Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Benefits of Wool

I was recently asked to write a guest post for Cow Patties Cloth Diapers about the use of wool as a cloth diaper cover. I thought that it would be a great idea to share what I had written with all of my followers here. I am going to include the information that I compiled about washing and lanolinizing in a separate post. You can also visit CPCD Blog to see my post and some additional information from other contributors. Enjoy!

Wool is a natural protein fiber that comes from sheep. If you look at it under a microscope, you will see that it is covered by interlocking scales (the cuticle). This structure, combined with the sebaceous grease that coats the fiber as it emerges from the follicle (lanolin), is what makes wool water repellent. However, water repellency is only one of the reasons that wool is used for cloth diaper covers. Aside from water repellency, there are several other factors that contribute to the success of wool as a cloth diaper cover.

Wool is environmentally sustainable. If you are cloth diapering you are already contributing to global change. But did you know that using wool products supports local farmers throughout the world? Most wool is produced organically or with low use of harmful chemicals. The processing of wool requires very little environmental impact compared to other natural fibers or man-made fibers. And, wool can be reused multiple times, and even upcycled when it is no longer needed for it's original purpose.

Wool breathes, meaning it is hygroscopic; able to absorb and release moisture as needed. In fact, most wool fiber can absorb up to three times its weight in moisture. That moisture then evaporates back into the air. This evaporative process gives wool a natural cooling and heating system, keeping sheep (and humans) warm and dry. When used as a cloth diaper cover, it wicks moisture away from your baby's skin. Keeping baby's bottom dry is key to preventing diaper rash. It is the reason why you CAN use wool in the the summer months. It is also the reason why wool is a better choice than PUL, for cloth diaper covers. PUL (polyurethane laminated fabric) is basically plastic backed fabric. While PUL is waterproof and can be autoclaved (sterilized in extreme heat), it does have a few drawbacks. PUL is designed to trap moisture and prevent it from leaking. Since PUL does not wick, moisture stays trapped against baby's skin, which can lead to irritation and rashes. PUL also traps heat in the same fashion that a disposable diaper does. It does not have the same temperature regulating properties of wool, therefore in the summer months a child can become warm from wearing a PUL cover versus a wool cover. Finally, PUL is not biodegradable. The process for manufacturing PUL covers is not environmentally friendly (it's actually quite toxic), and relies on the availability of our already taxed petroleum resources.

Wool is very poor at conducting static electricity, therefore, it is the least likely fiber to attract dirt and dust. Even dust mites hate wool. This is great for allergy sufferers, or those with sensitive skin. In fact, if someone is allergic to wool, it is likely not so much an allergy, as it is a hypersensitivity to the texture of the scales scratching on a person's skin.

Wool is naturally antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial. Wool inhibits the growth of microbes because those things tend to be attracted to smooth, positively charged surfaces, like those of synthetic fibers, rather than the scaly, neutrally charged surface of wool. This means that even with heavy use, wool diaper covers usually do not have ammonia build up, or other bodily odors, as they are both caused by bacterial growth. Wool will not trap and retain odors from outside sources either (pets, smoke, food), a simple 'airing out' is all that is needed. Finally, frequent washes are not necessary. Unless the garment is soiled (poop), stained, or has gone through several soaking wet diapers, you can simply leave it out to dry for a few hours.

Finally, wool is flame and fire resistant. The wool fibers are structured in such a way that if exposed to flame, they will smolder and try to extinguish themselves. Which is why wool is used to make fire blankets, rugs, curtains, bedding, mattresses, and other upholstery. This also makes it a great choice for infant and children's clothing.

One of the other great advantages of using wool as a cloth diaper cover is that there are so many options available. First, let's look at the different manifestations of wool, including interlock, knit, and upcycled products. Then, we'll discuss the different types of garments that can be made with these variations on the wool fiber.

Wool interlock is a knit fabric that comes in varying percentages of wool. For cloth diapering you want to find garments made from 100% wool interlock, or a 97% wool and 3% lycra blend (lycra adds some stretch to the wool). Since this type of wool behaves like fabric, it can be cut and sewn into a variety of different garments, and can take on the look of 'regular' clothes.

Knit garments are produced by knitting or crocheting wool yarn. It is important to use 100% wool yarn when making cloth diaper covers, as synthetic fibers can inhibit the very properties that make wool so successful. There are several different types of wool yarn; Merino, Cormo, Rabouillet, Cestari, Corriedale, Blue Faced Leicester, to name a few. What you use can be a matter of personal preference, although some are softer, some are more sturdy, and others have more of a luster and take dye well. You can also choose to use mass-manufactured wool or small production hand-dyed, hand spun wool.

Upcycled products are cloth diaper covers made from recycled sweaters. Old sweaters are cut and sewn, just like interlock, to produce a variety of wool garments. These covers can be made from any type of wool, including Cashmere. Sometimes, if the original sweater is too 'holey' or loosely knit, the garment is felted (purposely shocked by shrinking and and locking the fibers together irreversibly), then cut and sewn.

There are so many cute ways in which wool has been used to make cloth diaper covers. There are six basic garment choices available; longies, shorties, skirties, soakers. Whichever way you choose to use it, you can't go wrong with wool.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tiny Little Hats

Once I finished setting up our Etsy storefront, I decided to rework some of our hat patterns so that they would fit little newborn heads. There are so many cute hat designs on Etsy, and I knew that our line would work really well in that community.

For the most part the process was fairly simple. It required some simple math, and a set of needles with a smaller circumference. I like working with twelve inch circulars, however, most people find them annoying, but they are useful. I also cast on loosely, which served a twofold purpose; to give the initial rows some stretch, and to make the finished piece comfortable for sensitive little noggins.

This whole process inspired me to create a few new designs as well. I am pretty pleased with what I ended up with. There was only one 'failure'. I am just not happy with the final design, so I'll save that one for a FFS OOAK giveaway in the future.

I produced nine different newborn hats, then sent them off to our photographer, Christie Adams. She did our one year and family portraits, so I knew the photos would be fantastic. I'll be using these images for our shop listings on HyenaCart and Etsy. And eventually update our promotional materials with a few.

She's started to send me back some examples of what she's captured. The photos are absolutely stunning, and they give me baby fever.

The Reese Hat.
This is probably my favorite hat.
It's a completely original design, and it works well with newborns and older kids.
We've even had a few adults order this beanie.

The Matty Hat.
This is an adaptation on a design that I saw somewhere.
We had to figure out the pattern, but the style is pretty generic.
I love the little 'ears' at the top corners.
This little guy wasn't a fan of wearing hats though, and put up a little fight.

Here he looks more comfortable.
You gotta love the newborn sleepy stage.

I can't wait to see what else she is able to photograph in the coming weeks. As she completes the images I'll be posting them here to share with all of you.

In the meantime, if you are interested in seeing more of Christie's work you can check out her blog at Christie Adams Photography. She is a gem to work with, and as you can see, very talented.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet Baby Bottoms & Knoodle Knits Giveaway!

Sweet Baby Bottoms Giveaway #3 w/Knoodle Knits!

Christine over at Knoodle Knits has offered up her knitting and is giving you a chance to win a Matty Hat! She does beautiful knitting work and I'm honored to have the opportunity to allow people a chance to WIN one! Now, after you look at these pictures, scroll down and find out how you can win! Make sure to share this with your friends and family! Also, make sure you check KK out on - UHmazing longies up there right now!

Entries need to be posted here on this post of the SBB blog for Giveaway #3.

1) Like Knoodle Knits and Sweet Baby Bottoms on Facebook. Post one entry for each.
2) Become a Google Follower of Knoodle Knits: Post once for your entry.
3) Follow Knoodle Knits on Twitter @knoodleknits. Post here with your @name.
4) Place Knoodle Knits' button in your blog found on their blogspot. Post up with a link to your blog.
5) Blog about this giveaway . Post here with a link to the blog post.

Winner will choose their favorite colors and size needed, please make sure that it is easy for either Christine or myself to contact you. I will announce the winner on the Sweet Baby Bottoms Facebook Page on August 22nd, after 5pm Pacific Time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Finding Your Limit

I'm one of those people that has a need to multitask. I have always been most productive when engaged in more than one project at once. If I have too much idle time on my hands I tend to accomplish very little. And I have little patience for the people in my life that cannot function in this same manner.

With the end of summer in sight, (yes, I'm obsessing about it) I am starting to feel a familiar, quiet anxiety creep back into my thoughts. This is the time of year that I start to experience insomnia; laying awake until sunrise thinking about all the projects that I want (need) to complete before the school year commences. Some are personal, others home related, but most focus on preparations for the upcoming school year and our knitting business.

In a desperate attempt to capture all of those brilliant ideas that I come up with in the middle of the night, I now have no less than six projects on the needles. Three custom orders, a giveaway item, and three different hat designs. So, make that seven total. I probably would have more in the works, but I ran out of the appropriate sized needles.

Now this may seem overwhelming to most people. In fact, my mom (and business partner), commented that she likes to finish something before starting something else. But I actually do much better work when I have several different things in progress. And I have a completely rational reason as to why I would have seven projects in the queue.

Sometimes a design gets tedious, and I need to step away from it before completely frogging it. There was this skirtie I was recently working on, and it actually made me mentally itchy at times. Poor Megs waited nearly three months to get it. It's probably a good thing we are friends, or I may have given up. Incidentally, I try to get most custom orders done within three weeks.

Some projects are good for knitting when watching TV, because they don't really require too much mental concentration. The physical act of knitting becomes zen-like in these instances. Sort of like driving a familiar route, and finding yourself there without really remembering the last three miles of the journey. Those typically involve sweaters and longies, when there are large body volumes of straight stockinette to be worked.

Other knitting techniques and patterns have become second nature to me, and they can be worked on in the dark. There are nights that I sit in Boog's room waiting for him to go to sleep, knitting by touch, with only the faint glow of The Turtle Light. Some tiny hat designs can be worked this way, or leg cuffs and waistbands.

Then there are those projects that require my undivided attention. They contain complicated stitches, or unfamiliar pattern. They projects, while daunting, help to keep my mind from becoming total mush. I have this custom sweater in the works for a fisherman friend. I can only work on that when everyone else in the house is asleep, otherwise I have to frog several rows. Not something you want to do when working on cables.

So I don't really think it is too strange to have seven different things going at once. It keeps me interested in what I do, and I believe that helps to maintain the quality of our work.

The waistband for a pair of medium longies. I originally used the brown as trim for a custom order that I just started, but I didn't like the way the warm undertones of the brown contrasted with the cooler tones of the green. So I paired it with a heathered red, which should be perfect for a late September stocking.

The new trim for the custom longies mentioned above. A much better compliment. The colorway is Cathedrals from Three Irish Girls. There are some really rich tones in this colorway, with subtle hints of blue and grey throughout. This heathered grey trim was purchased from a LYS, and is a near perfect match. The waistband has already been cast on; once it's complete and there are a few rows of the main colorway done I'll post an updated photo.

The trim and body color for a new hat design that I am configuring. The oatmeal colored trim has been seed stitched. The body of the design will be done in half linen stitch in a gorgeous pumpkin color. This is hat will be perfect for the Fall. I have a surprise up my sleeve for this one, and it will be unlike anything else we've stocked thus far.

Another new hat design, in it's initial stages. I'm about three rows into it here. The finished design will be for my Facebook Fans giveaway winner, Christie, a professional photographer. I may frog it and start over though, because I've changed my mind on how I want the finished piece to look. I'm also playing with sizing; this needs to fit a new newborn baby during a photo shoot. The yarn itself is a beautiful baby alpaca tweed in a natural base, with red, yellow, blue and green flecks throughout. A perfect choice for gender neutral baby items.

There are three more projects cooking, but I'm not quite ready to show them off yet.

A Yarn Nerd's Summer Reading

One of the goals I set for myself this summer was to read at least one book, cover to cover. I used to be an avid reader, however, my high needs toddler and husband (yes, he can be high needs too), a full time teaching career, and a flourishing knitting business all supersede that. So with eight weeks of "freedom" I figured that I would have enough time to read something that I was interested in. Don't laugh, but here are my summer reading selections. I'm about a third of the way through each.

This, however, is what I should be reading, as I will be teaching Advanced Placement Art History again this Fall. Mind you, this course will rob me of precious knitting time. I love art history, and I love teaching it, but I am not really looking forward to it this year. My priorities have changed, and I don't really want to give up my knitting time.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Making Friends Monday

Welcome to Making Friends Monday Blog Hop, hosted byLiving on Love and Cents, Mon Cheri, The Thrifty Things, Reviewed By Mom , Coupons are Great.

Each week we will randomly pick a Spotlight Blog of the Week! To be choosen you must follow the rules and have our button somewhere on your blog. (We have to be able to find it!) This week's Spotlight is Merideth from Mommy is Crafty!

Hi, I'm Merideth! My blog, MommyIsCrafty, is all about my life as Mommy to my 2 1/2 year old daughter, Adison. I love crafting, photography, tinkering in photoshop, shopping, cooking, and trying new things. I share all of the above and more on my blog. I've already done one great giveaway, and coming up soon are reviews and more giveaways! I'd love for anyone that follows me to leave a comment so I can be sure to visit and follow you back! Feel free to also subscribe via email so you don't miss any of the exciting things I have coming up! Thanks so much for including me as this week's spotlight for Making Friends Monday!

Join us on our journey as we discover new blogs and gain new followers every week!
The rules are super simple but VERY important!
1. Follow the Making Friends Monday Hosts (Listed as # 1-5) as well as the Spotlight Blog of the Week (listed as #6)--They WILL follow you Back! You MUST LEAVE A COMMENT so we can follow you back!
2. Grab our Making Friends Monday button and include it in a post on your blog.
3. Link up to THAT post.
4. Start hopping and remember following back is apprciated!

Help spread the word and get more followers:
-Put the same linky list code on your blog and you'll have the exact same list!
- Your blog visitors can add their blog to your list and it will show up on all lists!

**Don't forget to follow the rules so you have a chance to be the "Spotlight Blog of the Week

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer's Wind Down

There is something bittersweet about this time of year.

The last few weeks of summer hint of cooler temperatures and the anticipation of Autumn, my favorite season. I often refer to it as the 'dying season'. Hubby says I'm crazy, but there is a stillness that starts to creep over the mountains and forest. Plants and trees take on a different role, the lushness of their midsummer blooms starts to wane. The animals and insects know the season is drawing to a close, as their nighttime calls and chirps change along with the gathering, stashing, and hibernation preparations.

The cooler nighttime temperatures are an inspiration for the fall season. With low sixty degree temperatures at night, I've started working on a developing our own mitten pattern. It's slow going, but I want something to be worked in the round, that can be adjusted for baby and adult sizes.

I'm also looking forward to completing some custom woolens for a few of my best customers. Here is one I just finished; a soaker skirtie, knit with the Juliette pattern by Julibeans. I used the entire 10 ounces of wool that Megs sent me, beautiful Cestari dyed by Blackbird Designs in the Neapolitan colorway. It should fit pretty well with some room to grow.