Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How to make a sewn dryer ball from recycled materials

Update: I finally figured out how to add the photos after they have been missing for quite some time. My apologies.

Here is another version on how to make your own dryer balls instead of using those loud and environment unfriendly PVC filled plastic ones from the store or stinky tennis balls. This version offers a solution to what to do with your scraps and it uses less yarn than the other wool dryer balls you can make. Plus you can make these scented and you can refresh the scent very easily if you leave an opening in the panels.

What is the purpose of dryer balls? Mainly to help separate the laundry as it's drying so it can dry faster instead of rolling around in one big wad. I never have experienced a complete disappearance of static from using these, even from the the store bought plastic ones. But I do think there is a decreased amount of static than without using any dryer balls.

This is also a great way to recycle. Because this is about saving money and having greener or more environment friendly homes. You can use recycled felted wool sweaters and cheap wool yarn or if you are allergic to wool, you can use 90-100% cotton sweaters, or any type of 100% cotton fabric that is stretchy. Like cotton sweatshirt fleece. The goal is to use natural fibers though or at least in this tutorial. Of course you can experiment with whatever you choose.

One more thing before I get to the instructions. You can use this tutorial to make dryer balls for sale, however, I would prefer you make them as gifts or charge a very low cost for them. Because the idea here is to help make greener homes not greener wallets. I'm a realist though and I know that just saying don't make these for profit doesn't do very much. So instead, I give you a motherly guilt trip, to keep your prices low and focus on the bigger picture not the bigger amount in your checking balance. I would also appreciate a credit link back to me.

Now for the instructions and pictures. First a materials list.

You will need:
  • 1-2 recycled felted wool sweaters. (you do need to prefelt in the washer and dryer) If it is a large sweater you can usually make 4 to 5 dryer balls. If avoiding wool; cotton sweaters or midweight stretchy cotton fabric.

  • 1 skein of 100% wool yarn if using all wool. (not superwash) Or 1-2 skeins of 100% cotton yarn if using all cotton or non wool fibers.

  • scissors or a rotary blade

  • cutting mat, sewing machine, needle and thread.

Step 1. Make your pattern.

The pattern I made is for about a 10 inch ball. For size reference, it is approximately the same size as the plastic dryer balls you can buy at the store. It is 4 inches from tip to tip and 1.5 inches at the widest point. If you are using non stretch fabric, you need to add a seam allowance of 1/4 an inch all around. (note that this can be a messy process with some wool sweaters so I am using my old rotary mat - make sure you use a well covered surface or an area you don't mind getting messy.)

Step 2. Cut out your pieces.

Take your sweater or recycled piece and cut out six pieces. I try to make sure the stretch is going from side to side but I have squeezed a few pieces out of fabric with the stretch going up and down and haven't had much trouble sewing it. Just remember, these are going to live in your dryer, so they don't have to be fancy, just functional. And save all of your scraps! You will need those later.

Step 3. Sew your pieces.

Take two pieces and put them right sides together. Pin them if your fabric looks like it's going to slide around while you sew. For simplicity's sake in this tutorial, I'm sewing all pieces except the last one, from one tip to the other. There are other ways to sew a ball, but I think this is the easiest. You don't need to be perfect. Sew from tip to tip, with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. you can do a straight stitch or stretch stitch. Make sure you backstitch your first and last stitch so the seams do not come undone.

Next, take your third piece and put it right sides together to one of the other wedges. Sew from point to point. continue to do this until you have 5 of your pattern pieces sewn together.

When you get to your last piece, keeping the half ball right side out, put right sides together, pin and sew only a half inch down on end. Then go to the other point and sew a half inch towards the center. You want to leave enough room to fit your yarn core into the ball.

Step 4. Making the core of your drying ball.

So remember those scraps you saved? Now it's time to use them. You want to cut any big pieces into strips about an inch or two wide and about 4 inches long. You can have smaller pieces just keep in mind you want to be able to wrap yarn around them and keep them contained.

You are finished with the machine sewing part. Now you have a dryer ball that needs to be filled.

Pull out your yarn and gather as much of the scraps that you can in your hand and start wrapping the yarn around the wad of scraps.

Get out your needle and thread and hand sew the opening closed.  It doesn't have to be pretty if you don't have hand sewing skills.  I certainly don't so just sew it closed, your dryer won't judge. 

Now your dryer ball should weigh approximately the same as a tennis ball if you used enough scraps and yarn. If your yarn ball fits in snugly with just enough room to sew the opening closed, you should be close enough to the weight of a plastic dryer ball.

You are finished! I suggest using about 4-5 dryer balls at a time. However you can experiment with different amounts to see what works for you. If you like scented dryer balls, you can put a small sachet of potpourri in the core of your yarn ball. Leave a small opening when you hand stitch the dryer ball closed and you can use a dropper full of essential oil and stick it into the core to
scent the dryer ball when the fragrance fades.

The light colored dryer ball is made from 100% cotton yarn and fabric for those who are allergic to wool.

Happy Sewing!


Monica said...

These are brilliant! Nice tutorial...thank you! said...

What a great idea and SUPER tutorial! I love it! I'll be linking.

Joleen said...


Melissa said...

These are a lovely alternative to the wound wool ones. Also, cheaper and more fruitful approach. Thank you very much for the tutorial!

Anonymous said...

Instead of using yarn I took what was left of the sweater (it was a button up sweater I felted for longies so the arms were gone) and cut around and around so it was one rather long strip. I wound that around the few scraps that needed to be cut off. It worked pretty well.

Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for making me feel better about not using wool (I'm allergic) These will be my next project!

HardestyMom01 said...

Great idea. I also thank you for posting your pattern. I made several this weekend. I used old socks my husband was going to throw away to stuff the balls. Instead of using a wool sweater I used old jeans, t-shirts, dress pants, and sweaters I cut into the pattern. It worked beautifully. I and one of my daughters are allergic to wool so I had to make changes. All of mine were done by hand. No sewing machine yet. (Saving up for that.) I already have request from family members as Christmas gifts!

Mutuelle sante said...

Your current website is great and truly helped me out considerably to make a sewn dryer ball from recycled materials. Thanks

KnittyDebby said...

Thanks for this great post. I will linking to it tomorrow at my blog:

Thanks, Debby

Honey Bear said...

love the idea, making mine now, Im going to put safety pins inside the ball though - pinned from the inside - for static, Ive seen where others pinned safety pins to socks so I believe they are harmless & I kill 2 birds with 1 stone. have used 2 already & they are working good!

Honey Bear said...

love the idea, pinned safety pins to the inside for static electricity, kill 2 birds with 1 stone, thanks for the pattern!


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