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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wool Dryer Balls

Our dryer does a great job of keeping up with fairly constant use, but when it comes to drying cloth diapers we often have to run a second cycle. It is trying to dry something that is meant to lock in moisture, after all. One way to help cut down on drying time is by adding in some wool dryer balls.

Wool dryer balls are, as the name suggests, are made of 100% wool that is felted to create a nice tight ball. While bouncing around the dryer drum, 4 to 6 balls can cut down on dryer time and as an added bonus, soften clothes and reduce static! We have been a softener/dryer sheet free family for about 6 years now since learning about the nasty chemicals found in both products. Softeners and dryer sheets can also damage your clothes, making them fade and wear much faster. Chemicals AND wasted wardrobe? No thanks.

There are a lot of sites out there where you can purchase dryer balls, but they are pricey! Upwards of $6-$8 each. EACH?! This was definitely one of those things that I saw and though, "Pfft....I can make that." I've felted knitting projects before (see fuzzy bunny slippers on the right) so I understand the general idea of how it works. 100% wool + really hot water and soap + dryer time = nice felted yarn. Basically, everything you're not supposed to do to wool. Check.

To start, it is important to find 100% wool yarn. Anything that says "machine washable" or "washer safe" is no good. Its meant to remain stable through washing. Labels can be tricky - just because the label says wool doesn't mean its 100% wool. Look for other materials like acrylic, which won't felt in the wash.

 Oooh wool......psych! Its 50% wool, 50% acrylic. Gotta read the labels if you're going to felt.

I know it goes against everything you learned about laundry, but you want something that WILL shrink if you wash it. I like Patons Classic or Lion Brand Fisherman Wool. Both are relatively inexpensive and come in nice colors and stripes. I had several colors in my yarn stash and picked up two new colorways that were on sale for $2.49 at Michael's.

Can you tell which ones my cat has gotten to?
To begin, wind the yarn around your fingers until you have a small layer.

Next, pull it off your fingers and wind around it the other way. Fold the whole thing in half and begin winding around and around in layers, turning the ball to keep it even. I like to do it in a strip, then turn the ball and add another strip, and so on - it seems to go faster.

To end it, tuck in the tail end under a few strands. Its okay if its not completely secure since it will felt to the yarn around it in the wash.

Notice the wide stripes of wound yarn? Makes winding much faster.
You can get two decent sized balls from a skein (approx. 223 yards). You can make them larger or smaller as you'd like. I made these four to try out the felting process. Yes, it bothers me that I chose two skeins that don't match.

Next, I took a pair of trouser socks that I don't wear anymore and made a little wool ball caterpillar. I made sure the sock was tight around the ball to help it keep shape and then used bits of yarn to tie off in between. If you just stuffed them all in, they'd felt to each other! Not good. 

Finally, send them through the wash! I did a hot wash with soap, dryer on high, another hot wash with soap, and a final dry on high to get the felted look I was looking for. Since I have an HE front loading machine, I added about 2 gallons of hot water into the detergent drawer to help the process. With a top loading machine, I can imagine the whole process being a lot faster. As a side note, wool stinks when you're felting it. Sorry!

Ta da! Here are my nicely felted dryer balls! These four cost about $5 to make and will help cut down on energy costs, recouping their price to make over and over and over. Feel free to add a few drops of essential oil to help fragrance your laundry in a safe and natural way and if your dryer balls get fuzzy over time, give 'em a shave with a fabric shaver. Enjoy your soft, fluffy laundry!

1 comment:

  1. I recently found your blog and just love your little family! I cloth diaper too and have been wanting to make some wool dryer balls. Going to have to get on this soon! Thanks for posting.

    - Laura