I used to have a few tennis balls to throw in the dryer with sheets or blankets to speed up the drying. But, one by one, those balls were adopted as toys by the kidlets and subsequently lost. So when I recently heard my aunt talking about wool dryer balls, I decided to make a few. Now I just leave hem in the dryer all the time and I think it has nearly cut the drying time for normal loads of laundry in half.
Because you want the wool to be tightly wound, these can take a lot of yarn (and a lot of time to wind). I used scraps of felted wool (from a thrift store sweater) as a core to save time and yarn. I made one of these in under 15 minutes (while being interrupted by Ezra a few times).
- All you need to make one ball is a few scraps of felted wool, about 200 yards of 100% wool yarn (not labeled as machine washable or superwash), scissors, a yarn needle and a pillowcase (zippered preferrably).
- cut wool scraps that, when bundled, make a ball of about 2" in diameter
- begin by tightly wrapping the yarn around the scraps, you want the wool core to be compressed as much as possible.
- wrap the yarn in the other direction
- when you've nearly run out of yarn (leave a tail of about 18") or have a ball about 3-1/2" in diameter (or 10-1/2" circumfrence) stop winding.
- thread your yarn needle and pull the tail through several different points on the ball, pulling as firmly as as you can without breaking the yarn
– Now you're ready to felt! Simply drop your ball into a zippered pillowcase (or safety pin close a pillowcase) and run it through your wash cycle with jeans, blankets, or other heavy items. You may have to run it more than once, you're done when the yarn has all fuzzed together (but because it is so tightly wound it will still be distinct strands). If any bits of yarn have come loose and are hanging off you can simply trim them with scissors once the felting is complete.
I made three balls out of a dark brown yarn and have had no problems using those with my whites. If you want some dryer balls, but don't want to make them, check out the listings on etsy for them. If you want to lightly scent your laundry you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to one of the balls. I'm thinking a few balls in a basket along with a little bottle of essential oil would make a nice housewarming gift, too.