Many people think wool and young skin don’t mix. Wool is scratchy, right? Not always. I’ll tell you what to look for so that you don’t have an unhappy kiddo on a cold day. All skin, young and old, benefits from a bit of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise in the winter. It is the cold biting wind that keeps us inside. If we dress properly, we can reap the outdoor benefits which will help combat crankiness and boost our immune systems.
With winter coming, I’ve compiled a few ideas to keep the little ones warm that will save you money. They grow fast! You can purchase brand new items knowing they’ll be too small next year, or you can make your own for a fraction of the cost of buying new. If you’ve got some wool sweaters in the closet that you never wear, even better! Otherwise, hit your local thrift stores to look for your materials.
When rummaging through your closet or the thrift store, look for at least 80% animal fibers. That’s the secret to keeping it from being scratchy; wool blends with angora, cashmere or alpaca keep it softer. As long as the TOTAL percentage adds up to at least 80% of animal fibers, you’re off to a good start. If you can find percentage blends higher than 80%, all the better. Second, feel the sweater. If it feels rough and scratchy, it won’t be that nice after you’ve felted it either. Move on. Lastly, make sure the washing instructions say dry clean only or wash in cold water, by hand, and air dry. This means the wool was not treated with chemicals that keep it from felting. If the wool says “washable” or “superwash”, move on. Another consideration would be the thickness of the sweater. If it is pretty thick, like a cable sweater, those fibers are going to mat thick. That might make a good candidate for the soles of booties, but not a blanket.
Other fabrics: I like to use as many repurposed fabrics as possible to keep the cost down. I have found lots of unused fleece throws at thrift shops. People often donate their fleece remnants from sewing projects to thrift shops. The fleece makes for a nice lining of blankets. I’ve also found lots of unused or like new baby flannel remnants and receiving blankets. After a HOT wash (I add boiling water to the machine), the fabrics are ready. You will find these fabrics to be so much cheaper than buying them new at the fabric store.
Why felt and what is felting anyway? Felting a wool sweater means to do what your mother always said NOT to do; wash it in very hot water with high agitation, and then dry it on high heat. This condenses the fibers, meshing them, and when cut the fibers won’t fray. Depending on how well it felts depends on how much the fibers fray. I find merino wool to felt wonderfully, and 100% cashmere not so much. That doesn’t stop me from using cashmere though. Tip: add pots of boiling water to your washing as it is filling. Today’s energy efficient washing machines don’t use hot enough water to facilitate the felting process.
Ok, what to make for baby? I will provide a few suggestions with links. If you look around online, you will find lots of links. I am only providing a couple. The links might show how to make these for children or adults, but with a little imagination you could scale the pattern down.
How about a blanket out of cashmere sweaters? You could line it with fleece, flannel, or more cashmere. http://www.instructables.com/id/Cashmere-Patchwork-Quilt/
Slippers? Booties? If you’re making some for a little one that hasn’t started walking yet, you could probably make them like little socks or leg warmers. http://alaskaknitnat.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/recycled-cashmere-baby-booties-free-pattern/
Mittens? Hat? If the little fella is a newborn, don’t even worry about putting thumbs in the mittens. Easy! They’d be little pockets that slip over the hands.
If you’re ready to tackle something a bit more complicated, how about a jacket?
For those that want to use cloth diapers, I’m sure you’ve heard about woolies. If not, woolies are wool covers for cloth diapers. The felted wool repels moisture, but once it does start absorbing, it absorbs a heck of a lot more than cotton pants. Parents like these for wearing at night for obvious reasons, and using them during potty training because the kiddos feel the moisture sooner than with a synthetic diaper. If this idea interests you, I suggest you do a bit of research first as you have to occasionally lanolize the woolie.