So I went back to some of the blogs where I had seen different balloon ball patterns, and gave three different ones a try. I made four balls from three different patterns.
As a disclaimer, I was being quick and slapdash about this project. I had a deadline, not a lot of free time, and needed to get them done. I didn't spend a lot of time getting my seam allowances accurate and lining up all the corners. Obviously, all these patterns will make nicer balls if you pay more attention than I did to what you're doing!
Warning: Always supervise small children playing with balloons, even if they are tucked into fabric balls, due to the risk of choking if they get any of the rubber in their mouths.
1. First there's this one from Stuff by Steph.
It has eight sides and an octagonal end piece. According to the pattern, you should put a buttonhole in one end piece, I just left one small side seam open. This did leave an opening that was visible, so you need to be really careful to tuck in the balloon end, so the child can't get at it.
This pattern was really fiddly. The end pieces are really small and the seams joining them to the sides are hard to get into. I had to hand-sew on the end pieces. But it made quite a nice little ball.
2. Next was this pattern from Purlbee.
I made two balls from this pattern, in slightly different sizes. (Sorry - I don't remember which of her "sizes" I picked, and in any case, I adjusted the size on my printer, so they don't match any of her sizes exactly).
This pattern was easier than the first, above, because I could machine sew all my seams. Not being particularly careful on this day, the ends don't quite meet up. This is sloppy sewing on my part, not the fault of the pattern. Especially because the pattern provides for covering the ends with small circles, which I didn't do (leaving my faults open for the world to see...).
To make an entry point for the balloons, I made one side piece out of two, overlapping pieces, with small turn-under seams. (See the second picture of the ball with pink on it). I didn't get this quite right, so the opening gapes a little. Again - you need to be careful to tuck in the balloon carefully so the child doesn't pull it out.
3. The last was this pattern from Emma Jones.This is a five-sided ball, with pentagon ends. I machine sewed the lot, which was interesting around the pentagons.
Again - being in a hurry, I was not very careful with my seam allowances. This ball showed my hap-hazardness most. Between wonky pentagons on the ends, and balloons that blow up pear-shaped not really round, this was one odd-shaped ball! But hopefully the recipient doesn't mind too much.
So. There were some extras for my nieces and nephews for christmas, light-weight, non-breakable and therefore cheap and easy to post. I haven't actually had any feedback, so I'm taking it that no news is good news!