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Types of Wool Commonly Used for Cloth Diapers

Angela Landin

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!


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