How to make wool felt dryer balls

by Pinky Wittingslow November 02, 2018

How to make wool felt dryer balls

I have tried to live without a dryer, and mostly succeed in our stinking hot summers. In winter however, the ability to dry truck loads of washing, primarily generated by two grubby kiddos, is seriously overwhelming and I have to depend on the dryer.

So how can we make our dryer use more efficient? Enter the humble handmade dryer ball! I pop a few in with the load to be dried and reap the benefits:

  • Quicker drying time.
  • Less wrinkles.
  • The balls help collect lint.
  • Reduced static.
  • Towels come out softer.
  • You can scent them with essential oils for wonderful smelling laundry.
Dryer ball closeup


They are super easy to make and are good gifts; you could pop them in a hamper with some felted soaps and other goodies!  You can also use this tutorial to make felted balls as a foundation for lots of other felting projects.

I make my dryer balls using our Corriedale fibre as it felts really well and you can make all sorts of fun designs from our large colour range. You can use Corriedale for the whole ball or you can also use up some of those fibre scraps such as the fuzzy bits left from the drum carder, coarser sections of a fleece, old fleece you don’t like the colour of and semi-felted fails work well as dryer ball cores too!  The fleece does need to be feltable so try and stick to sheep wool. A bit of alpaca content won’t hurt for a core though, just make sure you do a thick layer of sheep fleece for the outside.

One thing to keep in mind is that your core fleece colour can sneak out a bit into the outer layer. So if you have a brown core fleece and white outer layer, you’ll get a beige looking ball as some of the inner fibres manage to work their way to the surface during the felting process. You can use this to your design advantage though as I did with one of my balls. I had a green core and white outer layer and it created a lovely subtle green mottling.  You might also like to make white balls to be used in light coloured loads, grey balls for mixed and black balls for dark loads.
Greenish tinge on dryer ball
What you need:

  • Corriedale Sliver (or other sheep fleece of choice); about 30g per ball.
  • Nylon pantyhose or stocking socks
  • Washing Machine
  • Washing powder/detergent
What you will need


STEP 1:

The first step is to weigh out your core fibre. I used 30g per ball not including surface decoration. Despite being the same weight my balls did come out slightly different sizes.

Weighing the fibre


STEP 2:

Pull out a strip of fibre and start rolling it into a tight ball.


Start rolling


STEP 3:

Pull off another strip of fibre and spread out the fibres, place your ball at one end with the fibre direction going the opposite way this time and roll tightly. We want the fires criss-crossing in all different directions to aid felting.

Rolling on more layers

STEP 4:

Repeat Step 3 until you have used up all of your core fibre.


Finished Rolling
STEP 5:

Now you can add a decorative layer if you wish. I try to avoid too much colour for dryer balls as I don’t want colour running although I never have had a problem with our Corriedale colours.

Adding the colour layer
STEP 6:

The next step is to wrestle it into the stocking toe. Pop your hand in the stocking down to the toe and grab around your ball and pull it in.

Popping the fibre ball in the stocking
STEP 7:
 
You need to secure your ball in the stocking nice and tight. I tie a knot to secure mine but they are a bit tricky to untie later on. You may be better off using a rubber band or hair tie. It’s up to you.

Tie a tight knot
 
STEP 8:

Throw them in the washing machine! I like to pop mine in with a load of towels on a hot wash  and with regular wash detergent, no softeners. I use a front loader, this felts things in one wash. if you have a top loader you may find that you’ll need to pop the balls through twice to completely felt.

 


STEP 9:

When the washing machine has finished pull your dryer balls out. Some fibres will have felted through the stocking and they will looks smaller and feel a lot harder than when they went into the machine.


Felted BallsDon't be fooled by that red one, it's a ring in made for next week's tutorial. There's no red balls going in with my white laundry thank you!


STEP 10:

The next step is probably the hardest, you need to undo the knot and slowly pull the stocking off which takes a bit of grunt. Try to avoid just cutting the knot off though as this will make it difficult to peel off the stocking leaving you with very little to grip onto, not to mention that you won’t be able to reuse the stocking.

Peel off stocking

STEP 11:

Lastly, you may have a little ‘top-knot’ where the stocking was tied. Snip this off. And you’re done!  Leave the balls to air dry or chuck the in the dryer with a load. You can then give them as gifts or keep some for next week’s tutorial.

Snip
You can make as many as you like and in various sizes. We found we still got a pretty neat ball down to 8g of fibre but the green 4g ball had too much stocking bunched up around it and it came out with a...well an 'interesting' shape. 

Smaller balls and odd shaped ball
Last of all, how do you use them? Well you pop 3 balls in a small to medium load of washing and set to a shorter cycle than normal. The balls will work their magic helping to aerate your washing so it dries faster.

How long will they last? 100s of cycles! Replace them when they start to look really ratty, you can even felt a new layer over them to prolong their life or if they really have had it pop them in the compost as they will break down naturally.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial and would love to see your results if you try it!


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Love Aunt Jenny xo

Pinky Wittingslow
Pinky Wittingslow

Pinky is a serial crafter who has devoted her life to making and teaching all things textiles because she truly believes we can craft ourselves to better health and a better world.


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