I believe the first Cross stitch Ball ornaments I saw were in the Leisure Arts Book "A Christmas to Remember". I was intrigued. The ornaments were constructed from four lens shaped sections of fabric applied to Styrofoam balls. (These photos are from the book.)
Later I saw, and was in awe of, this Mistletoe Kissing Ball in another Leisure Arts book called "Merry Christmas ABC". Again, this one was constructed from four pieces of fabric but this time the sections were not all the same width. (These photos are from the book.)
When I asked on 123 Stitch MB about Cross stitch Ball ornaments Phyllis W. shared a template that she had for a four piece one. For this ball the four pieces are on the bias and joined at one end. Phyllis also shared a N*O*E*L one that she had stitched almost 30 years ago. The pattern, "Kissing Ball", was by Jeannie A. Martin. (Copyright Linda Dennis of The Finish Line.) It has 8 sections on a 6" ball. Phyllis says that there was also a very pretty design with mistletoe boughs on every other petal.
Since then I have also found photos of some lovely Cross stitch Ball ornaments by In a Gentle Fashion. The first is a Nativity series and the second is a Christmas Ball series. It says on the website that the latter are made of 6 panels.
There is another very good tutorial online that shows someone constructing a six piece ball ornament. She used machine embroidery, instead of cross stitch, but the method would be the same. (click here for tutorial)
In 2008 I made a cross stitch ball using a "Christmas Greetings" by Ellen Maurer-Stroh. I stitched the design twice on one rectangular piece of 22 count hardanger. Then I cut the "petals" for the ball, leaving them attached at the "equator", like the yellow lines in the bottom picture diagram below. Each petal is 1/2 the circumference of the ball tall and 1/4 of the circumference of the ball wide.
Along the way I learned that stiff fabrics, like most aida, don't mold as well to the curves of the Styrofoam balls. The 22 count Zweigart fabric that I used didn't naturally follow the curves of the ball but it conformed better after I dampened the edges. If one did want to use a stiffer fabric than I would recommend that they use a design that could be stitched on the bias or choose a design that would allow them to use 6 or 8 sections.
I also discovered that if you want to wrap wide trim around the balls than the ribbon needs to have a lot of give. Some upholstery trim will work and bias strips of fabric may work too. I ended up using fold over satin elastic (5/8 inches wide) and upholstery trim.
I have made some adjustable templates for the petal shapes (lens shapes) that one uses to cover Styrofoam balls. Click on the link below to find the page about them.
November 2012 Postscript I found a webpage that has a lens pattern generator. Click on the photo to visit the webpage.
I also found a website that sells kits for making this type of ornament on an 8 cm ball. They wind thread around the balls to fill the gap between the fabric pieces. Click on the photo below to visit the website.
Of course, there are other ways to cover a ball with fabric. Here are some examples
"A Patchwork Garden Pincushion Ball" by Twisted Oaks Designs
Ball made from 12 pentagons from "Jo Verso Cross Stitch Cards and Keepsakes".
Christmas Lights Ball by Cer.Pi.Ca which is sold at
Finally, there are the balls that have the cross stitch designs framed by fabric or ribbon. There are the ones from the ASN book "Easy Cross Stitch Folded Star Ornaments". I made some of these in 1992 but I would rather share pictures of two very nice ones I saw for sale on ebay.
I have recently noticed that there is a second book of these ornaments. It is currently only available as an e-book download. The first link below will show you a close up of the covers and the first page. The second is the web page where one can order the book.
In 2011 I was inspired by this egg shaped ornament that uses pleated fabric to frame a needlework design by Associated Talents.
I made mock ups of some ball ornaments where the cross stitch is (or could be) framed by smocked, pleated or slashed fabric or ribbon. To see the blog pages about these projects click on the photos below.
In 2012 I have found a website that sells kits that use wound thread to cover the gap between two cross stitch circles. Click on the photo below to visit the website.
They also sell kits that use a stitched band and wound thread to cover an 8 cm. ball. I think they also would look very nice if they were wound with satin rat tail. (Or one can add a cross stitch band to a commercial satin ball or a ball wound with fabric (knit or bias cut) strips.)
February 2016 Postscript
I have started to do some experiments using a stitched band and gathered fabric. Here are the first four.
For more information see the following blog page
Pinwheel 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2016.