Archive for March, 2015

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?

What to dress your child in in Spring

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Spring is on its way, with its magical variety of sunshine and showers. Children love being able to bound around unencumbered by bulky winter coats, but they still need protection from chilly moments. Over thousands of years another little creature, the lamb,  has evolved the perfect clothing for jumping around in spring.  Wool. The unique structure of wool fibres mean they are able to help the body stay warm when its cold and keep cool when its hot. Here are Cambridge Baby's tips for dressing your child/baby in spring.

The Base Layer and Top

Merino vest

 A  brightly coloured merino vest  is perfect for spring. It can be worn as a top when its warm and under a  jumper at  chillier moments. It's thermoregulating properties help keep your child's body at a constant, comfortable temperature as they change activities. It's antibacterial and dirt resistant properties mean it doesn't need to  be  washed everyday - wear then hang to air and brush off any spills.

They're not totally food proof though so, if your child is a particularly messy eater, or wipes lots of  yucky things on  their sleeves,  I'd recommend wearing a bib/napkin - muslin squares make good bibs - and opting for a short sleeved vest, or rolling sleeves up at meal times.  Most merino wool vests and tops though are now machine-washable at 30C and above including those in the photos.

Outer Layer

Layering is the key to Spring dressing.   A natural wool fleece that can be easily taken off when it gets warm is useful all year round in a  variable climate like the UK, and is light and not bulky. The best thing about wool as that its breathable so you don't overheat in the same way. By the time its warm enough for your child to want to take off the fleece it will probably be warm enough for them just to be in a Merino vest top.  These  wool fleece jackets with a hood (below) are great for keeping the head warm too - and really useful after swimming.

 

On less changeable days, a light jumper is just the thing. I love the Relax jumpers for their lovely colours and light knit and these Disana ones are a wardrobe staple for so many families.

 Bottoms

Our woolly leggings are warm enough for chilly days but light and breathable enough that your child won't overheat when it gets warmer. These really do seem to be dirt repellent and are tough enough to wear climbing trees etc.Merino Wool Leggings

 

For warmer days or for children who like looser trousers the wool terry ones are fantastic - they even have elastic at the ankles that you can adjust.

If your child likes wearing leggings these wool silk ones are naturally breathable. Perfect for spring weather or to layer under other trousers on Spring ski trips.

 

Heads 

The sun can already be quite strong in spring time. An organic cotton sun hat that stays on will  protect your little ones face from the sun and make them more comfortable.  If you choose a sunhat with natural UV resistance, you know that your child's skin is getting extra protection too, all without harmful chemicals.

 

 If you have tips to share for Spring dressing, do let us know.