“You’ve got some balls, Kate!” Not the kind of words one would generally expect to hear from their mother, but I know she means it as a compliment (most of the time).
Lately I’ve been thinking about getting me a new set of balls. People keep asking me if I know anything about dryer balls. Those plastic ones that are supposed to cut down on static and reduce drying time in the dryer. You know, these things:
When you search for dryer balls online, you also find WOOL dryer balls, and there are lots of tutorials on how to make them using wool yarn. I’ve pointed more than a few people to these sites, suggesting that they try making some.
I was hoping that someone else would try making them and tell me how they worked.
But… a few of my kind readers have mentioned that they don’t have a yarn store nearby and if they do, the store doesn’t sell pure wool yarn, and if the store did have wool, it was bloody expensive!
And at this point my curiosity was peaked and I was just itchin’ to make some freaking dryer balls.
Plan 1: Dryer Balls Made from Wool Yarn
I have a few really nice balls of wool yarn sitting around here but I’d be damned if I was going to waste it on dryer balls. I mean c’mon, don’t be ridiculous.
Scrap Plan 1!
Plan 2: Dryer Balls Made from Old Wool Sweaters
I went on a used-wool-sweater-buying-binge 2 years ago when I was heavy into making wool diaper soakers for Remy. Because it was mid-spring, the Thrift stores were clearing out their winter-wear and I managed to get 8 or 10 sweaters for about $6. I think the soakers turned out pretty well, check out my post on them and you be the judge.
Hoarder that I can be at times, I saved all the scraps of wool and FINALLY I’ve thought of what to use them for.
How To Make Wool Dryer Balls from Old Wool Sweaters
Step 1: Raid Your Closet or Get to Your Local Thrift Shop
- You want sweaters that are 100% wool (or cashmere)
- Merino or other “machine washable” sweaters WON’T WORK. You need a sweater that will shrink
Step 2: Cut the Seams out of the Sweater
By “cut the seams out” I mean just that. Cut on either side of all the seams. You’ll end up with several large pieces of sweater (opened up arms, front and back). You can keep the cut out seams to use as stuffing for the balls (see below) or just throw them out.
Step 3: Felt the Wool
It’s possible that this step is optional but I think it will make things easier for the next few steps. You will need to cut the wool and if it is slightly felted, it will cut more easily and won’t fray as you cut.
Wash the sweater pieces in HOT water (no detergent necessary but if you purchased from a thrift store, maybe add a bit) then dry them in the dryer. When the sweater pieces come out, they should be smaller and more tightly woven.
Step 4: Pick Your Piece
Depending on how thick the wool pieces are, you may need more than one piece of your sweater. With the 6 balls that I’ve made so far, each one only required the wool from one arm of a sweater.
For this ball, I used the arm from the most wonderful cashmere sweater I’ve ever felt and some bits that were in my scrap basket.
Step 5: Cut Cuffs and Ribbing Off
Cuffs and ribbing don’t felt well so cut them off.
Step 6: Cut Your Sweater Piece into One Long Strip
Lie the wool on a flat surface (or your lap if you’re watching TV while you do this like I did) and start cutting a long strip around the piece. You’ll keep going until you get to the centre of the piece.
I tried to keep my strip just under 1/2 inch wide – until I got to the centre. As you continue to cut the wool, you’ll get closer and closer to the middle. When you get so close to the centre that the piece is about 2 inches wide, stop cutting. Keep the last bit (the 2 inch wide bit) attached to your long strip.
Note that I started to “round” the corners on my first time around. I found “rounded” corners wound around the ball more easily.
Step 7: Use Scraps and Cuffs to Form Centre of Ball
I used the cuff that I had cut off and a couple of other scraps (this is where you can use the seams that you cut out earlier too) to form the centre of the ball.
Step 8: Start Winding Your Ball
Starting with the wider end of the strip that was at the centre of your piece of wool (i.e. the the 2 inch wide end), wind the strip around the scraps. This picture shows what was the centre of my piece of wool and the main strip attached to it.
Step 9: Wind the Wool Until you have a Fist-Sized Ball
Keep winding the ball until it is fist-sized. Or like a medium sized apple. A bit smaller than a navel orange. Something like that. Tennis ball size. How’s that for a description? Essentially, wind it until it’s as a big as you think a wool dryer ball should be.
Step 10: Tuck the End In and Sew it in Place
I suppose you could just weave the end under a few pieces of the ball but I decided to sew mine in. UPDATE: After several years of use and a few batches of ball-making, I can attest that sewing the end in is DEFINITELY a good idea. It is now 2018 and I’m still using the original set of balls that I made in 2014. The few that I didn’t sew came loose and “undone” after a few uses but I managed to salvage them by winding more wool around the outside and then sewed THAT wool at the end.
I thread(ed?) a darning needle with a piece of yarn and tied it to the end of wool. I used that to tuck the end of the strip under a couple of the layers of wool and then I pulled the yarn through the ball a couple of times.
So that I wouldn’t have a piece of yarn sticking out at the end, I put the needle in one last time and then before pulling it all the way into the ball, I cut the yarn short enough that when I pulled the needle out, the end of the yarn would be left in the ball.
Step 11: Make More Wool Dryer Balls
Step 12: Tie the Balls in a Knee-high or Pantyhose
Place one ball at the very toe of the knee-high/hose and then tie a knot above the ball. Ensure that the ball is in there nice and snug otherwise, it will move around in the sock and it might fall apart.
Continue to put balls in the knee-high and tying knots until you get to the top. I was able to fit three balls into mine. Remy wanted you to see how tight the sock is around each ball…
Step 13: Felt Your Balls
For you men out there, that’s “felt“, not “feel“, your balls.
Put the knee-high full of balls into the washing machine and run them through a hot cycle. Then put them in the dryer.
Depending on the wool, you may have to do this 2 or 3 times. If you’ve got other items that need to be washed in hot, you can put them in too so you’re not wasting energy and water.
Step 14: Sit Back and Admire Your Work
Aren’t they nice? FYI, it’s next to impossible to get your kids to keep their hands off them.
These three balls took me about an hour to make and went through the washer/dryer once. The yellow one looks like the strips haven’t “melded” together well but I really have to pick at them to pull it apart. I expect they’ll be perfect after I use them a couple of times.
Three Benefits of Homemade Wool Dryer Balls from Old Sweaters
- Cut down on static and required drying time
- This is a fun craft that you can do with your kids, or if you’re looking for something to do while you watch tv
- SUPREMELY CHEAP! Get a used wool sweater on sale at Value Village for $1 or $2 and you’ll get 6 or 8 or 10 dryer balls! That’s way cheaper than $29.99 for 3 that Norwex is charging or what you’ll pay on Etsy.com (although my goodness, they’ve got some nice ones on there!)
Coincidentally, I found someone else with a very similar method but she used an old wool skirt. Good idea! Here’s a link to her site so you can see how hers turned out.
SIDE NOTE: Since putting this post together a few years ago, I’ve seen lots of posts by other bloggers using my method (and even blatantly copying my text). I LOVE that people are using my idea for making wool dryer balls and it’s great that the idea is being shared. But hey, as fellow bloggers, you gotta know that it’s nice to get a link from other sites once in a while. A little common courtesy that gives credit to someone who’s thoughts and ideas you appreciate. For instance, see how I added a link above to the blogger that used the old wool skirt? I’m doing that for 2 reasons:
- I liked her method and felt that enough people might find it useful that it was worth a share and
- My method is so similar to hers that I thought it warranted a mention. It’s like “Hey gal, your method rocks, I wanna give you some kudos and attention”.
If you try this, I’d love to hear from you or see yours!