August 2014 – Hand Stitching a Baseball or Softball

I guess I never thought about it but all those baseballs and softballs that go flying around the diamonds all over these great states are stitched by hand. We haven’t invented a machine yet that can do that task.  Some brave ladies decided to take the “skin” off the baseball or softball and see if you could embroider them by machine and then hand stitch them back together. This interested me because first of all, it is sewing by hand, secondly it involves machine embroidery, and thirdly it sounded challenging. So, I gave it a try.


Step one in the process is cutting all those red laces.  Once that is done, the outer skin of the baseball/softball has to be peeled off the sticky outer layer of the ball. Taking the skin off of a baseball is infinitely harder than taking the skin off a softball. The baseball is stickier and sometimes is so sticky that when you try to peel the skin off, it will leave part of the backing that is under the leather or synthetic leather. However, the softball skins are sticky but peel off much easier.


Once the cover of the ball is off, it’s a matter of programming your embroidery machine and getting everything lined up correctly so that the stitching fits on the 2 cover pieces. Here is one that I messed up when I first started this process. Notice the 2 actually goes into one of the stitching holes. I did this one over and was more careful about lining everything up and measuring correctly.


Once everything is stitched onto the cover of the ball, I found the center hole on each end and in the middle and marked them so they would match up during the lacing process. I went to Home Depot and found this big clamp to hold the ball in place while lacing it.  It helped speed up my lacing time.


I took 2 tapestry needles (they have big eyes) and threaded #10 crochet cotton, about 3 yards of one color and 3 yards of another. Or, 6 yards of one color with a needle on each end. If you look at a laced ball you see that the stitches come from underneath and cross over to the opposite hole, back underneath, back and forth with each needle. You sort of get a rhythm going and you really don’t think about it.


Some of the ladies doing this removed all the stamping off the cover of the baseball. This was done using acetone and elbow grease. I did one that way because I wanted to stitch out this Babe Ruth quote below. I first stitched it out on a piece of felt, then onto the actual wiped off baseball cover. It didn’t stitch out well on the cover and I may have needed to try a different needle. My thread broke several times and I was not anxious to do this again!


Once you get the ball re-laced, you have to go back and pull up any slack if you haven’t kept your stitches tight. I made this mistake on my first ball and had to start from the beginning and tighten each stitch up so that it pulled the 2 cover pieces together. On the last stitch of each needle you have to run the thread under the cover and take a “bite” into the rubbery ball core and then come back up with the needle exiting between the 2 covers. This can be very tricky!  I never got it on the first try.

Once you tie a knot and hide it under the cover you are done. There is no need to worry about the laces coming loose because this baseball or softball will never be used (hopefully) and will be a keepsake. There are several different display boxes or clear boxes that hold a baseball or softball. What a unique gift for a baby.  These 2 baseballs below were made for a set of twins. I used a black thread that was thinner than the red so I doubled the black thread and it didn’t turn out too well. I have since found a black thread that is the same weight and thickness. This is very important!

Name & Date On Top $35
Name & Date On Top

This is a special one done for a nephew who was chosen MVP of his All Star Team. I used 2 colors on this one also but I made the name too large and you have to rotate the ball to see the whole name, JACE. The other cover piece has the Babe Ruth quote on it.


This ball was made for a little boy in the hospital who has since passed away. I hope it is a keepsake for his parents.

IMG_5069This one was made for a softball coach:

Name Only $25

This one I made for my daughter-in-law who played in high school and college. I think it looks cute stitched and laced in pink!

Name & Number On Top $30

As you can see, there are many options available by stitching onto the baseball or softball cover and then re-lacing the ball. I saw one person who added little pearls as she stitched the softball and really gave it some bling and made it look more feminine. This was not my idea but I admire the person who first tried it because I think it will be something I will enjoy doing. I actually had my husband put up an order form in my “For Sale” section so that I could take orders for these. Luckily my daughter will be coaching girl’s softball in the spring and I hope to get several orders to stitch. I can’t wait to see how they turn out.


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