By Erin Huffstetler | 02/26/2021 | 15 Comments
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Wool dryer balls are a great replacement for dryer sheets and fabric softener. They soften clothes, speed up drying time, remove wrinkles and reduce static – all without the use of chemicals. Just toss them in the dryer with your wet clothes, and let them work their magic. You can even add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the dryer balls, if you’d like to naturally scent your laundry.
When dryer balls first came on the market eight or nine years ago, they sold for almost $40 a set. I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much, so I figured out how to make my own. Since then, I’ve made several more sets for gifts, and over time, I’ve perfected my process.
Most people tell you to felt your dryer balls in the washer and dryer, but I’ve found a better way, which I’m going to share with you.
How to Make Wool Dryer Balls
What You’ll Need:
- A skein of yarn, with at least 78% wool content
- A pair of pantyhose or tights
What Type of Yarn to Use for Your Dryer Balls
It’s really important to use a yarn that has at least 78% wool content. Anything less than that, and it won’t felt well. Lots of yarns have the word “wool” in their name, even though they contain very little wool fiber. Wool Ease, for example, only has 10% wool content. Look at the label to see how much actual wool is in the yarn. The fiber content should be listed in percentages.
You for sure want to avoid any yarn that’s labeled super wash wool or machine washable. They’ve been blended with other fibers to ensure they won’t felt in the wash.
I’ve used Fisherman’s Wool to make dryer balls on several occasions. It contains 78% wool, so it felts well.
See, it’s even labeled as being “perfect for felting.”
I made my most recent set out of this undyed, unbleached 100% wool yarn, and it felted beautifully. Either of these yarns are a good option for your dryer balls.
Alright, now that you know what type of yarn to use, let’s make a set. It’s easy, and makes a great TV-watching activity.
What You Do:
Create a cat’s ball, just like you would for knitting. To do this, start by wrapping yarn around your index and middle finger 20 times.
Then, carefully slip the bundle off of your fingers, and wrap yarn around the center 10 times.
Continue to wrap yarn around the bundle, varying the direction, until a small ball emerges.
Keep wrapping until your ball reaches the size of a tennis ball. Then, cut your yarn, and work the end through a couple of the wraps to keep your ball from unraveling.
Repeat the process until you’ve made as many balls as you want. I get four out of a 6-oz. skein of Fishermen’s wool, and three out of a 100-gram skein of the 100% wool.
Place your finished yarn balls inside a pair of panty hose or tights, and use a piece of string to tie off each ball. This will help the balls to keep their round shape, while they’re felting.
Then, fill a large stockpot with water; drop the dryer balls in; and bring the pot to a boil. Cover, and allow them to boil for a couple hours. Stir the pot every so often (the agitation helps with felting). Add more water as needed.
Remove the dryer balls from the water, when the time is up, and allow them to cool.
When you’re able to handle them comfortably, squeeze as much water out of the balls as you can. Then, run them through the dryer two or three times, until the outside of the balls feels pretty dry. The cores will probably still feel a bit damp, at this point, and that’s okay.
Remove your dryer balls from the panty hose or tights, and they should be felted. You’ll probably still be able to make out the individual yarn wraps, but if you tug on any of them, you’ll find that they’ve fused together nicely, and they’ll continue to felt every time you throw them in the dryer with a load of laundry.
Start using your dryer balls right away, so they finish drying out. Wet wool has a bit of an unpleasant scent, but this will go away as soon as you get them dried out.
- Keep an eye out for suitable yarn at yard sales and thrift stores. I once picked up three skeins of 85% wool yarn for a grand total of $.50.
- Dryer balls make a great gift. If you’re going to make one set, you may as well make several.
- Make a drawstring bag to store your dryer balls in between loads.
Is It Cheaper to Make Your Own Dryer Balls?
When I made my first set of wool dryer balls, it was considerably cheaper to make your own. Since then, the prices have come down considerably, and you can now pick up a set for around $10. So, unless you have access to really cheap yarn, it’s probably cheaper to buy a set. That said, I continue to make my own wool dryer balls because they’re heavier weight makes them better at fluffing and softening fabric, and because I’ve found they hold up better over time.
Commercial dryer balls are made of wool rover, which is basically big hunks of wool that they then needle felt into balls. This makes perfectly lovely dryer balls, but in my experience, the roving eventually unwinds. Since my homemade dryer balls are made of layer after layer of yarn wraps that have been felted together, they’ll never unwind like this.
If you’d prefer to buy a set, this Little Lamb dryer balls set lasted me six years, before they started unwinding. And they came in a nice cloth, drawstring bag.
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