Archive for the ‘our fabrics’ Category

Synthetic micro fibres from clothing are potentially a bigger threat to marine pollution than microbeads.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

When we started Cambridge Baby we decided to source clothing made from natural fibres for two reasons (both intrinsically linked). We believed natural fibres amazing properties were better for our children and that their renewable and biodegradable nature meant they were better for the environment.

It turns out that our environmental choice was even more important than we originally thought. What we didn't know then is how many micro fibres are released from synthetic clothes when they 're washed that then end up in the marine food chain. According to a research team from the University of California  a city of 100,000 inhabitants releases a volume of microfibers equivalent to 15,000 plastic bags from their washing machines. A city  with the population of Berlin may be responsible for the equivalent of 540,000 plastic bags – every single day.

The Guardian says "The impact of microplastic pollution is not fully understood but studies have suggested that it has the potential to poison the food chain, build up in animals’ digestive tracts, reduce the ability of some organisms to absorb energy from foods in the normal way and even to change the behaviour of crabs."

One of the findings from the research was that old polyester fleeces release more fibres than new ones. So even sourcing second-hand synthetic clothes isn't a brilliant option from an environmental point of you. 

The good news is that moving away from polyester, and acrylic clothing is not only good for the environment its better for you and your family to. Natural fibres biodegrade naturally and  have other properties that contribute to your family's well being. Our pure wool fleeces are soft, breathable, antibacterial, naturally flame retardant, water repellent and even dirt resistant! 

 

Natural wool fleece

Pure Wool Children's Fleeces

Wool Fleece Snuggle Suit

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/27/washing-clothes-releases-water-polluting-fibres-study-finds

http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/02/16/microfibers-source-ingestible-plastic-worse-already-banned-microbeads

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37263087

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/07/microfiber-pollution-ocean-advocacy-groups-alliance

What’s the difference between Llama and Alpaca?

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Llamas and alpacas look very similar and are closely related, but there are a number of differences between them .   These differences stem from how they have been used and bred over thousands of years of farming in South America.

A_Quechua_girl_and_her_Llama-Thomas-Quine

 A young Quechuan girl with her llama, which are stronger and less woolly than alpaca.

Alpaca have been bred for their fibre - which can be super-soft, light, airy and warm.  It's truly the fibre of Incan royalty and we at Cambridge Baby keep expanding our range of alpaca clothing as its durable, and up to 7 times lighter than wool for its warmth.

Llamas, in contrast, have been bred as useful, working farm animals - to carry loads, and to guard other livestock.  So they are stronger and larger than the pretty alpaca, and rather less furry to look at.  They are also quite independent-minded, whereas alpaca prefer to be in herds, rather like sheep.  If you look at their faces in the photos above and below, you can see the differences.

Alpaca taken by Patrick Furlong

Alpaca, bred for their fibre, are smaller and more woolly than llama.

But we discovered recently that Llama fibre can be just as lovely as alpaca.  A fleece consists of two layers, the guard layer, which is strong and straight, and makes good rope, while underneath  is the super-soft layer of down.  These are the fluffy fibres which make excellent clothing and, like alpaca, can be as fine or finer than cashmere, under 20 micron.  They usually have a hollow core, which gives extra insulating warmth, and a crimp (a kind of zig-zagging of the fibre) like merino wool, which also adds insulation.

Should alpaca and llama hair be called "wool"?  Most people say that it's not technically wool and should be referred to as fibre, but some say that it's fine to call it wool after it's shorn.  So, take your pick!

Alpaca and llama fibre, like most animal and human hair and wool, should be cared for gently.  There's not need to wash very often and the "wear then air" strategy works well.  If the times comes to wash it, use detergents designed for delicates, wash gently and dry away from direct heat.

Serendipity_Diamond_llama_cardigan

We're lucky to now be stocking a hand-knitted llama cardigan for kids in sizes from 2 to 11 years.  We hope you enjoy it!

 

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The wonderful benefits of wool!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

 

Wool, nature's way of clothing sheep, has real benefits for you and your family. It's not only soft and fluffy, but naturally clever too.   Genius, in fact.

How wool works

  • Wool can breathe, absorbing water vapour from the body and releasing it into the atmosphere

This means that if you wear around you, sweat is easily and consistently wicked away from your skin keeping your or your child's skin healthy.  Soft Merino wools are fabulous next to the skin, and non-itchy for most people.  

  • Wool can dynamically respond to the environment and help regulate temperature

Wool moves moisture away from your skin faster or slower, depending on your body temperature and the environment.  This is because is has evolved naturally to help keep sheep comfortable as temperatures change - and it does the same for you and your baby or child.  In this way, it helps keep the body's temperature stable even if you warm up through exercise, cool down through sitting still, or are affected by changing external temperatures.  Your body has to do less work, and it's more relaxed in a way - and wool helps the body relax into sleep too.

  • Wool can clean itself (oh yes!)

This benefits you as you don't have to wash it very often.  In fact, most natural wool clothes can be hung up to air and then worn again - the "wear then air" approach.  

  • Wool repels rain (think: sheep)

It's not entirely waterproof of course, but it's surprisingly showerproof and what's more, it can absorb water without feeling cold and wet.  You know how cotton gets cold when it's wet?  Wool stays warm and dry-feeling for much, much longer.  This is great for kids on the beach in Spring or in muddy puddles, and great if you're hiking in the Lake District too. 

  • Wool is good for summer!

Because wool can respond dynamically to what's going on around it, it's an excellent year-round fibre.  Fine layers of wool work brilliantly as underlayers in winter and top layers in summer - and it's also naturally UV protective too.  

Wool is a natural "high-performance" fabric - it's naturally good for your skin and body. Because of this, it's very helpful in keeping you and your family healthy, relaxed and rested.

 

The science and structure of wool

Let's have a look at how it does all these things.

Wool consists of three layers.

  • The first, keratin, is a moisture-loving protein that all animal hair has. It is designed to maintain a stable body temperature. Think how useful this is to babies, athletes and your own day-to-day living.
  • The second layer is a scaly covering. The overlapping scales are tiny, but as they rub against each other they push off the dirt. So it is self-cleaning, as anyone who's put their baby in wool knows.
  • The third layer is a filmy skin which keeps the rain out. Wool is quite water-resistant, as duffel-coat wearers and sheep can testify.

So, you can see already that it's pretty amazing, and a healthy thing to have next to your skin.

Now, the two outer layers have tiny pores which allow moisture to pass through to the keratin core, which absorbs it. So, if the temperature increases or the wearer becomes more active and begins to sweat, the moisture is wicked into the central core. Your body heat then wicks it out towards the surface, where it is released into the atmosphere.

In this way, it helps you and your baby maintain a stable temperature and keeps you and your baby dry and comfortable by absorbing and releasing sweat. It even does this "dynamically", which means it does it more when needed, and less when not needed. Wow. It's just the best thing, don't you think? No man-made fibre can equal this.

To keep these abilities, wool does need to be looked after. But with 99% of washing machines now having a wool cycle, this is quite easy. Just use a liquid detergent for wool, or a drop of your own shampoo, and set the temperature on your wool cycle to 30C.

More wool facts

  • Wool is naturally antibacterial. This is due to its lanolin (wool fat) content - as wool becomes moist, some of the lanolin converts to lanolin-soap, which helps keep the fabric hygienically clean! Combining this with it's self-cleaning properties, you can begin to understand why wool underwear doesn't get smelly. It smells fresh for ages.
  • Wool can absorb around 33% of its own weight without feeling wet. This is heaps more than man-made fibres, which typically absorb only 4% before feeling wet and uncomfortable. It's much more than cotton, too. It means that your baby is more likely to stay warm and dry if he/she dribbles or possets, and you can just give a quick rub down rather than having to change him/her so often. Making your baby happier, and your life easier.
  • Wool is a great insulator. It is warm in winter and cool in summer (think vacuum flask). This is because of all the "waves" in the fibre, which lock in air. It may seem strange to us to use wool in the summer, but many Bedouins and Tuaregs use wool to keep the heat out! (They use camel and goat hair as well as sheep's wool.) This is why sheepskins are such a great choice for prams, strollers and carseats, keeping your baby comfortable and so making your life easier.
  • Wool is "bouncy" - the springiness of the fibres gives it good elasticity - it stretches really well and goes back into shape well too. This means that it's very easy to put on your baby - and to take off of course too. Much less fiddling around with arms and things. Making your baby happier, and your life easier (did I say this before?).
  • Wool fibres can be bent and twisted over 30,000 times without breaking. (That's just an interesting fact. I can't relate that to your baby...)
  • Roman togas used to be made of wool. (ditto...)
  • Finally, wool is a very safe fabric and fire-resistant. It's harder to ignite than most synthetic fibres and cotton. It has a low rate of flame spread, it doesn't melt, or drip, and if it does burn it creates a "char" which self-extinguishes.

 

No man-made fibre can yet duplicate all of the properties of natural wool. How did sheep do all that?

The Story of Wool

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The story of wool began a long time ago, before recorded history, when primitive people first clothed themselves in the woolly skins of the roaming wild sheep that early hunters killed for food.  Mouflon sheep, pictured below, are thought to be the closest relatives of the earliest sheep mankind would have encountered.

Mouflon-sheep-2

In using sheepskins, early tribes had discovered a durable fabric which gave them what nothing else could give:  protection from heat and cold, from wind and rain alike, from a fabric which kept the body cool in the heat of the day and warm in the cold of the night, and which could absorb moisture without feeling wet.

Sheep then began to be kept for both their milk and their valuable wool. When a sheep shed its fleece, it could be spun and woven into cloth. This versatile animal was probably the second to be domesticated after the dog, the perfect shepherding animal.  Sheep, the shepherd and his dog - an image which has reverberated through the ages, symbolic of gentleness and leadership, of kindness and endurance, of man and nature in harmony.  And we know that sheep have been kept and looked after and wool spun from their fleeces for over 10,000 years in Mesopotamia, Asia and parts of Europe.

Sheep Rock Art from Coso

 

Early wool-making

Wool is a fibre man can never match. No other material, natural or man-made, has all its qualities. But we can refine and improve wool and have done so through selective breeding of sheep over the centuries and through continually improving processing techniques.

Simple processing was happening already in Northern Europe thousands of years ago.  To spin wool, early tribes they took the wool in one hand and drew it out, twisting it into a thread with the fingers of the other hand. The result was a thick uneven yarn. Later, a crude spindle was developed by fitting a stone or clay ring to the end of a short wooden stick, and such hand-spindles have become more and more sophisticated, as in this decorated Incan spindle below.

inca-spindle

The ring acted as a flywheel and enabled the drawn-out yarn to be wound on to the spindle. This method of spinning was used for thousands of years and is still used by communities in various parts of the world to make wool yarn.

 

Wool - the gold on the loom

 Weaving is the earliest form of fabric-making known, pre-dating knitting and crochet which only appeared a thousand years ago.  Early looms were simple and effective, and their close cousins are in use around the world today too.  

 

primitive-loom-and-a-girl-spinning-wool

 

Spinning and weaving wool were of such importance in everyday life that they are central to many stories and songs that have been handed down to us, such as those below, and of such importance economically to Britain that it's fair to say our wealth stems from our woolly history.

As in this Scottish slip-jig, wool really was "gold on the loom."

 

"Hark as the bee hunts for treasure

That's hid in the mountainy bloom

Me shuttle goes buzzing with pleasure

To gather my gold from my loom."

 

Other wool songs - 

The Spinning Wheel (Mellow the Moonlight)

The work of the weavers

A Gaelic waulking song (this would have been a work song) - a shame now we listen to music while we work, rather than make music together!

And I like this polished version 🙂

 

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 Information adapted from the British Wool Marketing Board and the International Wool Textile Association.  Photo credits - Mouflon sheep: von Netzer Ranch, Texas.  Sheep rock art: the Bradshaw Foundation.  Inca spindle: http://ancientarchives.wordpress.com/.  Loom: http://chestofbooks.com/

 

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Selana: exquisite, sustainable, natural clothes.

Monday, June 16th, 2014

selana_logoEstablished in 1984, Selana is a Swiss company which cares about making baby and children's clothes to high natural standards: they are exceptionally well designed, beautifully made and are entirely made from natural materials.

Their name represents this and can be broken down into SE-LA-NA, where SEide is the German for Silk, LAna means Wool and NA stands for Nature. That seemed like an obvious choice for Cambridge Baby. 

GOTSlogoSelana's core ethics coincide with ours.

  • Fabrics which meet the highest environmental standards - e.g.: Merino wool that is GOTS-certified as organic
  • Fair dealings with all people
  • Produced with great care and attention to detail (in Switzerland).

 The beauty of nature is echoed in their design.  Their babywear especially brings back traditional designs that are perfect for naming ceremonies, christenings and weddings.  This is one of our favourites!

AjoureJacket-baby_LRG

RibbedJumperPinkStripe-swatch_LRGSelana's soft, organic Merino wool is breathable, so it allows the skin to regulate the body's temperature.  The silk is smooth, gentle on the skin and moisture-wicking.   The combination in one fabric is wonderful, and we also love the beautiful, gentle yet cheerful colours in their gorgeous jumpers.

 We hope you come to love Selana's natural clothing too.  

 

 

 

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Selana Favourite

Haflinger: wonderful natural slippers

Friday, May 30th, 2014

haflinger_logoHaflinger is a German shoe and slipper manufacturer of the highest quality. A long history of making slippers in traditional, sustainable style, slippers that are well made in natural fabrics, comfortable, healthy and good-looking - that's why we love Haflinger's range for children and adults!

Established in Germany in 1898 by Emil Otto, Haflinger started by making laces and cords. In 1955 they began making shoes and have never looked back. Their extensive experience and quality craftsmanship shows in the finished product, which is why we chose to stock them. 

haflinger_oldfactory

Nature is full of lasting beauty and brings happiness, so it's logical that Haflinger should use natural materials to make comfortable, long lasting slippers. They are designed to allow for freedom of movement, for the foot to expand and contract as necessary, and to keep the foot healthy and supple. 

haflinger_rolledwool

Haflinger uses only natural materials sourced in Europe.

Their boiled wool is warm, light and breathable and creates an optimum environment for healthy, comfortable feet. This wool is sturdy but flexes where necessary, and is naturally dirt-resistant and anti-bacterial too.PaulSlipper_MEDThe result is footwear which allows children to run and play and stay warm, and allows feet to breathe naturally

 

haflinger_toolsofthetrade

 

We truly believe that these are the best children's and adults' slippers out there. With a natural latex sole to last longer, infused into the wool at the base, and a design that ensures a gentle but secure fit, they tick all the boxes and more: they comfort and delight the feet.

Lasting comfort for the whole family!

 

Haflinger Favourites

floralboiledwoolslipperwithrubbersole_MED

711033_haflinger-michl-charcoal_MED

Alkena and Biodynamic Organic Silk

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

All-silk Long-Sleeved Baby-body

So, what's biodynamic, organic silk all about?  And what are its benefits to you and the world?

Near ChengDu in China is a biodynamic regeneration project, bringing traditional silk-making skills back to the region. We were very excited to discover this project, and their excellent quality silk clothes for babies and women, which are certified as organic by the IMO (Institute for Market Ecology).

There are several reasons why we chose this range. First of all, silk is excellent for the skin - it's gentle, insulating and breathable, which is why it's been considered for generations and across cultures as the ideal next-to-the-skin layer. So for babies, it's absolutely wonderful! (more…)

Natural sun protection – from Merino wool

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Aside from being fine, breathable and helping regulate temperature, a real benefit of Merino wool in the Summer is that it provides excellent natural sun protection.

Wool Silk Vest gives high sun protection

It absorbs the UV radiation before it can reach your baby or your child's skin - naturally! Here are the facts for you.  Research by Haerri et al (2000), Reinert et al (1997) and Hilfiker et al (1996)  shows that (more…)

Merino wool – studies show it’s great for sleeping

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

sleep well in merino wool

Even I was surprised by the University of Sydney study that wool bed clothes help you get a brilliant night's sleep - even in hot summer temperatures.

Merino wool - a very fine kind of wool from the Merino sheep - has fibres so fine that they bend easily and so don't scratch, preventing the itchiness traditionally associated with wool. This makes it way more comfy to sleep in than cotton as it moves with your body and is still soft on your skin.  But that's  not all.

(more…)

Head to Toe: Wool is wonderful for Skiing

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
Nick went to St Anton skiing and came back singing the praises of wool. He was dressed head to toe in wool including his pants. Skiing with Merino base layers Nick's been a massive fan of Merino Wool ever since his sister discovered the benefits of Merino in New Zealand 15 years ago. This year the whole extended family was wearing Cambridge Baby base layers. The best thing about wool for skiing is that it helps you cope with large temperature changes by reducing the heat transfer between the body and the environment. His woollies kept him warm in freezing blizzard conditions but when the sun came out he didn't have to strip off  and carry any layers. He was even able to keep some of his layers on for a bit of apres ski dancing!!! Another benefit of Merino (especially untreated wool like Engel's) is that it doesn't get smelly. Merino wool reduces the opportunity for odours to develop because it absorbs sweat and evaporates it into the air. Unlike synthetic fabrics, wool doesn't retain odours and freshens up just with airing out. In addition, the outer layer of wool fibres have a high concentration of fatty acids, which have anti-bacterial properties. The inner layers of wool fibre  bind with acidic, basic and sulphurous odours that make up body odour.  Nick was able to wear all his gear even his pants for the entire week.

What Nick Wore

Pickapooh Balaclava The teen size fits Nick. He said it was brilliant. He normally hates balaclavas, but this was super soft, didn't itch and could be rolled up into a hat when the blizzard subsided. Wool Zip Fleece Super warm, soft and breathable. Great for skiing and everyday wear. Long Sleeved Merino Vest Soft, warm, breathable layer that doesn't ad bulk and its anti-bacterial properties mean it doesn't get smelly.  Nick wears one as a base layer in winter and for cycling. Men Wool Silk Long Johns Soft, warm, breathable and flexible. Again these are brilliant for cycling. Nick took some synthetic long johns with him so that he could compare them with wool. But after one day's wear he found them intolerably itchy and was pleased to be back to his woollies the following day. Wool pants There aren't many pants you can wear for a week. Comfy, soft flexible and warm. Great for running, skiing and cycling and other sports. Their breathability may even improve your fertility compared to synthetic cycle shorts. Lambs Wool and Alpaca sock These make brilliant ski socks. As they are very smooth and slide easily in the boot. Alpaca wool is even warmer than sheeps wool so they'll keep your feet super toasty.