Monday, January 7, 2013

Wool dryer ball tutorial

Using wool in your dryer as a replacement for chemical dryer sheets is a smart move.  Not only does wool help wick away moisture, shortening your drying time, but the agitation of the wool fibers against your laundry produces a softening effect like dryer sheets without the expense, the waste and the chemicals.  Wool dryer balls are not hard to make.  Here's a brief tutorial on how I make mine. 

Step 1:  Gather your materials.  For the outside of the dryer balls, you need some natural colored or un-dyed 100% wool yarn.  Your yarn has to be 100% wool - no substitutions allowed.  Fortunately this is not hard to find.  Most craft stores, such as Hobby Lobby or Michael's carry LionBrand Fisherman's Wool.  It comes in a huge skein that looks like this:  
 Make sure you visit the store website.  They usually have 40%- 50% off coupons every week that you can use which will take the cost down to around $6-7 for a skein.   Trust me, this is a fabulous deal for wool yarn.

  If you are lucky enough to be a knitter  or crocheter, or happen to have a friend who is, then you more than likely have lots of wool scraps laying around.  I use these scraps for the core of my balls since they will be covered up anyway.  If you don't have scraps, you can simply use the yarn from your skein.  Just cut a good length of it off and bunch it up to make the core. 
wool yarn and scraps


2.  After you bunch up about a golf ball size of yarn, begin wrapping your wool around the outside of the core.  You will do this until you get about the size of a baseball.  Tuck in the loose end and you are ready for the next process:  Felting.

3.  Felting is a process of binding wool fibers together.  What we will be using in this case is a wet felting process.  Wool is composed of scales rather than fibers and when these scales are put into warm water with soap and agitated, they pack together and become very dense.  (This is what happens when you accidentally throw your favorite sweater in the washer and it comes out the size of your 3 year old.) 
Get yo'self a bowl of hot, soapy water (dish detergent works fine).  

4.  Soak your wool for a few minutes in the water.  Once it is wet, you will begin agitating the fibers in your hand, very gently at first until the yarn begins to stick together.  You can kind of just squish it in your hands, being careful not to move the threads.  After a few minutes of this, you can begin to roll it around in your palms, more vigorously after the yarns are stuck together and are not shifting as much.  Make sure you keep plenty of suds on the yarn.   You can even put some detergent right on the wool to keep it good and soapy.  When it starts to cool down, dunk it in the water again.  You will do this for about 15 minutes. 

When the felting is done, your ball should look like this:  

You can cut off any stray yarn that didn't felt now. 

5.  Make another one.  Or 4 more.  Or how ever many you choose to make.  (I usually use two for each load).   The final step is to throw the felted balls in the dryer.  This will finish the felting process.  Now your dryer balls are ready for use.  Just toss 'em in with your wet laundry.  Nothing else to it. 

A few notes:  

<  It may take several washings to get rid of all the dryer sheet residue from your clothing before these really start to work.
<  If you like scented laundry, you can sprinkle a few drops of your favorite essential oil on your dryer balls before tossing them into the dryer. 
<These make great gifts when a set is packaged together with a vial of essential oil ;)You can get that here:

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