When Sweet Girl was a wee one I noticed wool dryer balls in our local breastfeeding store. They intrigued me. On the label, it said to use these in place of fabric softener and dryer sheets. Now I don’t use either of those products, because my sinuses would revolt, but I do like soft clothes. I think my babies also like soft clothes. And the tag stated they would reduce the drying time of the clothes by as much as 30%. I picked them up with the full intent of buying four. Then I saw the price, and I quickly put them back.
Have you seen the price they are charging for a ball of yarn!? It was an absolute no-no in my opinion to pay that price. I quickly put it out of my head. Then last year I started thinking of crafty things to do with the kids. I sorted through my supplies and found a good quantity of alpaca yarn. The image of the wool dryer ball and all its promises danced in my head. So we started.
Now let me tell you. I didn’t know how long this would take when I started, but it was worth it in the end. If I had known I probably wouldn’t have done them. But that is because I am inherently lazy, not because they aren’t worth it.
You will need:
3 skeins of 100% wool yarn. This will make about 4 balls depending on how big you wrap them. They sell the yarn at craft stores. You will likely not find it at Wal-Mart. It is important it is 100% wool or it will not felt properly.
A crochet hook or yarn needle. For finishing off the ends .
A long sock or stocking.
A large pot with boiling water.
Ball up your yarn. I found it easier to wrap yarn around my fingers and then wrap perpendicular like a bow tie to start the ball.
Then sit down to your favorite music or TV program because you will be wrapping a while. Just keep wrapping the yarn in a circular shape. It will not be perfect yet. Once you put it in the dryer and beat the heck out of it, it will round out.
I wanted mine to be slightly larger than a tennis ball. Just wrap until they are the size you desire.
Using the crochet hook or yarn needle feed the end of the yarn back through the ball a few times. It doesn’t have to go through the center just clipping a hunk of thread from the edges is fine.
Shove that ball in a sock or stocking and tie it off like a sausage. This tie will need to be strong so take a moment and do a good job. I put several balls in one sock.
In a large pot, bring enough water to a boil you can submerge the sock of balls. Place the socked balls in the boiling water and hold them down until bubbles stop appearing from the sock and the balls are thoroughly soaked. This takes a few minutes, but is a very important part of the felting process. Once the balls are thoroughly boiled. Pull the sock out of the water with tongs and set them aside in a bowl. Once they are cool enough to handle, squeeze the excess water out. Be sure they have cooled enough to not burn the stew out of your hands. I did figure out (the second time I did this process) to wear rubber cleaning gloves and it will help with the heat.
Put the socked balls in the dryer with a few dry towels. And dry them. And dry them. And dry them…. Until the outside of the ball is not wet to the touch. Cut them out of the sock (did I mention the sock was sacrificial earlier). The primary felting process is done at this point. I know some people re-boil their balls and do it all again, but once was enough for me. Once I removed them from the sock, I left them in the dryer with the other clothes that cycled through. And dry them. And dry them. And dry them. I know mine were completely felted after 2 weeks of laundry.
These balls did live up to the hype of the store-bought ones. They do reduce drying time. They do soften your clothes miraculously. And they are surprisingly not loud in the dryer when drying a normal sized load. I do think my favorite part is you can add essential oils and fragrance to the balls. 2 drops per ball and they will infuse your clothes with the subtle scent of heavenly goodness.
These are not a quick project but they are worth the time.