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!
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.
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!
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).
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).
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.)
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: