Yarn Ball DIY Tutorial
As mentioned in this recent post, I’ve attempted making yarn balls to hang over the dance floor at our wedding reception next month. Having successfully made 8 so far, I wanted to share this tutorial with others who were interested in also trying them as I think I may have uncovered the secret to successfully making them.
Up first, gather the supplies!
You’ll need include:
- Yarn – I used the cheapest gray yarn I could find.
- Punch Balloon – this is a must! They can be found at Party City or in many toy departments.
- Hot Water – I found that hot water helped mix the glue and corn starch better.
- Corn Starch – Again, the store brand or cheapest you can find is fine.
- Glue – I used clear glue, all purpose glue, Elmer’s glue, I think just about any type of multipurpose glue will work. For the last 6, I used the largest container of Elmer’s Glue-All from Joann’s
- Stirrers – I used popsicle sticks, but paint stirrers or anything similar will do the job.
- Disposable Container – I picked up a pack of 2 aluminum ones from the Dollar Store.
- Petroleum Jelly – I think this is probably optional, but I wasn’t willing to take the chance so I used it.
- Tarp – This can be a messy project, you’re going to want something under the balloons to catch the mixture that drips.
As I mentioned above, the punch balloon is a must. I credit the success of making these and the look of the finished product specifically to the type of balloon. There are several reasons why, these balloons worked well:
- They’re durable. They’re made for kids to beat on them, so they can certainly withstand wet yarn being wrapped around them.
- They’re round. I strongly preferred the look of the round yarn balls to the oval ones and these balloons maintain a round shape at almost any size.
- They’re reusable. Since you don’t have to tie them into a knot to keep the air in, you can let the air out of the balloon slowly which has it’s benefits, plus you can reuse the balloon if you don’t pop it.
Now that I’ve told you how much I adore punch balloons, we can move on.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t include specific measurements for the water, glue and corn starch and the reason is I don’t think it matters. Obviously, it matters to some degree, but I think as long as you’re in the ballpark, they’ll turn out just fine. The first time I made them, I tried to follow a recipe that called for 1/4 cup of warm water, 1/2 cup of corn starch and 4oz of glue. I didn’t have 4 oz of glue so I made my own mixture using more corn starch, more water and less glue, and it turned out quite well. I’ve since made runny mixtures, thick mixtures and just about all in between and they’ve all turned out. The key is to make a mixture which is thicker than water, reasonably thinner than glue, that allows you to dip the yarn into the mixture and soak it up so it’s completely wet. I’d recommend making only one yarn ball first to get a feel for it and decide on the consistency that works well for you. What worked well for me was to make a runnier mixture to start with and then finish the balloon using a thicker mixture to make sure the outer layers are nice and stiff.
Up next, set up your work area!
Ideally, you’d have a photography backdrop stand (or a friend who owns one- thanks, Beth!) to have a long sturdy post to hang them from. Absent that, you could use the garage door rail like I used for my first two tries. I’ve read blogs where people did this outside – I personally wouldn’t recommend that since the balloons need to completely dry which took around 48 hours, plus the balls are initially wet and sticky so dust, bugs, leaves, etc. could potentially stick to them as they dry and the wind blows.
Once you pick your location, put down the tarp, painter’s plastic, newspaper or whatever else you’re using, and make sure you have junky clothes on because, if you’re like me, you’re sure to sling some mixture on you.
Next, blow up your punch balloon, roll the end and tuck it in so it looks like an inny belly button, like this:
This technique worked well for me, but if you have concerns about the balloon not staying inflated, you can always tie it into a knot. Now, use the loop on the top of the balloon to run a piece of yarn through it to hang it. I didn’t use the rubber band that came on the balloon for punching purposes, because as you add wet yarn to the balloon it’s surprising how much it weights it down and I’d rather it didn’t stretch closer and closer to the floor as I’m wrapping it.
Grab your petroleum jelly and smear a thin layer all over the balloon. This probably sounds strange, but it seems to serve two purposes – to help the wet yarn stick to the balloon as you’re getting started and it helps the yarn once it’s dry not stick to it when you deflate/pop the balloon. It’s a bit odd that it accomplishes those two contradictory things, but as I mentioned above, I wasn’t willing to chance make them without it.
Once you’re work area is set up, mix your glue, water and corn starch and cut long pieces of yarn. I found that using really long pieces worked best for me, but be very careful to keep it from knotting up. Now you’re ready to get started by completely dipping your yarn into the mixtures and letting it soak into the yarn. Taking the end, I loosely squeezed the excess mixture out of it and piled it up as neatly as possible until I reach the other end. It’s now ready to wrap around the balloon. If the balloon is quite large, you may need another person to help you reach around the other side and hand you the yarn to continue wrapping.
As you begin wrapping the yarn around the balloon make sure to secure the ends under the yarn that’s already been wrapped, as you can see right in the center of this balloon.
Now, just continue with that same method until they look similar to these. These three balloons used an entire roll (is that what it’s called?) of yarn.
While you’re wrapping, be sure to spin the balloon around to look at it from all angles and make sure you’re not leaving any major gaps. Once you’re happy with the look, I would recommend mixing one more thicker glue/corn starch mixture and patting it around the balloon to give the yarn one more opportunity to soak up the mixture and allow it to dry really stiff. Now just let the balloon dry for a couple of days and then deflate the punch balloon or if you tied a knot, pop it.
Voilà! You have yourself a beautiful round yarn balloon!
A special thanks to my sister, Andi, and friend, Beth, for helping me conquer this project!