Rough Styrofoam or Smooth (polystyrene) foam?


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 tend to 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 Responses
  • isaiah43123
    January 15, 2012

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

  • Gloria
    January 15, 2012

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

    • ornamentgirl
      January 16, 2012

      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

    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

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

  • Cookie
    January 5, 2013

    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

      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

    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

      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

        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

          Oriental trading company has them every year.

  • Autumn
    October 12, 2016

    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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