Written By Karen
Overdue to start Xmas gift production and in a desperate attempt to reduce my stash I agreed to a request for dryer balls. Despite hardly using a dryer myself I determined to produce as many of the 'easy' products as I figured the family could benefit from. Dryer balls apparently reduce drying time, eliminate or reduce static and evenly distribute scent through the load when infused with lavender oils and other essences. The Internet provides the novice with a good array of helpful information and contradictory instruction.
Here's what I learned after much trial and error (which unfortunately did little to reduce the ugliest of my stash).
Use only pure wool/fleece. Reject if in doubt because a label is missing.
Use hottest water as possible to achieve consistent felting. Even consider washing by hand in the sink with boiled kettle water if you've got protective gloves and a strong grip to squeeze constantly.
The balls need tough squeezing and bashing through all stages to keep tight as possible & eliminate suds, water, air.
So essentially dryer balls are solid felted balls that end up fitting into your fisted hand, for example, like a cricket ball and ideally smaller. Decoration can be simply the result of layers of coloured threads peeking through strands or even finished embroidery.
The steps I follow for predictable success are as follows.
Roll to start by gripping a small handful of sheep wool or alpaca fleece picked free of matter. Or simply start wrapping strands as tightly as possible until the balls is slightly larger than you'd want as a final ball.
Wash with detergent in the hottest washing machine cycle available. Even 60 degrees isn't hot enough to felt some wools! Some YouTubers demonstrate squeezing by hand but I haven't made a successful tight ball this way or by the needle felting method encouraged. Life is too short for disappointment I say, so stick to the machine for this project. If you haven't tucked or needled your last strands tightly or deeply enough into the ball the whole thing will erupt and unravel, so be sure. T
After washing any loose threads or errant points rising above the smooth surface can be trimmed. Or you could do this final smoothing later.
The wet balls go into the dryer next for as long as it takes to dry completely and be evened out by all the hot tumbling. Mine take less than an hour. If you open the dryer door and a jumble of mess falls out, don't despair. Just call it a day or start again using more heat next time.
After this interesting scientific experimentation I've achieved a dozen balls good enough to put on the Guild meeting 'Show and Tell' table plus a pile of examples of how not to do it. T
The family recipients might be impressed but I'm not counting on it.