Getting Started Sewing Your Own Cloth Diapers

Everything you need to get started sewing your own cloth diapers!

People choose cloth diapers for a lot of different reasons. For many of us, economics has a lot to do with it. Cloth is definitely cheaper in the long run, but the $20+ price tag on many cloth diapers still hurts if you’re trying to build a full stash quickly!  

how-much-for-one-cloth-diaper

I hadn’t been cloth diapering long before I thought about resurrecting my hopelessly terrible sewing skills and making my own diapers. The process seems a little daunting, but thankfully, the internet is full of great resources to help you on your journey! The possibilities are virtually endless as far as diaper styles, but here are the basic things you will need to start, and where to find them.

Sewing Machine
You could hand-sew these babies if you wanted, but trust me, a sewing machine will be your friend! You don’t need anything fancy. Any basic machine with forward, reverse, and zig-zag stitch will do the trick!

Non-Stick Foot
Sewing with polyurethane laminate (PUL) can really be a booger because the laminate tends to be “sticky” when fed through the machine. A non-stick foot makes it a bazillion times easier, giving you a much nicer-looking end product. Alternatively, you can also use a regular walking foot with wax paper to allow the PUL to glide more freely (while still allowing you to see what you’re doing). 

Source: Sew 4 Home

Source: Sew 4 Home

PUL
PUL is the most popular material for making your own cloth diapers – it serves as the waterproof outer fabric for pocket diapers, all-in-ones, and covers. You can find PUL at Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, or lots of places online (Diaper Sewing Supplies has drool-worthy prints). 

Outer Fabric
For fitted diapers, the outer fabric is absorbent, not waterproof. Yes, it’s going to be hidden beneath a cover, but there’s really no reason you can’t pick something cute… or use that wicked-awesome Pink Floyd t-shirt so your baby can be completely rad.

Absorbent Material
The possibilities are endless. If you’re sewing cloth diapers on a tiny budget, just raid your own closets: towels, receiving blankets, or t-shirts will all work perfectly well. Cotton velour, hemp, and bamboo fleece are all extremely popular choices among diaper makers, and can be found online through diaper sewing material suppliers, or through co-op buys on Facebook (Five Things You Need to Know About Co-Ops). 

Stay-Dry Materials
If you want your baby’s bottom to stay dry even after he or she has wet the diaper, use athletic wicking jersey or microfleece on the inside of the diaper against baby’s skin. 

Polyester Thread
Thread choice is crucial! All types of cotton thread will wick moisture, so make sure you get polyester. It would be a bummer if you sewed your beautiful PUL diaper with cotton thread, only to have a wet baby (and bed) in the middle of the night! 

Ballpoint Needle
Some people claim that sewing with a ballpoint needle helps to prevent wicking.  It is wise to sew with a ballpoint needle when sewing with any knit fabric, so as to protect the integrity of your fabric.

Hook & Loop and/or Snaps & Snap Pliers
Ah, the old snaps versus hook & loop debate.

  • The nice thing about sewing your own diapers is that if you sewed it in, you will know how to replace it (or convert H&L to snaps) when it wears out! Beware of buying the basic H&L available at most stores; it is not made for the frequent, repetitive use and washing that diapers go through. You can purchase higher quality H&L through diaper sewing suppliers such as Wazoodle, and Diaper Sewing Supplies. Jo-Ann also carries Babyville brand diaper sewing supplies. (Look for them in their own section, as they are not usually stocked with the rest of the H&L.)
  • For snaps, KAM products are the most trusted, and are very durable. 

Elastic
There are lots of ways to do elastic, and lots of opinions about what is best. For starting out, you can use whatever appropriately sized polybraid you find in the store. If you really want your diaper to last, you probably want to find a source for durable elastic, because they are not all created equal! Swimwear elastic is great, as it lasts through the stress of being wet a lot. Fold-over elastic (FOE) is also a popular choice, but can be tricky for beginner sewers. Not all patterns require FOE. Be sure to check yours! (Related: How to replace elastic in a GroVia cloth diaper.)

Patterns
Here is where it gets crazy! There are TONS of places to find patterns! Some are free, some are not. It can get a little overwhelming when you begin searching for the perfect diaper pattern. Just like researching cloth diapering for the first time, it may cause a desire to crawl into a hole and hide. I recommend either buying a reputable pattern with really great photo instructions, (Rocket Bottoms patterns have WONDERFUL instructions and pattern support), or finding a free pattern and lurking on YouTube for an afternoon. There are people who break it down and make you feel like you can do it! (And you absolutely can!)

Don’t be discouraged if your first 1-2, (or 4-5) diapers are wonky. There is a learning curve, and most of those flaws are cosmetic – the diaper will still work just fine. They don’t have to be blue ribbon worthy in the county fair! (Wait, what? Who still enters things in the county fair??) My kids are diapered in a stash that is sewn entirely by me. When I started out sewing as a preteen, my sister banned me from using her machine, because I was terrible. (As in, I was hazardous to her Bernina’s health). So if I can do it, YOU can do it!

I even ended up with a brand new sewing machine after it was all said and done, which is, in the words of my husband, was “the best investment we’ve ever made.” (Yep…  He’s a keeper!)


For more resources on how to sew your own diapers, here are some places to start:

How to Convert Hook and Loop to Snaps

Ahhh, the old hook and loop versus snap debate. While hook and loop cloth diaper closures are quick and easy to use, they do wear out more quickly. Recently I was given a cute Thirsties cover with good laminate and elastic, but the hook and loop was barely sticky and had become brittle and curly on the ends.

I don’t have a working sewing machine right now so I had to figure out a way to perform a quick and easy refresh on this diaper cover. Instead of struggling along with some not-so-good hand stitching to replace the hook and loop closures, I decided to convert the hook and loop to snaps. With a few supplies it’s an easy project for any beginner.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

For this project, I used only a handful of inexpensive supplies.

supplies-to-convert-hook-and-loop-to-snaps

Step 2: Remove Worn Out Hook and Loop

The first step in your project to convert the hook and loop to snaps is to use your seam ripper to pull out the stitches of the existing hook and loop. On my diaper, the binding on the edges was actually sewn over the hook and loop, so I needed to pull up the binding over the “loop strip” on both ends before I could fully get the strip off.

how to remove hook and loop with seam ripper

Tip: Be very careful when seam ripping. You don’t want to poke extra holes in PUL. It is not a very forgiving fabric in the sense that it doesn’t close up on its own and is very easy to rip or tear with a seam ripper.

Step 3: Determine Snap Placement

Next you want to mark where you are going to put your new snaps. I already had another cover with snaps so I decided to use that as a makeshift template. If you don’t have one you could always measure the top edge of your diaper and put as many or as few snaps as you want in that space, spaced evenly.

marking placement of snaps on cloth diaper

I chose to measure my existing diaper. I knew I wanted to do a single row of snaps so I would need two on each wing. So I measured my diaper with the snaps already on from the edge to the middle of the first snap. The first was about 5/8″ in from the edge and the second snap was about 2 1/2″ in. I then made the corresponding marks on the wings of my cover.

For the row across the diaper my existing snap diaper had 10 but was also about a half inch larger. I decided to make mine using 9. After measuring I found that they snaps started about 1″ from the edge of the diaper and went on a downward swoop. The snaps closest to the edges were 1 1/2″ from the top while the center ones were 2″ from the top. I kind of eyeballed the rest because the best part of this project is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You know you’re in the right area long as you stay within the area where the hook & loop previously was.

snaps for converting hook and loop cloth diapers

Tip: The male snaps are called “studs” and these go on the wings of the diaper; the female snaps are referred to as “sockets” and go across the diaper. Every stud and socket needs a cap. For additional information on how snaps work, visit the “Snaps 101″ page of the KAM website.

Step 4: Press Snaps into Place

After you have everything marked, use your awl and press to put the snaps on. The studs are placed on the wings and the sockets are placed across the waist.

I started by placing the studs on the wings. The process is:

  1. Carefully make a hole using the awl.
  2. Pull out the awl.
  3. Insert the cap on one side and the stud on the other side.
  4. Use your press to secure it.

Once all the studs are placed on the wings, do the same thing across the front of diaper with sockets rather than studs.

snap press for cloth diapers

Tip: Always double and triple check that your studs are facing inwards and your sockets are facing outwards. Can you tell I’ve made that mistake before?

Step 5: Finishing Touches

The last step is to sew closed any binding(s) you had to open to get your hook & loop off. I used a needle and thread to close the space by hand, but you can use a sewing machine.

Tip: Avoid using pins because they will add unnecessary holes to the PUL.

Optional

I like to put any new or altered covers into the dryer on high for 10 to 15 minutes. This may help to close any holes made during the sewing process and prevent leaks which could occur where holes were made.

 

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Welcome to Follow Page Five of the Ultimate Baby Shower Giveaway! These entries are optional; for each task you complete, you earn extra entries which gives you a better chance of winning the overall giveaway of more than $3,000 in prizes. All entries will be verified.

 

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One of the entries in my recent SoftBums giveaway (open to new entries until May 27!) gave me insight into how many of my readers are expectant mamas, and wow, there are a lot of you! That, of course, got me thinking about pregnancy and tiny new babies and all the fun that comes with that time of life. Which leads me to introducing you to the…

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This post is sponsored by Over the Moon Diapers.