Wool Dryer Balls

dryer-ballsThe following is a guest post by Mothering’s Melissa Holik, dishing some behind-the-scenes how-tos for an article in our brand new March-April issue, “A Green Clean.”

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:

_MG_7867Materials:

100% wool yarn

herbs (optional)

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 _MG_7870side. 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.

4. Keep wrapping the yarn around and around, turning the ball _MG_7872as you go to get even coverage all the way around.

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.

7. Place the panty-hose-wrapped balls into the washing machine without other laundry and wash in HOT water. This will “felt” the balls and make them fuzzy._MG_7887

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 _MG_7892still 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.”

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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

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Photos taken by Melyssa Holik, Mothering‘s intrepid investigator on the DIY scene

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