Not Martha

to make: surprise ball

surprise! From what I’ve read, surprise balls are common in Japan. They are balls of crepe paper strips wrapped around small gifts, when the recipient unwinds the ball the small gifts are revealed one by one. I had one as a child and it was so much fun! Oddly, I mine came from Oklahoma. I decided to make some for Valentine’s Day. In true me form, no one received it until late February.

The shots of these were taken in my pre-digital camera days, please forgive the quality – they were taken with a web cam and we all know how well that works.

the loot that went inside First I tried to find thin crepe paper. No luck. Then I gave up and bought crepe paper rolls and cut the strips in half piece by piece. I don’t suggest this. It wasn’t fun. Try to find crepe paper sheets which you can fold and cut into strips by the bunch. The grain of the paper should run the width of the strip, so that is has the ability to stretch over the round shape of the ball. I bought red and white for guys and light and dark pink for girls.
an attempted close up of the little alien guy I filled mine with little things I ordered from Oriental Trading Company. I was going for things small and relatively flat.

the balls against a penny for scale Take the main gift, often the largest as well, and wrap around it a few times. Add some confetti, wrap, add a candy heart, wrap, keep going. You can space out the treats as close or as far apart as you want, you basically can set up your dramatic moments. That is unless trying to hold the ball together while you are making it doesn’t drive you batty. When one strip runs out just keep going with another, you can tape the strips together if you want a long continuous piece, but I like the effect of being left with a bunch of little streamers you can use to decorate other peoples’ heads with. I wrapped a short length of contrasting paper around the ball in one direction and secured with a sticker, which also held a little tag (heart shaped of course, valentine’s day is all about cheese) on that simply said “unwrap me”. One thing to keep in mind is the candy. Even I didn’t want to eat the conversation hearts after they came out of the ball because the entire thing was too obviously handled. So use wrapped candy.
another loot shot I really wanted to find a way to use the red gummy scottie dogs or the candy jewelry. I also was thinking about forming the ball around a lollipop and letting the stick poke out one side. I was also eyeing conversation heart tattoos. Or even better, glow in the dark valentine alien tattoos! ha ha! I love this stuff I can’t help it!

This can, of course, apply to any occasion, or no occasion. Carroll Duvall talks about making one for mother on Mother’s Day — and if the entire thing is too intensive, TOPS Malibu sells Bami BallenTM for all occasions, and they have some nice shapes to.


15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Megan // Dec 15, 2006 at 9:06 am

    I’ve got a Parteeeee Boy!!!

  • 2 Jennifer // Feb 8, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    I ran across suprise balls on the Tops Malibu site and decided to make one for my 81 year old Grandmother for her birthday. She had never heard of one, but she loved it! I wrapped nicer gifts in hers, like earrings and sugar-free candy (she’s diabetic). For the center, I used some soft “house-socks” and I wrapped the whole thing with regular “fat” crepe paper. Because my inner surprise was kind of large, the fatter paper worked. I wondered if I should have cut it in half, but decided that was too much of a pain and went for it with the fat paper. It worked out fine, once I got the ball going. Crepe paper has an amazing ability to stretch and mold to different shapes. Thanks for sharing!

  • 3 Rachel Upton // Mar 8, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    What a cool website , heaps of ideas for me to make. I had seen Mystery Charm Balls on The vermont Country Store Web Site – there is nothing like this in New Zealand. So thought I search engine how to make them and your Web Site came up. I have book marked it as there are so many things I like to try making. Keep up the great ideas.

  • 4 Ellen // Jul 4, 2007 at 5:21 am

    Oh, AWESOME!

    I just saw these in a wedding magazine at £14 (that’s $28) a pop and thought they looked cool, but no way am I spending THAT much on favours- I look them up on google and here you are with a how to!


  • 5 Georgia Browne // Jul 31, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    My grandmother used to make them with me when I was very small. I’m now 69 and I still remember them (and her) fondly. Sometimes she would make one for my birthday party and when kids sitting around the table would pass the ball around and around, trinkets would fall out onto someones’ lap. The last person to finish the ball would ‘win’ the last and best prize that was in the center of the ball.

  • 6 Julie // Nov 2, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    I make these for Christmas but I make huge ones. I use the regular crepe paper and a ton of small things. Some toys, some useful things. Some for kids and some for adults. The finished ball is as big as a basketball or bigger. What we do is sit around the table, passing the ball around. Once we get a prize, we pass it to the next person. We just keep going around and around until all the prizes are gone.

  • 7 Allison // Feb 28, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    My mom used to make this for me and my sister for our birthdays when we were very little. I completely forgot about them :) She would use a bouncy ball for the middle and then wrap it with one long piece of cray paper (like the kind you decorate with) and then add stickers (with their backings still attached), and anything else little and inexpensive she could fit in there. Thanks for the memory!

  • 8 Jennifer // Mar 13, 2008 at 3:53 am

    I’m having a hard time actually finding crepe paper in non-day glow colors. Where do you find crepe paper?

    Thank you!


  • 9 hello Bluebird » Blog Archive » February brings love and surprises–and Surprise Balls! // Feb 11, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    […] and behold, they seem to have made the craft circuit a bit, popping up in blogs and shops such as Not Martha, Kiosk, and Oh Happy Day, among others, each with their own take on how to make your own.  I […]

  • 10 Monika // Jun 1, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Wow. My son is leaving primary school at the end of this term and we decided that we would have a party to say good bye to all his friends. How fun it will be to make these gifts.

  • 11 maryellen // Nov 30, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Fabulous American made Crepe Paper folds are sold at You can easily cut the folds with a rotary cutter. Each sheet is $1.35 and you can make many many balls from the folds.

  • 12 Linda P. // Dec 19, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I made these for stocking stuffers and had such a lot of fun coming up with surprises to use inside each one. I made a face with google eyes and other features, boys & girls. on the Hat I left a bit of the streamer tail and , “start here” sticker to hold it in place. I used red and green crepe paper party streamers from the dollar store (2 rolls in a package) – one package does a nice size ball. Thank you so much for such a great idea.

  • 13 Nathalie F // Nov 27, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I am from New orleans, La. area. My aunt made surprise balls for us when we were kids. She would fill them with coins (nickles and dimes) as well as small candy like charms, little gum. She would decorate in a theme – she crocheted so one time she made Mickey Mouse ears and decorated the face as well. She made rose petals of the crepe paper and made a large rose. They were so much fun – everyone would gather around as the birthday person sat with a colander and starting the unrolling.

  • 14 Linda // Dec 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    I don’t have little what nots to put in mine so I am going to try some money origami and wrap that for a Christmas gift and see how that works out.

  • 15 surprise ball | inspire co. // Feb 12, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    […] I bought this Surprise Ball for Seth from Tail of the Yak in Berkeley. You can make your own following directions here. […]

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