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

Posted by Rachel King on 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

Christmas Jumper Day

Posted by Rachel King on Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Make your own Christmas jumper

My 7 year old decorated her Disana merino jumper for Christmas Jumper Day on the 16th. Here's what we did to ensure the jumper would go back to the same favourite everyday jumper it was, and make it easy to re-Christmas it or another jumper next year.  

 

red-disana_jumper

 

 

  • She came up with line/pattern design based on other Christmassy patterns she'd seen. 
  • Using wool she'd carded, she needle felted the Christmas trees and snowmen onto a piece of felt.

felting-trees

 

  • We then stitched on some other embellishments she had in her sewing/jewelry box.
  • She plaited some merino tops for cuffs.

plattingwool

  • I carefully tacked on the piece of felt and the cuffs to the jumper so as not to damage the jumper and to make it easy to snip off after Christmas.

finishedjumper_square

Ethical Wool?

Posted by Rachel King on Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Below is a letter Helen wrote to a customer who was concerned about animal welfare and the ethics of wearing wool.

Dear xxxx,

Thank you for your email and it is always good to know our customers are concerned about ethics and better ways to live.

I share your concerns about the issues raised in the article regarding animal welfare. First of all, the majority of our wool is certified organic. This is not simply about avoiding potentially toxic chemical and hormonal sheep treatments but also about raising sheep in a humane way, and about holistic management practices. Secondly, none of our wool comes from farms that practise mulesing - we specifically check this with every supplier. Thirdly, at present none of our wool comes from the USA or Australia which do have histories of poor management practices, although I believe they are improving in response to lobbying which is good news. Most of our existing suppliers are small companies also concerned about the ethics running through their supply chains and we are confident that they act on their principles, and we ask for an ethical statement from new suppliers which includes questions about animal welfare as well as social issues (working conditions) and ecological issues (environmental footprint, organic/eco status etc).

While I think it's great that organisations such as PETA campaign for animal welfare, I don't think it's good to take a blanket approach. It is better to support those farms and farmers that engage in good practices and boycott those who don't. In terms of ecology, we know that are many parts of our moors and mountains that benefit ecologically from managed grazing which increases biodiversity, both here and in New Zealand and South America, for example, whereas monocultures can be exceedingly environmentally damaging as highlighted recently by theWWF and Greenpeace.

I take issue with the article stating that

"With so many humane fabrics, including rayon, cotton, hemp, acrylic, nylon and microfibre..."

as these may only be humane at one level - the use of petrochemicals in the unnatural production of man-made fibres is in my opinion disastrous - not only is it polluting, it is unsustainable and also these things are not biodegradable - who would want their old skirt or t-shirt knocking around our planet in 1000 years time? The production of acrylic and nylon is highly chemicalised and damages our planet and therefore the animals within it - not only this, but it uses an number of carcinogens and a recent study found that women working in acrylic factories were seven times more likely to develop breast cancer. I know it is hard to make good ethical decisions because there is so much to look into - but it should be looked into by organisations like PETA if they are promoting alternatives as ethical which clearly aren't.

While hemp may be ecological, cotton isn't on the whole. We stock organic cotton because of the damage caused to people's health in the use of chemicals on cotton - this is widely documented, and to call cotton humane when it kills human beings and causes ill-health in children in developing countries is very narrow minded. Furthermore the high levels of pesticides used in conventionally grown cotton must, if they are causing death and hospitalisation of humans, be exceedingly toxic to animals too. Even organic cotton is troublesome in that it does require a lot of water, problematic in many countries. But we still feel at Cambridge Baby that we want to support organic cotton and organic agriculture generally.

Finally, microfibre... what can I say? The sea is swimming in microfibre fleece particles as they are not filtered out from your washing machine and end up as minuscule ubiquitous pollutants in landfill and in our oceans. FAR better to have a wool vest, wool top, wool fleece...

Wool is unarguably sustainable, natural, and it bio-degrades naturally. It is healthy for the skin as it is designed to clothe mammals and therefore needs less processing, and organic rearing of sheep is humane, does not pollute the ground, sea or other animals, and is of no danger to farmers and their families.

Clearly everyone has different values but for me there is no question, I strongly advocate using wool over the alternatives - but yes in doing so making sure that the wool is organic if animal welfare is your overriding concern.

I hope this is helpful.

Best wishes,
Helen

PS we are currently looking into hemp again and may be stocking it in the future.

> Cambridge Baby Team

> Cambridge Baby - discover natural, organic clothing for your little explorers (aged 0-100).

Wool, a mother’s perspective.

Posted by Rachel King on Thursday, January 28th, 2016

When my first daughter was born, I got some handmade woollen hand-me downs, gorgeous tiny knitted cardigans and precious booties. They were made of the softest yarn in pastel colours with intricate lacy patterns. They were stunningly beautiful... and I despised them. I found them outrageous. They embodied everything that was wrong with parenting these days! I was, of course, extremely young and extremely foolish.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated their beauty and the fact that they had been made with love, but I bemoaned their lack of practicality. Hand wash only! For a baby! As if new parents had time for that. To me, Hand Wash Only was a dreaded label that should be avoided at all costs. I grew up in a tropical climate so there was never a wool culture in my home. My mother was a power professional who always had her suits dry-cleaned. The few delicates that escaped her strict “no hand-wash garments” policy piled up at the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper for weeks on end. Once they reached a critical mass, mum would grudgingly fish them out and scrub them with a vengeance. Thinking back, they would have probably fared better in the machine.

In my early twenties I left home to study in Ireland, a move for which neither my mind nor my wardrobe were prepared. Just before I left, my wise mother bought me an under-shirt, the first I’d ever owned. It was a gorgeously soft blend of merino wool and silk and it was machine washable! Oh, how I loved that shirt. And yet, it never occurred to me to buy more woollen clothes, maybe because I was a broke college student and I weighed any purchase against how many Tesco Value ramen I would be able to afford with that money. Had I been a little wiser I would have saved myself more than one nasty cold.

It wasn't until after I became a mother that I started to learn the importance of surrounding and dressing ourselves with natural materials. I did a lot of online research and was lucky to meet a few like-minded mothers who taught me more than I ever thought I could possibly learn. One lesson in particular stands out in my mind. My friend and I were having lunch with our toddlers and her 8-month-old baby. Dessert was fresh mango and the baby ate it with gusto. And by “ate it” I mean poked it, squished it and rubbed it all over her face, with the yellow juices running down her arm and chin onto her white knitted cardigan. Seeing this, I joked to my friend “I hope that cardigan isn't hand wash only”. She looked at me with genuine puzzlement: “Yes, it is. Why?” I was aghast. Wasn't it obvious? “Isn't it… too much of a hassle?” I asked. “Not at all!” she answered nonchalantly. “I'm staying at my mum’s tonight and she doesn't have proper wool detergent but baby shampoo works in a pinch. I'll just give it a rinse in the sink while the girls are having their bath, it’ll be dry by tomorrow”.

That was it? Could it really be so simple? If you grew up wearing wool you’re probably laughing at me right now, but it really took a while to wrap my head around the fact that hand-washing didn't need to be a huge affair. I started researching and began to understand. Wool is antibacterial! Wool repels stains! No scrubbing your knuckles raw, you just need to let it soak in soapy water and rub stains gently. It dries super fast. And some wool is even machine washable!

After this eye-opening experience, I tentatively ordered my daughter’s first pair of woollen pyjamas… and I fell in love. Caring for them was as easy as everybody promised it would be, and never again did I need to worry that my baby was too hot or too cold at night. No more icy hands, no more sweaty foreheads thanks to wool’s property of thermoregulation, which I believe is a fancy word for “mama, don’t fret”. By the time my son was born I was a convert… and I found myself wishing I hadn’t returned those handknit woolies that I used to hate so much. They were pink and purple and frilly… but I would have put them on him anyway, and he would have been happy.

Lorena Díaz García. ( A Cambridge Baby customer)

Christmas Crafts

Posted by Rachel King on Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Making decorations is one of our favourite things to do. Here are some of my favourites this year. Hammering wild carrot Christmas trees into cloth is a fun thing for children to do. They can come out looking great too.12314091_10153371944413722_4033771897848355208_nYou can make some beautiful decorations using cinnamon and dried fruit. Simply slice the fruit thinly and dry in the oven at around 80C for an hour on each side. Then children can string them with cranberries and cinnamon sticks.

I love this twig wreath and will dig out the drift wood I've saved since a holiday in Cornwall.
enhanced-buzz-27142-1354374006-1

 

Finally if you have accidentally shrunk some jumpers or they are too old and holey to pass on this is a nice way to upcycle them and make your house feel warm.enhanced-buzz-30374-1354550934-4

 

 

Living Wage

Posted by Rachel King on Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Cambridge Baby has just become accredited by the Living Wage Foundation who are campaigning for companies to pay a wage that people can live on, calculated annually based on the cost of living, rather than the minimum wage.

Becoming accredited hasn't changed what we pay people at Cambridge Baby as we already pay over the current Living Wage.  However, we're one of the first clothing retailers to join up and the first online retailer in the East of England to do so.  As there are over 3m people employed in retail across the UK, often in very low paid work, we wanted to shout about the work of the Living Wage foundation and encourage many more businesses across the country to join us.  

webversionof US

 

As company director Helen East says,

"A significant driver in setting up our own business ten years ago was that we wanted to do business as ethically as possible. This doesn't stop at sourcing ethically made natural and sustainable clothes. It means everything from treating staff well, with decent wages and flexible working hours, to buying Fair Trade gift wrap to wrap our gift items in.

"We're lucky enough to employ people who are passionate about the environment and social welfare and we want them to feel as proud of Cambridge Baby as we do."  

Customers tell us they feel good about shopping with Cambridge Baby because they trust us to do the research and choose the loveliest ethical clothes for their family.  And we do.

 

What’s the difference between Llama and Alpaca?

Posted by Helen East on 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!

 

.....

 

Royal wool for a Royal Cambridge Baby

Posted by Rachel King on Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Given that Grandfather Charles has started to raise awareness amongst consumers about the unique, natural and sustainable benefits offered by wool, it seems likely that the coming Royal baby will be lucky enough to start its life dressed in organic wool.  We hope so.

When we saw that Pippa had brought organic cloth nappies back from Switzerland, we wanted to let the Royal Family know that they are available right here in Cambridge.  We've even got covers in Royal Blue.

Organic Blue Merino Nappy

We then got thinking again about what the Royal families Cambridge Baby favourites would be. We thought Grandfather Charles, Prince of Wales, would like this jumper that's hand knitted in Wales with Soil Association certified organic Welsh wool yarn.

 

 

Every baby needs a baby body, and these organic merino wool and silk ones have been gently treated with papaya and sugar cane enzyme which mean they wash brilliantly and will be still be in wonderful condition to hand on to any royal siblings or cousins that may come along.  We are sure that the Royals enjoy hand-me-downs too - and these are one of the most sustainable choices.

Finally the baby needs something to sleep in.  What do you think?  We thought these organic merino sleeping bags would be perfect. As they are sleeveless and breathable they are light weight enough for spring. We also thought that since they go up to big sizes, brother George could have one too.

 

 

 If you could kindly let them know of our suggestions, we'd be very grateful.  Just tweet our post to them, would you?!

The wonderful benefits of wool!

Posted by Rachel King on 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

Posted by Rachel King on 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.

 




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