Monday, March 28, 2016

Handmade Dryer Wool Felt Balls

wool balls in a basket
When it comes to laundry our family is picky. For the past 15 years, we have had strong aversions to many of the laundry detergents that are on the market. We are firm believers in using eco-friendly detergents and fragrance free, and no dryer sheets/fabric softeners, just due to the chemicals that are released.
Through trial and error, we discovered that the fragrances and the chemicals used in the detergents were triggering headaches, migraines and reactions to our skin.  But at the same time we noticed our clothing was not having that added “lift” or looking dull. We tried making wool dryer balls and our clothing, towels were looking much better and the headaches and skin irritations were disappearing.
Wool dryer ball have several different properties to them
  • They are an eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener
  • Help eliminate chemicals from your laundry
  • Decrease drying time for your laundry, as well as help in saving money on your utility bills
  • The commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets are filled with harmful chemicals and perfumes that coat your clothing, eventually ending up on your skin. These chemicals can be harsh on your skin, cause irritation and ultimately you are uncomfortable and itch
  • Can be re-used for years
  • Wool dryer balls won’t affect the absorbency of your towels – commercial softeners will.
  • 100% wool dryer balls increase fluffiness
  • Help to soften clothes naturally
How do they work? 
The wool felted balls bounce around in the dryer separating clothes, allowing hot air to move through all the garments. As they tumble, the wool balls fluff your laundry and help reduce wrinkles. They do more than a dryer sheet by pulling moisture out of your clothes so you don’t have to run the dryer as long. The more dryer balls you have in a load, the shorter the drying time will be.
Plastic PVC  Dryer Balls
There are theories out there that the plastic PVC dryer balls release chemical scents from commercial products coating your laundry. We don’t recommend these, because the plastic releases all kinds of chemicals when it’s heated, the same for the old standby by of tennis balls.
Wool dryer balls can be made in one evening and are well worth the investments in time and money.
To get the best results, we recommended using  100% wool yarn. It is not recommended to use a mixed combination of yarn that includes some wool…you want 100% wool such as Patons Classic Wool Yarn. It comes in a variety of colors for you to choose from. I will be honest that we have not used bright colors of yarn just due to color bleeding onto the clothing. We have used a very neutral color of beige or a light gray and the light twill colors.
Making the Center of the Wool Ball
The first step is making the center of the ball, which makes the finished ball firmer in the end. Begin by winding yarn around your index and middle finger 10 times. Once you have wound the yarn, you will want to take it off your two fingers. Let it close and wrap the yarn around the center of the area you wound 10 times. This will be the beginning of your ball. Continue wrapping the yarn around and forming a little ball until the ball is the size you want. Wool felt balls estimate between 3 and 5 inches across.
Once you have a small ball, cut the yarn and tuck the end under using the crochet hook or a sewing needle. This will keep it from coming loose as it is being felted in the wash basin.
Wool balls in a catapiller
Felting the Center
Place one at a time, your finished wool balls into a leg of an old pair of pantyhose or socks. I like to use the cheap knee-highs. But if you have any pantyhose that have runners in them, these are good ways of recycling them and not throwing them away just yet.
After placing your first wool ball into the knee high, tie the hose closed with a piece of string or non-wool yarn with a secure knot. This will keep the balls separated during felting. Do not skip this step of placing the balls into a pair of pantyhose/socks. It will kind of look like a “caterpillar” in the end once you have tied the hoses/balls together. Next toss them into the washer. If you do not tie or place the balls in the pantyhose, there is a strong chance that they will fall apart in the laundry and not form in a firm ball but come loose.
Placing the Wool Balls in the Washer/Dryer
Toss the wool ball pantyhose caterpillar into your washer. Wash the first set of wool balls by themselves in hot, soapy water, which allows the wool to felt quicker. You can use cold water but it will take a much longer time for them to be felted.
After this first time felting, place them in the next load of laundry. When the laundry is done, move the wool balls (in the caterpillar) to the dryer and dry everything as normal.
When the dryer load is completed you just start the routine over again and place your dryer balls into the washer. I have kept the wool dryer balls in the pantyhose caterpillar for at least 4 to 5 times to help the balls keep their shape. Once they are shaped, you can remove the pantyhose and they will move around the laundry.

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