How Do I Know What Type Of Wool To Buy?

October 2, 2012

Covers/Wool, How-to, WAHMs

Entering into the world of cloth diapers is overwhelming.  But, after a month or two you get the hang of the lingo and your fast on your way to amassing way too many diapers.

Then you hit a wall.


What’s the point? What are my child’s measurements?  What type of wool do I need to buy?

All great questions that take hours more research to discover the answers to.

Let’s start with the easy one: measurements.

Measuring your child can be done in two ways

  1. Find a pair of pants that fit them really well (with some extra room would be nice) and measure the inseam (inner seam down leg), waist, hips and rise (top of waist band down under crotch an up to back waistband).
  2. Lay your child down and measure the same areas.  This can be super tricky if your child is wiggly.

I always add an inch to the inseam and have my knitter cuff the leg up with a hidden stitch.  This gives me extra wearing time!

Next question is also fairly easy to answer. Why use wool?  What’s the point? explains:

Untreated wool holds many amazing and forgotten properties – it can absorb up to 40% of it’s own weight in moisture before feeling wet. And even when wet, it still feels warm. Wool provides warmth, yet it breathes to maintain a comfortable temperature. So even in warm environments, wool maintains a comfortable temperature next to your skin. And wool’s natural fibers breathe, unlike synthetics.

As wool absorbs moisture, its natural lanolin is converted to lanolin-soap, which has an antibacterial effect and removes odors. So even if wool is wet with sweat, urine or breast-milk, the lanolin goes to work cleansing the wool and removing odors- it need only be washed when the lanolin needs replenishing.

LANACare wool has been tested to show that it does not contain dust mites – a growing concern as a cause of allergies. For those considering themselves allergic to wool, most actually react to the chemicals used to extract the natural lanolin from the wool, not the wool itself. No such chemicals are used on LANACare wool, in reality making it hypo-allergenic!

And wool is naturally flame-retardant! What more perfect textile could you choose when considering you or your baby’s health?

Wool is an amazing fabric!

Now that you understand why you should use wool and you have some measurements you’re still confused by all the different types of wool.

Have no fear, my favorite knitter is here to clear the air.

Denise of Molly’s Bottoms is a ridiculously talented knitter!  She knits in her “spare time” when she’s not working a full-time job and caring for her family.  I asked Denise to briefly explain the different types of wool for us and she (in her spare spare time) gladly obliged!

I have been given the liberty to take her explanations and edit where needed.  She’s a crafter, I’m a writer…together we make perfect harmony…or something like that.

Cestari– Named after the farm in Virgina where the wool is raised. It is generally seen as Cestari Fine or Cestari Superfine Merino with the Superfine being a tad more processed and smoother feeling.

Both have a great cottony feel, very sturdy, with low pilling. Great for toddlers and active kiddos. Fabric knits up on the thicker and firmer side. Makes great longies and sweaters.  Dyes take a tad muted.

Blackberry Ridge (BBR) -Made in Wisconsin at a great Mill. Generally seen in two varities, BBR 2ply and BBR 3ply.

BBR 2ply (2 strands twisted together) is very close to Cestari however a tad thinner and smoother.  Has a great cottony feel and is very smooshy.

BBR 3ply (3 strands twisted together) has a higher twist and a slightly different feel than the 2ply.  It makes a great  fabric. Both are very sturdy and fairly soft and make a firmer fabric.  Both have low pilling, with the 2ply less than the 3ply. Dyes will take more vividly than Cestari, but still a tad muted.  [I LOVE LOVE LOVE BBR!]

Mountain Meadow (MMW or MMR)-a great cottony yarn, very similar to Cestari and BBR, but a tad thinner and softer. Yarn has a higher sheen than both Cestari and BBR. This is quickly becoming the yarn of choice for longies as its durable but a softer option. [Maybe I should try this one!]



Gaia, worsted-A thinner, tighter twist, 100% merino base. This is considered on the lighter side of worsted and is generally used to knit skirties and sweaters and sometimes soakers. Because it is thinner, it is not the first choice for longies. It is generally very soft, but will have some pilling with heavy use. Knits a thinner fabric and great for summer items.  Many who live in warm climates choose this for longies or shorties.  [My forum research showed this to be a wool that needs to be shaved after every use if you did have it knit up for longies or shorties. The consensus is as Denise stated- very soft, great for newborns, pills really badly]

Gaia, bulky-Bulky sibling of worsted. Same softness but much thicker. Many like this for longies as its very soft and thicker smooshier base for a diaper cover. Will pill with heavy use.

Single ply-Not all singly ply is created equally, but generally single ply merino is one of the softest bases in the cloth diapering community. It is almost buttery soft! This base is great for newborn items, hats, and for next to skin wear. It is the most pilling option with mild/moderate and heavy use.

3ply Merino- Also called Purewool, 3ply Uruguayan Merino-A very soft option and extremely reasonably priced. Most get this in coops from Uruguay at a great deal making this base one of the most reasonable options for hand knits. Yarn is very soft and knits up a nice fabric. However, yarn is not as sturdy as other options. It will pill and split with moderate/heavy wear.

Licorice Twist-A thinner base much like gaia worsted, except one of the plies will absorb more pigment when dyed giving the yarn a twist or tweed effect.  Because of this effect, it may have slightly less pilling than Gaia.  Great for the same items as Gaia worsted.



Marr Haven– a very thick, 2 ply yarn. One of the heaviest bases in the cloth diapering community.  Fabric knits up stiffer than most other bases. It is considered bullet proof as a cloth diaper cover and an amazing choice for nighttime.  Very durable, low pill, and sturdy made this a hit early on. Its lack of softness has turned many towards other options.

Blue Faced Leicester BFL-(name of sheep it comes from)- An early favorite in the community. It’s soft and fairy sturdy, and thicker than Gaia. The knitted fabric has an amazing drape and almost feels “heavy”. Yarn has high sheen and appears shiny and silky. Some say this yarn is pill resistant and others say it pills bad, so most go with middle of the road with this one.  Its a thicker base much like BBR/Cestari but softer.

Hyena Cart is an excellent place to find knitters, crocheters, skeins of wool and instock items.  Ordering a custom item can be intimidating (at least it was for me) but the relationship you build is precious.

If you see some wool you like, snatch it up.  Then do a search for YYMN- Your Yarn My Needles.  I’ve been told that knitters prefer to knit up a custom item as opposed to stocking a general sized one.

Many knitters also offer MYMN- My Yarn My Needles.  You can choose from their wool stash (I hear knitters have a slight obsession with collecting wool) and they’ll knit it up with your specifications.

Don’t be shy! You will love the end product!

Here is Camden’s winter stash of Molly’s Bottoms longies and hats.  Denise makes a fabulous hat!

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About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at

View all posts by Autumn Beck

15 Responses to “How Do I Know What Type Of Wool To Buy?”

  1. Melissa J. Says:

    When measuring baby, do I measure WITH diaper on? I’m guessing yes, but just wanted to check! Also, my little guy has chunky thighs – is this something to mention to my prospective knitter?

    I have yet to use wool in the 15 months that we’ve been cloth diapering, but considering ordering some longies for a Christmas gift for our little guy! Thanks for this awesome and informative post!


  2. Jane Says:

    We have relied on Imse Vimse wool covers exclusively at night for a long time. I bought the covers in 2004 and used with my older son but use them mainly for my diapered toddler now. They have been the only thing that keeps him dry at night. We usually have him in a SBISH fitted underneath but I’ve thrown all kinds of things together just to get that wool cover on. It’s been the key for us. They are double layered and I typically hand wash, very infrequently, with a lanolin based soap. I cannot think of a more user friendly option.


  3. Kelly Says:

    It’s funny you posted about wool today when I am having difficulty with my soakers and am about to give up on them. I have one kissaluvs and one ecoposh wool soaker that I have tried to use on my little one at night and they almost always leak. I have lanolized them each twice and each time my son might get 1 leak free night. I first used them with bamboozles but them purchased Sloomb OBF and a snapless. I still get leaks. What am I doing wrong? Is it the soakers or me?


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      In my personal experience I find Kissaluvs and Ecoposh to be daytime soakers. I’d try something with two layers like Sloom/Sustainablebabyish or interlock or handknit.


      • Anastasia Says:

        So true and also besides doubling or even tripling up on absorbency (hey I have a neighbor that put an actual adults depends on her 14 month old for bedtime, inside his diaper) it’s also WHERE the leaks are. If the fluid is all one one side or another, then it’s the way the child sleeps (usually a back sleeper issue) if it’s around the legs and/or waist Something may be too tight. And that has to be dealt with as well. (More absorbancy where needed or a different material that absorbs differently or spreads moisture out) The reason there ARE so many options in cloth is because there are so many different babies out there. Don’t get frustrated, just ask!


      • Kelly Says:



  4. Hannah M Says:

    Thanks for this post! I love to knit and made on pair of longies but wasn’t really happy with them. This is a wonderful source of information on the different kinds of wool.


  5. Anastasia Says:

    Usually when I’m stuck I tell the Seamstress What diaper fits best now (usually a major brand) how what what I like and don’t like about the fit. Also if I like to over or under stuff…….Most of the time they can figure out what works best for me and usually they are right! We LOVE wool, and I wish I could use it full time especially when they are little. If I ever have another, I may do just that. But right now I just don’t have enough! (Maybe it’s because I have girls, lol) One of the ladies in my Birth club online actually started making her own (under the name Little Green Honu) when they were stationed in Hawaii and her outfits with the wool are the best part of her line. (I’ve always wondered how to plan the rest of the outfit) Every seamstress had different things in theri line and prefer different things and while wool is SUPER EASY (I’ve actually tied a plain cashmere sweater from a thrift store over my dipes in a pinch) there are as many options as someone could want or need! We LOVE it!


  6. katie Says:

    I was wondering if llama wool would also work? My mother-in-law lives in the UK and she is going to be bringing me wool from some farms near her, and also wanted to know if I wanted llama wool. She said its super soft, so I’m really interested in hearing if it’s doable.


    • Anastasia Says:

      I remember a few Sewers in the past that did different wools, one of them (sold at Green Mountain Diapers at the time) was made from a different animal. I can’t remember if it was Llama or Alpaca. And Like I said I’ve actually put a clean (ugly, gaudy but clean hand me down) Cashmere sweater (which is rabbit) with NO lanolin, and it worked in a pinch as well! Googling for different materials at different times brings up different things. Heck I even remember when People started using polar fleece instead of plastic pants and WHOA did the earth shake, lol!


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Hey, Katie, as you probably already know from your recent internet search (lol all your posts are the ones that popped up when I did the research to answer your question!) llama or alpaca wool is super soft but is usually mixed with another type of wool for stability. I have used Llamajamas (an alpaca/merino blend) and enjoyed them immensely. It may be less trouble to order already blended and dyed wool then to receive it and try to get it to a cloth diaper cover usable state. Then again, it may be a fun challenge!


  7. Gwen Says:

    Thank you! Although we have used wool exclusively since my daughter’s birth almost two years ago I never did get all the differences in woolies. I mostly buy off diaper swappers and would just kind of shrug at all the “MMR” “BFL” “Gaia Bulky” stuff. Now that I’m a little better informed I’ll be able to make smarter decisions. My daughter is sooo active and kind of hard on wool – I’ve had to repair most of our upcycled stuff. Anyway. I just wanted to thank you for explaining things better. Hopefully it will help others feel less intimidated by wool. We love our woolies and though they can be a lot of work it is so worth it to be able to use totally natural fibers!


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