Friday, May 11, 2012

Making Felted Wool Dryer Balls: Homestead Challenge #3

     Since I mastered the process of making my own laundry detergent, I decided to find a way to replace the dryer sheets. It didn't take long to learn that homesteaders like to use felted wool dryer balls. You can buy them already made from several sellers on Etsy. I discovered they were very easy to make myself, so I followed the tutorial from The Good Mama.com.
     How do they work, you ask?  The wool balls absorb moisture from the clothes in the dryer. This helps maintain a humidity level during the cycle that keeps static from developing. The tossing action separates the clothes, making them dry quicker and saving on energy costs. Plus it helps make the clothes wrinkle free. Sounds great to me!

     The first thing I did was find some wool.  YOU MUST USE 100% WOOL! The typical acrylic stuff you find will not work.  If you have an old wool sweater or scarf, you could recycle that. I didn't, and couldn't find any wool locally. So I ordered this Martha Stewart roving wool online. The 3 skeins I received were not as big as I was expecting them to be, but were enough to make 6 large dryer balls.
     You must decide what size you are going to make them. Different tutorials suggest different sizes. I decided on a larger size; that was just my personal preference. So I began by winding the wool into balls to form the core. There is no magic method to this, just begin winding! You are forming the core of the ball here, not the finished size. I wound mine until they were 6 inches around; in hindsight, I would have made them a little smaller, about 4 inches around.

    
     Once the core is wound, the balls are ready for the first of two felting processes.  The instructions say to place the balls into a length of pantyhose, and tie them off with string.  I found a knee-high hose to use, and used some acrylic yarn scraps for the ties. You DO NOT want to use the wool yarn for the ties. Once all of the balls are tied up, I threw the whole thing in the washing machine with a load of laundry. I chose a load of white clothes so I could use hot water.  The hotter the water, the quicker the felting process takes place. Once the cycle was finished, I put them in the dryer with the same load of laundry, and dried them on high heat. After they were dry, I cut the ties and removed the balls from the hose. They are then ready to be wound to their finished size and felted again. The finished size of my dryer balls was about 8 inches around.

Dryer balls after first winding (the core).

The cores after the first felting.

Finished size after second felting.

     The felted wool balls are now ready for use in your dryer. They will continue to felt and become harder each time you use them. If you would like to scent them, apply 3-5 drops of an essential oil to them. Reapply essential oil when the scent fades away. Lemongrass oil is a natural deodorizer, and would be a good one to use. Properly made dryer balls should last about 5 years.
     Cost analysis time! I spent less than $20 on the wool (plus shipping) to make these. And they last for 5 years. Compare that to what you spend over 5-years time on dryer sheets! Plus, these are all-natural with no chemical products added to your clothes or skin. Yep, I'm pretty excited about this project.
    

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