CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Slash your Stash and Go Green

My mom first told me about dryer balls five years ago. Like all daughters, I didn’t believe her when she told me I could get rid of dryer sheets while at the same time cutting my clothes drying time in half.
So I made two of them…..thought I’d show her! Not so much. Dryer balls are awesome. 100% felted wool. I’ve had mine for 5 years and they are still going strong. I think they may last forever. No more of the dreadful dryer sheets that had put a coating on my towels for years. I was buying bath towels every two to three years because they were no longer absorbing water. The culprit was the dryer sheets.
Here are the instructions for making your own dryer balls.

A Dryer Ball

A Dryer Ball

Materials You’ll need:

Wool Yarn: This is a great time to use your scraps. For the best results, use a yarn that is 100% wool or otherwise is a good felting yarn. Do not use superwash wool. If it says it is machine washable, you don’t want it for this project! 

The amount of yarn required depends on the weight and gauge of the yarn you choose. Bulky yarns will wind faster and take less yarn. For the worsted weight, it is approximately 3 ounces.

Old Pantyhose or a Sock

Cotton or Acrylic Yarn or String: You can use scraps here, too. This will be used to tie the hose or sock. You don’t want this to felt, so don’t use the wool yarn here.


  a small crochet hook

 and a measuring tape

If you have ever wound yarn into a ball, this is basically just like that, except you want to wind it tighter than you should normally.

Step 1: Winding the Core: 
Begin by making the core of the ball. Making a core first will give the finished ball a little more firm. It is also possible to simply skip this step, but the ball will be a bit more squishy during the felting and might not have as nice a shape when you’re finished.   Begin by winding a bit of yarn around your fingers. Once you have a bit, take it off your fingers, let it close and wrap the yarn around it. This is the beginning of your ball. Continue wrapping the yarn around and forming a little ball. I make the core about 7″ in circumference.  Break (or cut) the yarn and tuck the end under using the crochet hook. This will keep it from coming loose as it’s felting.

Step 2: Felting the Core
:  Put your small wool balls into the pantyhose or sock.  After you put a ball into the hose, tie the hose closed with a piece of string, dental floss or non-wool yarn with a secure knot. This will keep the balls separated during felting. Put in the next ball and tie it in. DO NOT skip the hose/sock and just toss them into the washer. Trust me, they are very likely to fall apart and you will end up with a felted rat’s nest.

Toss the wool ball pantyhose caterpillar into your washer with a load of laundry. I wash them on hot to felt them faster.  Toss them in the dryer with the same load of laundry.  Once the dryer cycle is done, cut the strings between the hose and remove them. They should be slightly felted. If you want them felted more, run them through another load. I find that once through is enough.

Step 3: Winding the Dryer Ball:
  Begin winding more wool yarn onto the ball. You don’t have to do anything special to attach the yarn, just lay it onto the ball and wind over it. Continue winding until the ball is the size you want. I make mine about 9″ in circumference.  Tuck the end under using the crochet hook.

Step 4: Final Felting: 
Once you have your dryer balls the size you want, put them into the pantyhose and tie them. Repeat the felting by once again doing your laundry and tossing these in. They don’t have to be completely felted before you can start using them, just slightly felted will do. You just don’t want them to come apart. They will continue to felt and get harder as you use them.
You now have wool dryer balls! Depending on the wool yarn you use, they may get pills on them with use. If these bother you, just give them a shave with a sweater shaver now and then. Personally, I don’t care and they don’t seem to get all that pilled.  I use two balls per load of clothes.

I can tell you from experience, that they felt best when they are tied tightly in the panty hose. Don’t allow for any wiggle room in there or they don’t felt tightly and evenly.  They come out of the dryer dry, ready to use in the next load of clothes. What they are actually doing is wicking the water out of the clothes. But as they are pulling the moisture from the clothes, the moisture is evaporating in the dryer. So the dryer balls come out dry, ready to use  again immediately.

One of the biggest perks I’ve found is that they dry things evenly. I no longer have to put my husband’s tube socks back in for another 20 minutes of drying. They come out dry with everything else.  I have no clue how they do this but am so delighted that they do.
They make an excellent birthday or holiday gift. It’s certainly not something someone will already have.

And…. it turns out Mom was right again!

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