Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Make your own Wool Dryer Balls

I bought some wool dryer balls two years ago which I have used every week since then. After two years of constant use those wool balls have held up fantastically. I have enjoyed using them way more than those plastic ones. They really do help out in the dryer with better results than the plastic dryer balls. The problem is that I have 4 wool dryer balls and lots of laundry. I'd like more so that I can have a good supply on wash day. Dryer balls have a habit of getting trapped in sleeves. I usually have to fetch them from the previous load to dry my next load. Normally not an issue but with a baby and preschooler running around I have little time to get to the laundry right away. The ones I buy are $8 a piece! I would like more but I do not want to spend $8 a dryer ball. I decided to make my own wool dryer balls. Being a knitter I have so much yarn, far too much, so much that I  need to find ways to put some of it to good use. I found some wool yarn in my stash. I chose the yarn that has been unused for the last 4 or more years. Yarn I bought it thinking I'd use it for something but now I realize those projects will never be.


First you need to find some 100% wool yarn. (Or plenty of roving if you are lucky enough to have some) No super wash yarn because that will not felt properly. Super wash will felt….eventually but not in the best way. It will take too much effort and not really hold up the way you want. Avoid super wash and wool yarn blends. Get your skein and wind up the yarn into balls. You will want the balls to be large. Felting will shrink them so think about getting them to be around softball size. I ended up with baseball sized balls as that was all my skeins yielded. If I do this again I'll stick to one color of yarn so I can control the sizes.


When the yarn balls are all wound up you will need to place them in some pantyhose. I used some old knee highs that were not in the best shape. I stuffed the balls inside and tied them up like pearls. Toss the hosiery tied yarn balls into your washer with some towels or whites. You need very hot water to help the felting process. Once washed toss them into the dryer and dry. Repeat the process one to three more times until the balls are felted tightly. I have a front loading washer which means I need to wash and dry 3-5 times before I see results. Hot water and agitation are required to get the felting process going. 


You'll know when your balls are felting up properly when you can see the wool creeping out through the hose. The wool will bind into the hose when it has been felted. The best way to check it to cut them out of the hose and look them over. I had to work hard at getting that hose off the balls a good sign that the wool has felted. The yarn strands will be nearly invisible. The felting has become a success when you can see that there is no way you can unravel the ball due to the yarn strand being bound to each other.


These wool balls are in decent shape. I could go on and use them as is or have them go a few more rounds in the wash. Over time they will continue to felt up more. Usually once every three months I toss them in the wash to felt them up to tighten up the balls. ***Note*** I do this with balls I made myself as I have not treated them with lanolin or other additives to help reduce static in the dryer. Some people do that and those balls are not meant to be washed.


This green yarn has been a difficult one to get to cooperate. It's getting there very slowly. It's a shame since I had no need for the yarn as it was too course for wearable garments.


You can still see the yarn strands and it looks like you could even unravel the ball if need be which means felting has not quite happened. I think I'll need to wash and dry it a dozen more times before it is felted up.


I had a few more balls that I finished up this week. Jane was happy to have some new toys. I guess if your dryer balls end up too small then they will make great baby toys. In case you were wondering the yarn I used is:

The picture with yellow, brown, and navy is a wool blend with mohair. The manufacturer is Dale Garn.  I bought this yarn on clearance years ago. I had plans for a fall wreath or something. This yarn felted nicely.

The green yarn is a machine washable wool. Not a good wool for this project. The brand Cleckheaton is better suited to garments that will be worn often and need to be washed. 

The pink yarn is a discontinued yarn. Moda Dea Cartwheel is a great chunky textured yarn. It's not available any longer and I bought mine years ago for a sweater I knit Olivia. The sweater has been frogged and I have plenty of the yarn around. It felts wonderfully. 

I have some blue and gray yarns that were just an assortment of Brown Sheep wool. This yarn is often used for felting projects. I have plenty to spare and used it as my first round of dryer balls to test the process.  


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