I use dryer balls to help soften our clothes and lessen static in the drying process. Over a year ago, we switched from using chemical fabric softeners to more natural laundry alternatives. One of the main reasons was because chemical fabric softeners coat cloth diapers and make them less absorbent. I knew we would be cloth diapering Daniel, and we were also switching to fragrance-free laundry detergent and body products, so it seemed like another logical step to take at the same time.
First, I tried the PVC dryer balls with the spikes on them, which quickly fell apart. Next, I bought a wool dryer ball from a diaper retailer. After receiving the wool dryer ball, I realized how simple it would be to make them myself, and it would save me some money in the process. I found this tutorial from Bummis and went out and bought some 100% wool yarn. I think I spent about $8 on the dryer ball I bought from the diaper store, and for less than that I was able to make four balls*, and I still have enough yarn left over for one more!
This project is a practical way to use up scraps of yarn you might have left over from other projects. Just make sure you're using wool or other non-machine-washable yarn that will felt easily. These would also make a great addition to a gift for new parents, a cloth-diapering family, or anyone who likes to use natural products in their home.
What you need for this project:
Some 100% wool yarn, or other yarn that's good for felting
Small amount of cotton string/yarn/thread
An old sock or pair of pantyhose
A washing machine and dryer
- Wind your 100% wool yarn into a ball, starting by wrapping around your fingers and then switching directions like this:
- Wind the ball tightly and evenly until you have a ball (or more than one) that is slightly smaller than a tennis ball:
- When you have your ball (or balls) ready, put them all in an old sock or pair of panty hose, tying off between the balls with some non-wool yarn or string:
- Wash and dry the sock or pantyhose with the wool balls inside. Wash them on HOT! (The hotter you wash the balls, the faster they will felt.) I used a hot/cold cycle.
- Next, put them in the dryer and dry them on hot. When they're finished drying, cut the strings between the balls and remove them from the sock or pantyhose. The balls should be smaller than they were when you put them in, and fuzzy. (These balls are the cores of your dryer balls. From what I read, using this two-step felting process with both a core and an outer later of yarn will help them to be more durable.)
- Take your ball cores and begin the wrapping process again with the wool yarn (you can kind of see here how much smaller the core got during the felting process):
- Wrap the ball until is is just slightly bigger than you want it to end up being:
- Repeat steps 3-5, and you're finished!
I've been using these for about a month now, and they've held up very well. I can see how one of them might unravel a bit in the future, because I wrapped it rather haphazardly. In light of that, I advise that you take your time while making these and wrap the yarn tightly and in an orderly fashion as you go, so they will last a long time. Next time I do this, I'm going to choose some more colorful yarn!
*In the interest of full disclosure, I made a few of these completely out of wool yarn, and then the others with a tennis ball in the center and wool on the outside (but I bet you can't tell which ones are which!). I wanted the yarn I bought to produce several balls, and using a tennis ball also greatly decreased the amount of time I spent winding the yarn. (Plus, we have a ton of old ones lying around, since my husband plays tennis.) I still did the two-step felting process on the tennis ball dryer balls to make sure the yarn stuck to them well and felted thoroughly.