Cloth Diaper Geek’s
Recommended Wool Covers and Wool-in-Ones: Introduction
by Karla Fischer

[Introduction to wool]


Aristocrat Soaker from Natural Babies.com

 Elbeebaby

Fuzbaby 
Fuzbaby image by Marc Pehkonen, Used by permission, (c) copyright 2003 Fuzbaby

Righteous Baby 

For many cloth diapering parents, wool is a natural choice.  The use of wool covers can be traced back to the 1940’s, when “soakers”, diaper covers knitted with heavy yarn, were the cover of choice to keep babies dry.  See more about the history of diapers and covers here or here).

Modern wool covers include soakers that look and function much like their 1940’s counterparts, with the exception that some are knit with multicolored yarm that has been hand dyed with Kool-Aid.  Wool covers also come in wonderfully soft, trim-fitting fabric, closing with aplix (velcro) or snaps. Some are designed to be paired with a snap-in soaker, which transforms them into a convenient one-step diapering system (called a “wool in one”).  One trend in the cloth diapering world is the availability of wool covers that sport beautiful and colorful appliques or embroidery, rightfully called “diaper art”, a term coined by Fuzbaby.

Wool is the only diaper cover that is composed of natural fibers, which increases the health benefits of cloth diapering.  Wool helps to regulate body temperature, keeping your baby warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool can “breathe”, which means that it allows air to circulate in and out of the cover.  At a microscopic level, wool is composed of many hairs:  each hair (similar to human hair) is like a shaft covered with overlapping scales that form a cuticle.  Moisture rolls off these cuticles, like water off a duck’s back.  The wool hairs snarl together to create many tiny air pockets that trap moisture. Wool has a unique combination of features that do not exist (together) in any other kind of diaper cover:  it breathes, it repels water, and it absorbs moisture.  You can learn more about the qualities of wool here

Don’t Be Afraid of Wool

Wool is easy to care for:  not time consuming (a few minutes per week), not demanding, definitely pleasurable at times.  Some covers are designed to be washed and dried by machine.  Even if that is not the case, it is not easy to ruin a wool cover.  Unless the maker or manufacturer states otherwise, wool can be machine washed on a gentle cycle in either cold or lukewarm water.

 If using a natural wool wash product such as Eucalan (available in either regular scent with eucalyptus or a luscious lavender scent, see here for excellent prices on small bottles and gallon sizes).  You can use a “prewash” cycle on your washing machine because the Eucalan does not need to be (and shouldn’t be) rinsed out.  Alternatively, you can hand wash in your sink (soaking for approximately 20 minutes), spin out in your washing machine, and hang to dry.  Or you can squeeze out the excess water with a towel.

A collapsible drying rack allows covers to lie flat and dry more quickly. Some people prefer baby shampoo to Eucalan, and you can also use Sensi-Clean (or Sportswash, available in the camping section at some Wal-Mart's) to wash wool.  Depending on the type of cover, you may need to” lanolize” it occasionally.  Soaking the cover in lanolin replaces the natural oil found in wool, and the lanolin coats the wool fibers to make the cover more water resistant. You can use any brand of pure lanolin (available at any drug store, including Lansinoh, marketed as a breastfeeding nipple cream), and lanolin also comes in a liquid form.

There are two problems with wool care that are sometimes reported by consumers, and both are easily correctable.  First, should you shrink a wool cover (e.g. by washing it with the diapers on hot, as I have done), you can return the cover to very close to its original size by an easy procedure that involves soaking it in a mixture of hair conditioner and water and then stretching it by hand.  Second, a cover that bleeds some of its dye into the wash can be fixed by a rinse in warm water until it runs clear, and then a soak in warm water and vinegar.  Many covers will not shrink even if machine washed and dried on hot, nor will they bleed into the wash water (because the fabric has already been washed and dried prior to making the cover). You can find more detailed instructions for wool care here.

Given the easy care of wool, its beauty and its ability to keep baby cool even in summer, your cloth diapering experience (and your baby’s) will be enhanced by using wool.  If you want to try out (or try more) wool covers, I hope you will find the additional information I provide below helpful in making your choices.

The Basics on Wool Covers
As you explore the websites that offer wool diaper covers, you will find a variety of wool fabrics used.  With the exception of knitted soakers, wool covers are made from fabric that has been felted:  machine washed and dried on hot, which reduces shrinkage as well as pulls the wool fibers together, making them more water resistant.  Some covers are made from wool flannel, which refers to wool fabric that is soft but has very little give to it.  This is advantageous if you need to use the cover to hold the diaper closer to your baby’s body (e.g. with a folded prefold) or to prevent the diaper from shifting as your child moves around.  Other covers are made from wool jersey, which is wool fabric that has a fair amount of stretch to it, which can improve the fit of the cover and reduce bulkiness.  Usually, wool flannel is smooth, while wool jersey has a lovely bumpy texture.  Both come in a variety of colors, and occasionally simple stripe or plaid prints.  The trimmest wool covers have just one layer of wool fabric (sometimes called a “day weight” cover, while others have two layers of wool fabric (sometimes called “night weight”).  Obviously, a wool cover with two layers of wool fabric will be more water resistant and absorbent—although many people report that one layer covers work well for them, both during the day and at night.  Some WAHM’s or makers use recycled wool from sweaters or other clothing in their soakers or covers
The Purpose Behind the Reviews Here
I compiled this list for my own reasons as well as to serve the cloth diapering community.  It is, in part, a celebration of the hard-working and enormously talented WAHM’s who are the predominant source of wool cover makers.  I also did this to feed my own cloth diapering obsession, and to challenge myself to learn and understand more about the fabric, design, and construction involved in wool covers.  I do not claim to be an expert, except to the extent that being an observant consumer and web-browsing develops expertise.  I have also found that in the internet world of cloth diapering, the WAHM makers of cloth diapers can become controversial.  A recommendation here is not a personal endorsement of a WAHM or her business practices.  Rather, it is a judgment that the public reviews and my own experience justify the product as one of good quality.  However, finding a good quality product will only take you so far in cloth diapering if you have a hard-to-fit baby or a heavy wetter.  You will also need to find a product that works for the body type and absorbency needs of your baby.  What I wanted to do in this document is to provide an overview of the options available in wool covers, and the pros and cons of the different styles.  I believe that this document will be most useful if you use the reviews to narrow your choices to the style of cover that appeals to you, and then read the referenced online reviews of that product or company. I hope that these reviews and introduction is helpful to those considering or just starting out cloth diapering, as well as to those who use and love wool covers already.
The Wool Covers Reviewed Here

With two exceptions, the wool covers reviewed here are recommended because they have sufficient public reviews (two or more) on at least one of the public cloth diapering review sites.  Some have more reviews than others, and while I eliminated any product or maker who had substantial negative feedback, you will find that some products have mixed reviews.  These are included because it is useful to read what others do not like in a cover when making your own decisions.  I also only included covers that are presently available now (June 2003):  like many small businesses, WAHM’s or diapering companies close up shop, and I eliminated any products where the websites for purchasing were disabled or seemed to be inactive.  I have tried to be as comprehensive and objective as possible in my reviews, but I believe it is impossible to be completely unbiased or accurate.  I have personally used or seen many of the covers that are reviewed or are my top picks.  Any errors that I have made are unfortunately my own responsibility, with the caveat that I think I can blame my active two year old for at least some of the sleep deprivation that has led to it.

The Categories Included in the Reviews
There are more than 30 wool covers recommended here.  Most covers are listed by their maker/manufacturer name since they are more easily recognizable that way, and also because many sites offer several different kinds of wool covers and the diapering reviews are typically linked to maker/manufacturers.  The reviews are organized one of four basic wool cover styles illustrated by the following photographs:

These four styles of wool covers differ based on how closely they fit, their closure, and their fabric.  Wool wraps “wrap” tightly around a fitted or prefold diaper and close in the front with Velcro.  Wool soakers are knitted or crocheted by hand and/or machine, and are styled like wool underpants, with soft cuffs at the waist and legs.  Pull up covers have the underpants style as soakers, but they are made with wool fabric rather than knitted or crocheted. Wool covers may close either on the front or the side, with snaps or (less commonly) with aplix.  More information about the pros and cons of each style is available in the introduction to the reviews of each style. The recommended covers for each style are reported in the Comparison Charts, where you will also find information on each of the following categories:

1.   Price.  Each cover that is reviewed lists the approximate retail price for a size large cover (some covers differ in price based on size, some do not).  Be aware that prices for covers are subject to change without notice.

2.    Where to Buy.  A website address where each cover can be purchased is reported.  If the cover is widely available, then a diapering company with positive ratings for customer service and competitive price was selected for the website.  Before you purchase any cover, it is worthwhile to conduct an internet search to compare price and availability.

3.   Reviews Online.  Because the covers were selected based on the available online reviews, I have also included the website references for where you can read these reviews. As indicated earlier, only covers that have substantial positive reviews were included here.  Each of the four cloth diapering review sites has slightly different policies and procedures:       

MacSpeno: Consumers may leave completely anonymous reviews here, and the reviews are organized alphabetically by company name.  The entire website is dedicated to cloth diaper reviews, and it is hosted by an individual unaffiliated with any diapering company.

DiaperPin:  Consumers may leave reviews after registering, and the reviews are organized alphabetically by product name and/or company name.  DiaperPin contains a wealth of cloth diapering information, and is affiliated with diapering companies only when they advertise with them (banners and products section).

Mothering.com:  Attached to the cloth diapering board which is well-known for its cloth diapering loving mamas are the Diaper Review threads.  Reviews are organized by Company name, and reviewers may leave reviews after they have registered and have made at least 50 posts.

BornToLove:  The cloth diaper reviews may be anonymously left by consumers.  Born to Love is a Canadian  diapering company that sells a wide variety of cloth diapering supplies, and is one of the oldest companies around.

4.    Special Features of Wool Covers:  Gussets and Diaper Art   The availability of gussets as a design feature of wool wraps or covers is important enough to mention here.  Gussets refer to an extra semi-circle of wool fabric that attaches between the leg binding and cover.  That means that there are two blocks to messy escapes:  the elastic around the leg opening and the fabric edge of the gusset.  Gussets are useful for fitting over fitted diapers that are serged (ruffled) around the legs, as well as helpful in containing messes inside and preventing leaks.  Gussets were first used on fitted diapers for the purpose of preventing “blowouts”, and their use on covers is at least as effective, if not more.  Only a small number of wool wraps and covers are designed with gussets, and this feature will be noted in the comparison charts and accompanying information.  

“It’s Diaper Art” says fuzbaby.com, about its hand-dyed covers and lovely appliqués in the Diaper Garden. 

See the lovely wool covers that coined the phrase in the Diaper Garden mini-wheel of the year here

Items from nature are often found among the diaper covers that constitute “diaper art.”  You might be able to find a Fuzbaby “eggplant” wool cover, a Sugar Peas cover appliquéd with peas in a pod, a Righteous Baby carrot appliqué.  A favorite appliqué category is animals, including domestic animals, zoo animals, mother and baby animals—even relatively unpopular animals like skunks and hyenas.  Other appliqués that I have seen include alma mater symbols, abstract designs, coffee beans, world globes and dancing figures, and other designs limited only by the imagination of WAHM’s and their customers.  An appliqué is a design in wool sewn onto the front or back of a diaper cover.  In the first photo below, a cluster of snap pea flowers and a snap pea adorns the back of this gorgeous Sugar Peas cover.  In the second photo, the appliqué is created by using the hand-dyed blue background of the wool cover as part of the appliqué:  each piece of fabric is separately sewn and the separate pieces (together with the blue background) create the fish designs.  In the third photo, this Kool Sheep Soaker illustrates that appliqués are not just for wool covers, but can be part of wool soaker design as well.  The creator of this stunning soaker knitted the freeform design on the back into the soaker.

Samples


Sugarpeas


KoolSheepSoaker

Natural Simplicity Cover

Righteous Baby
Embroidery is another form of diaper art, and Ann at Righteous Baby is well-known for her free machine embroidery and her creative designs, which include “portrait” diapers of your baby:  Other makers use machine designs that are cute as well as colorful.  The availability of appliqués and embroidery is noted in the reviews below.

5.  Top Picks for each category  I list my favorite or most recommended covers, based on my subjective impression of the quality and function of the various wool covers.  By “subjective impression”, I mean my personal experience using this product, my interpretation of the enthusiasm of the public reviews, and my recollections about what others have said informally on the various cloth diapering boards that I have participated in or read.

copyright (c)2003Karla Fischer May not be reprinted without permission

[Introduction to wool]
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