Sunday, February 7, 2016

Finished objects: Wool felt dryer balls

Quite a while ago -- by which I mean, oh, four or five years by this point -- a friend was moving house and hosted a clothing/household item swap. She was letting go of some wool yarn that she had dyed using natural dyes way back in high school. If memory serves, she had intended to knit a sweater from it but didn't like how the colors turned out.

I was interested in learning to crochet, so I scarfed the yarn up to practice with. And then, after having sat in my friend's stash for many years, it sat in mine for several more. I began to feel sorry for the yarn, waiting for so long to be useful! And so, in line with my recent epiphany that crocheting is probably not in my near future, I decided to do something else with it.

So I made it into wool felt dryer balls. The yarn I had made about 12 balls; I kept three of them for our use and I've been giving away the rest as gifts along with a bottle of essential oil (you can put a few drops on each ball before tossing it into the dryer and it will make your laundry smell nice).

I know that this probably does not seem like a very noble purpose for hand-dyed yarn. I confess that I have one set earmarked for my friend but I have not yet had the -- well, you know -- to give them to her.

But at the time, the imperative to *do something* with the yarn outweighed the qualms I had. The process could not be simpler:

-Wind yarn into softball-sized balls. (Yarn must be wool, and not washable wool -- something that will shrink and felt.)

- Tie off and use crochet hook (aha, I AM using my crochet hooks after all!) to poke end into center of ball.

- Put yarn balls into the legs of an old pair of tights or pantyhose and tie off with twine in between each one.

- Wash in hot water and dry on hot setting 3-4 times to felt the wool.

- Meanwhile, make endless series of immature jokes about "sock full of balls," "woolly balls," "is that a dryer ball in your pantyhose or are you just happy to see me?" etc. (DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.)

- And voila! That's it.

The point of dryer balls is that they are supposed to make your laundry dry faster. I do think they work pretty well for that purpose provided that the load is made up of fairly uniform items -- like sheets or towels. With mixed loads like my daughter's or my laundry our dryer always seems to stop when thin fabrics like t-shirts are dry but the thicker things like the waistbands of pants are still damp, and the dryer balls don't solve that problem. Which is unfortunate, as that's exactly why I started looking into dryer accessories in the first place. Oh well. On balance, they're useful -- and that, after all, was the point of the exercise.


  1. Oh, this post made me laugh this morning, Sarah --- "aha, I AM using my crochet hooks after all!", and then the series of ball jokes --- /snickers/ :)

    I made a set of dryer balls a couple of years ago, using leftover yarn from my stash, reasoning as you did that it should be turned into something useful, rather than waiting around indefinitely (perhaps forever!) to be turned into, say, a multi-coloured "stash-buster" blanket. I had a hard time getting them to felt though (do you have a front-load washer?) and perhaps didn't get that done properly because now it seems they might be starting to unravel. (Or perhaps that's the normal lifespan for a dryer ball?) (At any rate, that damn Justin Case is now saying, I told you so! :( ).

    Regarding giving a set to the friend who dyed the yarn in the first place ... seeing as she had 20-odd years to find a good use for the yarn --- and didn't! --- I would think she would be very happy to see that it was at last put to good use! I know I would :) .

    1. Heh, I am glad my readers share my fifth-grade-boy sense of humor.

      We do have a front-loading washer, but I think the yarn balls felted pretty well. (The yarn I was using was already quite "sticky" so maybe that was an advantage.) Reading about wool dryer balls that are available commercially, I found most descriptions said they would last a couple of years. So I would call yours a success on that front. Congratulations -- you have well and truly used up/worn out those yarn scraps! Tell Justin Case to take a seat. :-)

      You're right that my friend really doesn't have standing to complain about how I used the yarn. If I'm remembering right that she didn't like how the color turned out, she can't fairly expect ME to knit a sweater with the ugly stuff! (I don't really think it is ugly.)

  2. Great post! I learned something (didn't know there was such a thing as dryer balls) and laughed (because I, too, sometimes have a fifth-grade-boy sense of humor). Win-win. And now I have a (feels like dumb) question: Where does one get essential oils?

    1. I'm so glad to be among similarly juvenile-humored friends! ;-)

      Essential oils: look in the health/beauty section of a hippie-ish grocery store. Whole Foods or whatever your local chain is (I think I got the bottle pictured above at PCC). They're very useful! I have been making my own cleaning products for the past couple of years which basically just means adding a few drops of essential oil/s to a spray bottle of diluted vinegar or cheap vodka. It's fun to play mad scientist!