Rough Styrofoam or Smooth (polystyrene) 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 BOTH!

I use different foam balls based on the type of ornament pattern I’m doing.

Basic Star Quilted Balls:

For these, I use the rough Styrofoam. Why? Well, there are several reasons.

  • I find it 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 smooth foam 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 smooth foam 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 used the smooth foam for the regular quilted ornaments 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 that style of ornament.

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.

Snow Globe Quilted Ornaments & Kimekomi Ornaments:

So…. even in light of everything I listed above, I still use smooth foam (polystyrene) too, and I even recommend it in my Moonlight ornament pattern, as well as for Snow Globe ornaments, and lots of other crafts and other ornaments that you’ll find on this website.

That’s because these ornaments have fabric that lies directly on the ball, in a single layer – no folds or layers to provide barrier from the foam below.

So, for these, smooth foam works best, because the fabric lies nicely on the ball, with no roughness from the ball showing through.

By the way…

I am also asked a lot where I buy my Styrofoam. The rough Styrofoam balls are HERE, and the smooth foam balls are HERE.


{ 14 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.

  • Debbie May October 12, 2016, 2:30 pm

    I have been looking for small tag type charms that have the year on them, to remember when ornaments were made. Have you ever come across something like this, any sources? Thank you !

    • Staci Ann Lowry October 12, 2016, 8:38 pm

      Hi Debbie… The place I buy a lot of my charms from is I haven’t bought any of them, but I saw that they have these:

      They aren’t really like a “tag”, but they are still pretty cute. :)

      I hope that helps!

      • Staci Ann Lowry October 12, 2016, 8:38 pm

        Oh, and you can also try searching I have seen a lot of charms there as well, and you might be able to find a cute charm with the year.

        • Anonymous October 12, 2016, 9:41 pm

          Oriental trading company has them every year.

  • Autumn October 12, 2016, 6:36 pm

    I’ve made a lot of snow globe ones so I’ve used a lot of the smooth ones. My fingers got to hurting so I invested in some thimbles!!

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