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!

Friday, September 19, 2008

How to make a recycled pin cushion with a lid - quick and easy

So you have small children, a pet who likes to get into your sewing notions or maybe you like to take your work with you in the car or when you travel. What about your pincushion? My kids have always been fascinated with the "bootiful" pins I use. So making a pincushion with a lid made the pretty pins not so much a temptation. Plus, when I want to do some hand sewing in the car, I can carry along my pincushion without the fear of a sewing bag full of loose pins.

This is a quick and easy version. You can most certainly take your time, look around for the right container and make a breathtaking covered pincushion. Or you can just do it and start using it. I'll show you the latter of the two. What you will need: A plastic container with a lid, a utility knife or scissors, duct tape, spray adhesive like Elmer's Craft Bond, a glue gun, scrap of fabric, ribbon, a scrap of an old sweater or fleece, stuffing for your pincushion, scissors, pins, thread, sewing machine, needle and some time to yourself.

First, raid your pantry or your friend's or relatives for a container with a lid. Or if you are lucky like I was and receive a gift in one of those small decorated metal containers you have your work done for you. But let's say you don't have any people in your life that like to give you gifts that come in snazzy little metal tins. So let's go back to the pantry. In this tutorial, I used a crystal light container, or probably the generic version to make my pin cushion holder. Anything that is structurally sound, not too large and has a lid will do. I also used one of those
metal containers of flavored instant coffee for a pincushion and that is a great size too.

Step 1.

So you have your container. If it's too tall you can cut it down and tape it back together. Because you know everything can be put together with duct tape. well, in this case packing tape. I used a utility knife to score the plastic then cut with a pair of utility scissors. Be careful cutting and use your common sense. yada yada.

Now don't be frightened by the pictures. You will be covering up the Frankenstein work you did on the container and the pincushion will hide it on the inside.
Step 2.

It's time to decorate your re sized container. Measure the height and width of the container. Add 1/2" to both the height and width. Find some fabulous scrap of fabric and cut it out. Now take it to the ironing board and fold in your edges by 1/4" of an inch on both sides. Iron your edges down for a nice crease. Do the same thing on one side on the length of the fabric. I added a second layer of fabric on mine since the cherry print is rather thin.

Now open up your windows or go outside and use your spray adhesive on the fabric and stick it on the container. You can also use a hot glue gun to glue it, just make sure you smooth out the glue so it doesn't dry bumpy looking. Leave the end that you folded over and ironed unsealed for now.

Find some ribbon you can use to cover your edges. You don't have to use ribbon but I think it adds to the charm a bit. I used 3/8" ribbon. Just measure the circumference and add 1/4" to know how much ribbon you need. Cut two pieces. Hot glue them in place, starting at the end that has been left unglued. Tuck the ribbon slightly under the seam and then glue it around the edge on both the top and bottom. When you get to the end of the ribbon, fold it under the seam and glue in place. Do this on both top and bottom then glue the whole seam down. Let me confuse you by showing you a completely different container since I did not get a good picture of the main one in this tutorial.

Step 3.
Whoo-hoo. Your container is finished and you can move on to the construction of the pin cushion. I really like using old sweaters or fleece for these. It's cheap and the fabric is usually thick and stretchy. Cut out a rectangle using the measurement of the circumference and the height of the container and add 1/4" for your side seam. That will be the body of the pincushion. Then trace two circles using your container as a pattern. These will be the top and bottom of your pincushion.

Sew your side seam together using a 1/4" seam with right sides together. Then take one of the circles you cut out and pin right sides together in circle to the end of the tube. This is tricky to visualize, I tried to take a decent picture of how it's pinned. Then sew the end to the tube. Then sew the second circle piece to the other end but leave a half of an inch to turn. Trim your excess fabric and then turn your tube right side out. Stuff your pincushion. You can use any kind of batting. Natural would be better but of course not necessary. I love to get raw wool that still has the oil from the sheep on it. I think it makes the pins slide into the fabric easier. I also will use shredded wool sweaters from my other projects to stuff my pincushions. I'm all for recycling and saving a trip to the store for stuffing. Now you can hand sew your opening closed. It does not need to look pretty because it will be on the inside bottom. Yay! You can be sloppy and it doesn't matter!
Wow. that was a lot of steps but look at your cool pincushion with a lid!!

Once you get the idea of it, you will see the possibility in other types of containers you have around the house. Have fun, recycle and keep those pins away from the kids and the pets.


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