The Benefits of Dressing in Natural Fiber Clothing

It took moving to Montana for me to discover the real benefits of natural fiber clothing. Sub-zero temperatures quickly fine-tuned my clothing standards, now I try to choose natural fibers, especially with what's next to the skin.

My children are dressed for the weather with cotton thermal long johns, wool sweaters, wool mittens, and hats/hood to cover their ears from the wind. If it's above 20 degrees and isn't too windy, we still go out for fresh air, we just bundle up first.

I love wool especially because it breathes but stays so warm. Superwash wool (my son is wearing superwash wool socks but you can't see them) can be machine washed. I usually wash it on cold and dry it flat. Layering wool seems to work the best, we wear a long sleeve shirt under, wool sweater over, and then if it's really cold, a coat over that.

Wool not only is a great insulator, but it's naturally antibacterial so it doesn't need to be washed as often. Wool wicks moisture away from the body, and as I learned when looking at wool for cloth diapers, wool can hold quite a bit of wetness without letting the moisture seep through to other clothing (think of walking in a drizzle- your wool sweater would get damp, but it holds the moisture and it doesn't soak the shirt underneath and make you cold). To top it off, wool is naturally flame resistant, making it a healthy choice for sleepwear and bedding.

If you think you have a wool allergy, you might actually be allergic to the chemicals used in processing the wool in some clothing. In that case, you could try less processed undyed wool from a high-quality supplier and see how you do with that. Green Mountain Diapers has a some thoughts on this as well.

Sources for wool clothing:
Nova Natural has beautiful woolens for the whole family
Sierra Trading Post is where we found wool long johns for my outdoor-working hubby
TJ Maxx has nice thick socks with wool or alpaca in them. I love to wear these in the winter. They're cute too. I look for ones with the highest % of wool or other animal fiber, since those are the warmest.
Thrift stores are a great place to find wool sweaters.

I resorted to learning to knit because I wanted to dress my family in wool but couldn't keep up with the cost. The wool hoodie my son is wearing in the picture is made with Knitpicks yarn. The whole sweater cost me $6. The time factored in is considered, but knitting is a rewarding hobby for me, and something I can do while watching a movie with hubby, sitting on the floor while the kids play, or riding in the car.

For simple, soft, all cotton, durable clothing I love Hanna Andersson. Pricey, but it lasts a long time, both for the same child (my daughter is still wearing the same dress/leggings sets that she wore last year) and when passed down to siblings or friends. Our favorites are the two-piece thermal long johns/PJs (the two piece allows you to order big because of the tight-fitting PJ rule), pilot caps, wiggle pants for the little ones especially in cloth diapers, and the survivor jacket. Grandparents treat to these for holidays especially, which helps keep our toys from becoming overwhelming. We get a lot of basics at thrift stores, I just look for brand name clothes, and then fill in with stuff from Target, watching to make sure it's all 100% cotton.

Leather shoes: We like those little Robeez-style shoes for little ones, then once they need shoes with soles I buy one pair of laceup shoes in each size, of a good-quality brand. We like to keep things simple over here, so we limit choices of footwear ;) I like them to lace up because I feel like they get a better fit, and we like leather because it's not sweaty/stuffy like vinyl or plastic. I like plain plain plain, so I learned to sew the leather baby shoes in order to make exactly what I wanted, but for a fraction of the price.

Keeping the 'core' warm: I was advised when doing childcare that it's best to keep the children's trunk and head warm, that way they still can play freely but they are warm enough. We use vests a lot for this, and the kids and I like them. I find that if I'm wearing a vest, I can skip a heavy sweatshirt inside in the winter. The sleeves on my sweatshirt seem to always be dragging through things, so this saves on laundry as well :)

Avoiding Polyester: We prefer to avoid polyester clothing as much as possible. Both my kids' snow suits have polyester fleece in them, but other than that I don't think they have any polyester clothing. In addition to being made from petroleum and out gassing chemicals, in the case of a fire or too much heat polyester clothing will melt to the child. Not good. Both my kids as babies would also get rashes from any polyester (especially fleece) touching their skin.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite wool sweater, or insist on only 100% cotton t-shirts?


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