Hiya! SciFi Chris with another 3RC blog post.
Puzzle balls, from what I can gather from a quick Google search, started out being made from fabric. It seems up for debate if they are actually ‘Amish’ or it’s just a name that has been given to them because they are a toy which can be found in Amish communities or sold by the Amish. They are sometimes sewed together to make a ball that can’t be taken apart, but the puzzle ball that has become popular with crafters now days is made of three separate elements that are fitted together in a ball shape which can be taken apart. Even though the original puzzle ball patterns were made from fabric, of course yarn folks adapted the pattern to crochet.
After seeing a couple puzzle balls made by other 3RC folks, I decided to give it a try. I found a pattern on Ravelry. http://www.lookatwhatimade.net/crafts/yarn/crochet/free-crochet-patterns/crochet-amish-puzzle-ball/ The same person that wrote the pattern I used, Dedri Uys, also wrote a book Amigurumi Amish Puzzle Balls which takes the basic puzzle ball and turns them into fun amigurumi animal shapes. Another 3RC member, Marissa, already bought the book and is making the elephant. I’m planning on picking up a copy of it and make the dragon.
The pattern is not difficult. It’s just single crochet, increase and decrease. Since you have to make 12 of the same cones, then 3 of the same set of lids, it’s easy to learn the pattern itself. The most difficult part was keeping track of what row I was on, because each row changes. This is a pattern you have to pay attention to because of that. I used an 8 sided dice to help me remember what row I was on.
I was tempted to make the cones in the round, but decided to (shockingly) follow the pattern. The cones are a half circle that is single crocheted together. The pattern suggests putting the ridge created by the single crochet on the outside to help the pieces grip together. The way that the pieces fit together hides the seams, so it doesn’t make a difference visually. I didn’t make a puzzle ball with the seam on the inside, I don’t know if it makes a difference gripping. Overstuffing the cones seems to keep everything together just fine, so it might just be an aesthetic choice.
The toy is primarily for toddlers, so make it with kid friendly fiber. I used Red Heart, because its machine washable, comes in many great colors, I had it in my stash, and has a stiff quality that is great for amigurumi.
I handed the puzzle balls over to my nephews and nieces, ages 7 to 16. The older ones quickly lost interest, especially after being told they couldn’t throw the balls in the house. The younger ones enjoyed pulling them apart, putting them back together in a variety of ways to form new shapes, challenging each other to put them together, and tossing them to each other despite the previous instruction of not throwing balls in the house.
I'm looking forward to making the animal shaped puzzle balls.