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Sep 18 2018

Knitting soakers for cloth diapers

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Karen�s Cloth Diapering Site

Knitting Soakers

My latest diapering obsession has centered around knitting soakers. While I am mainly a prefolds and wraps diaper-er, sometimes a breathable cover is just irresistable. Especially as the warm weather approaches (will it ever get to Michigan?). There’s something very appealing about watching your little munchkin walking or crawling around in just a t-shirt and diaper with a cute, breathable cover. They look adorable, and their tushie stays nice and cool.

I’m not sure how soakers got their name. First of all, they shouldn’t be confused with the soakers that are laid or sewn into diapers. Those provide the absorbancy to soak up urine and are made of cotton or hemp. The knit soakers I’m talking about are used as diaper covers. They are usually made of wool, which can soak up some liquid without wicking it onto outer layers of clothing, so that’s probably where the name comes from. However, ideally, if your wool soaker is well lanolized, the wool fibers will simply repel the wetness and keep it in the diaper without absorbing too much of it. The biggest advantage of using wool is that the urine that does get soaked into the wool reacts with it somehow and doesn’t smell after the cover has been aired out. That means that you can keep re-using a wool cover without washing it until it gets poopy, or it starts to smell even when dry (people typically go for 2-3 weeks between washings).

There are quite a few soaker patterns available on-line. Most involve knitting a triangle, then folding the bottom point up, bringing the side points in (like a triangle diaper), and sewing the sides, leaving legholes as large as desired. I’ve actually never tried any of these patterns. I like knitting in the round, and the Little Turtle Knit pattern is ideal for that. Here’s another knit-in-the-round diaper pattern courtesy of Stella of Fern and Faerie .

These are the on-line patterns I know of:

The other fun thing you can do when knitting soakers, is dye the wool yarn with kool-aid. One of my favorite yarns is Lion Brand’s Fisherman’s wool, which you can get at Joann Fabrics (not all Joanns though — mostly just at the larger Joann etc. stores). It comes in an eight-ounce skein which is enough for about three soakers. The instructions for dyeing yarn can be found here. and a very useful color chart is available here .

Here’s a picture of my yarn and a half-knit soaker being kool-aid dyed:

And this is the finished soaker:

If you’d rather not dye your own, here are a few places on-line to purchase beautifully hand-dyed yarns.

And here’s a list, compiled my Kristen of knitlist. of the list members’ favorite worsted weight wool yarns. I’ve done a lot of yarn research in the past 6 months, and most of my top picks are in this list 🙂

  • Cascade 220 – 5 votes – $7 for 220 yards, great colors, coming soon in Superwash (2 votes for superwash)
  • Brown Sheep Nature Spun, also 5 votes, 245 yards for $6.50
  • Peace Fleece, 3 votes, 200 yards for $6.50
  • Plymouth Galway, 2 mentions, 230 yards for $4 to $6
  • Patons Classic Merino, 3 votes, 223 yards for $5.25 (and I happen to know some colors are on sale at Herrschners for $3 a skein)
  • Mission Falls 1824, 2 votes, 85 yards for $4 (merino, soft, heavy worsted, MACHINE WASH)
  • Bartlett Yarns, 3 votes, 210 yards, $6 (a bit rougher wool) www.bartlettyarns.com
  • Mule Spinner worsted (www.customwoolenmill.com ), 1 vote, 226 yards for $5.50 (nice website)
  • Chester Farms, 2 votes, $7 for 4 oz. worsted skein, (www.chesterfarms.com ), nice website allows you get close to the sheep!
  • Peruvian Highland Wool: Watch for it on Elann, 1 mention
  • Plymouth Outback, 1 vote, 374 yards, $13 typical, on sale for $8 at Elann, colorways
  • Philosopher’s wool, 1 vote, www.philosopherswool.com (great site), $7.50 for 4 oz worsted skein
  • Chuckanaut Bay, 1 vote, 390 yards for $15 to $18 (so equivalent to $8 or $9 a skein in others)
  • Araucania Natura Wool, 1 vote, 240 yards for $7.50, Chilean, earthy colors nice
  • Dale of Norway Superwash: Didn’t find price, but it is out there, 1 vote

Another one of my favorites is the organic yarn from Full Belly Farm .

If your soakers are starting to get pilly and ratty looking, check out Jenny’s page to see the awesome difference you can make with one of those battery powered sweater shavers.

I’ve also been experimenting with using acrylic yarn (Red Heart brand). I think acrylic works as a soaker because it is essentially plastic and doesn’t absorb water. So as long as the knit is tight enough to prevent contact of the diaper and the outer clothing, it performs reasonably well as a water-resistant barrier.

The advantages of acrylic are that it’s machine washable and dryable, doesn’t need lanolizing, is super-soft, and since the yarn is more slippery, makes for a stretchier fabric. However, it doesn’t have the anti-bacterial properties of wool, so it needs to be washed more often, and I think it gets pillier in the wash over time, but probably hand washing would alleviate some of that.

And here are some pics of the acrylic soaker. It passed the four-hour diaper test with no wicking or leaks. Julia is a great model, isn’t she? This yarn was fun because the repeat on the coloring was almost exactly the same as the length it took me to knit one round, so I got vertical stripes of color rather than random patches. Kinda cool.

The pattern for this soaker is based on the Little Turtle Knit pattern, but with the following differences: 1) I knit a slightly different gage than Theresa, so there are 90 stitches in the body of the soaker (for a size L); 2) I cast on 72 stitches at the waist on size 3 needles, then increased every four stitches to get to 90 in the body, and switched to size 6 needles; 3) I decreased more at the legholes so that the stride was narrower (17 stitches), and the legholes themselves are bigger; 4) I picked up stitches around the legholes and knitted four rounds on double pointed needles to get the rolled cuffs.

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