How To Make Rag Balls

Today, many country stores sell beautiful baskets of rag balls to decorate your country home. These balls are very easy to make yourself with fabric scraps and scissors.

How To Make Rag Balls

What you need

1/2 - 1 1/2 yards of recycled woven fabric per ball.
Scissors



Instructions

Country decorating gathers its warm traditional flavors from textiles and crafts that remind us of yesteryear.

What we now use as decorative accessories that signify treasures of the past, were utility items of early settlers and pioneers. Hanging wicker baskets were useful in gathering crops or organizing the women’s daily mending and sewing. Displays of dried herbs hanging upside down on a hook was to preserve the plants for cooking.

Just as those items of our heritage have become a part of country decorating, so have displaying old-fashioned rag balls.

Textile scraps were always looked at with recycling and creative options in mind. In Colonial times, old woolens and cottons were cut into strips and rolled into rag balls to be used for braided rag rugs or even to make a cherished rag doll.

FABRIC AND CUTTING METHOD

You will need 1/2 – 1 1/2 yards of woven fabric per ball to make a 4″ to 6″ diameter ball. Generally your fabric will be cut into 1 1/2 – 2″ strips but the actual width will depend on the weight of your fabric. Begin cutting lengthwise along the grain. To avoid piecing the fabric together, cut the yardage in a continuous long strip stopping 1″ from the end. Begin cutting your second line starting on the opposite side parallel to your first line. Continuing this pattern will prevent you from needing to sew the cut strips together. Instead you will have a long continuous rag strip.

Cotton fabrics will naturally tear in a straight line by starting the rip with a sharp snip with a pair of scissors. Then grasp both sides of your fabric and rip it apart within 1″ from the end as discussed above. Ripping the fabric in this manner may stretch the fabric and cause it to roll in on itself but this will create a nice look to your finished rag balls that many people actually prefer.

ROLLING YOUR RAG BALLS

Starting at one end, wrap your about 8 strips around the inside of your hand holding it close with your thumb. Slide the loops off your hand and wrap the loops the opposite direction keeping the new winding centered in the middle. Your initial ball will look like a oval cylinder. Keep winding until the center loops are even and as high as your beginning loops were long. When the loops start to slide off the end, change your wrapping method to wrap on the diagonal. Switch from one side to the other every 5 or 6 wraps in an even pattern.

Remember to wrap on ALL sides horizontal and vertical too. If you run out of fabric before the ball is the size you want, simply tie a new length on if it is a thin fabric or for heavier fabric where the knot would create a bump in your pattern simply tuck the end into your ball and continue winding.

When you are finished tuck the tail end of fabric into the other strands tightly or stitch it with matching thread.

DISPLAYING YOUR RAG BALLS

Make individual balls from fabric scraps in your room to bring out your decorative colors. Your eye will bounce around the room and pick up coordinating colors spontaneously to create harmony in the room. Group balls of several complementing colors together and arrange them in a basket near a antique rocking chair or country shelf. You could add a pair of antique knitting needles, embroidery hoop, sampler or other needlecraft to create a reminder of the talents that were once passed from mother to daughter.

This Project was contributed by Rachel Webb

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Comments

  1. Omg who would think of something like that ;);0

  2. Instead of just using all fabric,I use styrofoam balls of different sizes and just wrap the material around them. This method doesn’t use as much fabric and the balls look just as good,maybe just not as authentic.

  3. A diagram of the cutting pattern would be helpful. I cannot figure out what you mean in the cutting instructions.

  4. After you make the balls you can insert a tooth pic or a knitting needle in one end and display these into a styrofoam ball or sand filled pot as a flower arrandement…or insert toothpick in one end and stick the other into a styrofoam cone and make a tree display, have wonderful fun with this project and make one for your kitty too..Barb

  5. A piece of cardboard tubing could be used in the center of a rag ball if you needed to make it lighter. I can see using Styrofoam if you have it as we get packing peanuts and other bits many times and these could be put into plastic mesh from onions or a square of fabric scooped together. I like the idea of making a project without having to purchase items to finish the craft.
    Many times I have used paper clips to make hangers or bits of wire collected from other things, but have gotten hooks when I needed them, but modern ornament hooks are much lighter than the older ones used to be.

  6. nice little toy

  7. This can be presented as a nice project for children to be able to understand what Pioneer children may have used as toys. Thanks

  8. I start my rag balls by using old sheets cut into strips. I don’t make one continuous strip, instead cut them into the lengths of the sheet. When I am wrapping the strips I find it just as easy to just lay the next strip over the end of the last strip and continue wrapping – no lumps or bumps or sewing! Then when I get almost to the size I want, I substitute strips of homespun for the strips of bedsheet. That way I don’t use alot of expensive homespun fabric. The rag balls are really heavy by that point but if I used styrofoam balls underneath I would feel like I am cheating.

    This past Christmas I made small ragball ornaments and I did wrap strips of homespun around small styrofoam balls (first I stuck in one of those wire ornament hangers – you could use a paperclip – or for some of them I just made a hole and glued a doubled piece of twine inside for the holder). I used the styrofoam balls because I didn’t want it to be too heavy to hang on the Christmas tree.

  9. I need rag balls, with a bit of catnip tucked in for our 6 cats. They may forget about scratching the furniture. What is 1/2 – 11/2 yards? And 11/2 – 2″ strips? Pictures might help.

  10. Wish you had pictures of the steps its a bit confusing!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this technique.

  12. Instead of using a ton of fabric for your rag ball…I bought styrofoam balls and wrapped fabric around them. It was faster and less expensive!!

  13. I have rag balls made by my Dad, it was all they had to play ball with when he was coming along. I only bring them out during the holidays. With these instruction, I may add a few of my own. Thanks.

  14. I like the tip to keep the material in one long line instead of strips..

  15. Why not place a heavy pebble in it and use it as a paperweight?
    Make a larger design with a larger heavier pebble for a door stop?

  16. What in the world do you need a rag ball for??!!

  17. what my friend did was take some of those styrofoam balls & pinned the begining of the fabric strip in place then wrapped the fabric around them. This way she didn’t need as much fabric and she could make more balls with what she little fabric on hand.

  18. Thank you for the directions of rag balls. I have wanted the directions a long time.

  19. THANK YOU for sharing this! I’ve been wantin to crochet a rug using fabric, and your technique of cuttin and winding will come in so handy! THANK YOU!

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