Easy DIY Toys — “Tickle Monster” Sensory Ball

tickle featured

“Tickle monster” soft sensory balls are deceptively easy and fast to make, and kids love them. They’re squeezable, lovable, throwable, catchable, and just generally fun. Best thing about them is that they’re easy to do even if you’re just learning to knit or crochet. Because they’re felted, dropped stitches don’t matter, you can be as lazy as you like, you can take shortcuts galore…and they basically come out looking perfect no matter what! Don’t knit? It’s really easy to learn, and there are tons on instructive online videos and websites (that’s how I learned!).


  • 1 skein of cheap wool, any brand (yes, it MUST be wool; otherwise, it won’t felt). It should be medium weight (worsted) for best results. You can use any color; I used black to really allow the colors of the textured yarn to pop.
  • 1 skein textured yarn. Craft stores like Joann have lots of options, as do online stores like Yarn Market. The texture you use will determine the look and feel of the tickle monster.
  • Large knitting needles (maybe a 10) or a big crochet hook (maybe an M). It doesn’t really matter what size you use, but working with the textured yarn (especially popcorn) will be much easier with a larger set of needles or hook. One great thing about the tickle monsters is you can just eyeball everything; no measuring, no stitch counting, no patterns. The smaller your needles/hook and the tighter your work, the less your fabric will shrink when you felt it, though, so keep that in mind.


Using the wool alone, cast on (for knit) or chain (for crochet) about 16″. (I used a size 10 knitting needles and cast on 55 stitches for my tickle monster, which ended up about the size of a football). The long-tailed cast on is great for beginners.

Use any cast on you like; it won’t show. Here, I’m doing a “backwards loop,” which is fast, easy, and very lazy ๐Ÿ˜€ I don’t recommend it for beginners, though, because it’s a little floppy to work with.

When you finish casting on and turn to start your first row, add in the textured yarn. Hold it together with the wool, and knit them as one. Here, I am holding a strand of purple wool and a strand of pinkish textured yarn.

Continue adding rows in garter stitch (knit all rows, no purling) or single crochet until your fabric is the desired length; you should end up with a large rectangle measuring about 16″ x 24-30″. (Because I didn’t really care how big the tickle monster came out, I just kept going until I ran out of textured yarn, which gave me final dimensions of about 16″ x 28″).

Because you’re using big needles, your work will have a loose look. That’s fine; it will seal up when you felt it.

Bind off (knit) or tie off (crochet) and clip the tail of your yarn to a length of about 4 inches. Just leave the end hanging; no need to weave it in (bonus!!). (It’s easier to drop the textured yarn when you bind off, and use the wool by itself).

Fold your rectangle in half the short way, to make a (nearly) square shape .

Using more of the wool yarn and a tapestry needle, join two sides and a few inches of the third side. You can do a very sloppy whip-stitch for this, and it will felt down into a secure seam.

I did a whipstitch with stitches about 1/2″ apart.

Stuff with fiberfill (what you’d put in a stuffed animal) from a craft store. Note that the size of your tickle monster will depend on how much fill you use, not how big your knitted/crocheted work is. (I used about a football-sized clump of fiberfill).

Finish stitching the third seam, tie off, and poke the tail of the yarn through to the inside of the tickle monster. Poke any remaining loose ends (from the start and finish of your knitting/crocheting) through to the inside as well.

Put your tickle monster in the wash (works best if you put it in with other items). The agitation will cause the wool to felt, which will shrink the ball and tighten the fabric up, completely sealing the fiberfill inside. If you have any concerns about your textured yarn catching on clothing or the inside of your washer, you can wash the tickle monster inside a pillow case that you’ve tied shut with string. If you do this, make sure the pillow case is big enough that the tickle monster has plenty of room to tumble around inside, because agitation is the key to felting. A hot water wash with a cold rinse is probably best — the temperature changes enhance felting — but I did one of my tickle monsters on a cold/cold cycle and it worked fine.

Check the tickle monster after one wash cycle. If you can still see through to the fiberfill or if your fabric doesn’t feel tight and solid, run it through the wash again. Depending on your washer, it may take several cycles. The tickle monster is done when your knitting has shrunk down to the size of the batting ball inside, and feels thick and solid (like felt). You will not be able to poke your fingers through properly-felted fabric.

Properly-felted wool won’t have any gaps or holes in it.

Dry in a dryer or air-dry, and admire your work!

Tickle monster made with black worsted wool and Crystal Palace Popcorn yarn in “Jewel Tones”

Tickle monster made with black worsted wool and Crystal Palace Dragonfly yarn in “Firedance”

Think you might try it? By the way, this is the first craft tutorial I’ve ever done. If something is unclear or you need more info, please let me know!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cal
    May 24, 2012 @ 09:52:38

    I wish I could knit. Neat idea!


  2. Trackback: The Weird Things I Find Around The House | SquintMom.com

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