Wild About Woolies
By now you're sold on wool, right?! But you're still not sure where to go or what to do. It's all so confusing. Wool interlock, recycled wool, knit wool...it just goes on and on! Let me at least stat to break it down a little bit.
I'll start with sewn wool fabric since it's what I know best ;).
Wool interlock- this is a (machine) knit wool, knit in the round so it comes tubular. It's double knit, which means there is no wrong and right side. Both sides of the fabric show the knit side of the stitches and are smooth.
Wool blend interlock both before and after felting- it is fuzzier after felting
In the diapering world you will most likely encounter two different types of wool blend interlock covers. My personal favorite is a wool/spandex blend. You might see that called 95/5 or 97/3. That is the amount of wool and spandex (or Lycra which is one brand name of spandex). You probably won't really notice a difference between the two. I like wool blend because the spandex gives it a very nice recovery. It also keeps it from felting wildly. When you buy a wool blend cover it most likely has already been felted to an appropriate weight but can further felt, it's just a little more difficult. This means you can probably machine wash it if you are careful, but check the specific care information on your brand. It's a great combination of thickness (depending on how it's felted of course), stretch and softness. The drawback is the cost, often over $20 a yard and that's before felting where you're going to lose about 1/3 of the length. Now we're talking about fabric close to $30/yd!
Thickness comparison on felted vs. non-felted wool interlock blend
The other wool interlock you often see in the diapering world is 100% wool. This obviously does not have the spandex in it. It's still a knit and stretchy, but does not have quite the same recovery as the blend so it can stretch out of shape a bit over time depending on how the cover is constructed. It's usually a bit softer and thinner than the typical wool blends and will pill a little bit more. It will also continue to felt until it's stiff as a board, so you don't usually want to take the chance on machine washing anything made from 100% wool. But did I mention SOFT?! Like buttah. In most cases you'll see this in either a cover that has an elastic waist, uses wool blend as a waist or in a wrap style closure. It's not going to hold up over time as a pull on style cover all by itself. Usually just a tad lower in cost than the blend but still pricey.
Not all wool interlocks are created equal. The texture (how soft it is or isn't) comes from how fine the fibers are that are spun into the yarn used in knitting it. In my endless search for the perfect wool I've felt samples that I would not personally consider next to baby skin soft. Some people find it helpful to look for some type of certification, either certified organic or Oeko-Tex certified. You can read more about both on Wikipedia- Organic Certification & Oeko-Tex Standard .
There is also a washable (superwash) wool interlock blend that has recently been available. In my opinion this is not really appropriate for diapering wool. A very basic explanation of superwash wool is that it has been treated with a polymer resin (plastic) to keep the fibers from felting and interlocking. While it does not wick moisture the way say cotton clothing would, it also would stand to reason that it also won't absorb the excess moisture of a diaper in the same way wools traditionally used for diapering would. If you've read our earlier post, The Wonderful World of Wool, about how/why wool works and why felting makes it even better,then it seems reasonable to say that wool that does not felt would not be optimal. That's not to say it does not function at all, but given the choice of washable vs. traditional, my choice is traditional hands down. Washable wool does take dye beautifully and has a very soft hand and drape because of the way it's treated. It's wonderful for a lot of projects, just not diaper covers. Again this is my personal opinion and the reason I've chosen not to use it in my business at this time. When I was researching it, I found this article by Paula Burch to be helpful- Explanation of superwash wool
Washable vs. non-washable wool blend interlock
Wool crepe- This is also knit tubular on a machine, but one side is a knit side and the other side shows the purl of the stitch. So there is a wrong and a right side. It also has a slightly crinkly texture, especially after felting. It is available just like the interlock in both a wool/spandex blend and a 100% wool version. It's just quite a bit thinner than interlock. It's still a knit and therefore stretchy depending on how far it's felted. You probably would want 2 layers (or more) to make a nice diaper cover or to felt it substantially more than the interlock. Think of this as intermediate wool in both thickness and price.
If you look very closely you can see the difference between the knit and purl sides of the fabric
Here you can see the difference between non-felted and felted jersey and also how jersey will curl up (and the differences in the right vs. wrong side again) when cut. Interlock does not curl up.
Wool jersey- this is the thinnest of what we usually see in diapering. Much like jersey, just a bit thinner and more textured than the jersey or interlcok. You definitely want more than one layer, though a single layer is useful for decorative purposes and flows nicely for say a skirt. The benefits here are it's trimmer, more flowing and usually the least expensive.
Recycled wool- This is usually the most frugal and "green" option. You might also see it called up-cycled wool, repurposed wool, even sweater pants. Basically taking something that was not originally a diaper cover and cutting it up into one. Most often that is sweaters but there's no rule that says it can't be an old coat or wool blanket for instance as long as it meets the requirements (which most blankets and coats probably don't). Those requirements? Well different people have different opinions. But in general they need to be soft (not mohair, it's scratchy!) and a high percentage of natural fiber (usually at least 70-80% whether it's wool, cashmere, alpaca, angora, etc.). You don't want it to be mixed with fibers that will wick moisture the way say cotton or bamboo would. You also don't want a lot of man-made fibers mixed in there (like polyester or acrylic) that aren't going to help your cause any. Somebody that has worked with a lot of recycled wool and built up an experience of what works and what doesn't work is invaluable in choosing a recycled wool cover. Just because it's sold as a recycled wool cover doesn't mean it will work. Recycled wool can be a great way to recycle and keep a budget, too!
Wool flannel- this is a woven fabric and usually used in wrap style covers. I've not personally used this so I can't say a whole lot about it other than being a woven, there would not be a lot of stretch to it so this would probably be used on a wrap style cover.
Boiled wool- this is usually a knit but can sometimes be a woven. It is wool that has been commercially felted and is generally no longer stretchy and not the softness you'd want in a diaper cover. I have occasionally seen diaper covers made from boiled wool but have not had personal experience with it.
I'm sure there are other types of wool out there and exceptions to everything I've said. I'm willing to edit and update if I find out new information, but in general these are the types of wool fabrics you'll see being sewn into wool diaper covers. Hope you had fun learning with us!
NOW the super exciting part... and your reward for learning all about the wool you love... TWO sneak peeks for Friday!
The Wonderful World of Wool
So clearly, you all know that those of us here at Wild Coconut Wear LOVE wool and many of you have already caught on to how adorable, fabulous, amazing, fantastic, extraordinary, outstanding, superb (we could go on and on…) it is. So who is this blog post for?
- Those of you who have been cloth diapering for a while but are considering making the switch to wool full-time and need some convincing on just how easy it is and how much you’ll love it
- All of our favorite customers who just want a reminder about why they love their woolies so much (and maybe want to learn a few new, interesting facts!)
Ok, so first of all, let’s get a few things out of the way.
This is not the scratchy, prickly wool like that itchy turtleneck that is stored in the back of your closet.
Wild Coconut Wear products are made from a type of wool known as wool interlock which is selected specifically for it's softness and durability. It is a 95/5 merino wool/spandex blend- interlock meaning it is 95% wool, 5% spandex blended into a single yarn which is knit on a machine into fabric. Interlock means it is a stretchy knit that looks the same on both sides. The spandex gives the fabric stretch and memory to return to it's original state (which means your wool won’t stretch out between washes).The wool used is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified which means it has been tested for harmful substances and produced under environmentally friendly conditions. You can read more about Oeko-Tex here.
This wool is also pre-felted so it’s very difficult to felt…like you really have to work hard at it (we’re talking extreme temperature changes or putting it in the dryer kinda heat). Many of our customers even machine wash their wool on a delicate/wool cycle and air dry- it is much more durable than knits! Hence why it is so easy to take care of…
Wait…what is felting? It's when those stretchy fibers in your woolies start permanently clumping together and shrinking, losing their stretch and size. This is mostly an issue for knits, not interlock. Our interlock is felted (shrunken) first so it remains stretchy and due to the pre-felting, it is much more durable.
Wool is Not Hot!
This magic fiber is naturally temperature regulating and will keep your baby warm in cold weather, and cool in hot weather. It is after all, meant to keep sheep just the right temperature- I’m sure if you asked one, he would definitely convince you that cloth diapering your baby with wool is the right choice ;) The natural fibers allow air to continuously circulate instead of trapping heat like plastic and PUL type alternatives.
Washing and lanolizing my wool will take too much time. LIES, LIES, LIES! More on this later…
Ok, now let’s chat some more about why wool will have you swooning…
First things first, clearly, if you’re diapering your child, leak protection is a must. Lucky for you, that is what wool is known for! Rest assured, wool will keep baby’s clothing, bedding and your lap dry. It initially resists moisture forcing the diaper underneath to soak up as much as possible. Of course your first line of protection IS that absorbent diaper underneath your cover. (Of which there are many options: Prefolds, flats, fitteds, even pockets or all-in-one’s as an extra line of protection. Any diapering system of your choosing will work under your WCW covers!) Once the diaper has reached it’s soaking point, the wool will now begin to soak moisture up itself. The porous outer layers of the fibers quickly absorb (and then evaporate) moisture. It will absorb up to 30% of it’s own weight in moisture without feeling wet to the touch. Say whaaat?! 30%?!? Yep….told ya…magic…
Your Baby’s Skin Will Thank You…
Remember how we talked about the wonderful air circulation that happens with wool? Let’s chat some more about it…That air that is constantly circulating in and out allows baby’s skin to breathe, stay dry and rash/redness free. So many parents turn to cloth diapering to help solve sensitive skin and rash issues. Wool is the answer! It will keep your baby’s skin happy and free of persistent diaper rash. Wool can also be beneficial for those battling with eczema. Anybody that deals with eczema knows you just can’t get enough moisture. Using a good quality, unscented lanolin spray on the inside of your woolies can help to replenish moisture. Lanolin has great healing abilities that help keeps skin soft and moisturized. Some people will try to tell you people with eczema should not wear wool at all because they are likely allergic. Truth is, most people allergic to wool are either sensitive to the type of wool (scratchier varieties) or the chemicals used in processing wool. Most wool used for diapering is the ultra fine variety and minimally processed without those chemicals. Also keep in mind TOO much lanolin will clog up those wonderful air pockets and that will do you no good at all. With a little experimentation, you will be able to find the perfect balance.
If you are dealing with eczema, you might also be dealing with a dust mite allergy. Dust mites cannot tolerate the lanolin in wool. So no need to worry about that just because you aren’t constantly washing your wool that you’ll have a breeding ground for dust mites. Allergy or not, that is a comforting thought ;).
Wool is Odor/Bacteria/Fungal Resistent
Believe it or not, you don’t need to wash your wool every time that it’s worn. Stink is caused by bacteria. You know how we keep bringing up that circulation of air thing…here we go again…since moisture vapor is constantly absorbed and evaporated, it’s not just sitting there waiting for bacteria to grow. In addition to this, lanolin in the wool (either natural or added) actually neutralizes ammonia. In simple terms, this means that the lanolin actually neutralizes pee into salt and water- let me say it again- MAGIC! Simply allow a damp cover to air dry between uses and it will remain stink free! A general rule of thumb that we pass along is that once your wool starts to smell like pee when it’s dry, the lanolin has worn thin and it’s time to wash and re-lanolize.
You Can Pass it Down To the Next Generation…Really!
Wool in general is a tough fiber. Microscopically, each wool fiber is a corkscrew. The spiral shape gives it a memory to bounce back into to original form. It will stand up over time and not break down as quickly as other fibers, for instance cotton. A wool fiber can bend back on itself approximately 20,000 times without breaking vs. about 3,200 for cotton. So your wool clothing items have the potential of being passed down to the next generation if properly stored!On the opposite end of the subject, wool WILL biodegrade. If your beloved woolies meet an untimely end and somehow make their way to a landfill, they will over time break down. Exposed to the elements like that, it will happen much more quickly than a synthetic fiber.
Just because it’s tough doesn’t mean your diapering woolies won’t be comfy. In a later post, we’ll discuss different types of wool fabrics and yarns used in diapering. But for the most part, those used in diapering are made from finer, shorter wool fibers which means they are going to have at least some level of next to skin softness. Assuming you’ve got that covered, wool is generally stretchy and moves well with your baby as she stretches and bends, wiggles, crawls, jumps and runs. An active little one needs active clothing, of course! All without an annoying plastic, crinkly sound. Soft, breathable and stretchy...sounds comfy to me!
It can be budget friendly and double as clothes
Wool can also be an economical choice. It can be as budget friendly (or not) as you want it to be. From inexpensive preloved wool to hand knit with premium yarns right up to artistic pieces. But at the most basic level, only a few pieces are needed, even an exclusively wool stash. And if you are using wool longies/shorties (pants and shorts) that IS the clothing and cover all in one, no additional clothing is needed. You can get by with a rather small wardrobe saving both space, money and laundry. Of course it’s fun to have a larger variety, but not necessary ;).
On that note…my most favorite woolie pro…
IT IS ADORABLE!
Seriously! Look at these kiddos in their woolies! Wool is darn cute and gives you that warm, fuzzy, “homey” feeling. Wool has been used for generations as diaper covers. There’s just something that feels good about carrying that tradition on in our modern, “newer is better”, world. They might even become a family heirloom! There’s something special about having something made with love that your baby can wear, especially when it will most likely attract a lot of compliments!
Don't they all just look so happy in their woolies?!
On a personal note…
I first discovered Wild Coconut Wear when my daughter was a few months old. I had decided to commit to cloth diapering but was getting frustrated with persistent diaper rash and skin irritation. We live in HOT and muggy Florida and I was discovering that the PUL covers we were using were trapping warmth inside and creating a breeding ground for bacteria. So… I started researching and decided to give wool a try. I was lucky enough to stumble onto Wild Coconut Wear and instantly fell in love with wool, for so, so many reasons; the adorable and creative products that Angela creates (we get so many compliments on our woolies), the ease of care, the fact that each product is made by hand, and of course that it solved our persistent rash problem. I can honestly say that in the almost year and a half that we made the switch to full time wool, we have had ONE rash that cleared up after a couple days. It makes me happy knowing that my daughter’s skin is healthy and happy! Woolies aside, we are so thankful to have found such a wonderful community in the Wild Coconut Wear chat group. While I have never met any of the Moms that I have gotten to know online in person, they have cheered me up during difficult days and been a resource for many issues beyond wool questions. Wild Coconut Wear is a big part of our lives and we couldn’t be happier about it!
We asked some of our chat members, lovingly called, “Coconuts,” what they love about wool. Here’s what a few of them had to say!
- “I was wanting to give wool a try, and I found a cute little gnomies soaker on another BST page. Since one of my daughter's name is Naomi I just had to buy the "Hangin' with my Gnomies" soaker for her little sister to wear. I love how wool is so magical. It contains messes, stays cool, functions as clothes, and is low maintenance. I especially love the how easy it is to take care of interlock and how it doesn't get picked like knit does. Wild Coconut Wear is my favorite brand because it is cute, has a great resell value, and is high quality.”
- “I do love that it's a natural material; it makes me feel good to dress my daughter in something that I know isn't toxic. I love WCW for the easy care - interlock beats loose knit, hands down. The adorable patterns are a huge plus - can you say bubble shorties? The dye lots, especially LWI, are ah-mazing. The customer service is spectacular. And the community is wonderful!!”
- “I love the breath-ability. My kids always seem to need "air time" when using PUL. This solves that. I love that interlock is easy to care for! I need something easy these days! I love all the designs and colors of WCW. Oh my. I wish I had a pair of everything in every color every size! This group of ladies are wonderful and supportive.”
- “I love that it's effective and easy care, since ain't nobody got time for fussy laundry routines, and I also love the WCW community.”
- “I started with wool wrap covers and cotton prefolds with my first 7 years ago because I knew I wanted natural fabrics and the breathability of wool. I however did not know about snappis and was afraid of pins so I just basically wrapped the diaper around the baby and secured with the wool cover. I never understood how people used soakers with prefolds, lol. At one point we tried out PUL pockets once my first got too squirmy for prefolds. I then discovered all my babies were extremely heat sensitive (especially in AZ) to synthetic diapers so we switched back to wool full-time. I didn't disover WCW until my 3rd baby thanks to a wonderful mama in my birth community. I love how durable and easy WCW is to wash and use. I also love how any messes are contained in the wool. The best part is how adorable it is and how the covers double as bottoms. I no longer have to put my baby in pants 2 sizes too big to fit over the bulky prefold and wool wrap covers.”
We hope that you enjoyed reading, and hope that wool doesn't seem so intimidating since we were able to squash some of those nasty myths ;) If you're new to WCW (welcome!) and please come join us on our official WCW chat page on Facebook so we can get to know you and help to answer any questions you may have! Follow Wild Coconut Wear on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for fun and updates :) Thanks for reading!