Thursday, March 3, 2011

Make Your Own Wool Dryer Balls

This recent post from Mothering reminded me that I had this tutorial in my drafts section, and I really ought to just go ahead and publish already, so here it is:

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
  1. Wind your 100% wool yarn into a ball, starting by wrapping around your fingers and then switching directions like this:

  2. Wind the ball tightly and evenly until you have a ball (or more than one) that is slightly smaller than a tennis ball:

  3. 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:

  4. 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.

  5. 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.)

  6. 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):

  7. Wrap the ball until is is just slightly bigger than you want it to end up being:

  8. Repeat steps 3-5, and you're finished!

Using dryer balls naturally softens and decreases static in your drying clothes. They also decrease drying time (thereby saving you money) by separating the clothes during the drying process.

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.

37 comments:

  1. I saw this on Mothering, too and was intrigued. I'm not crafty at all but maybe I could do this?? We haven't used fabric softener in a long time and so our clothes are quite staticky (sp?) sometimes and we hate that!

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Julia: You could definitely do this project. No craftiness required! =)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just yesterday I got the last (digital) issue of Mothering and they had a link to a tutorial for this, but when I clicked it it wouldn't come up! I was disappointed, so I'm really glad you posted this! I am wondering if I could do a version of this out of old sweaters. Maybe if I cut a sweater into strips and wound it into a ball and felted it that way? I might just have to try. Unfortunately, my choices of sweaters are really limited because I always felt the ones I find right away so they'll be ready for me.

    Oh, and I was also wondering, do they make a horrible clunking sound in the dryer?

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Jenny: I'm really glad this will be helpful to you. I love your idea to use an old sweater instead! You could use this technique to cut it into a long, continuous strip for winding: http://www.myrecycledbags.com/2009/06/05/making-t-yarn-from-recycled-tee-shirts/

    They do clunk around in the dryer, but it's not nearly as loud as the PVC balls. The sound is obviously more muted the more clothes there are in there. For what it's worth, the sound has never bothered any of us before, and our washer/dryer shares a wall with our bedroom.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love this! I've been wanting dryer balls but have been reluctant to shell out the money. I know — I'm cheap — but also because I wasn't completely sure they would work. I love the idea of making our own! I might use your tennis ball cheat, too, because I'm lazy as well as cheap. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Lauren: It's definitely much cheaper to make your own, and especially if you use tennis balls. The laziness has paid off for me so far; the tennis ball ones perform just as well as the wool ones. =)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I quit using dryer sheets in an effort to be more green, but I went with just plain tennis balls. They do *nothing* for static! I've just lived with it on the loads that get staticy, it hasn't been too terribly awful.

    How do you END the yarn after wrapping? I love this as a possible gift idea, too! I am in a handmade gifts community. I'll probably post a link there to your tutorial, unless there is one from Mothering direct?

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Momma Jorje: I ended the yarn by tucking the free end under several strands that were already wrapped. One tutorial I read suggested using a crochet hook to do this, but I was able to do it easily with my fingers. (I linked to the Mothering article I referenced in the first line of this post.)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh I'm a dunce. I'll go edit my post over there to include that. I've also bookmarked this post for my next Sunday Surf. Funny because I found this entry through Hobo Mama's Sunday Surf.

    ReplyDelete
  10. http://community.livejournal.com/handmade_gifts/454835.html

    Thank you Amy! Also, I don't know why I hadn't already subscribed to your blog, but I have now. I also appreciate your toy list on the sidebar. I've started a wish list for my daughter, starting with that goofy Bilibo thing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Okay, another question: How many are you supposed to use at once? I keep 6 tennis balls so I can put 2 each in 3 dryers to run at once. I've started running laundry at my mom's place, though, so I don't need so many and can totally use the tennis balls as bases for gifts!

    But how many to use? You show 4, but I don't know if those are all for your own use. Thanks. And I'm sorry if I'm taking over your comments. :-\

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Momma Jorje: Gotta love Sunday Surf! Thanks for adding me to yours. =) And thanks also for subscribing!

    I added that wish list to the sidebar so my family members would know where to find it. I'm glad you found it useful! With Daniel's first birthday fast-approaching, I've been updating it with birthday gift ideas.

    I read that you're supposed to use 3-8 dryer balls per load, for maximum effect. I have 5 in my dryer right now, but that might be a little excessive. I guess it all depends on your preferences.

    ReplyDelete
  13. That's a mighty fine ball-sock you got there, Amy!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amy - your tutorial comes at such a nice time, I've been wanting some wool balls for the dryer, and I was just about to drop the money on some . . . now I'll use that money for something else fun ;)
    My question - are the ones with the tennis balls inside just as effective?

    ReplyDelete
  15. @Dionna: I'm glad you're finding it helpful! My experience is that the tennis ball ones are just as effective, though they're not quite as squishy as the 100% wool ones. Hope that helps. =)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ok one more question - how much yarn do I need? If I make a ball out of yarn only vs. yarn plus tennis ball?

    ReplyDelete
  17. @Dionna: I'm not very good with spatial reasoning, so I'll not even attempt to give you amounts. What I can tell you is that it took approximately twice as much yarn to make the totally wool balls as it did to make the tennis ball ones.

    Have I mentioned this yet?: I wish I had bought colored yarn! The white ones showcase all the dryer fuzz.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm really enjoying reading your blog! We just started cloth diapering my daughter and I cannot wait to make some of these for rainy days when I can't line dry them. Thanks for the tutorial!

    ReplyDelete
  19. @Caitlin: Thank you so much for the compliment! I hope the dryer balls serve you well on those rainy days.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I too saw the Mothering tutorial and made the balls from it, but my first batch wasn't tight enough and some of the strands came off and clumped so they look pretty crappy, but still work :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I want to try this with the tennis ball method. How much yard did you buy to do each tennis ball?

    Thanks!

    meganldaniels@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  22. @Megan: It's hard for me to say exactly how much yarn you need, because I wasn't measuring as I was making them! =P But I imagine that a standard size (150ish yards) ball of medium (worsted) weight wool would make at least 2, probably 3 tennis ball yarn balls. Hope that helps!

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is such a great idea! Sometimes I see that i am to lazy and I go out and buy these things when I could just as easy make them myself. :) I have learn something here today! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thanks for the great tutorial!! So excited, my dryer balls are in working on the first phase as we speaK! One question, I chose bright colors for my wool, will the colors bleed onto my whites?

    Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  25. @mylifeatthemovies: You're welcome! And no, your brightly colored dryer balls should not bleed into your whites in the dryer. I would be quite surprised if they did!

    ReplyDelete
  26. After a wash and dry or two to felt them, do you toss them in to the washer or only the dryer to use them??

    Also, do you think the tennis ball ones are quieter than the solid wool??

    ReplyDelete
  27. @Katie: Thanks for asking! Just leave them in your dryer all the time, and throw your clothes in there when they're in need of drying! I actually find that the solid wool ones are quieter than the tennis ball ones.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I've been making dryer balls for a while, and I am making orange ones to use as pumpkins for Halloween. I linked to one of your pics on the Green Baby Diaper Service blog, I hope you don't mind!

    http://greenbabywilmington.blogspot.com/2011/10/green-halloween-crafts-pumpkins-from.html

    ReplyDelete
  29. How long are you drying these? How do you make sure they are dry all the way through? I would be worried about them molding if the middle had some moisture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for asking! I dry these on my dryer's automatic dry setting (the one that senses the moisture in the load). If the cycle finishes and they still feel a little damp, I dry them again.

      Honestly, I'm not too concerned about mold because after the felting process is complete, the dryer balls live in the dryer: they get dried over and over. At that point, the outside of the ball is the only part that gets slightly wet when touching wet laundry (and then only for a short time).

      Hope that helps!

      Delete
  30. Found this while researching dryer balls, I just wanted to let you know that you probably shouldn't use the ones that have tennis ball cores as when you heat up the tennis ball it releases toxins that aren't good for you at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks what I've heard also Heather. Thanks!

      Delete
    2. OOH Thanks for that! I was thinking "if only I had some tennis balls to stretch the yarn I bought", but now I'll skip it. I just bought 2 skeins of Fisherman's Wool at JoAnn's today (hooray 40% off coupons), and am about to start wrapping my cores. The dog gets to keep her tennis balls.

      Delete
  31. Tennis balls are made of rubber and either nylon or wool felt....whatever minimal evaporatives might be released would be exhausted out the vent. The dryer itself probably releases more toxins.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except that those toxins are released from the tennis ball to the air/water vapor in the dryer, and from that air into the clothing. It probably is only very small amounts, but they are there none the less.

      Delete
  32. Very interesting idea! I'll try to make a few by my self!

    ReplyDelete
  33. do they stop the static in the clothes. I get shocked on everything I touch. thank you

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment! I love hearing from you.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...