Here’s a project that will help you save on electricity from your dryer and eliminate the need for fabric softener, which has harmful chemicals and perfumes. Fabric softener can be expensive, isn’t recommended for certain articles (towels, cloth diapers) because it reduces absorbency, and it can leave a film on your clothing or irritate your skin.
Wool dryer balls are simple to make and can cut your drying time by 25 to 50 percent by separating clothing and allowing warm air to circulate more evenly (saving you money and reducing that annoying static shock!). Wool dryer balls are simple to make while you’re watching television, environmentally friendly and will last about five years. And if you use recycled wool (old unused yarn or deconstructed sweaters) you help the planet by keeping it from the landfill.
For best results, use four to six wool dryer balls per load of laundry. To make these balls, use wool yarn, wool roving or a deconstructed old wool sweater or two. I use inexpensive wool yarn I find at craft stores using 40-percent-off coupons that come weekly in the newspaper.
A skein of wool yarn will make two to three dryer balls, depending on the weight of the yarn and how large you make the ball. You can also use wool fabric scraps balled up on the inside and wrap the rest with wool yarn so you don’t have to use as much yarn.
The most important thing to remember is to use 100 percent wool — no blends, no “superwash” wool, no machine-washable wool — otherwise your ball won’t felt and stay together.
Gather your yarn, scissors, a pair of old pantyhose, tights or long sock, and some cotton or acrylic string or dental floss, and sit down to watch your favorite show and make some wool balls.
Creating wool dryer balls
Start by holding your first two fingers in a small peace sign. Wrap yarn around those fingers about 10 times.
Pinch the middle of the bundle between your fingers and pull the yarn bundle off your peace-sign fingers. Wrap the yarn around the middle of the bundle several times.
Fold in the bow-like side of the bundle to the middle and wrap around the whole thing until it starts to look like a ball.
Continue wrapping the ball tightly until you reach the desired size. I make mine slightly larger than tennis balls, as they will shrink during the felting process and over the years with use. When you get to the size you want, tuck the last few inches under a few different strands of yarn around the ball.
Tip: If you need to stop in the middle of winding a ball, try to stick it inside the hole at the end of the yarn skein to keep it from unraveling. If you run out of a yarn in the middle of a ball, tie the loose end of yarn to a new skein of yarn and continue wrapping.
Felting dryer balls
Once you finished making the number of balls you want to felt, grab that sock or old pair of pantyhose and cut off one leg. Put a ball into the bottom of the hose or sock and tie it off with the cotton or acrylic string or floss. Repeat with remaining balls, tying off between each one, so it looks like a snake ate your dryer balls. If you don’t tie off between the balls, they will all felt or merge together. If you use wool yarn to tie these off, the wool yarn will felt and be very hard to remove.
Put the dry ball snake in the washer on the hot water setting. You can throw this in with a load of towels or other laundry; just don’t overdo it on the amount of detergent you use. Some people recommend running it through two cycles, but I didn’t need to. After washing in hot water, put the dryer ball snake into the dryer and dry on the hottest temperature.
Remove the snake from the washer, cut the string between each ball and check out your newly felted wool dryer balls. If they are smaller than you prefer, you can always wrap several more layers around the dryer balls and refelt these.
If you prefer slightly scented laundry, scent your dryer balls by adding a couple of drops of essential oil to the yarn in the middle of the wrapping process. Once that scent wears off, you can add a few more drops to the ball by pushing a little dropper of essential oil into the center of the ball. Don’t put the oil on the outside of the ball as it may transfer to your laundry.
To use your balls, toss four to six into each load you put in the dryer. You don’t have to rewash the dryer balls unless they get dirty (if the kids or a pet gets a hold of them) or if they seem to be coming apart and you want to refelt them.
I hope you find these wool dryer balls as easy and useful as I have. They make great gifts, so considering making these as a Mother’s Day gift or working ahead to make some Christmas gifts early.
What do you do with old wool dryer balls?
Don’t throw them away! Here are some ways to use those dryer balls outside the laundry room:
Learn to juggle
Add a few drops of fragrance for a room freshener
Toss and catch practice for kids
Roll them under your feet to ease cramps
Use them to stuff dog toys or stuffed animals
Toss them in a wooden bowl as decoration
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