As Laura and I were prepping for the “Green Clean” photo shoot, we sat down—as we usually do for these shoots—and made a shopping list of all the products from the article and how they might look together:
“Vinegar, that’s clear. Baking soda, white. We need some color. . . . OK . . . . flowers, maybe bright yellows and oranges? Gloves, can we can get some in green? Reusable dryer ball . . . uh . . . wait, what?”
Laura had never heard of such a thing. I had often eyed these reusable dryer balls in the stores, but I’d resisted getting them because I despise plastic. I tried in vain to describe the ones I’d seen: “Well, they’re like these pink and blue spiky balls of plastic . . . I don’t think they’re going to look so good with the rest of the colors.” Before making the final call, Laura wanted a visual. So, we did what we always do: Google it!
Our Google image search returned many shots of the blue spiky balls, but further down in the results were images of beautiful, soft, natural-looking balls. Intrigued, we clicked on one to find out more. That’s when we found out about the world of wool dryer balls. It’s difficult to convey just how excited I was about this discovery. (I know, I should get out more.) A natural and beautiful alternative to the plastic balls?!? And even better. . . something I could make?
The internet had a couple of different tutorials on how to make them. I was pumped. We added yarn to the shopping list, and I spent a Sunday afternoon happily assembling about a dozen of these balls in colors to coordinate with the rest of the photo shoot. Here’s what I did:
100% wool yarn
small crochet hook
old panty hose
non-wool string or yarn (small quantity)
1. Loop the yarn around 2 fingers. Loop it around several times.
2. Slide it off your fingers and grasp the loops firmly on one side. Here’s where you can add herbs if you like. I tried adding lavender and roses, and had kind of limited luck with it. It’s tricky but possible to accomplish,even with something as small and loose as lavender buds. Still, it’s a temporary scent, and you can always leave it out.
3. Pinch the loops and start wrapping yarn crosswise to make a stick shape. Fold the stick into a U shape and keep wrapping. It should be starting to look like a ball.
5. When the ball is the size you’d like, use the crochet hook to pull the ends into the ball.
6. Place the balls in a cut-off old pair of panty hose and tie it off with the non-wool string.
Here’s where I ran in to some trouble. I’ve never felted anything before, so this part was new to me. According to the felting info I found online, sometimes you have to repeat the hot water wash several times. I felt like I was doing this FOREVER. I found one article that said adding baking soda would help, and it seemed to, a bit. But after a half dozen washings they still seemed sadly un-fuzzy. My partner suggested that I may have tied them too tightly in the hose, so I washed them a few more times outside the hose since they were already holding their shape pretty well. This tactic also seemed to help, a bit, but they still weren’t as fuzzy as I would like. I put them in the dryer, hoping they’d fuzz up some more in there. Which brings me to step 8. . .
8. Take them out of the hose and put them in the dryer to continue the felting process.
After several dryer cycles, I still would have liked them to be fuzzier, but I gave up and decided they were “good enough.”
* * * * *
And there you have it! If you’re a knitter or crocheter, this would be a great project to use up little bits and pieces from your stash, so long as you only use 100% wool. If you don’t have scraps of yarn, you can buy wool and make them in any color you like. I still have the ones from the photo shoot, and they’re a cheerful spot of color in my otherwise fairly bleak laundry cupboard! —Melyssa Holik
Photos taken by Melyssa Holik, Mothering‘s intrepid investigator on the DIY scene
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