[Edited May 2013: The link to this pattern is on the sidebar of the blog, to the right of this post. You may need to scroll the sidebar to the bottom to see it. Click the photo in the sidebar for the full pattern or follow this link .]
This pattern is old, even older than me. I’ve heard it described as a 19th century American pattern and if you google “knitted baby ball”, this is basically what you’ll find.
There are some substantial differences between the original pattern and the one now available as a free download from this blog. The traditional pattern was intended to be knitted in a pure wool yarn and felted, the felting gave plenty of opportunity to hide the seam, the holes made by the short row shaping and to make the ball rounder by reshaping it when wet. My version is best knitted in a modern machine washable yarn. If you follow the simple instructions below, you can close the holes and the seam is hidden.
Here’s some hints and tips to help you get a nice round ball:
When knitting toys I always use needles that are at least a mm size smaller than that recommended for the yarn. This is because garter stitch is quite stretchy and if you knit it too loosely the stuffing will show through the fabric! You don’t have to get the gauge exactly right but at least knit up some garter stitch using smaller than usual needles, until you get a fabric that you can only see pinpricks of light through.
How to Close the Holes
The balls are made using a technique called Short Row Shaping. This involves turning the knitting around before you’ve knitted to the end of the row, so making the knitted fabric 3 dimensional. However, when you turn the knitting, you leave a small hole. There’s a special blog post on how to close the holes and get a smoother finish on your fabric, just here
When sewing through the side loops to close the top and bottom of the ball, go round twice, it will help you to pull the hole closed.
When sewing up the back seam, there is no set way to knit the top and bottom of garter stitch fabric, at least not one I can find. So here’s what I use. The basic method involves weaving the yarn in and out so that it goes directly over the existing stitches in the knitting. Here’s a diagram:
The important thing to remember when using this method is not to pull the yarn tight as this will just make a nasty mess. It’s a delicately balanced operation, but simple with practice.