Having spent most of the weekend helping to make Orbit Balls for our team and another local team, I learned a couple of things.
The label on our sample ball said it contains PU Foam (Polyurethane Foam, I believe). But when we opened up a damaged ball, there did not appear to be any foam, batting, or other padding. The fabric had some kind of knit backing, possibly rubbery stuff, but it did not look like foam. Someone said that in downtown Los Angeles (the Garment District, I presume), the same kind of fabric could be purchased. However, we did not choose to drive all the way downtown, so we just made our balls with ordinary Spandex and no padding.
Of course, anyone who has attempted sewing with Spandex will groan at the thought. My first attempts resulted in broken thread and a jammed machine every few inches. It took me a couple hours to sew the first few strips. I consulted with the ladies at our favorite local fabric store, and came away with the following:
–needles for stretch synthetic fabric (not ball point needles, which apparently are for coarser knits such as sweaters)
–new thread. I was told that over time, thread ages and can rot. I’ve sewn for over 40 years, and this was the first time I’d heard this. So I bought the exact same brand and type of thread.
After replacing both upper and lower threads, replacing the needle, adjusting the tension, and switching from a knit stitch to a slight zig-zag with a stretch-and-sew technique, I finally began getting decent results.
For those who have little sewing experience, here’s how to turn the tubes right side out: The old standby is a large safety pin. Open the pin, stick it through a single layer of fabric at one end of the tube. Close the pin, insert it into the tube, and keep pushing it through to the other end. Work the fabric over itself as you go.
A quicker way to turn the tubes is to go to a fabric store notions department and look for a bodkin. These are gadgets specifically designed for turning fabric tubes. They are essentially some kind of long stick with a fastener at one end. For this project, larger sizes would be better. I have something called an Easy Turn, which can turn a tube in a matter of seconds.
Once your Orbit Ball is assembled, you could use tape to fasten the ends of the fabric together. We discovered by accident that electrical tape sticks to Spandex really well. I suspect that one piece on the inside of the loop would do the trick. You might even be able to get electrical tape in the same color as your Spandex!
I’m not sure that fastening the ends of the tubes is even necessary, as long as one end is rolled under and overlaps the other end. Suppose you secured the ends by tightly stitching all the way around, like on the original Orbit Balls. Then if the plastic inside broke and needed to be re-riveted or something, you would have to undo all that stitching. My thought is that tacking the ends together with a few stitches in a couple places would be adequate, and make repairs a lot easier. It would save your team time, too.
Anyway, my thanks to you who pioneered this effort.