A farmer on a small diversified operation is always looking for ways to add value to products. A small Shetland flock yields a surprising amount of wool, wool that can be cleaned and scoured and then sold to hand-spinners, felting artists, and crafters. Surplus wool on many farms is often discarded in the compost heap. At MacCurdy Farm we didn’t want to produce a throw away product so the idea of the dryer ball was born.
Our general society is becoming increasingly eco-conscious and environmentally friendly. Wool, some would argue, holds value as a product for the environmentally conscious individual. How, you might ask, is wool an environmental product? Answer, dryer balls.
Dryer balls, most specifially wool dryer balls, possess several qualities as a product designed to reduce our ecological foot print. They have been around for a while as a substitute for dryer sheets, fabric softener, and plastic variations of the dryer balls. Dryers balls work to separate clothing during the drying process when 4 or more are used in a load of laundry. It is important to note that the functionality and effectiveness of dryer balls are greatly reduced with excessively large loads of laundry.
Dryer balls naturally act to reduce static cling by absorbing water from the load of laundry, which creates a humid environment. It is important to note that dryer balls are felted at MacCurdy Farm by running them through several wash and dry cycles. The agitation causes the wool fibres to interlock and felt, keeping the spherical shape of the dryer ball. Once they are put to use in a load of laundry, the dryer balls firmness allows them to create a better pathway for hot air to travel between the clothing, reportedly reducing drying times by up to 40%, a significant energy savings on your electricity bill during those months when clothes can’t be hung on the line. In Northern NB, that period of time stretches between late October and early May.
The process of producing a dryer ball, at least with our methodology, involves scouring our raw wool, drying it, and then selecting strands of fibres, preferably coarser wool. The strand of wool is tightly wound into a golf ball sized shape, at which point we use a felting multi-tool to bond the fibers. From this point, the wool is pulled and stretched around the ball in the same manner as a handspinner would feed wool to a spinning wheel until the size of a softball is achieved. A second felting with a multi tool is performed and then the balls are added to a nylon sock, one by one, and are tied off for the wash/dry cycles with our loads of laundry and dryer balls.
Our dryer balls are fairly priced at 4 for $15. We aim to produce dryer balls with our Shetland wool by tightly winding and then felting all of our wool that does not go to a fibre mill, hand spinners, or felting artists. All balls are hand made in a rocking chair in front of a woodstove, well most of the time…haha. The balls really are a work of love and patience but it is important to note that they can also be used as play toys for cats and smaller dogs, although with dogs they will inevitably pull apart with biting.