Crafty friends, I'm sure I'm not the only one out there that has a yarn stash that is slowly but surely resembling an episode of Hoarders.
Like many of you, my party bucket of yarn has steadily gained momentum through fiber gifts from family and friends, yarn swaps with my knitting group, and amazing finds at thrift stores. To keep this pile from growing blob-style and taking over the house, I recently put myself on a yarn-buying moratorium until all (okay, most) of this stash is used up. It was a happy coincidence last week that I stumbled across the stash-buster of all stash-busting projects, the wool dryer ball.
This wool dryer ball project is great on so many levels! It takes a bunch of that wool yarn that's just sitting in your craft area and puts it to use, it's quick and easy to do (and entails zero knitting or crochet know-how), and it's a green, all-natural fabric softener. Make up a few of these balls and keep em by your dryer, and you'll pretty much never need to buy a bottle of Downey or a box of dryer sheets again.
After the jump, check out the steps to making a set of dryer balls of your own! Not into this craft project? Click to read the rest of the article anyways, and have yourself a good snicker over how many times I use the word balls.
Making dryer balls is a three step process. Wind a core ball, wind a wool ball around that, then wash the balls to felt the wool. Each of the steps is crazy-easy, and the time involved to make one ball takes about 20 minutes (wash time excluded).
For your core yarn, you want something that won't felt, or mat together when you wash it. Acrylic yarn is perfect for this step - I chose this Wool-Ease yarn for the centers of some of my balls. Don't be fooled by the Wool-Ease name! The fiber content of this yarn is about 80% acrylic and 20% yarn, so there's no way this stuff will felt in the wash. Using a synthetic yarn for the core is great because you can use less of your more expensive wool yarn to create a dryer ball, with the same end results.
A few years ago for Christmas, I knitted a bunch of hats for friends and family members using various colors of Lamb's Pride Bulky yarn. It left me with a bunch of skeins of unused wool - bummer for the humongous pile of yarn, but great for this dryer ball project! You'll want a wool yarn, or other natural fiber that felts well, for the outer layer. When you get to the washing stage, the yarn fibers will mat together so the ball doesn't unravel. These fibers will also act as the natural fabric softener when you use the balls in the dryer - they'll rub up against your clothes all sexy-like and leave em fluffy and soft!
On the next page, let's get this ball started.
To start your core ball, wind the acrylic yarn around three of your fingers a few times. Remember as you're winding your yarn balls - these need to be fairly tight. The loosey-goosey relaxed way you might wind balls of yarn for knitting or crocheting don't work as well on this project so don't be afraid to pull things tight!
Take those loops off your fingers, and wrap the yarn around the center of the loops a few times. Then, smoosh that whole mass (including that little tail of yarn you see coming off my loops towards the left) into a little ball and start winding.
Wind your yarn one direction for a while, then change directions periodically. If you're not seeing a nice little sphere form, unwind and start again. And remember, your ball will work best if this stuff is wound fairly tight! (Never wound a ball of yarn before? Check out the wikiHow directions here.)
The final diameter of your center core ball will vary depending on how much of what kind of stash yarn you're getting rid of - mine ended up being around 3.5" in diameter.
On the next page, make your big balls even bigger than a spam email will promise you.
Starting the outer wool layer of your dryer ball is simple - just tuck an end of the yarn under one of the wrappings on your core and you're good to go!
Just like with your center core ball, start winding your wool outer layer in one direction for a while, and change directions periodically. Keep an eye on the overall look of the ball, and adjust your wrapping to create a nice spherical shape. (And don't forget - keep wrapping it tightly!)
Again, the size of your dryer ball will vary depending on how much of what kind of yarn you're using. This particular ball ended up being just over 5" in diameter, but some of the other ones I made turned out bigger or smaller. When you're finished winding your outer wool layer, simply tuck that loose end tightly under a few different loops of yarn. Make sure it's nice and secure so it doesn't come apart in the wash!
On the next page, prepare your balls for felting and for years of laundry use.
The last step to creating your dryer balls is to run them through the wash to felt the wool outer layer. Secure the balls inside an old pair of pantyhose (or knee socks as pictured). This will keep your balls from unravelling the first time they go through the wash. Put em in the wash using the hot water cycle and laundry detergent, and then run through the dryer. (To kill two birds with one stone and not waste energy or soap, I threw a load of towels in with these.)
You'll then need to wash them one more time in hot soapy water, but this time cut them out of the pantyhose or sock that was securing them on the first wash. They'll be mostly felted at this point, so they won't unravel! After the second wash cycle, throw those bad boys in the dryer and they're done!
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I'm really excited to try these out in an actual load of laundry. The blankets and towels I washed with the wool dryer balls during the felting process did come out of the dryer nice and fluffy and soft, and I'm expecting this'll work well on regular clothes also. Just as exciting as having these fun colorful balls in my laundry arsenal now, is the fact that making 6 of these essentially took 10 skeins of yarn (3 skeins of acrylic for cores, 7 skeins of wool for outer layers) out of my yarn stash!
Have you tried making or using wool dryer balls? Did you love 'em? Hate 'em? Share your thoughts in the comments!