Yana Knits

Learn to Knit

Project Soccer Ball

New project: knitting a realistic looking soccer ball!

When I came up with an idea of making a soccer ball, I thought it was going to be pretty simple and straight forward. However, I failed to consider the following fun facts about a traditional soccer ball:

Knowing this helps you realize that you may be signing yourself up for a bit more work than you expected. On a positive note, the panels you need to make are only a couple of inches wide (or if you want to be more technical – 4.5 cm to a side), the seams are short, and when you start sewing it turns from an ugly monster to a real beauty after a few dozen stitches.

It’s surprisingly hard to find all the necessary information about the dimensions of soccer balls online. For example, even the wikipedia article about “Football (ball)” failed to tell me how big the panels have to be. I could have tried to infer it from the given circumference of the ball, but it was so much easier to ask a colleague – avid soccer fan – to bring his soccer ball for examination.

All sides and angles measured, it was time to knit some sample panels, which took a few tries to get exactly right. Hexagons were a bit easier to make because once you figured out how to knit the bottom half, the reverse of it would give you the top half (hooray for the x-axis symmetry). Pentagons were a bit more of a challenge, angles being slightly more acute and symmetry running only along the y-axis. But even than it didn’t take more an an evening of fiddling with stitch increases and decreases.

I finished most of the panel knitting on a 10-hour flight to Europe and then another one back to the US. It turned out to be a very convenient project to bring on a plane: you can use very short needles because none of the panels are wider than 16 stitches, you don’t end up dragging something bulky half way around the world in your carry-on, and you can take a break every 15 minutes when a panel is finished and still feel like you accomplished something. The only drawback was using really tiny dull scissors, since you can’t bring a real pair on board.

Sewing the panels together was probably the most fun and the most tedious part at the same time. Tedious – because this is just a lot of sewing and I’m not a huge fan of it. Fun – because I took it upon myself to figure out how to stitch the panels together using the least number of seams (there are a total of 90 seams, but you can stitch a couple sides at a time with the same length of yarn). I was actually surprised that sometimes my plan to stitch 3 consecutive seams wouldn’t work, or that I would end up with a lonely unfinished seam among the stitched panels. It took a full 3 evenings to finish stitching the ball, stuff it, and weave in the yarn ends.

The ball turned out looking relatively realistic (except maybe slightly larger than life-size). The biggest difference between my ball and a real soccer ball is the weight – no matter how much fiberfil I stuffed in it, it just didn’t want to weigh 400 g.

Will other balls follow, you ask? Perhaps, but not in the forseeable future.