DIY Sustainable Wool Dryer Balls with Taste of the Wind
Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Hi there Sustainable Crafter!
Thanks for buying a DIY Sustainable Dryer Ball Kit from Taste of the Wind! We are so excited for you to try this fun craft of needle felting out with us! By “us” I mean me, BJ, and the Flock.
We have worked hard to convert Wyoming Sunshine and wild plants into beautiful and soft wool for you to craft with and use in your sustainable home. This wool has served these sheep well, keeping them warm for the winter, now they are happy to share it with you and, in this case, your laundry.
The kit contains:
1.5 ounces of white roving (raw wool that has been skirted, washed, and carded)
a small amount of raw colored wool for decorating the outside of your dryer ball (I did not wash this because it will end up being washed during the wet felt stage of the process)
3 felting needles of different sizes so you can decide which gauge needle you like best for each step
A foam pad (don’t worry this part of the kit is sustainable too! It was part of the packaging that our solar panel came in for our camper- thanks for helping us keep it out of the dump!)
These very instructions sent to your email inbox- they are also up on our blog at www.tasteofthewind.com in case you lose track of them at some point!
If you don't have a kit yet, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get you on the road to felting your own dryer ball!
The felting technique: These felting needles aren’t your regular sewing needles; they have barbs going in different directions to encourage the natural microscopic barbs in the wool the rub against each other and knot the fibers together.
This is what you are doing on a microscopic scale- making tons and tons of teeny tiny little knots. This is why felting is an irreversible process. Could you imagine trying to untie a bunch of microscopic knots?!
I’ll stick to making the knots, thank you…
Felting is also what happens when you accidentally wash a piece of wool clothing on the agitating/hot cycle in your washing machine and it shrinks so that it may not fit anymore- oops! We are going to use the wet and dry versions of this felting process to our advantage here.
Step One- Starting the Ball: Grab about half of your roving. You can start smaller if you would like, but leave at least half for the second layer of felting. Place your roving on the foam pad and pinch it in half. Secure this pinch you just made by inserting the felting needle of your choice into the folded wool. Hold the wool down with your non-dominant hand and poke the needle into the wool down towards the foam pad. Make sure to do this on a surface you don’t mind the needle hitting in case it does go all the way through the foam pad.
Note: Never poke the needle through the wool towards your fingers- it’s easier to poke through your skin with these needles than you think!
Do this several times until your folded wool is holding itself in place (folded) on its own. Then pinch/fold your wool in half the other direction and repeat. Your goal is to make the wool stay in a loose bunch even when you let go. Make sure to poke into the wool far away from your fingers! I know from experience these felting needles hurt!
You should end up with a clump of wool that looks somewhat like this. No need to be a perfectionist at this point.
Choose your dryer-ball journey!
From here there are two main methods to finish your dryer ball. You can stuff your started ball and the rest of your wool into a nylon stocking and wet felt the whole dryer ball in your washing machine on hot. (There are many tutorials for this on Pinterest, my favorite is Amika Ryan’s here: https://shepherdlikeagirl.com/how-to-make-felted-wool-dryer-balls/). Or you can do it the way I did it and dry felt up until the very end, then wet felt in some hot soapy water, then dry felt your accents on. I chose the below method because I don’t have a clothes washing machine at the moment and I didn’t want to create more plastic waste by cutting up a nylon stocking (not quite as sustainable as I wanted this project to be). You choose whichever method makes the most sense for you!
Step Two- Shaping the Ball: Here is the meat of the process. You will spend most of your time on this project creating a sphere out of your clump of wool. This happens when you felt a little on one side then turn the wool clump 180 degrees and felt on the opposite side until there are no really fluffy spots left.
This step really caters to my perfectionist side- very satisfying!
Practice making a habit out of poking as far away from your fingers and thumb as possible. You will get the hang of it fast!
As you start to get your sphere tighter, try switching to a smaller needle to get a smoother surface. Don’t worry too much about how smooth the ball is at this point. What you want is a tightly-packed core for your dryer ball.
When you get something that looks pretty close to this you are ready for step three!
Step Three- Expanding the Ball
Take the rest of your white roving and lay it flat on your foam mat. Place your wool sphere in the middle of the roving. Wrap the roving around your ball of wool until it about even covers the whole thing. Start affixing this last layer of roving to your sphere one spot at a time on opposite sides until it is very well attached.
It will look something like this.
Now, go at those fluffy tufts with your felting needle! Once you have a lumpy, but pretty symmetrical ball switch to a smaller needle for a smoother surface. I don’t like to get too carried away at this point because our final step will really smooth things out.
Step Four- The Wet Felt:
Put a pot of soapy water on the stove and place your wool ball in the water. You don’t need too much water, just enough to cover your ball half way when you press down on your wool ball (it will want to float until it gets pretty soaked). You will also need a small bowl of cold water- the bigger the difference in temperature between the two bowls of water, the better.
You are also going to want a slotted spoon handy to roll your wool ball around and to retrieve it from the pot of hot water.
Turn on the stove and place the pot of water with your wool ball in it on the stove. Start to roll your wool ball around and press it down into the water so that it begins to soak up some of the water. Keep rolling the ball around and add some of your favorite kind of soap. Keep squishing and rolling the ball until the water gets too hot for you too touch the wool ball anymore. Then roll the ball around the pot with your slotted spoon until the water comes to a boil.
Remove the ball from the hot water and place it in the cold water. Roll it around with your slotted spoon until you can squish the ball with your fingers without burning your fingers. You can also take a glass or jar and squish the wool ball with the bottom of the jar until the water coming out of the ball is clear. You might have to replace the water in this cold water bowl a couple of times.
Do this process of switching between hot and cold a couple of times until you are happy with the smoothness of the outside layer of your wool ball.
Remove the wool ball and squish out all water that you can.
Step Five- Add Your Embellishements (if desired):
This is the artistic part of this craft. I love adding swirls and stripes to the dryer balls. It’s just so fun, and it also makes them easier to spot in the load of laundry when you go to fold those freshly softened clothes!
This is when you will want to use the smallest needle in the kit. Your wool ball does not have to be completely dry for this step.
Take wisps of colored wool and stretch them out so they get long and thin. Drape them over your dryer ball however you would like them to look. Then attach them to your wool ball by poking through these wisps and through the surface of your dryer ball.
You can make polka dots, stripes, swirls, hearts, experiment and have fun.
Oh, and send me a photo of your beautiful dryer ball once it is complete!
I can’t wait to see how it turns out!
Let me know if you hit a snag or have any additional questions:
307-399-4893 or email@example.com
Happy sustainable crafting and living!
-BJ and Taste of the Wind Flock!