Yarn Ball DIY Tutorial

by / Monday, 27 February 2012 / Published in Blog

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.

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Up first, gather the supplies!

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You’ll need include:

  • Yarn – I used the cheapest gray yarn I could find.
  • Scissors
  • 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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!


10 Responses to “Yarn Ball DIY Tutorial”

  1. Erin says : Reply

    This totally reminds me of 2nd grade when we did this with string and balloons to create an Easter craft, except we cut a hole in the dried string creation and filled it with Easter grass and pipe cleaner bunnies. Do you remember? I think mine might still be in my mom’s attic.

    • Katie says : Reply

      I definitely remember making those Easter baskets and I actually thought about them when I was making them. My mom could probably dig up a few as well. lol

    • Natasha says : Reply

      I am so glad you mentioned this because I have been wanting to make these for my wedding as well, but I wanted to make them into bowls for centerpieces, w/ petals and tealights. I was worried that cutting a hole in the top might not work, but if you used something similar for easter baskets, then hopefully it will work- getting started tonight!

  2. Chels says : Reply

    Hi!
    Just wondering, what are your ratios for your glue mixture???
    Thanks!!

    • Katie says : Reply

      Hi Chels – I would start with a ratio of 1/4 cup of warm water, 1/2 cup of corn starch and 4oz of glue and see how your first one turns out. I wasn’t consistent each batch I made and they all turned out well. Good luck – be prepared to get messy, but it’s worth it!

  3. Toni says : Reply

    HI Katie,
    Thanks for this post. i want to use these at my reception as well but use all white as centerpieces. I havea Few questions:
    Do you prefer the glue mixture over liquid starch or the glue mixture you use?
    Also how much would you approximate it cost you per ball?
    Thanks so much.
    Toni

    • Katie says : Reply

      Hi Toni,
      First, congrats regarding your upcoming wedding! It’s funny that you asked about liquid starch. I may have been living under a rock, because I saw that product for the first time at the grocery store last week. I would definitely have given that a try when I was making them had I known it existed. The powder was a little clumpy at times so I would give the liquid stuff a shot. I would still mix it with glue though. Make a small batch to test it out first and play around with the ratios. As for the cost, this was a very inexpensive decoration. I bought the yarn and glue with coupons from Joanne’s and Hobby Lobby and the starch is cheap as well, so maybe each yarn ball cost about $1 or $2 (not factoring any cost for time to make them). Good luck!

  4. Liz says : Reply

    Hi Katie! This has got to be the best tutorial I’ve found for these balls. Thanks so much for this! Just a question…do you know approximately how long do these last (kind of a stupid question, I know)? I’m trying to figure out how far in advance I can make these for my wedding next year. Thanks so much!

    • Katie says : Reply

      Hi Liz, congrats on your upcoming wedding! I hope you’re enjoying the excitement of creating your perfect day! I’m thankful that pinterest hadn’t been around for too long when I was planning ours or I would have really been in trouble! I went back through some of my emails to see if I could figure out when my sister helped me with the first yarn ball and it was mid-January – about 2 and a half months before our wedding. The rest we made about a month before our big day. We transported some of them from Georgia to Kentucky and brought them back again and then I ended up selling them on craigslist so they were handled quite a bit and held up well. I would suggest that you keep them hanging if you’re going to make them a few months in advance and maybe use a little more glue in the mixture. Best of luck! I’d love to see your finished product.

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