Six handmade dryer balls are shown with a variety of decorative stitching on their surfaces

Make your own dryer balls – no special tools required

My first set of dryer balls was the bumpy plastic kind that left blue streaks on the inside of the dryer. Eventually they cracked and were relegated to the recycle bin. By that time, felted wool dryer balls were making their appearance on the market. They were certainly quieter than the plastic ones, and I knew they would last longer. But they were beyond my budget so I invented my own using fabric and yarn scraps. Here I’ll show you my version so that you can make your own dryer balls for yourself or as a gift.

Tools and materials

A selection of possible tools used to make your own dryer balls: includes three large-eyed needles, a bodkin, and a crochet hook
Possible tool options: A – large-eyed needles, B – bodkin, C – crochet hook.

As promised, the necessary tools are pretty basic. You will need a large-eyed needle or a bodkin or a medium size crochet hook (somewhere in the 2-4 mm range a.k.a. US sizes B-G). Scissors could also come in handy, but they aren’t absolutely necessary.

A selection of possible materials to go in the dryer ball core.  Samples include threads, fabric trimmings, worn out socks, and a variety of wool fabrics in different  weights and textures
Any and all of these materials can be combined to form the core of a dryer ball. Threads, fabric trimmings, and old socks will all work as long as they are clean and 100% wool.

Your materials need to be 100% wool and they need to be clean. You will need yarn for the outside layer. However, the core of a dryer ball can contain woven or knit fabric scraps, yarn pieces, or even unspun roving. As long as it is clean and 100% wool, it can be used. My dryer balls have sewing scraps and bits of worn out socks in them.

Make the core

Roll your core materials up into a fairly smooth ball a little smaller than your fist. Start with the smallest pieces and roll them up in the larger pieces. Loose edges and flaps will disappear when the ball is wrapped with yarn.

The smallest bitsof wool are bundled together in the centre of the core.
The smallest bits go in the centre of the core.
Larger scraps are wound around the innermost layer.
Larger scraps are wrapped around the initial bundle.
The biggest piece going into the core is saved for last.
The biggest scrap was saved for last. It will cover the bundle nicely.

Take one end of the wrapping yarn and hold it under your thumb while you hold and wrap the core. Once the yarn end has been wrapped over a few times, it will stay in place without needing to be held. (This layer will be barely visible when the ball is done so if you have some “less-preferred” yarn, use it here.

How to start the wrap by holding the yarn end under your thumb and then wrapping over it .
Starting the wrap. Note that the core bundle looks rather blocky at this stage. The wrapping will soon change that.

Wrap all over and around the core, working in all directions for an even layer. The wrapping should be snug but not stretched hard. If you need to add a new piece of yarn, just start it the same way you did the first one. There’s no need to tie knots.

Early stages of the first layer wrapping.
Early wrapping and already the blocky core looks rounder.
bare patches along the sides need to be filled in.
Rotate the core while you wrap so that bare patches like this one get filled in.
Inner wrapping about half done and the round shape is well established.
The wrapping in about half done and the ball is well rounded now.
Inner wrapping is done.  The core is completely obscured.
The inner wrapping is done and the core is fully obscured. No hint of holey socks now.

Outer wrap

If you used ugly yarn for the core wrapping, now is the time to switch it out for a colour you like. Keep wrapping, working smoothly and evenly. Unlike a commercially wound ball of yarn, you don’t want the strands all lined up side by side. You want a network of crisscrossing lines that are not easily disturbed. Continue wrapping until the ball is tennis ball size. Use the need;e/bodkin/crochet hook to tuck the yarn end under.

Starting the outer wrapping layer.
The outer layer of wrapping is underway.
Using a needle to tuck in the tail end of wrapping yarn.
Using a needle to tuck in the tail end of the wrapping yarn.

Secure it with stitches

One snag is all it would take to unwind the whole ball and leave you with a real mess in the dryer. This final layer is not just decorative. It holds the ball together. The way it looks, however, is up to you.

You can cover the ball in random stitches or design intricate patterns. Sometimes I embroider, like in this sample, but I often use a crochet hook to chain stitch instead. You can be as plain or fanciful as you like so long as when you’re done, there are no large uncovered patches left. If you can follow a piece of wrapped yarn for more than 3 cm (1″) without it being stitched down, it needs to be secured.

starting the stitching thread by running it through the ball before stitching.
The stitching yarn was pulled through the ball to hide the end before starting the actual stitching. Hold onto that short end while you make your first few stitches, then trim it flush with the ball’s surface so it disappears from view.

This step can be the most fun. It also takes the longest. You may want to start with a basic design for your first ball before you tackle a series of family portraits on the next ones. Monogrammed dryer balls make nice gifts for students moving away from home or for bridal showers. The lettering doesn’t need to be fancy to feel personal.

a variety of stitches shown on the sample ball - a chain stitch swirl, a straight stitch starburst, and some parallel lines of running stitch
A chain stitch swirl, a straight stitch starburst, and some parallel rows of running stitch form a casual design on this sample ball.

Alternate uses

This technique would work to make unbreakable Christmas tree balls. Take a look at Temari balls for extreme design inspiration. Design options open up when the balls don’t have to be dryer safe.

Closely stitched balls are also ideal as baby gifts. When baby becomes toddler and starts snagging the dryer balls for play, (s)he might as well have a personalized set that doesn’t keep disappearing on laundry days. A quick surface cleaning followed by a trip through a hot dryer will take care of just about any dirt that accumulates.

These balls are not recommended as pet toys because teeth and claws would quickly expose the yarn wrapping and create a choking hazard. (I have not found this to be an issue with children because the balls are too big to fit in their mouths. Besides, the fuzzy wool is not pleasant for human chewing.)

Whether they’re for yourself or to share, dryer balls are another good way to put your scraps to good use.

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