Sunday, February 24, 2013

How to Measure for Woolies!

Regardless of if you want a lovely pair of custom woolies from my shop, are trying to buy a pair from your local diapering store or a website, or are looking to purchase used, you need to know how to measure your little one to get the best fit. If you are measuring for a custom pair, you will of course get a perfect fit-but if not, at least you can get a good fit! One thing to note: wool is quite stretchy, so it's generally not a great idea to add a whole lot to the measurements-if you do, you may find that you end up with a gorgeous pair of woolies that are too big for your little one! At most, I recommend adding 1/2-1 inch to the rise and 1 inch to the legs.
You Need:
An adorable baby and a measuring tape! The booger sucker is optional. All measurements should be done over a diaper, preferably the diaper or type of diaper you are likely to use with your woolies!

For All Wool Garments

Start at the baby's belly button, then pass the measuring tape down under their crotch

Hold the front of the measuring tape in place, then flip the baby over and bring it up to the top of the back of their diaper.
This can be measured right at belly button level. Wrap the tape around, then read the number!
Do this at the widest part of the baby's hips. Again, just wrap the tape around and then read!

For Longies (Pants)

You can measure leg length several ways. The 2 easiest are below. If your child is old enough, you can also take this measurement while he/she is standing. All should be measured from the diaper's crotch, not the very top of the legs, as most woolies have a gusset that allows extra room for the diaper and is not considered part of the leg length.
Measure your child lying down. Start at the crotch of the diaper and measure down as far as you want the legs to go. Note that most babies bend their knees, so make sure you account for that!

Or find a pair of pants that fits well and measure that from crotch to hem (note, I just grabbed a random pair of pants for this picture-these are too short for my son as you will notice if you look at the measurements! LOL)

For Shorties and Skirties

This is optional, but you may want to measure how long you would like your shorty/skirty to be. If so, you measure from the crotch again, but just stop at whatever point you want the garment to stop.

For Diaper Covers/Soakers

You are going to want to measure the thigh. I like to take this measurement just outside the leg openings of the diaper, since that's where you want the leg openings of your cover to be.
Just wrap around and read!

Side view!

And that's it! Pretty easy, right? Let me know if any of these don't make sense or you want more detailed photos!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fuzz Factor!

So any of you who have used wool for any length of time know that it tends to get a bit fuzzy. If you are new to wool but have been looking into it, you may have noticed the words "needs a shave" in the description for some used items. What is the deal with fuzz?
Well, here's the thing. Sheep's wool is intended as a weatherproof covering. It is designed to stick together and for the fibers to go in multiple directions to prevent the sheep from being impacted by crazy weather changes. Wool also has a good "memory" meaning that the fibers tend to always try to return to their original organization.
This is a photograph of what sheep's wool looks like right after it has been removed from the sheep. Notice the matted fibers (and the dirt! LOL!). This is actually a really good thing because it is part of what "waterproofs" the sheep (this is why sheep are not miserably wet and cold even when standing in the rain). Now, when wool is being prepared to be made into clothing, it goes through a process:
First, it gets carded by hand or machine. Carding is basically running the wool between 2 big brushes to make the fibers lay in the same direction (more or less).
Once it has been carded, the wool looks like this. Notice how the fibers are all more or less in a straight line now.
Then the fun part-it gets dyed into gorgeous colors! Now it is called roving.
Once you get to the roving stage you can either spin it into yarn OR just knit the roving.
Now, this  characteristic of wool is actually one of the major things that makes it most suitable for diapering! The more the fibers stick together, the more absorbent the diaper cover is, because the fibers will fill in the "holes" that are created with knitting. I typically knit out of roving instead of yarn because this makes the cover more absorbent and "leak proof." However, it also makes it slightly "fuzzier" in appearance as a new cover. A cover knit from yarn will have less initial fuzz, but also more holes and thus a bit less absorbency/will leak sooner. So it kind of depends on what you are wanting! If you are ordering from me, if you prefer yarn over roving, please tell me-I am more than happy to do either!
One thing to know about wool though, is that because of the "memory" that I talked about earlier, ALL items that are made out of wool will fuzz eventually. The more wool content, the more tendency to create that fuzzy effect. Because diapering wool is usually at least 75% wool (preferably 100%), the "fuzz factor" is high! So even items made of wool yarn will eventually look fuzzy (though they will probably nto start out looking that way-that completely depends on the yarn used). The other thing to know, especially if you are considering buying used, is that the fuzz does not show up well in photographs. You kind of have to take an out-of-focus, oddly angled photograph to capture it. I tried to do that this morning so you could kind of see....
This is what a pair of woolies made from roving looks like from a "top shot"

The same pair from that weird side angle-you can probably see the mild fuzz. This is probably a typical amount for the type of roving I usually work with. Of note, these have not been lanolized. The lanolization process does decrease the fuzz.

This is my store bought sweater that is 20% wool. I've worn it about 15 times total, I think. You can see the fuzz forming on the bottom, and this sweater was machine knitted from yarn made of 80% cotton and 20% wool.

This is the fuzziest/"worst" roving I have ever worked with, so this is about as bad as you can expect it to get.

This is the leg of a pair of overalls I am working on, knitted from yarn. So you can tell that even yarn can end up pretty fuzzy!

Hopefully those images give you a bit of an idea of what to expect!
Now, I am personally not bothered by a slight bit of fuzziness. To me, it just lends a "soft" look to my baby's woolly bottom, which is okay with me. However, you do have some options if you just hate the fuzzy look-aka shaving your garments (so when you see the phrase "needs a shave" that means the garment has become fuzzy). Please note-no matter what wool fiber (yarn, interlock, roving) your garments are made from, if you want to keep them looking "sharp" and completely not fuzzy, you will have to do this process on a regular basis.
The way a wool shaver works is exactly the same as the way an electric shaver works for a person. It runs over the top and "cuts" the fibers close to the smooth surface of the fabric while vacuuming the cut fibers into a little container. I have not personally used wool shavers, so I cannot give you a review on different brands or suitability for use. I can tell you that I would not recommend using one that looks like this:
The reason is that these types of shavers are intended to pull the errant fibers out instead of clipping them close to the source, and by doing so, you are likely to eventually cause your wool garments to unravel. The good ones look more like this:

This one is being used on a 50% wool sweater (machine knit out of yarn)-you can see the difference between the shaved fibers on the left and the unshaved fibers on the right.
If you are going to purchase a wool shaver, I would recommend that you read lots of reviews first! The thing I would worry most about is the fibers getting caught in the shaver and pulling, potentially creating a hole. I have friends who have told me that this has happened to their sweaters. Even better, if you know of a friend who has a shaver and likes it-go with their brand!
Shavers are pretty easy to use-you just run it over the garment in question!
Hopefully this was helpful-as always, let me know if something was unclear or could use more information!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lanolin-the Magic Behind the Wool!

So by now, hopefully you know that wool is pretty much the most awesome thing to happen to cloth diapering! If you are confused or just want to review the basics, go for it! This  post is for those of you who, like me, are geeky enough to want to know, not just THAT things work, but WHY they work!
So the magic behind the magic, if you will-is this mystery ingredient called lanolin! Lanolin is an oil that sheep naturally produce. It is what helps them to "weather proof" their coats/wool. When wool is processed into something usable for clothing, it is typically washed (usually many times!). This process removes the lanolin. Now, it is also possible to spin and work wool without doing the washing-this is called spinning or combing "in the grease." However, this leaves the wool waterproof enough that it won't take to dye very well, so in most cases, you are not going to find bright colored wool that has been worked this way.
So what does lanolin do when we are talking about diapering? Several key things-in essence, lanolin is what makes your life as a wool diaper cover-user SO much easier!
  • Lanolin helps the wool to wick moisture away from the baby's body and hold it within the wool (you can think of this as helping to waterproof the wool). Wool which is lanolized can hold up to 1/3 its weight in liquid-this is a LOT of liquid when you are considering that diapering wool is the final barrier over a diaper.
  • Lanolin "conditions" the wool and helps keep it soft. It also helps keep the fibers healthy and lying in the same direction-meaning your diaper wool will last longer. But my favorite thing that lanolin does is...
  • Lanolin is the reason your covers are self cleansing! When the diaper wool gets wet (urine), the fibers swell as they absorb the fluid. This causes them to rub lightly over each other. The lanolin (mixed with urine) creates a natural "soap" that neutralizes the uric acid (the "waste" part of urine) and then that "rubbing" motion is just like scrubbing. This is why you can hang damp wool to dry, and when it is dry, it is clean! It won't even smell musty (or if it does, you need to relanolize your garment).
Now, on a sheep, the lanolin is an oil produced by glands within the sheep, so it is constantly replenished. However, since your wool garment is (we hope!) no longer actually attached to the sheep, you will have to replenish the lanolin. On average, this needs to happen once every 4-12 weeks, depending on how you are using the garment and how many times the lanolin is "used."
Lanolin comes in all forms:
This is solid lanolin-you can buy it from Amazon or Ebay. I use Medela or Lansinoh (the kind you get for breastfeeding issues) because I have that left over from when my guy was little. It is not expensive!

This is liquid lanolin/wool wash. This is readily available-just make sure when you are buying it that it has a high concentration of lanolin (there are wool washes that are made for clothing items, but you want ones made specifically for diapering!).
If you need instructions on how/when to lanolize and wash, feel free to check out these posts.
Also, don't forget that there is a soaker up for grabs (for FREE!) here!
Happy Friday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wool As a Diaper Cover

So now we have covered some of the basics of how wool works, what some of the differences are between types of wool, and how to care for wool. Does anyone have any questions about any of these topics? Or is there another burning question that you would like help troubleshooting? Please let me know! You can message me via facebook ( or leave a comment here.
I'm going to do sort of a "wool basics wrap up post" and the next few posts will cover some things in more detail-and then I'm going to have to get creative or maybe just chatty! :-)
So why does wool work well as a diaper cover? The easiest answer is that it absorbs liquid (ie urine!) very well, it is soft, and it is beautiful! There are lots of different things you can use as a diaper cover-PUL/plastic (this is what typical cloth diaper covers are made with), fleece, and wool are the most common ones. You do have to use an actual diaper under all these types of covers, by the way! None of them are absorbent enough to be a diaper in and of themselves.
Key things that set wool apart from other types of diaper covers:
  • Natural fiber-both PUL and fleece are manmade/synthetic fibers. This is not bad in and of itself, but some kids are sensitive to the materials in PUL and/or fleece as well as the materials in regular diapers. Even if this is the case for your child, wool is worth a try!
  • Breathes-even though we are used to thinking of wool as intended for warmth and winter garments, wool actually "breathes" very well, and does not transfer heat or hold it in-it actually helps you maintain your current body temperature! (sheep are not sheared during the summer because they are hot, but rather because summer is the only time of year when they can survive without their coats long enough to re-grow them as we use their fleece for something else! They'd be perfectly happy to stay "clothed" year round) PUL and fleece both hold heat in-again, not necessarily bad in and of itself, but some children are sensitive to this.
  • Easy to care for-unlike fleece, you don't have to wash and treat it every time you use it, but rather about once every 4 weeks to 3 months, depending on how you are using it and how big your rotation is. PUL is the easiest type of diaper cover to care for, hands down. But wool is not nearly as hard as most people think!
  • Absorbs excess liquid as opposed to trapping it against the child's skin (which is how both fleece and PUL keep kids dry).
  • Can double as both your diaper cover AND clothing in one!
At the end of the day, your choice of diaper cover is going to depend on a lot of factors, many of which are personal in nature! No one can make that decision for you. However, most people I know who have tried wool LOVE it-some convert completely to wool for their diaper coverage, and other people use it as one of several options in their rotation!
Oh, and one more thing-even if you use disposable diapers, wool can serve you well! Aren't you tired of washing the sheets every night? If you use a wool garment as pajama pants/shorts, you probably won't have to anymore! Just put it on over the diaper, and no more wet sheets. :-)