Victorian Rag Ball – Tutorial

Learn to make an authentic Victorian rag ball for your kid, pup or as decoration.

Victorian Rag Ball - Tutorial

In the Victorian era, a rag ball was a toy of poor children. Old rags and fabric scraps were wound into a ball and covered with ball stitches to hold the rags together:

‘Ball Stitch – A stitch used in making ornamental balls for children.’ (Embroidery Stitches, 1872, p. 9)

Rag balls were popular Victorian Christmas presents. Victorian mothers would make rag balls for their toddlers, while kids could make their own rag balls – rag balls are so easy and fast to make! And cheap too – using just what you’d usually throw away! I’ve wanted to make a Victorian fabric ball for a long time and now I’ve finally found the time.

‘To make this coveted Christmas toy take a small rubber ball or a piece of cork, wind it with coarse worsted of any color, until the ball is of the desired size, then knit the cover.’ (Demorest’s Family Magazine, 1891)

Today, rag balls are still popular: They are a favorite decoration at Christmas time. Or you could make a rag ball as soft toy ball for your baby or toddler. And if you don’t have a toddler, your pup would love a new toy too!

‘There are innumerable games to be played with a soft ball which the very tiny children even can enjoy and profit by.’ (Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, 1910-2)


How To Make A Victorian Rag Ball

You’ll need:

  • rags, old clothes or fabric scraps
  • yarn
  • needle and scissors
DIY Rag Ball With Old T-Shirts
I used leftover fabric from my T-shirt-turned-skirt refashion for the Victorian rag ball

DIY Victorian Rag Ball

Cut an old T-shirt into a long, continuous 1-inch (2.5cm) strip. Then roll the strip into a ball like you’d roll a ball of yarn. Tuck the end of the strip under one of the previous loops to secure it.

DIY Victorian Rag Ball Tutorial

The Victorian Ball Stitch

‘Bind some loose rags tightly together into a ball. Wind string across as in the illustration forming sections. Thread a needle with bright-colored wool, and work round and round, passing the needle each time under a strand of string. If different colours be used the effect is very pleasing.’ (Embroidery Stitches, 1872, p. 9)

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