I honestly don’t know how I’ve been cloth diapering for 22 months and never heard of wool dryer balls. I recently saw it mentioned in a cloth diaper forum, so I decided to do some research.
I googled “Wool Dryer Balls” and the Good Mama tutorial was the first link to show up. I did a little more reasearch and found out the benefits of using them.
Basically they soften the fabric in the dryer and cut down on drying time without adding harmful chemicals to your laundry.
So anyway, I followed the Good Mama tutorial and made some of my own out of scrap wool yarn and yarn I wasn’t crazy about. In the category of scraps I had some roving sized alpaca yarn that I had no use for.
I will be the first to admit that I am not a good felter. I don’t have a top load machine and they are better at felting than front loaders. After making the wool balls, most of them came apart in the dryer and wrapped themselves around the clothes creating a huge rat’s nest.
A few days after starting to use them, my husband told me about these long blond hairs that were all over our wash cloths. I looked at them closely, and oh crap! It was from the Alpaca yarn. It was shedding long, hairy fibers all over everything.
This first attempt at dryer balls was a huge (but quite comical) disaster!
While I was at the local cloth diaper store, there were a few wool dryer balls by the register. They were the last two and the store owner seemed more than happy to have me take them. She gave them to me for a huge discounted price. I still can’t figure out why she didn’t want them. They’ve been working extremely well.
Anyway, these purchased wool balls appeared to be needle felted roving. Upon close examination, I figured out exactly how to make the wool dryer balls and not have them come apart!
I went home, flipped through “Itty Bitty Toys” and landed on the felted bouncy balls pattern in the book. The pattern uses loosely knit wool pouches around giant bouncy balls that get felted so the balls will be gentler indoor toys. I immediately fixed my wool balls, and began knitting pouches.
The cool thing about the pattern is that I didn’t have the make any modifications. It was so nice to have a pattern to follow and not make up my own. The first pouch I did modify, and it didn’t felt well because I didn’t make it big enough. But it still works fine.
After making the pouches and stuffing them with my felted balls of wool, I began to felt them again. This time I think I have found how to felt successfully!
First, I boiled them for about 45 minutes. They were just kind of sitting on the stove while I waited for the washing machine to be free. After the boiling I was still waiting for the washing machine so I put them in the sink, rubbed them on a washboard and against each other.
When the washing machine was free, I put the balls in a mesh lingerie bag. I ran a hot cycle, heavy soil level with a little bit of detergent. After the wash cycle, I shut the machine off, and ran the cycle again. When it was over, I had perfectly felted balls! I did a little happy dance and had to show everyone in the house.
This was a lengthy process, but when I was felting the wool yarn balls it was a longer and much less successful process. Most felting tutorials make it seem like felting is so fast and easy, but that has been anything but my experience. So yes, it takes a long time. But I rarely felt and when I do, I want my items to be felted perfectly. So yay for finding out what works!!
The balls after following the Good Mama tutorial:
The balls after knitting the wool pouches for them but before the final felting:
And finally, my finished wool dryer balls!
I am really happy with the end result. There have been absolutely no problems with them.
We have not used fabric softener in years (not risking central nervous system damage for soft clothes!), but sometimes they can be a bit stiff and crusty. These balls soften the fabric extremely well, especially towels and diapers. And finally, I don’t know what’s better than making something yourself and having it improve your family’s quality of life!
If you’re interested in wool dryer balls and their benefits, this Etsy shop has the best information I can find. It also has good information about adding scents to them too.