Cloth Nappy Fabrics 101 Part 3: An Absorbent Fabrics Guide

Hello! And welcome to part 3 of my nappy making fabrics guide, today it’s all about absorbent fabrics. It’s these types of fabrics which predominantly determine the performance of your nappy and there are a number of different combinations to try. Today you can enjoy up to 20% off absorbent fabrics. If you’d like to get involved in more than one offer but are worrying about the accrued postage costs – don’t! Just leave us a note at check out and ask us to hold your order until the end of the week then we’ll dispatch it all together and refund you any postage charges. We also have 20% off nappy making kits all week long.

Bamboo Fabric

In China bamboo is referred to as the plant of a thousand uses and it has been used for centuries as a building material and in garden design and more recently it’s being used as a textile thanks to Beijing University developing bamboo as a fibre. The bamboo plant is particularly sustainable as it grows so quickly, some species grow as much as 140cms per day! As well as the obvious quantity and speed benefits this brings it also dramatically reduces the amount of water needed to grow the plant. As bamboo is a grass it can have a “hair cut” (just like mowing your lawn) and it’ll carry on growing without being replanted, and unlike cotton it doesn’t need pesticides and can be cultivated naturally.

Bamboo is sometimes called “cashmere from plants” because it is so very soft to wear next to the skin and has a wonderful sheen. The fibres in bamboo’s structure have a criss-cross texture, which is covered in tiny holes and make it a great moisture absorber that is also good for ventilation and breathability. Bamboo outperforms cotton’s absorption rates by three times and if bamboo is worn as clothing it wicks moisture away and evaporates perspiration instantly keeping you cool and dry.

There is a natural substance within bamboo called bamboo kun which protects the plant from pests and pathogens and means bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Japanese laboratory tests have shown that even after 50 washes bamboo fibres continue to have the same level of anti-bacterial properties, how amazing is that?! Bamboo fabric comes in a number of fabric types including  bamboo fleece, stretch terry, velour and towelling.

How is bamboo used in a a nappy?

Bamboo is most often used layered up as an insert (pictured on the right of Victoria’s photo below) as the absorbent layer of the nappy. There are lots of different ways to create an absorbent layer, here’s a good starter guide. I’m going to focus on the fabrics rather than the construction to help you choose which is best for you.

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Photo Courtesy of Bumble Bees Modern cloth Nappies

 

Bamboo Towelling

prem_bamb_towelling_creamBamboo towelling one of our best selling bamboo products and the premium version is to die for. It has a super sheen and the hand is amazingly soft. There isn’t any stretch to contend with here but it has a terry loop on both sides so it’s quite lofty. It makes very absorbent as a nappy booster, but it also makes brilliant cloth wipes (along with other things like bibs, “un-paper” towels, bathrobes and beach towels!)

Bamboo Velour

bamboo_velour_2__83343.1405331519.500.500We have bamboo in a velour finish which is a knit fabric. It’s smooth on the wrong side and the right side has a short, soft pile. It’s very soft and silky, has a fantastic drape and is lovely and tactile which lends itself well to gorgeous clothing, loungewear and it makes snuggly, breathable blankets. In nappy making it’s a popular choice as an inner layer of a nappy as it’s very soft to the touch and for pre-folds as it’s thinner than bamboo towelling. It has quite a stretch to it so careful handing is required, lots of pins, a ball point needle and a walking foot will help keep this fabric firmly under control. Bamboo velour takes dye very well is a very popular fabric for providing a beautiful blank canvas for a colour palette of your own design.

Bamboo French Terry

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Bamboo French Terry has a smooth knit on one side and on the reverse there’s a dimpled weave effect as seen in the photo. I’ve heard French Terry referred to as “magic” before now. I think the textured surface really assist the absorbency of this fabric. Made in the USA this is a premium fabric.

Bamboo Fleece

bamboo-fleece

Bamboo fleece is just like a cuddly sweatshirt material – one side has a smooth knit and the other is a fluffy fleece. Our bamboo fleece is ridiculously soft and really is a premium product far superior to others I’ve seen. It’s manufactured in the USA and not China which I think makes a big difference. A popular choice to make boosters as it’s soft and very absorbent.

A note about fabric weights

Most natural fibre absorbent fabrics will have a fabric weight (gsm – grams per square metre) listed. Quite simply, the higher the gsm the heavier the fabric will be and more it will absorb. The pay off for more absorbency is a bulkier nappy as the fabrics are thicker.

Manmade Absorbent Fabrics

Zorb Fabric

There are a number of manmade absorbent fabrics available, the most popular being Zorb. Zorb is manufactured in the USA specifically for use in cloth nappies. It’s a pretty high performance fabric and can absorb up to 10 times it’s own weight in liquid in under half a second and not only does it absorb quickly, it holds on to that moisture. Wazoodle, who manufacture and distribute this very specialist fabric, say that two layers of Zorb has the absorbency power of

  • 8 layers of flannel
  • 6 layers of French terry
  • 5 layers of fleece

The number of layers is key as a slim cloth nappy really is the holy grail of cloth nappy making.

Zorb has a fluffy texture that’s a bit like curtain interlining.

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A key point about Zorb is that it MUST be sandwiched between other layers of fabric, without this step the fabric is liable to shred when washed. To assist with this we also stock Zorb II – a sandwiched product 🙂

Zorb II

The clever folk at Wazoodle are always coming up with solutions to tricky problems. Zorb II has all the same absorbent properties of the original Zorb but it comes pre-sandwiched between two layers of bamboo/cotton face fabric.

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Microfibre

We’ve stopped stocking this for the moment but I wanted to mention it as it’s very readily available from your local supermarket in the form of dishcloths should you want to give it a whirl. Microfibre absorbs *mega* quickly. This is great because as soon as your baby wees you want the liquid to be drawn away from the body as soon as possible, microfibre does a fantastic job of this BUT it falls down as it can’t hold on to liquid for very long, when it’s compressed then the liquid just leaks out, just like a sponge of water does when you squeeze it. You can harness the super quick powers of microfibre and get around the compression issue by backing it with a layer of absorbent fabric that is better at holding on to liquid – like bamboo.

Hemp

Hemp is the genetic name for the cannabis family, but fret not, the plants used in textile creation are not those used to smoke! Producing fabric from hemp has an old tradition originating in China where it was used for rope, clothes, shoes and also paper for as many as 10,000 years. Between the 16th and 19th century 80% of the world’s fabric was made from hemp but the fibre fell out of favour because of it’s association with marijuana, despite being a different plants species. Recently hemp is seeing resurgence in popularity, as it’s a sustainable crop. It’s also incredibly strong and durable, it resists mould and it has amazing absorbent properties which are even better than bamboo.

Hemp has great holding properties for liquid BUT it takes it a while for it to take up the liquid so it’s often layers with faster absorbing fabrics like microfibre, Zorb or bamboo.

I think we get more questions about absorbent fabrics than any other nappy making fabric so I hope that’s helpful. More to follow tomorrow when I’ll be talking about fastenings and notions.

 

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