My wool conversion for cloth diapering and why it may be right for you

I absolutely love wool items for babies. Wool is so soft, warm, breathable, comforting and snuggly. I started my wool conversion after a few months of cloth diapering my son. I had been using mainly cotton prefolds and Flip or Econobum covers from Cotton Babies, a local St. Louis company that I highly recommend for any cloth diaper needs. I love Cotton Babies and all their fabulous products, but I also can’t afford more than their cheapest options, one of which is the $1 prefolds, which is super economical. However, the cotton prefolds need a waterproof barrier, and as much as I liked the fit and look of the adorable covers, I started not really loving the PUL fabric after a while. PUL stands for PolyUrethane Laminated, and is a cotton or polyester blend fabric that has been coated with basically a thin layer of plastic on the inner side. (See PUL fabric info for more info.) It’s quite genius, really, and you can find all sorts of adorable prints these days that look just like regular fabric on the outside, yet are totally waterproof on the inside. It’s great for puddlepads on the bed to protect your mattress from wetness as well. I loved the idea, loved the products, and soon had tons of baby supplies with PUL fabric and yearned for more. I thought I would cover the bed, rugs, and couches with the stuff, not to mention my baby’s little cute bottom. I’m somewhat of a clean freak, especially when it comes to wetness. As a California girl, I am still not used to dampness and mold. I love my desert weather after all these years, thank you very much! And damp mattresses… I shudder to even imagine it.

However, after months of using PUL puddle pads and diaper covers, my son started getting diaper rashes. I know diaper rashes are pretty commonplace with babies these days, but I’m not the slather-on-a-medicine-and-call-it-a-day type of person. I knew it was from the PUL fabrics; every time I took off his diaper it radiated heat and the ammonia smell was stifling. Nighttime was especially bad, and sometimes if he filled up a diaper so much it would start to trickle out the sides of the cover and onto the bed. And my son does not stay contained on the small surface of a puddle pad throughout the night. Did I mention how much wet mattresses bother me? It was a nightmare!

I knew there was a better solution out there so I started researching. I found out that most of the world doesn’t use disposable diapers, plastic pants or PUL fabrics to waterproof their babies, as these haven’t been around that long. Most people throughout the centuries have turned to wool as a waterproof layer over simple cotton cloth diapers. The first reaction I had to wool was “hot” and “scratchy.” Not very comfortable on a baby, right? But I soon found out that wool is much more breathable than plastic or polyester, allowing temperatures to regulate and the baby to feel warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And even with a wet diaper against their bottoms, the wool keeps them feeling comfortable, even outside on a chilly day! See wool as a diaper cover for more. And wool doesn’t have to feel scratchy like the sweater your grandma knitted you in the ’80s (sorry, grandma). Merino wool and wool roving and even cashmere can be used, and they’re absolutely luxurious to the touch! Plus, the way to wash wool is super simple; all you’re really doing is adding more lanolin, the oil naturally found in the wool that gets washed or worn out. Lanolin makes the wool softer, and this is what makes it water-repellant, kinda like how ducks oil their feathers so that water rolls off their backs. But instead of the wetness simply rolling off like it does on PUL fabric, and then straight onto my mattress (!!!), wool absorbs up to 40% of it’s weight in liquid while still feeling dry! So it absorbs the run-off, and it’s still clean because of the natural anti-microbial properties of the wool, and all you have to do is air it out a bit between uses. And every month or so, once you smell a bit of the pee-ammonia smell when it’s dry (you can’t smell anything for weeks of use, it’s amazing!), then you put a tiny bit of lanolin in a tub of water and soak them for a while, then let dry and use again for another month! It really is the easiest care ever.

So if I haven’t converted you yet, let me tell you that we have had no diaper rash since switching to wool covers, and no wet mattresses or car seats! What a relief to momma. I have a wool puddle pad on the bed under a thick cotton pad, and he wears a wool cover I knitted him over his nighttime diaper (hemp or bamboo absorb the most), and we’ve added high-waisted wool pajama pants on top of that recently. The only accidents we would have at night was when he would squirm around so much that the wool cover would get pulled down a bit, and if that diaper came into contact with the cotton pajamas at all, they would wick the moisture onto them. So now we double up at night for squirm-proofing! But he never smells like ammonia anymore, he’s never red-bummed or has any rashes whatsoever, and he seems so much more comfortable, even in summer. And his woollies are the cutest ever, which brings me to the fun part of this post!

I started off knitting woollies, and I have made about 20 by now for myself or friends. You can see my Ravelry page for most of them (my user name is amacherie if it doesn’t take you directly to my projects), and see what patterns I use, but I have recently designed my own pattern and will be publishing that on this site soon. Here are some of my favorites:

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After more than a year of slowly knitting adorable woollies, I needed a way to get my fix faster. Plus, it is getting increasingly difficult to knit with a toddler who wants to steal your yarn and pull your needles out of your stitches and then run around the house playing keep-away with you! So I hauled my ancient Singer sewing machine to the shop for a tune-up, headed to Goodwill for some wool sweaters, shrunk them all in the washing machine (we all know how to do that, right? I was already excellent at that part), and sewed up some super fast, absolutely adorable woollies for my little man and some friends as well. And WOW is this the most inexpensive way to go; I can score an XL wool or cashmere sweater at a thrift store for $3 and make at least three woollies out of it! And if you’ve shopped for new or handmade woollies lately, you know how insanely expensive they are. I’m talking $50-$70 for pants (aka longies) and even more for sleep sacks, close to $100! And while these wool creations are gorgeous and some of the handmade items on Etsy can be classified as works of art, I’m a thrifty momma and these are things that are meant to be peed on, after all. Plus, Macklemore would be proud of my thrift store creations. (Video contains expletives. But if you haven’t seen it already I would be very surprised. Excuse me while I go watch it another five times.) Here’s just the tip of the iceberg of my creations, because I can whip these out in no time flat now!

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And here’s my latest: wool sleep sacks for the new baby! Although it looks like I will be making one for Marlon next, as he loves wearing the much-too-small baby one! The green and blue one is cashmere on the top… heavenly soft!

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I just realized when looking through all my photos how much my son doesn’t wear pants! We have done some ECing (elimination communication) and are now going potty pretty regularly, so at home we look like this most of the time:

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This is a knitted wool “EC belt” and a prefold tucked in and it’s great for potty learning as well! We love our sumo-wrestler look.

I’ll be posting tutorials for recycled wool sweater creations like these (reversible) diaper covers, pants, shorts, and sleep sacks shortly! Which styles are your favorite? Anyone else have a love of wool baby items? I’d love to see your creations as well. Comment here or tweet me @laughingfoxcrft and I’ll give you a shout-out! I’m new to Twitter and really all social media, so come see me there and on Pinterest at LaughingFoxCrft!

Have fun crafting!