Friday, May 7, 2010

Make Your Own Dryer Balls

As part of my ongoing attempts to save more money, use less energy and have a 'greener' household in general, I decided to try dryer balls. I picked up a pair of the sort of PVC (I guess- they're pretty hard plastic) ones with the little nubbies all over them. And they work GREAT! I have to say I love mine. One of my followers, themiscellaneousbride, didn't have a kind word to say about them indicating that they tore holes in her clothes and she missed the April Freshness of fabric softener, but really I've been super impressed. They cut my drying time in half, make my clothes, towels, sheets, etc. super soft and fluffy and while I can't say I've ever had any trouble with static in my clothes, the dryer balls certainly didn't make it any worse. I will note that when I used them I tucked them into the clothes so as to avoid having them clang around in the dryer too much. In general anything that makes your dryer thump is very hard on it. Besides, I figured that the whole purpose of the balls is to get pockets of air into the clothes so they dry faster, and static is produced when fabric rubs on fabric, so if there is something in the way that prevents the fabric from rubbing on itself, then the static should have a harder time forming, right?

Anywho...So the dryer balls I got from Aldi are brilliant, and I got them for a song- they were $3.99 (unfortunately they aren't carrying them now)- compared to the $10-20 that I've seen identical ones go for. But storebought dryer balls just weren't green enough or DIY enough to suit me. Surely you can make them yourself?

Of course you can. The gear for the job? A bunch of yarn, a pair of old pantyhose or trouser socks and a crochet hook. Most of the websites I saw indicated you should make them out of 100% wool yarn. But that's pretty expensive unless you happen to own sheep, or have inherited a lot of wool yarn. So I bought 1 skein of a relatively neutral color of wool (it needs to be 100% wool so it will felt properly), and I had some cheap poly yarn on hand (Red Heart brand, if you're counting). The idea is to make a "core" of poly yarn, then cover it with several layers of wool yarn, which you will then felt. Once felted the yarn won't unravel.

You start with the poly yarn and wrap it around and around your hand until you've got a nice hunk of yarn. Gently slide the yarn off your hand.

Then, wind the yarn around the center of the loop you just made. And around and around....several times. just to really secure it.

Next, fold the mess in half and wrap the free end of the yarn around that. It WILL look like a mess at first, but keep wrapping. This is the foundation of your yarn ball. The idea is to continue wrapping the yarn, and rotate the ball ever so slightly on each turn, so that the yarn doesn't overlap itself.

Eventually, you'll have a lovely sphere of yarn. When the sphere is as large as you want it, cut the yarn and use the crochet hook to pull the tail through the ball so it is secure.

Then wrap the poly yarn ball with at least 3 layers of wool yarn. The ball needs to be completely covered in wool in order for it to felt and hold the poly yarn core inside. Since poly yarn won't felt, if it was exposed it would just turn to a giant mass of spaghetti in your washer/dryer.

After you've covered it in wool, use the crochet hook to pull the tail of the wool yarn through the ball to secure it, slip the whole ball into the toe of the hose. I used a trouser sock. They were 2 pairs for $2, and I'll be able to reuse them since I could just slip the ball into the toe and not have to knot it. Then toss it in your washer. I had to wash mine several times and dry it several times before it really looked like it was felting. Basically, felting is just agitating wool in water. The hotter the better, but it will still felt in cold. You could do it by hand.....but I found it easy to just toss it in the wash then move to the dryer with the clothes. When that load was dry, I tossed the ball back into the washer for the next load.

After about 3 wash and dry cycles, I had a partially felted ball of yarn. At this point, you will want to pull it out of the sock and wrap with several more layers of wool yarn. Pull the tail into the ball with the crochet hook, put it back in the sock and felt again.

Once it's felted, you have a completed dryer ball. Just toss it in the dryer with your laundry. I would say that in theory, a wool dryer ball would be kinder to your clothes than a PVC ball would, and wool is an ideal material for dryer balls as it is a renewable fiber and also will not burn.

There is also a method of making dryer balls from old (felted) wool sweaters. I'll try that as soon as I can score a free wool sweater. Stay tuned for that one!

Once my yarn dryer ball finishes it's final felting, I'll post a picture! Happy felting!

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