All About… fastening systems

My preferred fastening system is Touchtape. First, Touchtape is superior to Velcro in so many ways, I would never use Velcro. Not for diapers. My first trial diapers were made with Velcro, and it lost its “stick” within a few washes. (Yes, despite everyone on the internet saying not to use Velcro, I did it anyway.)

Many people use Aplix in their dipes – I used to, but switched to Touchtape after about a year – I just like it better, but they’re really very similar.

I personally don’t like snaps as much -I like the flexibility of being able to fasten a diaper wherever I want, rather than just at either Snap Setting A or Snap Setting B. Also, many parents, particularly daddies, get a little overwhelmed by rows upon rows of snaps. It gets hard to figure out exactly how to close the diaper!

I do offer snaps as an option for those who want it – I use one row of snaps with three settings on each side.

I also don’t buy the whole “kids can remove touchtape but not snaps” “fact” that circulates on the internet. Some kids might be able to remove hook-and-loop tape but be stymied by snaps, but both Wally and Genna could remove both with the same amount of ease (at about 4 months). Stories shared by customers, friends, and just others who I know would seem to indicate that some kids can’t get off diapers with snaps, some can’t get off diapers with hook-and-loop, some kids can’t get off anything, some kids aren’t stopped by any type of fastener, and some kids never try to take their diapers off.

(I’ve found, though, that for kids for whom this is really a problem, using rounded-edge Touchtape closures that are JUST  Touchtape and not any fabric covering it are REALLY hard to remove – at least for a while. After several months, the Touchtape starts to curl a bit on the edges, and then the gig’s up.)

The most common question I get about Touchtape: Does it lose its “stick”? I’ve never had Touchtape lose its Stick. I know it does have a lifespan, I’m just not sure what that lifespan is – longer than I’ve had diapers in circulation with Touchtape, anyway.

The most common problem is Lint Creep. You know, lint catches on one small edge of the tab. Then a month later, the whole thing’s covered. Get yourself a pin, safety pin, bobby pin, etc, and pick that stuff out. It takes like 3 seconds. Voila, good as new.

The second most common problem is pilling on the loop (soft) part. This most often comes from other fabrics in the wash rubbing up on the Touchtape and getting its pilling embedded in the soft fibers of the touchtape. Solution? Scissors or a sweater shaver and cut those pills right off.

I am in the process of testing hook and loop tape from another manufacturer. Their testing indicates that it’s got a high peel strength (how much force is needed to unstick it) as well as a long life (how many uses you get before it quits working). Testing so far is going well, and I like it, but it’s only been a few weeks. If it tests out as better than Touchtape, I’ll be seriously considering making a switch, and I’ll definitely keep you informed!!

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All About… Mei Tai Carriers

Mei Tai Carriers.

Of all my carriers, I think the Mei Tai is my favorite. (I really love wraps, but the MT is a bit more portable and is probably my favorite all-around.)

A bit about MT Carriers in General

MT carriers are a great all-around carrier. Two shoulder straps distribute baby’s weight evenly, which is a blessing for the wearer’s back. The two-knot design is quick and easy to put on. And the carrier is simple enough to still be quite versatile – there are several ways to tie the carrier on depending on what you’re going for. I love the MT for the high back carry, and how easy and fast it is to throw a baby on my back.

Some would consider it a drawback that baby can only ride in a few positions – sitting facing in, sitting on the hip, or riding on the back. I know a lot of parents want to be able to wear their babies facing out. I will admit that I don’t understand why. Some MT manufacturers have attempted to address this desire by devising all manner of ways to bunch the carrier up in the front to allow baby to sit facing forward, but a MT really just wasn’t designed for this.

And there are several reasons why you would not want to face baby out anyway. (It stresses babies out. The legs-dangling position is harmful to baby’s spine.) (That said, if you want to wear a baby facing out with their legs hanging outside of the carrier, try a wrap. If you want to wear a baby facing out with their legs tucked in, try a pouch or ring sling. I do have several customers who wear their babies facing out with legs tucked in using the MT, as well.)

A bit about safety

Are MT carriers safe? Of course, the answer is yes. I wouldn’t sell you something that I thought was unsafe.

When wearing a newborn, (yes! you can!), make sure to tie the shoulder straps behind baby’s back to keep their torso upright and not slouching over. (Note: this carrier pictured here is my uber-compact, keep it in the diaper bag, use in emergencies, MT carrier, that’s why the body is so small and the straps so narrow.) This way of tying the straps helps provide baby’s little back with the support it needs.

With ANY MT, make sure that it’s sewn together well. Check the seams before use. Fabric can wear out pretty quickly, particularly in the washing machine, so taking a few seconds to make sure everything’s holding up well should be part of your babywearing routine.

At Wallypop, we use long-wearing fabrics – high-quality cotton prints are paired with hard-working twills and denims. We use the longest-wearing fabrics we can find to keep your baby safe and to provide you with a good value for your money.

We sew our carriers carefully and thoughtfully. I typically do not use a “panel” design (where the front of the carrier is made of several panels and looks like a quilt block) because each seam is a potential weak spot in the carrier. Fewer seams = more safety. We reinforce all of our seams – topstitching around the perimeter of the carrier to give those seams extra support, and we sew down the straps in several places, ensuring that they will never pull loose.

We also don’t use just gobs of thread to hold the straps in place. I’ve seen some carriers that are sewn all around with a really wide, really closely-spaced zig-zag stitch, which I guess looks safer? The problem with this is that each needle hole is a potential tear spot. Fabric is stronger than thread, so when we’re looking for something sturdy, we’re looking for something with more fabric and fewer needle holes!

Now about Wallypop MT carriers

As mentioned above, we use hard-wearing fabrics in our MT carriers. I try to pick out a wide variety of fun prints for the MTs. I can use cotton prints, bottomweight fabrics, or decorator fabrics. I also occasionally use lighter-weight fancy fabrics (silk, etc) as a decorative outer layer. And, one of my favorite things to use – old T-shirts!

The straps are always a coordinating twill or denim. Twill and denim are long-wearing, sturdy fabrics that won’t fold, unduly twist, or wad up. They’re comfortable without being really heavy.

Our straps are unpadded. In our experience, most wearers are quite comfortable with unpadded straps, once they try them. (there’s a strong bias towards thinking you NEED padding, which you don’t.) The unpadded straps are also markedly less bulky! We do offer padded straps as an option on Made to Order MT carriers, which are just a smidge more expensive than ordering one instock.

We sew our waist straps on straight, and the shoulder straps at an angle coming out of the body. There are millions (ok, maybe 5) ways of sewing on straps, and when I was playing around with designs when I was pregnant and when Wally was a newborn, I settled on this one. I just like it. That’s all. I could never get carriers made with angled waist straps to sit right, and found that the angle I use on the shoulder straps is just the right balance between keeping the top of the carrier snug, and leaving room for the baby.

Our straps are pretty long, and will be perfect for most wearers. We do recommend chatting with us before purchasing your carrier if you have any concerns about fit – I can always make longer straps for you! I can also shorten straps of instock carriers if you’re really small.

The body of our MT carriers is roomy, without being too overwhelming. It can seem like a lot of carrier when you’re toting around a 6 lb newborn, but we recommend rolling the carrier at the waist to shorten the body when wearing a small baby – that’ll solve the roominess problem.

All About: Ring Slings

Wallypop Ring Slings

A bit about ring slings in general.

Ring slings are often thought of as a pefect beginning carrier, easy to use, etc. While I wouldn’t say that ring slings are HARD to use, they do have a learning curve, and some people just simply don’t get them. I can honestly say that I’ve seen more people have difficulty with a ring sling than with a wrap – not that ring slings are all that difficult, but they’re not as simple as some want you to believe.

A bit about safety.

The rings used in ring slings are of UTMOST importance. The best ring slings are made with rings manufactured by Sling Rings. Their rings are very safe, tested to 250 lbs, and abused in every way possible. Note that some major brand names of ring slings do not use these rings and have had ring-related recalls. Not good.

Now, about Wallypop ring slings.

We make our ring slings from a variety of midweight cotton fabrics – we try to choose fun or understated prints that look good from both sides (front and back). We also make deluxe slings from silk or other high-end fabrics.  You can make a ring sling out of other weights of fabric, but we’ve found that much lighter weight, and the sling tends to cut in to the wearer’s shoulder and the baby’s legs. Much heavier, and it’s just, well, heavy.

We use nylon rings for our cotton slings. In our experience, the nylon rings grip the fabric better than metal, so they’re less prone to slipping.

For the Deluxe slings, we use aluminum rings. Not because they’re prettier or more deluxe, but because the higher-end fabrics we use (silk, satin, etc) tend to be thinner fabrics, and they are more easily gripped by the aluminum.

Wallypop ring slings are unpadded. In our experience, the padding in padded ring slings tends to just make the slings less adjustable, as the padding gets tangled up in the rings. Most people who start out using a padded ring sling, believing they need the padding for comfort, find that switching to an unpadded ring sling is actually more comfortable – they don’t need the padding, after all, and the lack of padding allows a better fit.

The shoulder of our ring slings are made with an inverse double pleat. Um, what? All that means is that it’s SUPER COMFORTABLE! Just wide enough on your shoulder to be comfortable without unduly restricting arm movement, but readily spreads out across your back with minimal bulk. I’ve also found that this type of pleat seems less likely to twist up than others I’ve tried.

Wearing

When you wear your ring sling, always make sure to keep the rings near your armpit. If you find the rings tend to travel down as you adjust the sling, first – start with the sling adjusted a bit shorter to start with, and second, pull OUT not DOWN.

Always keep fabric between you and baby, so that the baby has a secure place to sit. You never want to rely on friction to keep your baby in the sling!

All About: Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers.

Alright. Pocket diapers are super simple, really. Two layers of fabric, one waterproof, one not waterproof, plus a closure.

The Basics

My standard instock pocket diapers feature the same hidden elastic and Touchtape closure as all of my other diapers. When I make Made To Order pocket diapers with flannel interiors or cotton exteriors, I use elastic binding rather than hidden elastic. This helps keep moisture where it belongs and cuts down on the wicking that these particular diapers are prone to.

I do not put elastic around both sides of the pocket opening. There is elastic around the back, but the interior side (usually fleece or suedecloth) is left plain. For two reasons. First, adding elastic to both sides of the opening is not really necessary, and as I’m most interested in keeping my costs down, I generally don’t do things that are  not necessary – it just takes extra time and materials, and therefore means extra cost. Second, I personally find pocket diapers with elastic on both sides of the opening to be harder to stuff, and the task of stuffing pocket diapers is tedious enough without any extra hassle!

Leg Openings

I also do not topstitch around the leg openings.  When Wally was a baby and I added pocket diapers to my product lineup, I personally found that I experienced more leaking/wicking with pocket diapers that had been topstitched around the legs (regardless of brand). So, the ones I added to my inventory had a rolled leg, rather than a stitched leg.

Now with Genna, I’m finding that for her diapers, I don’t have any leaking or wicking regardless of how I make the leg. I’ve heard similar reports from those I’ve asked to test it out for me (just a few people, and I never thought to test the different leg types originally!).  However, it does make them marginally more difficult to stuff, because the opening is narrower inside.

I briefly considered switching the leg style earlier this year, but decided not to – many of my current customers really like the diapers the way they are, and there’s really nothing to be gained by switching.

I will say that I am kind of tired of the internet “knowledge” that rolled leg styles leak more than topstitched leg styles do.  Based on anecdotal evidence, it would seem that wicking/leaking at the legs has more to do with your baby’s shape and what you stuff them with than anything else. Some families/babies find that they prefer sewn legs and some find they prefer rolled legs.

Stuffing

As for stuffing your pockets, you may use anything you like. Personally, I recommend prefolds – they’re absorbent, multi-purpose, and inexpensive. I sell special inserts, and recommend using two of those for an average use, but if you’re looking for economical, prefolds are really the way to go.

Some people really like microfiber terry as inserts. Personally, I do not have good experience with microfiber terry, but plenty of people do. (Plus, honestly, I really don’t like the way microfiber terry feels.)

All About: Fleece Wraps (Covers)

Wallypop fleece covers. I love them, personally. I wrote about this recently here.

The fleece

I only use very particular fleeces for my covers. I use these fleeces because I think they are the very best for covers. I arrived at this conclusion based on my own experience and research, as well as the experiences of others.

I only use Malden Mills brand fleece. They developed fleece a while back, and the continue to produce the highest-quality fleece available. Their fleece does not pill, fade, or mat.

I only use Malden Mill’s Windpro or Windbloc fleece. These particular fleeces are water (and wind) proof, yet breatheable. Malden Mills says of WindPro, “The tight knit construction of the Polartec Wind Pro blocks 95% of the wind, yet is highly breathable…This fabric is intended for outerwear garments.” They describe Windbloc as having “a 100% windproof, water-resistant, breathable barrier, eliminating the need for a windbreaker or other additional shell. They are ideal for outdoor activities when cold and inclement weather demand high-perfomance outer protection.”

Within these two categories of fleece, I have a list of about 10 style numbers I feel are the very best for covers. I try to stick to those style numbers.

I am often asked why the Fleece covers are available only in boring colors, usually darker colors. Well, these are the colors the fabric is available in. It’s made for high-end sporting goods like jackets for backpackers. I could probably get different colors if I had it milled specially for me, but then I’d have to either buy like 30 times the amount I normally do, or I’d have to charge you double. Or both.

Construction

I make my fleece covers with HEMMED edges at the legs and waist, rather than using elastic binding. A few babies are sensitive to the elastic binding, and also it can tend to wick. Sewing them with hidden elastic and a hemmed seam eliminates both of these problems, and provides for a better fit, in my opinion. I’ve made myself some fleece covers using elastic binding, but I still prefer the hemmed edges, so that’s what I stock for the store. (Yes, many of my business decisions are based on what I personally prefer!)

In-stock fleece covers are made with Touchtape with the usual fold-back laundry tabs and crossover tabs at the waist. They are also available with snap closures if you order made to order.

When do I use fleece covers?

Personally, I tend to use fleece covers at night or when Genna’s wearing a shirt with pants, or a shirt without pants, or a loose one-piece outfit. I don’t use fleece covers with onesies or tighter-fitting one-piece outfits. I would not use a fleece cover for a long car trip. Fleece CAN be prone to compression wicking, meaning that when it gets pressure (like from a tight onesie or pressure of sitting in a carseat for long periods), it can wick through. Wicking generally does not cause WET clothes like leaking will, but it causes DAMP clothes.