regular styrofoam or smooth foam?

styrofoam balls for quilted ornaments

Here is a question I get several times a week: When making quilted ornaments, should you use the regular (rough) Styrofoam, or the Smoothfoam balls?

My answer is abso-posi-lutely use the rough Styrofoam for quilted ornaments. Why? Well, there are several reasons.

  • It is about a zillion times easier to push pins into than the smooth foam. This isn’t a big deal when you only have to stick in a few pins. But when you will be using several hundred pins, this quickly becomes an issue. This will especially be an issue on those last couple of layers of the ornament, when you are pinning through several layers of fabric… and even more especially an issue if you are using a heavier weight fabric.
  •  I have personally found that the Smoothfoam easily dents when pushing pins through the last few layers of the ornament, especially with heavier fabrics. It just doesn’t “give” as easily as the rough foam, and so if you find yourself pinning through heavier fabric and really needing to give it a little extra push to get it through the layers, the Smoothfoam just pushes in with the pin, right under your thumb. (This is not to say that the rough foam doesn’t dent…it does. But…since it is easier to push a pin into in the first place, you won’t have to push as hard, and therefore you’ll avoid the dents.
  • The rough foam is a little bit cheaper. – This is not so much the case any longer!

A few people have said they thought about trying out the Smoothfoam because they were afraid that the roughness of the regular foam might be able to be felt though the fabric of the finished ornament. Nope, this will NOT happen on the regular quilted balls. Since the ornament is made by folding pieces of fabric or ribbon and then layering them on top of each other, the roughness of the Styrofoam base is completely masked by the time the ornament is finished.

Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE Smoothfoam too, and I use it in my Moonlight ornament, as well as for some of the Snow Globe ornaments, and lots of other crafts and other ornaments that are on this website. Just not for the regular quilted ornaments. :D

ps. I am also asked a lot where I buy my Styrofoam. I buy the rough Styrofoam balls mostly at Walmart, because they are just a little bit cheaper there, than they are at Michael’s or JoAnn’s (unless you’ve got a coupon). But, you can also get them on Amazon (the price tends to fluctuate). The rough Styrofoam balls are HERE, and the Smoothfoam balls are HERE.


{ 8 comments… add one }

  • isaiah43123 January 15, 2012, 6:48 am

    I’m thinking the rough styro will grip the fabric making it easier to assemble. Yes?

  • Gloria January 15, 2012, 12:40 pm

    Always use the rough styrofoam for quilted ornaments. The smooth foam is easier to measure, but harder to use.

    • ornamentgirl January 16, 2012, 1:03 am

      Definitely! There have been a few times when I’ve been forced to use a smooth foam ball because it was all I had…and it just killed my fingers. Not to mention slowed me down a ton.

  • MonnieJ January 18, 2012, 9:25 pm

    Thanks for the tip! I am new to quilted ornaments and just bought a few smooth foam balls this week but haven’t tried using them yet, so you just saved my fingers. :)

    • ornamentgirl January 18, 2012, 11:55 pm

      Oh good, I’m so glad you saw this post then! Have fun making them! :D

  • Cookie January 5, 2013, 2:22 am

    I did one with the smooth styrofoam and my fingers were really sore after it was done. Using the rough styrofoam is SO much easier and goes SO much faster!! Trust what the Ornament Girl says, she knows what she’s talking about.

    Has anyone tried making an ornament using the smaller size balls?

    • ornamentgirl January 14, 2013, 2:48 am

      Thanks Cookie :) I have had to use smooth a couple of times too, when I’d run out of the rough ones, and it’s SO hard on the fingers.

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