“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:
Truth be told, I’m clueless. I haven’t tried them and the reviews online are so mixed that I understand why people are asking. Some seem to swear by them, others find them totally useless.
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: 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: Old Wool Sweaters
I went on a used-wool-sweater-buying-binge 2 years ago when I was heavy into making wool soakers for Remy. It was this time of year and Value Village, Salvation Army, etc. were clearing out their sweaters and I managed to get 8 or 10 of them for about $6. The soakers came out beautifully, by the way 😉
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 by felting it slightly first, 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 scrap bits that were in my scrap basket.
Step 5: Cut Cuffs and Ribbing 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, I’d stop cutting. Keep the last bit (the 2 inch wide bit) attached to your long strip though.
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 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.
Using sweater scraps for centre of ball
Starting 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 end that you cut LAST), 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 Until Fist-Sized
Keep winding the ball until it’s 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?
Step 10: Tuck the End In
I suppose you could just weave the end under a few pieces of the ball but I decided to kind of sew mine in.
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
Step 12: Tie them in a Sock
If you have an old pair of pantyhose or a knee-high kicking around, that’s great, otherwise use a thin sock.
Place one ball at the very toe of the sock 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 a bit.
Continue to put balls in the sock and tying knots until you get to the top. I was able to fit three into my sock. 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 sock 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, might as well 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.
I’ll provide an update on how well they work after I’ve been using them for some time.
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!)
If you try this, I’d love to hear from you or see yours!