Cloth Diaper Geek’s
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
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
|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|
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:|
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
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:
4. Special Features of Wool Covers:
Gussets and Diaper Art
“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.
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
Natural Simplicity Cover
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
Top Picks f
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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