Friday, January 2, 2009

Cloth Diaper Styles: Diapers Covers part III: Polyester Fleece

Polyester fleece, better known by the original trade name of Polarfleece, was invented by Malden Mills in 1979 as a synthetic, easy-care version of wool. Using fine brushed polyester fibers attached to a polyester knit "substrate," a non-shrink, machine-wash (and dry)-able high-loft fabric with wicking properties was created. Fleece is now readily available in local fabric stores and easily repurposed from fleece throw blankets, although the very best fleece for diaper covers (known for the best protection and best anti-pill construction) is still 200 (or 300) weight fleece from Malden Mills.

This side-snapping modified Fattycakes side-snapping diaper cover was made by the author using Malden Mills 200 wt. fleece as the outer, and Malden Mills microfleece as the inner. The snaps in this superior fleece were well-reinforced and are still going strong!

Regardless of the maker, fleece does have a tendency to pill over time to some degree, and this is exacerbated by washing and drying fleece items with natural fibers, especially cotton. This causes the fleece to pick up "fuzzies" and shortens the life of the item.

Because polyester fleece is not absorbent (unlike wool covers which can absorb up to 30% of their dry weight before feeling wet) fleece covers over saturated diapers will compression leak (also known as compression wicking), and fleece often can't withstand a forceful or volumeful stream of urine.

These three fleece "soakers" were made by Carson of Fuzzy Britches.

Fleece is almost as breathable as wool, so for babies without synthetic allergies who need good air circulation to prevent diaper rash, it can be an easy-care, fairly inexpensive choice in water-resistant diaper covers.

Fleece can be used to make wrap-style covers in one or two layers, and is occasionally found as the outer layer of AI2 and AIO style cloth diapers. The "hook" side of hook-and-loop tape will stick to fleece, so using laundry tabs when washing is very important! Because of the stretch of the fabric, it can be difficult to adequately reinforce snaps in fleece, so care (and testing) should be done before investing in a complete "stash" of snapping fleece cloth diapers.

These fleece longies (with attached soaker for extra wetness protection) were made by the author using fabric-store patterned fleece.

Fleece can also use its stretch to an advantage, in the form of comfortable "soakers," "shorties," "longies," and even "skirties." Even store-bought fleece shorts and pants will work as a diaper cover. When using fitted diapers or well-secured prefolds, this makes dressing baby very easy--the diaper cover and "bottoms" are one.

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