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Apr 1, 201311:03 AMAfter Hours

with Jody Glynn Patrick

Express your life’s journey with a spirit ball

Express your life’s journey with a spirit ball

(page 1 of 2)

Okay, this is admittedly an irregular After Hours column, but I received so many comments and inquiries after doing the ATHENA keynote speech that I’m going to tell my “Amen Sisterhood” out there how to make a spirit ball like the one I used as a prop for the speech. If you are into creative arts and putting things on Pinterest, feel free to link onto your board. For the rest of you business brainiacs, I’ll be writing a strictly business Open for Biz blog for Thursday’s ezine, so it’s all good if I give a nod to my “on your own time” creative followers today.

A spirit ball (pictured above) uses totems to express a life’s journey and significant experiences in symbolic ways. For example, mine has symbols for the ocean, surviving cancer (butterfly), and deaths (little coffin with figure inside), as well as for my mother’s garden, the Rocky Mountains, and for other special things. You could add little photos or Shrinky-Dink artwork or whatever you want to do. Buy, collect, or otherwise hunt down totems that have meaning for you, but anything over about 1 inch in size is a little challenging to work with on a spherical base, so size matters.

You will need: a 6-inch hard foam or Styrofoam ball ($5), masking tape ($3), a few sheets of gray (or other color) felt (29 cents/sheet), heavy-duty thread ($3), and mixed color beads and charms. Optional but VERY helpful: curved needles, which you can buy at Hobby Lobby or Walmart for under $3. Also, I invested $5 in a Styrofoam ball for patterning and used a harder solid-foam ball (also $5) for the project, but you could do it with either one. And you’ll need Tacky Glue.

Note the curved needle on the pattern piece as an example, and also how to cut gray felt beyond the pattern by about a quarter of an inch. The ball shown is covered in masking tape, with sections drawn. The cut-off taped pieces became the pattern for my orange paper pattern. Easy.

Hint: You can buy beads very cheaply at Walmart that work beautifully, or you can shop Joanne’s, Hobby Lobby, and Michaels for unusual offerings and charms. I find bead stores to be very expensive for the type of beads used for this project, and I found what I wanted on sale at regular craft/fabric stores. The beads tend to be 40% to 50% off full price about every other week at those three stores, so shop carefully and you’ll never pay full price.


  • Cover a Styrofoam ball with masking tape with as few wrinkles as possible. Completely cover the ball, overlapping tape; it doesn’t matter. Cover it all. Then make a dot at the center top and center bottom, wrap a string around the ball, and trace the circle with a pen. Repeat this for a total of four times so that the ball has eight approximately equal sections, as if it were a large grapefruit. Number the sections 1-8 with arrows pointing toward the top. Take a sharp craft knife and carefully cut on the lines (not deep!), and then peel off your pattern pieces.
  • Pin the tape pattern pieces to paper, and cut out a template, or pin it directly to the felt. You’ll get about three pattern sections out of every felt sheet, but don’t be stingy with your felt in case you only get two per sheet. Leave a margin of about a quarter of an inch all the way around each pattern piece to allow overlapping for sewing the sections together later.
  • Take Section 1 and lay out some of your totems before beading. Sew them on if possible. If you can’t sew them on, use glue. Bead around the totems however you want. I mix bead sizes and blend colors. You can pick any combination you want. It’s your life, your ball, your art. Incorporate yarns, ribbons, or whatever. Do this for two sections, leaving the outside margin, and then sew together, slightly overlapping the edges (remember that extra quarter inch?). Then bead the fill-in area (your curved needles are super handy for this), blending colors between the two sections.
  • When you get half the ball done – four sections beaded, sewed together, and filled in – glue it on the ball. I used a Styrofoam ball for the pattern, because masking tape comes off it easily. But then I used a harder smooth foam ball for the beading project because glue works better with hard foam than with Styrofoam. You can do it all with one or the other ball, but to minimize frustration, I invested the extra $5 on a second type of ball. I also didn’t want to risk later slippage as the Styrofoam/glue bond weakened.
  • Repeat with the remaining four sections, beading and joining seams, stopping often to check fits. If a section is short, fill it in with a piece of felt before connecting; felt is really, really versatile and easy to use. Stretching can be pulled back with a stitch or two. Joining two halves is the most difficult part, so be patient. Stitch it as best you can where it meets and fill in with glue if necessary. It is tricky, but I did it, so you can, too. Curved needles are almost a must. They really simplify this step a lot. (Continued)

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About This Blog

IB Publisher Emeritus Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from her other writing for In Business magazine. Awarded national recognition for both her previous work as a newspaper columnist and her journalistic leadership at IB, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often!

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