This tutorial is about my recent discovery – dryer balls. I’ve heard of them before, but never gave them a try until I read the list of ingredients on the fabric softener we’ve been using for years. That was quite enlightening! Now that I know about the chemicals that get added to the laundry with the commercial fabric softener, there is no way I’ll use a fabric softener ever again.
But I do like to have my laundry soft and fluffy, so I got looking for natural eco-friendly alternatives. Dryer balls were highly praised in almost every article I came across. I made a few balls using the leftover wool slub I had in my stash and tried them out. Well, they worked like magic – soft and fluffy laundry, no static and no lint.
When I used them again, I added a few drops of lemon essential oil, and the laundry came out with a pleasant lemon scent. It wasn’t as strong as the artificial scents used in fabric softeners. It was more like a whiff of lemon that is not overwhelming at all.
Of course, it’s up to you whether to add essential oils or not, but I encourage you to test dryer balls with your laundry, especially as they are so easy to make.
It is VERY important to use only 100% pure wool. Wool blends, cotton, acrylic and even superwash wool will not felt and you’ll end up with a tangled mess instead of a perfectly firm dryer ball.
It will take around 30g / 1oz of wool to make one ball. It’s better to choose wool that doesn’t have a tight twist – wool slub or roving wool are ideal. I used Knitca Wool Slub to make my dryer balls, and they felted nicely after just one wash.
As to the colour of the wool, feel free to choose any colour you like or even make multicoloured dryer balls (and use odds and ends of different wool yarn!). Keep in mind that bright colours might run and seep into your clothing, so it’s safer to use lighter shades, at least on the outside of the ball.
We’ll also need a stocking or a piece of pantyhose; bits of cotton or acrylic yarn, a wool needle, a ruler and scissors.
HOW TO MAKE DRYER BALLS
If you are a visual learner, here’s a video tutorial that shows every step described below.
1. Wrap the yarn around your hand 10 – 15 times.
2. Slip the wraps off your fingers and twist them creating a “figure 8”. Then fold that “figure 8” to turn the wraps into a small loose ball. This is the core of our future dryer ball.
3. Wrap the yarn around the “core” to make a yarn ball. To ensure that it is evenly shaped, make 5-7 wraps in one direction, then turn the ball and make 5-7 wraps in a different direction. Keep wrapping until the diameter of the ball is approximately 9cm / 3.5″.
You can make your dryer ball bigger or smaller. I couldn’t find any information about the way the size of the ball affects the laundry, so I guess, a slight variation in size is ok.
What’s really important in this step is the tension of the wraps. They should not be tight! I’ve read about issues with felting that some makers have. Their dryer balls had to be washed several times to felt nicely. One of the reasons could be the fact that the balls are too tight. If you’ve ever felted wool, you know that wool needs room to felt – a loose fabric always felts better than a tight one.
I kept my wraps moderately loose and had no issues with felting.
4. When the ball is big enough to your liking, cut the yarn and thread the tail into a wool needle.
5. Run the needle through one side of the ball to secure and hide the tail.
Repeat steps 1 through 5 to make a few more balls. Dryer balls available for sale usually come in sets of 3 or 6. I use 5 balls and they’ve been working great, so probably 3 to 6 balls is a good quantity to make.
When you make as many dryer balls as you like, it’s time to felt them.
HOW TO FELT DRYER BALLS
1. Place the balls one by one in a stocking or a piece of a pantyhose. Leave some room between the balls, they shouldn’t be squished together.
2. Use a piece of cotton or acrylic yarn to tie the stocking at the end. Also, tie the stocking between the balls to keep them separate. Otherwise, they will felt together, creating a dryer caterpillar instead of a set of dryer balls 🙂
3. Place the stocking with the future dryer balls into the washing machine. I put mine with a load of towels – first, to avoid spending a good amount of water and energy on a handful of woollen balls, and second, to provide more friction to help the felting process.
Add detergent (very important, the felting won’t go as nicely without a detergent!), set water temperature to “high” and start the wash.
4. Once the washing cycle is finished, transfer the stocking with the balls (and the towels if you decided to add them to the wash) to the dryer. Choose a normal drying cycle and press “Start” (or whatever else is written on the big button on your dryer 🙂
5. When the drying cycle is finished, take the stocking with the balls out of the dryer.
The first thing you will notice is that the balls became smaller. That’s a good sign. It means that they felted nicely.
6. Cut the ties and take the balls out of the stocking.
As you cut the ties, be careful not to damage the stocking – you can use it over and over again to make dryer balls for your friends and family. That would be a fantastic gift – natural, eco-friendly and useful.
If for some reason, your dryer balls didn’t felt well, repeat the felting process.
HOW TO USE DRYER BALLS
This part is the easiest. Don’t add fabric softener when you wash a load of laundry (who needs those chemicals, right? 🙂
When the washing cycle is finished, transfer the laundry to the dryer, then throw in the dryer balls, and turn the dryer on. If you’d like to add a bit of natural scent, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil on each dryer ball before you throw them in the dryer.
I’ve read that dryer balls should withstand 1,000 washes. I can’t vouch for that because I haven’t been using them that long, but I’ve got a comment from Chris on YouTube Community about the dryer balls she made two years ago and has been successfully using ever since.
The best part is – during those 2+ years, dryer balls will keep your laundry soft and almost chemical free. They will also be saving you the money you would otherwise spend on fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
Don’t you love these little woollen helpers?
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Matching Cast Ons and Bind Offs” Book
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“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.
Dealing with Unfinished Projects
Dictionary of Knitting Symbols and Abbreviations – E-Book
Eastern (Russian) Knitting Simplified
How to Shape Neckline Without Binding Off Stitches – E-Book