Tuesday, January 19, 2016

DIY: Wooly dryer balls

I am not sure why I did not do this sooner.  I have plenty of wool.  I love all-natural, diy projects.  I had friends asking me about it.  In any case, it has happened.  I finally stopped the spinning wheel and turned my wool roving into those eco-friendly dryer balls that everyone is talking about.  These are used instead of dryer sheets.  They combat static, soften your clothes, and shorten your drying time because they tumble the clothes better.

With the visual help of my daughter, who graciously paused her hands whenever I shouted, "Stop!" so I could snap a few pics, I'll give you the how-to on what I did.  Honestly, this could not be simpler.  Again, why did I wait so long?
Using roving (washed and carded wool), which can be purchased from any wool-grower, wind the wool into a small ball, keeping it as snug as possible.  I used approximately 2 ozs of roving which is similar in size to a large baseball.   
When you get to the desired size, break off the roving and tuck the tail under to secure it.  The balls can then be stuffed into old socks or tights or pantyhose or any type of hosiery that is no longer in use.  Although in a pinch, you could just grab a sock from the drawer because (disclaimer) no harm comes to the sock in the making of these balls.
 Push the ball down into the toe of the sock and close it tightly with a piece of yarn or twist-tie or rubberband.  Throw the balls into the wash with your dirty clothes.  After one cycle, you should notice that they have shrunk in size.  You may send them through as often as you wish until the ball gets to the density that you prefer. 

After one or two wash cycles, toss the balls (still in the socks) through the dryer.  After the dryer, simply peel the wool balls out of the socks and you're ready for Wash Day!  Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil directly to the balls, and you literally have the best laundry room accessory that money can buy.  Except that you made it yourself and it's wool, so obviously it's better than what money can buy.

The technique used for this project is called wet felting (as opposed to needle felting that I used on my sweater).  I'm sure everyone has lost a beloved wool sweater to the throes of their washing machine at one time or another.  And that precious sweater shrank, or quite literally felted, in the wash because (1) there was a drastic change in temperature or (2) there was agitation.  So when intentionally felting your dryer balls, I recommend using a hot water wash and a cold water rinse.  This temperature change will shock the wool and aid in shrinking.  And of course the agitation of the washer and dryer will felt the balls so the more loads they go through, the more they'll shrink.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to rely on all of you for the product reviews and feedback. Even though I made several sets of these for Christmas gifts, I have only recently made some for myself (typical, right?).  I honestly can't tell you if they degrade over time or if they will leave wool fuzz on your clothes or if they will become polka-dotted in colorful lint from your bath towels.  One blogger I read (there is a lot of info out there if you need more) said that she preferred using eight balls at a time to get the maximum benefit.  So if anyone has more experience with these or some tips for us, I'd love to hear your comments. 
Happy Laundry Day, Everyone!

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