Tuesday, January 1, 2013

DIY Tutorial: Felted Dryer Balls

 First, let me start off by saying that felting is one of my favorite things to do when crafting. There is something so ridiculously satisfying for me about turning a giant fluffy wad of wool into a nice, compact little ball. In this case, these balls also are extremely useful. As an incoming college student I'm always looking for ways to save money, and these lovely little balls can be tossed in with your wet clothes in the dryer to work their way between the clothing layers, eliminating the need for fabric softener and cutting drying time.

Here are your supplies: yarn, wool roving, and a stretch of old tights/pantyhose/et cetera. The best yarn to use would honestly be 100% wool yarn so the inner layers felt as well as the outer roving, but honestly I used an acrylic blend and it worked quite well. I got my roving here with a coupon code but a quick google search could easily find you many more varieties. As for the tights, I snipped off the leg of a pair that I was tossing out and have saved it for all my felting projects but you could just as easily buy a cheap pair from pretty much anywhere.

Now divide your yarn into as many individual balls as you would like, or as many as you can. I managed to get three tightly wound balls from one giant one, but feel free to do fewer (or more) if you like. I've found that for actual functionality, three work well in the dryer.

Then take your roving and begin to lay it out. You want to cover as much area as possible while making sure there is none of the original yarn showing through. Feel free to mix colors, cut shapes, do stripes, et cetera.

Eventually your yarn ball will resemble this, a giant loosely covered ball of fluff. Don't worry about wrapping it tightly, that is exactly what the felting process will take care of. Just do a quick check of the whole ball and make sure you can't see any of the underlying yarn as it is harder to add on extra wool later than it is to just make sure the ball is covered in this initial process. Once you are satisfied with your fluff ball, carefully place it in the bottom of your tights segment (making sure the roving is not too displaced) and make sure it is secured on both sides - I tied a knot on one end and rubber banded the other. You may also feel free to wrap and place all your balls in the tights segment at once, making sure they are separated by knots/rubber bands/et cetera - I did mine one at a time for pictures, but either method works well.

Then grab a bowl large enough to fit the ball and fill it with very hot, very soapy water. You will be working in this water so make sure it is cool enough you don't burn yourself with it. Gloves are helpful (but not necessary) for this step because the felting process takes a toll on your hands and makes them fairly dry and wrinkly for awhile.

Then take your ball (still in the tights segment) and start dunking it into the hot soapy water and rubbing it. You're bonding the fibers together so don't be afraid to be a little rough, just not so much you're completely displacing the roving underneath. You might notice that fibers start to slip through the tights - this is normal and nothing to worry about! After a few minutes of rubbing when you can tell the ball is no longer "fluffy" (like the picture above), take it out of the tights segment and continue rubbing until the ball has no more segments sticking out and seems to be one continuous layer. The ball might stick to the walls of the tights because of the fibers that slipped through as mentioned above, just gently separate it and don't worry about the lost fibers. Once you are satisfied with the felted ball, set it aside, soap and all. As the soap dries the ball will harden and finish the felting process on its own. Then repeat the process with any additional balls, and you're done!

Enjoy, and welcome to 2013!

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