CYA: Wool for Baby Bottoms

This is supposed to be fiber Friday, though I’ve been a total slacker on that front for a while.  It’s not that I haven’t been busy with sewing and knitting and such – I just haven’t written about it.

So in the grand spirit of discipline that I am *so* good at – I am forcing myself at this late hour to pass along some wooly information.  And just so you don’t think I am being too generous – I have to sit here anyway while my wool interlock simmers in the dye pot on the stove.

I was asked to do a custom job for an etsy customer, and like some of my buyers she did not know much about wool and how to care for it as a cloth diaper cover.  There is a wealth of information out there on this, and I will post links, but I would also like to gather some of the most important stuff in one spot.  This is the spot.  Hold onto your hats, mamas – it’s going to be a wooly ride.

Part One:  The nose knows, or Why I Use Wool

Wool makes an excellent cloth diaper cover.  It will hold up to 30% of its weight in liquid without feeling wet to the touch.  The lanolin naturally found in wool reacts with urine and prevents ammonia from forming, which means no odor!  You can add lanolin back to the wool after laundering, and this is called lanolinizing or lanolizing.  Wool diaper covers can be just a cover to be worn under clothing, or shorties or longies (basically shorts or pants) that can be worn as both cover and clothes.  The best part is that wool is breathable, and will not make baby too hot or too cold.  Great stuff for sensitive skin.

Many, many sources will say that wool and / or lanolin is naturally antibacterial.  Someone please cover me – I’m going in:  I have never seen any scientific data to support this.  Urine is actually sterile, except in cases where there is an infection such as a urinary tract infection.  Bacteria from the air decompose the urea in urine, producing the ammonia odor, but as I said, the lanolin interrupts this process.  In any event, wool can be used over and over without laundering, and simply air dried when it gets too wet.  If it gets soiled or starts to smell, it is time to wash it.

Part Two:  Feeling groovy (the fabric basics)

Wool does not have to be scratchy!  There are many different processing methods and types of wool, and much of it is unbelievably soft.   And a blend of fibers including wool can also work as a diaper cover.  Most sources say use something that is at least 50% wool.  I have also had fabulous luck with cashmere, and thrift stores have plenty of it available (more on recycled sweater longies later).  I stick to lambswool or merino wool, angora/nylon/lambswool blends, and cashmere.  Wool with a small amount of acrylic and/or lycra will also work great.

Knit fabrics are much better for longies than woven, because they are stretchy and tend to be softer and thicker.  Wool jersey that has been felted is nice and can be found in great colors, but is a bit pricey.  Wool interlock (either 100% or a 97/3 blend of wool and lycra) makes really nice, comfortable pants or shorts that look like “real” clothing, but again – hard on the wallet.  The fabric can be felted as much or as little as you like.  And of course, you can knit or crochet longies or shorties or a cover from wool or cashmere yarn.  These are gorgeous, and can be found for a good price considering the time and effort put into them.

But my favorites, at least as for the price, are the recycled sweater longies, also known as “butt sweaters.”  Browse your local thrift store, and you will find a goldmine of wool:  Fair Isles, stripes, glitzy, flowery, earthy – you name it.  You can sew them yourself from one of the many free patterns available online, or you can purchase them already made from some wonderful WAHM like (ahem) me.  Or you can scout out the sweaters you like and have someone sew them for you.  Any way you do it, you are reducing strain on resources, reusing a discarded item, and saving an incredible amount of money.  Oh, and your kid will have some funky, fun, one-of-a-kind pants.

No Icky, No Washy, or:  Cloth diapering for the lazy

So I said you don’t have to wash the wool every time you change the diaper, right?  I wasn’t kidding.  I didn’t believe it myself until I tried it.  I can go a couple of weeks or so before I get any odor at all, and sometimes I only wash it because the lanolin makes my hands feel soooo good.  Or if it gets poo on it.  There is that.

To wash, grab dish soap or a castile soap you like (Dr. Bronner’s or Kiss My Face can be found in health food stores,  and Kirk’s Original Coco Castile can be found pretty easily in a Wal-Mart or grocery store, usually with cleaning products or in the laundry aisle).  Fill a basin or the tub or whatever with tepid water and squirt a bit of soap in there.  You can experiment with this.  If you use more than enough, you just might have to rinse a little better.  For bar soap, I just rub a little into the wool on the hot spots then swish in the water.  Wash, wash, swish, la di da…okay, now drain.  Rinse them out a bit, but you don’t have to be too vigorous.  Put some tepid water back in the tub, just enough to cover the wool you have.  Then take some lanolin (I use too much – most folks say use about 1/2″ squirt from a tube like Lansinoh to do 2-3 pairs of longies.  I use more like 1/8 cup, but I’m crazy like that) and put it into a cup or bowl or the mason jar from the moonshine you finished last night.  Add SUPER HOT water and a squirt of soap (any kind, as above).  Swirl it around, and the water should turn milky looking as the lanolin melts and mixes with the soap.  Once the lanolin is melted, dump it in with the wool and squeeze it all through the fabric.  You can let it soak for a while and go watch your stories.  If anyone asks, you are hand washing your knitwear!

Once it has soaked, or not, depending upon your mood, you can do one of two things:  squeeze the water out enough to carry the whole load to your washing machine and send it all through the spin cycle, or squeeze as much as you can out then roll it up in a towel or two and step on it.  Both these methods will leave you with just damp wool.  Then hang it up to dry.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Using very hot water with a lot of agitation, going from very hot to very cold water or vice versa, or drying wool in a hot dryer will SHRINK AND FELT YOUR WOOL.  Um, this would be bad.  Unless they were too big.  And your child is a barbie doll.

So there you have it.  The long and the short of longies and shorties.

Next week’s Fiber Friday will have some links to all kinds of sources for fabric, wool care products, patterns and support groups for wool addicts.  Don’t laugh.  You’ll understand soon.


3 Responses to “CYA: Wool for Baby Bottoms”

  1. I don’t need this info but I wanted to say anyway… GREAT post.

  2. The wierdest place I’ve ever knit was on the toilet.. or maybe that is grossest place. LOL I was there for a long time and wanted to keep the other half of me busy too!

  3. […] is putting the lanolin back into woolens, making them even better diaper covers.  The lanolin neutralizes urine, and so eliminates odor.  You do this by soaking them in a kind […]

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