Rough Styrofoam or Smooth (polystyrene) foam?

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

My answer is... either, depending on the type of ornament you are making.

I've used different foam balls based on the type of ornament pattern I'm doing.

Rough Styrofoam will work for almost any pattern where no section of fabric is only one layer thick. So, for example, the Basic Star pattern would work fine with a rough foam ball.

A few people have said they used the smooth foam for these kinds of quilted ornament patterns 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.

But, you'll definitely want a smooth foam ball for Snow Globe ornaments, because the center part of these ornaments lie flat on the foam, and roughness would show through. Same goes for Kimekomi Ornaments.

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, foam with a smooth surface will work best, because the fabric lies nicely on the ball, with no roughness from the ball showing through.

What kind of foam do I recommend?

I've changed my mind several times over the years as I've really dialed in my preferences. Eventually, I started working with my very own manufacturer to create custom foam products that are made specifically for creating quilted ornaments, and our one-of-a-kind patterns!

We call them Soft Foam, because they are not only smooth surfaced, but also soft and easy to push pins into... and believe me, this makes a big difference when you've got a pattern that uses a couple hundred pins. (Note: I recommend you steer clear of the SmoothFoam brand for making these... while their density is amazing for many other crafts, they will KILL your fingers if you use them for quilted ornaments.)

Not only is our Soft Foam the perfect density and size, but we've even created them in various pre-lined designs.. perfect for certain patterns that require ball marking ahead of time. No more drawing lines!

Check out all our Soft Foam shapes & sizes HERE.

 

 

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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 TwoPurplePandas.com. I haven’t bought any of them, but I saw that they have these: http://www.twopurplepandas.com/search.aspx?find=2016

      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 Etsy.com. 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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