Welcome to the English Paper Pieced Baby Toy Tutorial!
We will be constructing a 26 sided stuffed ball which finishes at about a 5 1/2 inch diameter. The fancy name for this shape is a rhombitruncated cuboctahedron, I call it a cute baby toy. This ball is a good size for an older baby, toddler or young child. It consists of 6 octagons, 8 hexagons and 12 squares. You can make it in as little as 1 color or as many as 26. The choice is up to you. Another option would be to use all three color values, light, medium and dark. One for the squares, one for the hexagons and one for the octagons. I would suggest using at least 3 fabrics with a decent amount of contrast just because it makes it more interesting to look at. Its a great way to use up the leftovers!
We will be using the English paper piecing method to join the pieces together for this project. I won't go into a whole explanation of how to do English paper piecing. There are great tutorials, here, here and here. I will, however say that I chose to use the freezer paper method and it worked quite well. I was afraid of the papers slipping around while I was basting them down, so I chose the freezer paper. I also chose the basting method that did not go all the way through the paper as I wanted to be able to pull the paper out and leave a small amount of the basting in for one of the final steps. I also chose to make a knot at each corner, just to reinforce it since this ball could be thrown in the wash multiple times. I just sewed a knot in without cutting my thread and continued on with the next piece if it was possible to do so.
Step 1. Prepare Your Pieces.
You will need 6 octagons, 8 hexagons and 12 squares. My idea came from this website. I chose to use the template provided. You could, however, choose to make your own if you wish. The important thing is that your shapes are equilateral (all sides the same length) and that all shapes use the same length measurement for the sides. For instance if you are using an octagon with 1 inch sides, then your hexagons and squares must all have 1 inch sides as well. The thought of trying to draw perfect octagons and hexagons made my head hurt, so I chose to use the provided template. :)
Step 2. Assemble your "flowers".
Begin by taking one of your octagons and surrounding it alternately with squares and hexagons.
Step 3. Make your "bowls".
Do this by joining the sides of the squares to the adjacent hexagons all the way around. Do this with both "flowers".
Step 4. Set one of the bowls aside for now. We will come back to it later. At this point you should have 4 octagons and 4 squares left. This is where things get a little tricky, but stick with me and it will start making sense. For this round you will be working along the lip of the bowl. Take a square and join it to the top edge of one of the hexagons in the bowl.
Next take an octagon and continuing around the lip of the bowl, sew three sides of it to the next three segments. One side to the descending side of the hexagon, one to the next square below and one to the ascending side of the next hexagon.
Continue around the lip of the bowl in this manner until you have no pieces left. It should look like this.
Step 5. Join the squares to the octagons. Working around the bowl in a round, join the sides of the squares to the sides of the adjacent octagons. LEAVE ONE SQUARE UNSEWN. This will be the little door where you will turn the ball and stuff it later.
It should now look like this.
Step 6. Join the other bowl.
By now it should fit together like a puzzle and you should easily be able to see what joins to what. Starting at your square that you left unsewn, stitch all the way around the ball matching corners and edges as you go. Do not sew to the loose square. It should remain free on all 3 sides. Don't be afraid to pinch, fold, squish, poke or otherwise manipulate the ball in order to get your sides of your pieces lined up.
Step 7. Remove your papers and basting.
At this point you can remove your papers and your basting from all but the square serving as your "door" and the pieces directly adjacent to the hole for turning. Leave the paper and the basting stitches both on the square. On the pieces surrounding the hole, I chose to leave the basting stitch only on the unsewn edge and to remove the papers. I thought it would help to hold their shape as the ball was turned and stuffed.
Step 8. Turn and stuff your ball.
Using the small opening in the ball, turn it right side out.
Step 9. Stitch up your opening using a ladder stitch.
At this point you can remove the paper from your opening flap and the remaining basting. Simply sew around the opening using a ladder stitch.
Step 10. Marvel at your ball and then go play!