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!