That's my girl!
This is part of a continuing series of email letters exchanged with my Swedish friend, Absinthia. To see the whole series, start with Living a Simple Life.
Second-Hand Crafting: Nappies!
When my kids were babies, people thought I was nuts to use cloth diapers. But even then, I didn't know about hand-knit wool soakers. I went through all kinds of gyrations to find snap-front nylon diaper covers, to allow some airflow for my little ones. I am so pleased that cloth diapers and wool soakers have become popular. The simple life is winning!
I also make nappies (diapers) and soakers (diaper covers) from second-hand cloth and wool yarn.
Cloth nappies are best made of cotton or linen--soft and easy to wash. I find that bottom sheets, curtains, or dish-drying cloths are the best choice for this. Duvet covers are often a bit too thin for this. If you can find cute patterned curtains, or solid colored of course, you can make lovely nappies very easily. You just make them like cloth napkins, but a bit bigger. Easy!
My mother says a very soft cotton is the best kind of fabric to use--a “thirsty cotton, with a lot of sucking in it.” Yeah, it sounds strange I guess, but it makes a lot of sense when you say it in Swedish. I guess you know of a better way to say it in English? Absorbent? It doesn´t have to be terry cloth or some other extra soft cloth. Ordinary dish-drying towels can work just fine, as long as they are big enough, and you wash them in the hottest cycle on your washing machine.
I make them from an old pattern my granny taught me. I make them like big, hemmed squares: 50 x 50 cm for newborns, 60 x 60 cm for medium-size, and 80 x 80 cm for older babies.
When you use your nappies, you fold them many times, like an accordion. First you fold the square into a triangle, and then you make an accordion in the middle. When you put the nappy on the child you put it in place between the baby's legs. Then you start pulling up the soaker, while at the same time folding the nappy out a bit in front and in back, to tuck it in place more comfortably inside the soaker. Easy :-)
Here’s a link to a Swedish website with pictures showing how to fold and put on a homemade nappy.
Don’t wait too long to change the nappy. Change as soon as possible, rinse in cold water. Wash on the warmest cycle. Air-dry, don´t tumble dry. It wears the textile down very fast.
Don´t use regular bleach. It is very hard on the fabric. Do a “fresh bleach” now and then, where you soak in fresh lemon juice and then air-dry outside so they get bleached by the sunlight.
Never wash them with fabric softener. It kills the absorption rate completely! If you want the nappies softer, add some vinegar in the rinsing cycle. Just a spoon, or it might be damaging to your machine. Another way to soften them is to wad up the nappies after drying, pull gently from the corners, and then fold them. This makes the cloth less stiff and it straightens out the nappies so they keep their square shape, which makes the folding so much easier when you fold it in place on the baby.
If you do these things, your nappies can last for ages and ages. Very low cost, both monetary and climate wise. :-D
Absinthia's homemade nappies
For soakers, pure wool is the very best (not superwash!). I knit all soakers in “fat wool yarn,” meaning wool that has not been washed before being spun into yarn. Fat wool yarn is soft, very soft, and the lanolin works like a lotion for the baby’s sensitive skin.
When you change a nappy, change the soaker as well and let the soaker air-dry until the next change. It is enough to wash the soakers and re-soak them in lanolin about once every 4th-6th week actually. With a pack of approximately 20 cloth diapers and 4 soakers in every size, you and baby will be just fine :-D
Caring for Your Soakers
Caring for Your Soakers
Between changes, air-drying works great for soakers as long as they are 100% pure wool. Not superwash, not wool blend, just pure wool. After the air-drying, preferably outside, just sniff it a little to make sure it's okay to re-use. After a while it will no longer smell fresh. Then you need to wash it and re-soak it in lanolin. As long as the wool is full of lanolin it will not absorb the stuff in the diaper. ;-) That is why this very simple method actually works. That is also why it is so important to make sure you soak your soakers in lanolin before you start using them for the first time.
Here you can buy lanolin (wool fat) at the apothecary. It is easy to re-lanolin soakers. Just pour a good dollop on them and squeeze back and forth until the lanolin has spread all through, then air-dry them again.
The soakers might leak a little at the beginning. They have to felt a little before they get completely “air-tight.” If you want to prevent that, wash them once or twice and re-lanolin them very thoroughly before the first real usage.
To take the best care of your handmade soakers, wash them with shampoo in lukewarm water only. Like nappies, never wash them with fabric softener.
I think that is all my recycling tips right now. It is time for some tea.
The conversation continues here:
Absinthia Returns, Part 13
Absinthia Returns, Part 13