The sewing process is very similar for both Type 1 and Type 2, except Type 2 will require some tricky needle maneuver at the last stages where the pieces got crowded. Here's a good tutorial from The Secret of Childhood.


Type 3: Hollow Amish Puzzle Ball

At first glance, this type appears the same as the above two types. On closer look, this type is actually more hollow in the center. The components do not meet at the center of the ball like in the above two types. It seems to be a modified version of Type 2 to make sewing it easier (no crowded region to tackle). Here's a good tutorial with pattern by SewLuxeSew. I imagine this type would feel less substantial and less compact compared to Type 2.



For Type 1 and Type 2, the sewing patterns are identical and consist of only two shapes - quadrants and lens shapes. You will need to cut 24 pieces of fabrics in the quadrant shape, and 12 pieces in the lens shape.


For Type 3, the pattern is just the lens shape. You will need to cut 36 pieces of fabrics in the lens shape.


Here's how you create the patterns:


How to create the quadrant pattern piece for Amish puzzle ball.

How to create the lens-shaped pattern piece for Amish puzzle ball.

Remember to add seam allowance in your fabric cuts! The 20% extra in diameter is to cater for the shrink due to stuffing, not for seam allowance.


Once you have all your fabric pieces cut into the above shapes in sufficient quantities, go to the tutorial linked above on how to join the pieces together and insert stuffing to create the type of Amish puzzle ball that you have chosen!


Here are some in-progress photos I found in my archive (I made Type 2 - the fixed Amish puzzle ball):


One lens piece and two quadrant pieces are sewn together to form "wedges". A total of 12 wedges form an Amish puzzle ball.

Three "wedges" are sewn together to form a "flower". A total of four "flowers" form an Amish puzzle ball. You will ONLY see this "flower" form if you are making Type 2 (fixed Amish puzzle ball).

The freshly-completed Amish puzzle ball. Seen here next to the patchwork cube and the patchwork ball.

For the record, I have also sewn a bell in place at the center, squeezed between the "puzzle" pieces of the ball.



Sound or No Sound?


The idea of inserting something inside the soft toy to make it produce sound appealed to me. Helps with baby's development, they say.


So I researched about what I could add to the soft toys to make them emit sound. I only found two options - rattlers and squeakers. There were no mention on bells. I thought I wanted to be the first to use bells. But then I found out first-hand that bells are substantially muted when buried bare in all that stuffing. So I tried using a pet jingle toy instead and it solved the problem.


Pet jingle toys can also be inserted into soft toys.

The physics is simple, really. A bell needs room to vibrate to create the nice jingle, and being confined in all that dense stuffing restricts the vibration. A jingle toy like the above provides it with that space.


For the Amish puzzle ball, a bare bell worked albeit muted, but acceptably audible. The reason it works for the Amish puzzle ball was because the bell is not completely buried. It is simply concealed beneath the "puzzle" pieces. In fact, I could touch the bell if I dig deep enough.


Bear in mind that bells are susceptible to rust. So soft toys that contain them should be dried immediately and thoroughly after washing to impede the rusting process as much as possible. But it will rust no matter what, sooner or later. Can't fight the laws of physics.

If you like rattlers or squeakers, there are plenty available in craft stores both online and offline. Those can simply be inserted into the soft toys and they produce very audible sounds.



Conclusion


The son wasn't so interested in any of these until around the time he learned to grasp and throw. He now loves it when I use them to play throw with him. It is when one hits me smack on the face that I wished I did not use so much stuffing in that one.

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