A little bit of Vanilla

Some of you on a feed reader may have already seen an earlier version of this post, pre-pictures, thanks to one of my little helpers. Hopefully it looks better now!

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Here is our newest diaper cover. OK, at this point, it's not very new. I cast it on in May and finished it in June. It's the Vanilla diaper soaker (sorry, apparently only a Ravelry link on this) by Kelly Brooker.

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I'd had this little diaper cover and dress duo in mind since about the middle of March (more on the dress in another post), and I'm glad I finally executed it! Cuteness abounds!

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{edited to add: the blanket here was a gift from sarah, and the ball was a gift from another sarah! you blogging ladies have touched our lives in so many ways that your presence is everywhere. xoxo}

The pattern was easy and well-written (and so very clever!). I made the size Medium (which is a little bit big, but she'll definitely grow into it!) using Malabrigo worsted in the Tiger Lily colorway. This particular skein of Malabrigo seemed to be on the lighter side (meaning a bit "thinner" than usual), so the ribbing on the legs and waist, despite being worked on a size 5 needle, has stretched out more than I would have liked. The next time I wash it, I will probably try to reshape it a bit better.

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Even with the slightly lighter feel of this skein, Malabrigo has become my diaper cover standby yarn. It's so soft, and since diaper covers generally use one skein or less (Malabrigo comes with around 210 yards per skein), it's a nice way to try out different colorways and keep my itchy fingers going on a project which doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

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And, well, we really use them! I get so many questions from so many of you about diapering. Why do we use cloth? Why do we use wool in particular? Is that scratchy/hot? How do we get it clean? So I thought I'd answer a few of those questions here.

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{these were actually James's diapers until fairly recently. they're still a size too big for Miss Fiona.}

Why do we use cloth? There are so many reasons to use cloth. The long-term cost and the environmental impact of cloth are both less than with disposables. I'm not going to get all preachy here, because we have used some disposables, too, in our time. If you would like more information on the environmental impact of cloth vs. disposables, I thought this was a good source. Of course, there's a third option, too, which is even less costly and even more environmentally conscious -- the elimination communication ("EC") or diaper-free method, which Meg is using happily with her little one. Obviously EC takes some commitment, as well as a bit of a paradigm shift about babies and diapering. However, the reason I've never tried EC -- and one of my personal reasons for cloth diapering -- is that I just can't resist the entire cloth diapering aesthetic. I know that sounds funny -- it's a recepticle for waste! -- but I really, really love our cloth diapers. There's nothing in the world (to me) like that big cloth-diapered baby bum. And the wool diaper covers. They make me swoon. Which brings me to...

Why do we use wool? When we were making the decision to cloth diaper, it was very clear to me that if I was going to commit to it, I would need to "go all the way" -- using only natural fibers. I have known lots of cloth-diapering mamas who can't stand wool covers and really love their PUL and other synthetic ones. But for me, that's just it. They're synthetic. Since I only wear natural fibers, and since my children only wear natural fibers, it never made sense to me to put something synthetic in the diaper area. Wool diaper covers do take a bit of extra work -- handwashing -- but they are breathable and most often very soft. (It's also good to note that many cloth diapering companies suggest handwashing synthetic covers as well, in order to keep them from wearing out as fast.) Wool really is the wonder fiber -- soft and amazingly absorbent. It can absorb 35% of its own weight before feeling damp. Once a wool diaper cover is broken in, I find that we never get any leaks at all. It's also naturally antibacterial, and breathable -- unlike the synthetic fibers used in other types of diaper covers, or even disposable diapers.

Wool diaper cover

{baby James -- in LANACare -- way back when}

Isn't it scratchy, irritating, or hot? The types of wool generally used for diaper covers are not as scratchy as some commercial wools. The owner of Green Mountain Diapers says that she used to consider herself to be allergic to wool before she encountered "diaper wool". My children -- even James, who had many allergies and sensitivities as a baby, and the horrible eczema to go with them -- have never had problems with irritation or sensitivity to their diaper covers. Also, the actual cotton diaper is between them and the majority of the cover. Wool is definitely an insulating fiber. However, it's breathable, and so less hot than other diapering options. We haven't noticed our babies being particularly hot or sweaty! On the contrary, I have noticed their skin remaining quite cool under their diapers. One thing to keep in mind is that wool is breathable, unlike other diapering options (either PUL or other synthetic covers for cloth diapers, or disposables), so it's actually less hot than those options.

Are wool covers a pain to clean? No. In the rare occasion that poop gets on them, I just take care of it right away (or as soon as possible), rinsing it and using a bit of mild olive-oil bar soap on the spot. Otherwise, we wash (and re-lanolize) them about once a month. Because of wool's antibacterial properties, they really don't get stinky! Here are the washing instructions I have been using for many years.

Do handknit covers work as well as commercially-knit covers? They do take a bit more breaking in. But I like them a lot! There is a forum on Ravelry that discusses different kinds of yarn that are suitable to diaper covers, and I've found that very helpful.

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Don't hesitate to ask if you have further questions! You can check back for my answers in the comments to this post.