Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DIY Wool Dryer Ball Tutorial

I'll start by saying, there seem to be a variety of ways to make these things.  I got instructions from a friend who has been making them for 20 years now, and a bit here and there from various tutorials online.

We have shared laundry in our apartment building and while I love the industrial size of the machines, sometimes the dryers leave much to be desired.  I expressed this irritation with a friend and she said she's been making wool dryer balls for 20 years now and they've really helped to reduce the amount of time she has to pay for in her own shared laundry machines.

The price of these balls varies from $3 a ball to up to $10 a ball and you need anywhere from 2 to 10 of them to help  make a difference (depends on your machine, load size, etc) so I figured I'd try making them myself into sinking tons of money into buying them.  I like to support local artists who make things like these, but I also like to try and make my own stuff if I can.

Anyway, onto the tutorial.

What you'll need to make three dryer balls:

- ~3.5 ounces of 100% wool yarn
- washer/dryer
- darning or crochet needle
- old pantyhose
- scissors
- string or dental floss (optional)
- kitchen scale (optional)

1.  Start with your 3.5 ounce ball of 100% wool yarn.  It has to be 100% wool: it can't be anything else. No acrylic, no cotton, nothing else. It won't felt unless it's 100% wool.  This is critical. Any colour will do.
2.  Pull out the end of the yarn and start to roll it into a ball.  The best way to start it is to wrap it around your fingers or something else, and then tie it around the middle. Don't cut anything, keep it attached to the yarn ball.
3.  Keep rolling it into a ball. I'd roll them until they are roughly the size of a tennis ball, or a bit smaller.  In this case, I used the kitchen scale to measure the ball until it reached about 1.15 oz.  This size seemed to work well for me.
4.  When your ball of yarn has reached your desired size, leave a tail of about 8 inches and cut.  Take your darning or crochet needle and put it through the tail.

5.  Stick the darning needle right through the centre of your ball, and pull it straight through to the other side.
6.  Once it's pulled through tightly, cut it so that there is no yarn hanging out.

7.  Now, take the pantyhose and push your ball down through to the end.  Now you can either tie a knot in the panty hose (a little harder to undo later if you want to reuse them) or use a piece of string to tie a knot.  DO NOT use yarn to do this, because it will felt :)
8.  Keep going... you should get approximately 3 decent sized wool balls out of your 3.5 ounces of yarn.

9.  Now it's time to felt them.  You will do this by putting them in your washing machine for a full cycle at the HOTTEST temperature setting.  Now, you may have a front end loading washing machine OR a washing machine with an agitator.  Surprisingly, either will do.  An agitator will POSSIBLY do a better job, and you MAY have to do a second cycle if you use a front end loader, but both machines will be able to felt these no problem.

If you use a front end loader, throw some towels or other laundry in with the balls so that they get more agitated. When they come out, throw them in the dryer on a hot setting.  Please note: drying them is just to get them dry, not to felt them.  The felting actually takes place with the water and the agitation in the washing machine.  If you feel like the balls aren't felt-y enough, you can just keep washing them on hot.

10.  You are done!  Take them out and untie them, and you can use them for a very long time.  Mine are below; I like how they look but I'm probably going to do one more cycle in the agitator (I used the front end loader because it was the only one available at the time) just to see if I can get them looking more felt-y. 

For more information on using wool dryer balls, check out this article put out by the David Suzuki Foundation.  The article says you should use wool dryer balls because:

  • Depending on the make and model of your dryer, they decrease drying time by 30 to 50 per cent, saving energy and money
  • Decreased wrinkles = less time ironing!
  • No static
  • Safe for people with sensitive skin (works well with cloth diapers)

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