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9.20.2014

DIY Felted Wool Dryer Balls



We use our washer and dryer a lot. Naturally I go through a lot of laundry soap and dryer sheets. Neither of which seem particularly expensive when you buy it on its own but over the years, it adds up. I would scour sales on dryer sheets as a Costco sized box disappears as fast as I buy them.

While at my SIL's place, she showed me that they cut the dryer sheets in half. I did that for a while and it helped to cut down costs a little. My mother-in-law then gifted me these plastic dryer balls which were great except I dropped them on the floor so often it started to crack and fall apart.

The little man came along and with his eczema, it did not react well to the traditional, chemical laden dryer sheets. The plastic dryer balls were loud as they clanked against the dryer and expensive to replace. I had to find an alternate option.

I came across a great DIY project to make your own felted dryer balls. The process is so simple that a 4 year old can do it. So last December, when Michaels (an arts and crafts store) had a sale on 100% wool yarn for $1.50, I stocked up.

There are many other perks of making your own felted wool dryer balls:
  • All natural: there are no chemicals in 100% wool which is great for people with eczema or sensitive skin.
  • Saves money: shortens drying time which means the dryer uses less electricity
  • Durable: Each felted wool ball lasts for years
  • Reduces static and cling: great for the winter time when static and cling is rampant
  • Safe for baby: wool dryer balls are safe for babies and toddlers who like to taste everything. It also makes an entertaining toy (ie. being thrown around).
  • Cheap: a box of traditional dryer sheets costs $9 for a box of 200 sheets. This lasts me 200 loads or roughly 8 months. To make 6 felted dryer balls, it costs me $4.50 and it lasts me a few years. (Alternatively, you can buy a 2 pack of felted dryer balls for $10 on Etsy...um, i'll pass!)
  • Quiet: unlike the plastic dryer balls, wool dryer balls are quiet (especially nice for those who have in-suite laundry and babies who are light sleepers) 
  • Easy to make: even this craft-challenged mom can wind yarn into a ball. 
Each 53 meter stein of 100% wool yarn makes two felted wool dryer balls. This equates to $0.75 per dryer ball. It takes an average 4 balls to dry clothes and about 6 or more to dry towels. 

Since December, I have only used my dryer sheets a handful of times (mostly for drying our bedsheets).

Give this DIY project a try!

Make sure to use 100% wool that is NOT "superwash" or "machine washable"

Materials
  • Skein of 100% wool yarn, in light colors
    • Do NOT use wool labelled "superwash" or "machine-washable" as it will not felt
    • Choose a lighter colored wool yarn to prevent the wool from bleeding color on your clothes
    • Thicker yarn = less work
Thicker yarn means less work for you.
  • Scissors
  • Old socks/pantyhose
  • Crochet hook (optional)
  • String or acrylic yarn (for securing the wool balls in the socks)
Directions
1. Wind the yarn around your index and middle finger about 20 times.

Wind it up tight or loose.

2. Take the yarn off your fingers, wrap it the other way (so it starts off looking like a bow) until a football shape forms.

Now it looks like a bowtie

3. Keep wrapping the yarn around until it reaches your desired size. (Mine are just a tad smaller than tennis balls)

4. Wrap a rubber band (or hair-tie) around the ball to secure the loose yarn from unraveling.

1/2 done. That took about 2 minutes

5. Find the other loose end of wool yarn (usually in the center of the yarn) and repeat the process until you have no more yarn left.

6. Roughly eye the two wool balls and adjust each ball so that they are uniform in size.

7. Using scissors, cut the yarn in the middle.

8. Using a crochet hook or your fingers, tuck in the loose yarn into each wool ball and tie a few knots to prevent it from unraveling.

6 minutes later

9. Insert each wool ball into an old pantyhose or inverted old sock (so that the smooth part of the sock is on the inside).

Save those holey socks! Or you can use old pantyhose.

10. Secure the wool balls with a string or acrylic yarn. (Note: You do not want to use 100% wool yarn to secure the wool ball as it will felt to the sock or pantyhose).

Tie it off with acrylic yarn.

11. Throw the sock into your next load of towels. Use a hot wash cycle and a cold rinse cycle.
Hot wash and cold rinse cycle.

12. Place the towels and socks/pantyhose (with the dryer balls inside) into the dryer on the hottest setting.

13. The wool dryer balls have felted once the strands do not separate. You may need to repeat this process a few times depending on the type of wool you use.

Ta- da!

TIPS
  • Use thicker yarn to reduce the amount of work you have to do
  • Do NOT buy "machine-washable" or "superwash" wool yarn as it will not felt
  • Use acrylic yarn or string to secure the dryer ball in the sock
  • Use old "holey" socks and not your fancy dress socks

ALTERNATIVES
1. Use tennis balls
2. Unravel an old wool sweater you no longer use to make wool dryer balls
3. Throw in a clean, dry hand towel to speed up the drying time

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