Sunday, February 15, 2009

I've got balls . . .

I don't have any knitting to show you this week. Yes, I've been knitting; actually, I'm working on a triangle shawl in Handmaiden Sea Wool that I bought at Knit Purl on the LYS Crawl this year, but it's not really blog-worthy yet. And then on Friday, I got a kink in my shoulder and haven't been able to knit for the last few days.

I did go to Westside Spinning on Wednesday afternoon; I had two 1/2 ounce samples from Abstract Fibers in her Sunset colorway, so I started spinning them. I've been wearing cowls or shawls to work this winter and that's where this will end up. I don't think there will be enough for a whole from just the sample, but I think it will look great as a trim with some leftover brown alpaca in the stash.

The gals at Westside Wednesday night were in rare form this week. Duffy was working on her own version of Queen Anne's Lace; she was afraid of losing her point protectors (again) but found the perfect place to store them - on Gail's brace.

While the rest of us were suffering hot flashes, Gail apparently was feeling a chill. Gail will be in this brace for another couple of months; she took a tumble on a slick deck during that last Arctic blast that hit our area.

Meanwhile, the rest of the motley crew were finishing projects right and left. Tracy finished a sock; which apparently, cracked up Jen.

From the look of pride on her face, I don't think she'll be suffering from SSS (Second Sock Syndrome) anytime soon.

Tami was just a little too excited to show off her finished project.

That's a heart with "Brandon + Tami" on the front. I had to promise not to blog this until after Brandon received it on Valentine's Day.

Lori finished not one, but TWO hats.

OK, so she might have knitted those before arriving, but she did finish them Wednesday night.

Last week, Kathleen asked about the dryer balls I had in the blog. When we bought the new washer and dryer back in November, they told us not to use fabric softener sheets. It seems the new dryer has a very fine lint screen, which gets clogged up by the residue left by dryer sheets. Since being diagnosed with sarcoidosis a couple years ago, I've been trying to cut down on the amount of chemicals, fragrances, and dyes we use in the house. That means going to "free and clear" detergents, fewer spray cleaners and air fresheners, etc. But I was still using dryer sheets to cut down on static cling in the laundry. I'd heard about people making felted wool dryer balls that are supposed to make your laundry dry faster and cut down on static cling, so I decided to make some for myself.

I used some very rough yarn barf from a couple of years ago when I first started spinning. It was unidentified, very coarse wool; totally unsuitable for knitting with, but great for felting! I just wound it up into balls, tossed them in the washer and dryer with a load of towels, and got small felted balls. There are lots of tutorials for these on the Internet, but here's the basic lowdown. Use only wool; if it's got any silk, tencel, nylon, etc., then it won't felt uniformly. And no synthetics or superwash - if it says "machine washable", it won't felt at all. Use the roughest, coarsest wool you can find; it felts much better than the nice, soft stuff. Wind it into small balls, loosely; if it's too tight, it won't felt properly. I secured each final layer to keep the balls from coming apart before they felted properly.

I used the ugly colors for the centers; I made them about the size of a plum and felted them. Those are the ones you saw last week. This week, it was time for the final layer which I wanted to be prettier colors. I made a layer of the base color, then wound on another color in a pattern and secured it by stitching down each section where the yarn crossed, making sure I stitched down pretty deeply into the previous layers. Again, wind loosely so the yarn will felt better.

I ended by burying the end deep into the ball, so it wouldn't come loose during the felting process.

I snipped off the loose ends before felting, but you could do it afterward, if you wanted.

I popped them into lingerie bags (from Dollar Tree), just in case they did come unwound in the washer.

Then, into the washer along with a load of towels.

I've heard people say that front loading washers don't felt things well but I've had no such trouble. I set it for prewash with hot water, wash with hot water, and extra rinse. Yes, that timer does say 1:28 - that's how long the cycle will take.

After the washer, it was into the dryer for another 45 minutes, and here are the finished dryer balls:

These are each about 9 inches in circumference - roughly the size of a tennis ball. I'll keep 3 for myself and the other two sets of 3 each will go to my SIL Faye and neice Jane.

I've been using my dryer balls for about a month now. Mine have been staying in the dryer and keep felting tighter with each load. My dryer senses the humidity and stops automatically when the clothes are dry and I have noticed that clothes dry faster using these; presumably because they separate the clothes. But the real difference is in the amount of static - it's not completely gone, but much better than without anything. When I take out clothes what have polyester or nylon in them, the little hairs on the dryer balls are standing on end from all the static but my clothes don't cling to each other nearly as much. And I'm not adding chemicals or fragrance to my clothes.

This week, I finished up that bobbin of Romney cross that Kathleen brought me from New Zealand. It took a couple of soaks to get the grease and dirt out of it, but it is much softer now. That's it drying on the bottom of the rack in the guest room.

Those other hanks? Those are from the cashmere sweater from Goodwill. Approximately 2,000 yards of beige lace weight 100% cashmere for $6.99. Eventually it will become a lace shawl. As soon as I'm done fondling it.


  1. My goodness,a fellow, and clearly more professional, sweater recycler! I'm just finishing a scarf that started life as an overly baggy grey alpaca sweater - cost, probably less than $5 or I wouldn't have bought it in the first place, and then slopped around the house in it for several years. We have to speak of this in whispers, only amongst ourselves - I've been told more than once that this is obsessive-complusive behavior.
    Folks used to do this all the time. With the current economy, we may begin looking somewhat less OC.


Unfortunately, Blogger will not let me track back to you, so if you would like an answer, please include your email address at the bottom of your comment.