Introduction: How to Make Beautiful Soft Poi From a Piece of Cloth

This is my first instructable. I hope you like it. It's my 3th pair of poi I made myself, each one was better than the last. I made a 4th version too, but I lost them. Then I changed these into even more awesome poi with swivels and ball handles (they're in the last step).

Don't know what poi are? Check this out:
Jonathan Alvarez - Bending Light (with 3 light poi. A bit unusual because poi is normally done with 2, but it's a good explanation of poi)
Rastaxel - Poi in the park (a good demonstration of sock poi)

The poi:
These are much softer than tennis balls or many other practice poi. It's made from rice in socks. I also tried crunched candle wax in plastic bags. I guess you can also use sand. They don't tangle too much like tennis ball poi since you can pull them apart. I used a rope-making technique (reverse wrapping cordage) to make my new poi a little stretchy and bouncy. And it should, in theory, be stronger than the same piece of cloth not made into rope. They're virtually indestructable and should last a very long time, depending on how well you make it (I'd guess 10 years minimum with my poi).


The time you'll need:
For these poi I worked about 6h continuous, but with taking pictures along. My next pair of poi, the ones with a 4 strand rope, took me 3 days about 2-3h a day. I already got the materials though. And I didn't really make any mistakes. You'll need a little patience but not too much.

The money you'll need:
I didn't spend any money on my poi, I had all the materials in my house. For the cloth, you'll need an old t-shirt or something. Or just buy a piece of cloth. I advise to use thick cloth, I don't know how it turns out with thin cloth. I recently bought some cloth for €30 to make another 10 poi or so. You'll need some cordage too, for tying the handles to the poi and for sewing. Paracord is pretty cheap. But maybe first check if you have anything similar at home and test if you can make a tight gaucho knot with it (step 6) or something like that. Besides that, you'll need some old socks and rice which you probably have at home. You can try it with candle wax or sand too.

The value I would give to my poi would probably be around $40 because it's so pretty and good quality. So I would say it's well worth the effort to make it.

Things I used:
- piece of cloth, roughly 70cm x 50cm (28 inch x 20 inch), maybe a little more to be sure. Check below for more details
- one of the inside threads of paracord for sewing. Fishing line should also work. Or just any very strong thread. This will make the sewing line stronger than the cloth itself.
- two socks to fill with rice or plastic bags to fill with pulverized candle wax or sand.
- rice, candle wax or sand. Or some kind of powder. At first I used about 80 or 100g. But I made them heavier now. As I got better I realized they were too light. Podpoi (the famous led poi from flowtoys) are 128g per poi head, this should be a good place to start.

For loop handles:
- some paracord. About 4 x 1m (4 x 40 inch or 3.3 feet) for this particular knot.

For swivel and knob handles:
- 2 swivels and knobs, bought online (mine come from home of poi). It's also possible to make knobs from bouncy balls with a drill, or something else if you're creative. Watch out for hard materials as they're painful when they hit your knuckles if you're trying to catch them. I also used dirt in balloons one time, wrapped in cloth ending with 4 small strands which I corded to the swivel.
Only the knobs or only the swivels are also possible of course.

- scissors
- small pliers
- a needle
- a lighter, for burning the ends of the paracord
- something to draw lines on the cloth
- ruler
- some strings for holding the rope into place

I used paracord for tying the loop handle on the rope with a special knot (gaucho knot). You'll need about 4 x 1m. If you don't have paracord, be creative! Maybe another thick cord will work as well. I used one of the inside threads for sewing. You can also use fishing line or another thin cord, but make sure it's strong enough.

You'll have to use cloth that doesn't unravel if you cut it, and with a thickness of about 1mm. I don't know if other thicknesses will work as well for making the rope. I found a sheet somewhere in the woods and it was perfect for making poi. It's bright red, it doesn't unravel and it is very soft for handling. I used about 70cm x 50cm. Recently I found this cloth in the store. In dutch it's called 'sweaterstof', but I don't know what it's called in English. 'Sweater fabric' seems to be something else. It's a synthetic fabric that's a little plushy on one side and smooth on the other side (gemoltoneerd in dutch, napped in English).

If you want to be sure if the rope will work, try cutting 2 (or 4) strands and follow step 4 for making a test rope. Then you can also check the thickness. Don't forget to make it tight enough, and then apply the same tightness to the poi's.

The weight
At first I used about 2 x 80g of rice, but then I made them heavier (I'm guessing around 130g). You'll feel the poi better if they're heavier, and you'll have more control in the wind. You can always open the poi and adjust the weight. For my new poi I used pulverized candle wax (7 or 8 tealights per poi) and pulverized it into plastic bags with a grater. The rice and the wax are both very soft if you hit yourself. The wax is softer, especially if you keep a little air in the plastic bags. They only hurt if you hit your eyes or your balls.

If you don't have rice or candles you can use any kind of powder. Water balloons are possible too but they break easily. And that's no fun... if it's unintended.

See the last step for my new version of these poi.

If you have any questions about this instructable, just message me or make a comment. I hope it's clear enough. I think they're easy to make but maybe this instructable could be a little complicated, I tried to explain every little detail.

Step 1: Cutting

I drew a shape, as seen on the first picture, for cutting. My older poi are visible on the first picture.
If you want to make one of the older poi, which is like a sock poi, you should just cut one thick strand for each poi and sew from bottom to top. It's one long pocket.
I'm not explaining that other poi (the one with the rope) because it sucks.
For these poi, you have to cut two strands, and if you want to make my newer version, you have to draw 4 thinner strands for each poi.

The green line is where I cut it.

'A' will be the pocket, for inserting the bags of rice. You can choose your own size. Mine is about 20 x 15 cm, for each poi. Make it wide enough if you want to add glowsticks. My poi are just a little too thin. They don't keep the glowsticks around them but I can still insert glowsticks between the two strands of the rope.

'B' will be a little longer than the length of the rope. If you make the rope it will become shorter, and you can cut the excess off later. To be sure, cut it about 20cm longer than the length you want. I took about 60cm.
Each rope consists of 2 threads (or 1 for the sock-like poi, or 4 for my newer poi), getting thinner to the top.
If you don't get it, google: reverse wrapping cordage.

Check step 4 for more information on the 4 strand ropes.

As you can see, there are little corners between the rectangle and the rope. This is for the vertical sewing line, it folds to the inside of the poi. That is not needed with the sock-like poi because the sewing line goes from bottom to top.

Also, a bar of about 2cm on the bottom gets folded over and sewed (horizontally), so there will be a little tube at the bottom.
That tube is for inserting a rope and closing the pocket.

You will need some more cloth for the handles (step 6).

Step 2: Sewing the Bottom

This step is the same for all of my poi.

As I said before, I used one of the 7 threads inside a piece of paracord for sewing. It's really strong. Fishing line is also really good.
I don't know much about sewing. Perhaps you know a better technique, but this works well for me.

I start with burning about 1-2cm and pressing the molten plastic flat against the cloth (with the metal of your lighter, not your fingers!). This way it won't come loose. The end is done the same way. If you have fishing line, 0,5cm would be better I think.

On the last picture here, the side facing up will be the inside of the poi.

Step 3: Sewing the Side

The side of the pocket also needs to be sewed.

Fold each piece in half, with the inside facing outwards. After the sewing it will be turned inside out.

If that's done, I cut the little corners on the end of the tube, so the rope gets in easier.

This is also the same for all of my poi, only the sock-like poi have a sewing line all the way up to the handle.

Step 4: Making the Rope

I'm not going to explain the technique, you can search google for reverse wrapping cordage. It's basically a spiral that holds itself together because each thread is twisted the other way. This makes the poi more stretchy and beautiful.

First, I put something in the poi head for an easy start. Then I make the rope all the way to the end and close it with a string. Your poi should be a little longer now than the length you want.

The poi will stretch after a while so it's better to make the rope tight enough. This will make it more sturdy but it will get better once it stretches and it won't loosen up too much. If the rope gets too long after a while, you can remake the handles to make it shorter. My poi stretched to the max after about 3-4 weeks. So wait long enough to make sure it's done stretching before applying new handles. Perhaps you can hang weights on them overnight to speed up the process. In the mean time you can shorten the poi around your hands while playing if they're too long.

Because the pocket and the rope is made out of the same piece, the poi don't get too entangled with each other. Great for practicing. With my first poi I was spending more time taking them apart then actually spinning. That was awful.

If the rope doesn't look so clean you can always open it up and retry, but it's a good idea to do that before you tie the handles to it.

4 strand version:
The second version is made from 4 strands, two normal reverse wraps and then a backward reverse wrap with these two. If you do it in the same direction, you'll get one thick spiral with 4 thin strands but that's too firm for spinning and not so pretty.

If you do the last wrap in the other direction than the two small wraps, you will get a spiral with in each strand another spiral in the other direction. It has a nice effect. I made that rope very tight, it was firm in the beginning but it got better after a few weeks.

Personally I think the 4 strand rope is better and much more beautiful. The poi twists less when stretched (don't worry, you won't notice that when spinning with the 2 strand rope). And it looks like it hooks itself in the pocket. But it's more difficult to make and takes more time.

Step 5: Filling the Pocket

Now take some old socks or something, fill them each with the same amount of rice. I first used 80g per poi, but now I think it should be heavier. Podpoi (the famous led poi from flowtoys) are 128g per poi head, that should be a good place to start. Then I rolled up each sock and shoved it in the pockets.

Like I said before, you can also use crumbled candle wax (7-8 cheap tea lights are very good, maybe more) wrapped in plastic bags. The wax powder is very soft, and the plastic bag wrapped around it makes it super soft and it holds the pocket better in shape. You can hear the plastic though when you hit something, so another kind of bag that doesn't leak might be a good idea.

Flour or sand, or any kind of powder might also be a good idea, but I never tried that so I can't confirm that. I also heard that beans are good.

Put a rope in the tube at the bottom and close with a double knot. I know from experience, if you turn the knot 180° (side facing away from the poi now facing inwards), it won't loosen up. Otherwise the bags could sometimes slip out when spinning. Pull the knot very tight.

You can, of course, open the pockets later and adjust the weight.

Step 6: Adding the Handle

There are different ways to make a handle.
Here are some other kinds of handles:
Choose the one you like. Recently I bought some swivels and knobs, cut these handles off and made new knob handles. This is really awesome. My poi became hi tech, I can do nice throws and orbitals. See step 10 for knob handles with swivels.

This handle here is just a loop tied to the poi. I personally like to shove the loops around my wrists and hold the rope between my thumb and index finger. You can also tie two loops to the poi for inserting two fingers.
My handle also makes it possible to throw, if you hold onto the paracord knot.

I cut another two rectangles from the cloth (each about 5-6cm x 30-35cm), then wrapped it around the rope like you see in the second picture and secured it with strings. Don't make them too thin, or they will curl up and stretch too much.

The knot:
I used this tutorial (until 1:50) for a gaucho knot
I followed the first half of the video, made it very loose and inserted a second paracord, following the first one on the right side. The second cord isn't necessary, but it's more beautiful and it gives the knot more volume for holding the poi.
You can also just follow the whole video. This makes a different knot but also good.

The length:
Don't tighten it yet. If the knot is done, but not tightened, you can still adjust the length of the poi. Make sure you get it right.
With my poi, the length between the bottom of the poi and the bottom of the knot is 54cm. The rest is 13cm, so a total length of 67cm.
Keep in mind that they will stretch after a while. Mine have become 76cm in two months, but they don't stretch anymore. If they stretched too much you can apply new handles a little lower, when they're done stretching.

If you're not sure about the length, search the internet for tips. It's better to make it a little too long then too short, you can always make new handles at a shorter length, or you can shorten you poi in your hands.

Now tighten the knot multiple times, tighter and tighter. Each time pulling the rope from beginning to end with some pliers. Make it as TIGHT as you can (if the rope is strong enough). If you do it right, it will be as hard as wood and it will never come apart.

If the knot is done with both poi's, remove the strings, unravel the excess reverse wrapped cord inside the handle and tie a little knot in it. Now cut off the excess, and your poi are done!

Step 7: Finishing Touch

If you made it this far, congratulations! Now you can add some glowsticks and thin veils to the end of the poi to make it nicer. My poi are a little too thin for glowsticks, they slide off when I'm spinning. But I can put them in the rope like in the picture.

Add the veils behind the knot at the bottom, wrap it around one more time so they don't come off. I personally don't like veils because they tangle too much, but it can be very pretty.

I wish you lots and lots of fun with it!

I was learning the art on, but these tutorials are pretty basic and I'm beyond that now. Definitely check it out if you're interested. Nick is a very good teacher and fun to watch.

Step 8: My Poi After Two Months

These are my poi after two months. I played with them a lot for one month, and then I made new ones (see the next step). They stretched a little, going from 67 cm to 76 cm. They are also a little less bouncy then in the beginning. I didn't make the rope very tight but they are really supple now and still very strong.

Now, more than a year later: they're still fine! I play with them almost every day. They were a bit too long, but not much longer than they were after two weeks. I made a few updates. See the last step for that. I wouldn’t be surprised if they last a lifetime.

Step 9: My Other Version

I made a fourth version (one month old in the picture). They are a little better and look nicer. I updated them with swivels and knob handles, but then I lost them. Now I updated my two strand poi to look like these with swivels and knobs, they're in the next step.

The rope is made with 4 strands instead of two. Two reverse wrapped cords and these two backwards reverse wrapped around each other. I made it very firm so they won't stretch that much after a while. See step 4 for more information on that.

The pockets are more straight and a little bigger. I filled them with powdered candle wax in plastic bags, it's even more soft than the rice. The plastic bags hold the pockets better in shape. And the sewing line is almost perfect here.

The handles fit nicely around my wrists, it feels very soft and doesn't slip off while spinning. I love these poi!

I didn't add the veils here, they feel more professional like that. Veils tangle very quickly.

Step 10: My Poi Updated

Since I lost the other version I made, I modified this one to make it like the other one. Even better, because I had bought swivels and bouncy ball handles from home of poi. It's the no.9 swivel (the big one), and the silicone knob. You could also use a bouncy ball for the knob. Drill a small hole in one side and a bigger one in the other side. Another material is possible, but something hard is not a good idea for throwing if you're new. Something like wood can really hurt your knuckles. Swivels are used for orbitals and hyperloops, and I think it makes your poi look more awesome. Knobs are used for throws, which opens up a whole new set of possibilities. I think they feel better than loop handles too.

The rope:
I pulled off the old handle, unraveled the cord and cut each of the two strands in half, to make the 4 strand rope. See step 4 for that.

Attaching the swivels to the rope:
First, you have to know the exact length from the poi head to the swivel, because once you're done, you can't change that. If you got that, put a string around the rope just below where the swivel needs to be. Then you can unravel the big spiral of the rope until that string, but keep the little spirals wrapped, so you have two strands from there. Put a string around the end of the two cords too so they don’t unravel.

Put one strand through the bottom hole of the swivel and the other one through the same hole in the other side. Pull the strings and the swivel should be in place. Fold the two little strands down against the big rope. You should see it starting to look like in these pictures here.

Wrap a piece of paper clip or metal wire around that part (about 5cm or 2inch) and tighten it by twisting the two ends together. Do it tight enough. You might have to try again if the paper clip breaks. Cut the two ends of the paper clip. Then, fold the twisted end of the paper clip against the rope with some pliers to avoid scratching yourself. I used two paper clips per poi to make sure it's tight enough. Add some strings around it too to make it even more tight.

Attaching the handles to the swivels:
Here you have to cut two strips of clots (1 per handle) for making a spiral wrap. If I recall correctly, my cloth was 2cm wide. Make it long enough, because you have to tie a knot into the cord. I think 30cm or 12inch would do. Insert the strip of cloth in the ring of the swivel, hold the swivel in the middle and start making a reverse wrap from there. Then all you have to do is insert it into the handle and tie a knot at the right length.

It might be a little tricky to get an equal length on both poi, but you can always open the knot and tie again. My handle cords are quite different in length. That’s no big deal, I don’t notice while spinning. As long as the whole poi are about the same length.