I really, really, really want to make wool dryer balls – have you noticed that yet? I have heard from people that they would “totally buy them from me” if I could only figure them out. Motivation! There is a demand; I MUST fill the need.
Problem #1: I do not have roving.
Roving is wool in a pre-yarn state of existence. It occurs after raw wool has been gently cleaned and brushed. From what I can tell, the fibers all go in one direction and are magically joined into a beautiful rope-like structure which can then be spun into yarn. Discovery #1: there are also many other pre-yarn states like rolag which is usually what is made when hand carding. However, all the dryer ball instructions start with roving or worse – an old wool sweater.
Problem #2: I do not have carding brushes.
Carding brushes are the instruments used to straighten out the wool and make it soft, fluffy, and I assume, formable into roving or rolag. From what I have seen of them, they are 8″x4″ and come in a set of 2. I have seen them for sale, but have not yet had the funds to purchase them. Discovery #2: Roving is not made from hand carding brushes, it is made with a carding drum. Sigh.
And yet, I am determined to overcome these hurdles and make my own dryer balls by forming my wool into something closely resembling roving. It may be an imperfect union. But where there is a demand; I MUST fill the need. Here is what I did.
I pulled out a tuft of wool. By tuft I mean a clump loosely the size of a salt shaker. I carefully pulled out tiny yarn sized bits, then split those in half, letting the ends cling together so that I had a double length of wool that was soft and filmy. I added these bits to a flat line which I built up to be about 24 inches long by 2 inches wide and maybe 1/4″ thick with all wool generally pointed horizontally. I staggered the wooly bits so that they would overlap. Then I carefully rolled it like pigs in a blanket (or should I say lambs in a blanket) and ended with something slightly resembling roving – yippee. I carefully wrapped these roving-like pieces around a wad of wool. I built up my wool balls this way until they were almost the size of softballs. I was uncertain if this would work so I did not make them actually as big as softballs and as I progressed they were closer in size to baseballs. These were then stuffed into old nylons, and separated from each other by rubber bands.
With two rows of lumpy caterpillar looking things complete; I added them to the dirty laundry bags. I was desperate to give this a try, but our washing machine was on the fritz, which meant a trip to the laundry mat. Running to the laundry mat is always a complicated endeavor. First it must be timed just right in the day because of school and work scheduling as well as other errands to be paired with this trip into town. It also requires ransacking the entire house top to bottom for all possible dirty laundry. Then all the laundry is sorted by color (we do 3 batches, Black/Red colors, Blue/Green colors, and whites) and stuffed into feed bags. Farmers life note: feed bags make great laundry bags, trash bags, and sometimes snow sleds.
Once ready to wash, I put them in hot loads with the colors (no bleach please). Then dried them. Pulling them from the dryer and peeling back the stockings was so exciting. They now appear to be dryer balls, but the light color ones did not felt (the way wool compacts and hold tight as it is washed and agitated in hot water) as much as they should have. The dark brown ones firmed up nicely, but they are not even baseball sized, so clearly I must do more, and I wonder if I were to wash the light color ones again if they would firm up more. Maybe if I wash them enough, they would firm up completely and I could just keep adding layers until they reach the proper size like a big ol gobstopper of wooly goodness?
Whatever they are, I think they are so pretty. I brought one to work to keep on my desk and have been dropping cedar wood essential oil on it. It is a lovely thing to pick up randomly and toss in the air and that smell, so peaceful.
I feel I am one step closer to fulfilling my dream of being the go to gal for dryer balls. For where there is a demand; I MUST fill the need.
Check back to see the thrilling conclusion in part III – or is it?