DIY Wool Dryer Balls

Though I air dry my clothes, I thought that homemade dryer balls would make a good gift for friends and family who do use a dryer. Dryer balls are felted woolen balls that take the place of dryer sheets, which aren't reusable and usually rely on toxic chemicals, such as endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. Who needs those just to soften clothes? Dryer balls are nontoxic, reusable (they last for years and years), and zero waste. And, they're an enjoyable, simple craft project to accomplish during a slow weekend.

If you'd like to learn, here's how to make them:

-Purchase or dig around in your closet for some wool yarn. Anything that's not washable will work, because we'll want to make sure it shrinks in the wash. However, a single-ply yarn works best - that's a yarn with only one strand, not several strands twisted together.

-Wind the yarn into balls about the size of your fist. Secure the loose end by tucking it as deeply into the center of the ball of yarn as you can.

-Grab a couple of cotton socks; these will protect the balls of yarn and keep them from unraveling during the felting process. It's important that the socks are cotton, not wool, so that they don't felt alongside the balls of yarn or fuse together. Slip a ball of yarn into each sock and tie the end of the sock into a knot so that the ball is secured inside - or, you can use a rubber band or a piece of string to secure the sock, if it isn't long enough to tie.

-Now, it's time to felt them! With a load of your normal laundry, put them in the washer and wash them at a high temperature. Move the whole load to your dryer and dry them on high heat as well. Repeat this process two or three times, until the balls of yarn look felted - you'll know they're done when the individual strands of yarn have fused into a cohesive ball and can no longer be pulled apart.

To use them, pop them into the dryer as you would a dryer sheet. You can even place a few drops of essential oil on the dryer balls before you use them, so that they scent your laundry slightly. Lavender oil would be so lovely, or eucalyptus oil for a load of towels, to give them a mildly spa-like fragrance.