Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Granny Meets Hippy

You would totally be forgiven for not knowing, although the clue is on my Facebook cover photo, but a hobby of mine is juggling.

My juggling balls in their original state!

I learned to juggle via a mixture of practicing by myself after seeing an item on a kids TV show about how to juggle – many moons ago, well before the internet existed to make this kind of thing easier – and later on by practicing with other people at a circus skills club I was part of as a teenager. I also sometimes randomly chat to people who are juggling in public, to see if we can swap tricks.

I’ve had my current juggling balls for quite a few years, over a decade actually now that I think about it, as I bought them when I was a student and had gone to London with a mate. I got them from a shop in Camden, really near the famous Camden markets. Wow, can’t believe I’ve had them so long!!

They are really good professional quality jugging balls, a great size and weight to work with. They have a stretchy nylon outer which means that they don’t roll off very far when you drop them, and this is coated in colourful vinyl to give a shiny colourful finish. At least, they were…

I was recently pretty upset to discover that the vinyl, which had been starting to crack ever since my juggling balls had been shipped over to Australia, was now really thoroughly cracked and was peeling off a lot in places. This was not only making them pretty messy, as coloured vinyl flakes would be left everywhere, but it also meant that the nylon fabric was over-stretching and at risk of breaking altogether.

A sorry state :(

I couldn’t find a local shop that sold juggling supplies so I couldn’t replace them, but luckily for me a friend pointed out that I could crochet new covers for my balls to keep them in shape!

I thought this was a great idea; I had seen amigurumi-style juggling balls before, but I immediately knew that I wanted to make mine in a granny style, joining two pieces in a similar way to the owls I made from Bunny Mummy’s pattern.

The worst part of this job was that I first had to scrape off all the vinyl that was still on the balls – there was plenty of it, and it seemed to go everywhere and stick to everything! Finally though I was left with the bare nylon, so that my crochet-covered balls wouldn’t continue to spread mess everywhere when I used them.

Next I dug out some icky acrylic yarn from my stash, the sort of yarn that you wouldn’t want made into a blanket of anything as it’s too plasticky and stiff in texture. (I’ve also been using this yarn for my amigurumi projects, as the stiffness helps the amis keep their shape) Then I began hooking granny circles, using trial and error to get each round too small to sit in a flat circle, so that it would curl up a bit into bowl shape. I tried the crochet against the juggling balls at each round to make sure that the finished cover would fit correctly.

I chose the colours randomly, and once again I was fascinated by how the colours seem to change as you add more rows. I made both sides for each ball the same, so once one was complete I immediately started on its twin. (Please excuse the rubbish photos, there wasn’t much daylight left when I was working on these, and I didn’t want to leave my project for days until I had daylight to take the progress shots!)

I wasn’t too careful with the ends, as these would all be hidden once it was complete. Instead of my usual technique, for these juggling ball covers I joined the ends by tying a good, tight, reef knot when each row was completed. 

Messy on the inside

Once both sides were complete, they fitted around my juggling balls with just a little bit of a gap between the two halves. This was deliberate, so that when they were sewn together they would fit nice and tightly – I didn’t want baggy balls!

To sew the halves together, I lined up the two halves correctly and used double crochet stitches (UK terminology) hooking into alternate stitches, into one half then the other. That doesn’t sound really clear! I essentially mean that I hooked one row of double crochet, with alternate stitches for this row going into alternate halves. I still don’t think this makes sense!! Ah well, here’s a picture, and maybe I’ll cover something else at some point and take more photos to explain it ;)

I made each ball different colours, and I was pretty pleased with them when they were finished. The thickness of the yarn (I used DK) meant that the finished balls were a little larger than the original ones, enough of a difference that it took me a while to get used to using them, but I figured that I can always re-cover them in the future using 4-ply of something, when the mood takes me :)

So here they are, crazy hippy granny juggling balls!

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