How to Replace Elastic in Cloth Diapers

An easy tutorial for replacing the elastic in cloth diapers.

If you have an otherwise good diaper but the elastic is shot, step off the ledge! You have two options:

  1. Check the manufacturer’s warranty. You might be able to have it replaced or repaired at no cost.
  2. You* can replace the elastic yourself.

The first option is obviously ideal, because it’s the least work – a welcome solution for a busy mom! But if the diaper has no warranty or is outside of the warranty period, replacing the elastic is not that difficult of a project.

* Please note that my definition of the term “you” excludes me. Seriously, I can’t even sew a button. Thankfully, my mom (aka Crunchy Nana) is a talented seamstress and offered to show us an easy way to replace elastic in cloth diapers!

What You Need

Step 1: Measure the Replacement Elastic

If only one side of the diaper is shot, you can take a measurement of the unstretched leg on the opposite side.

If you need to replace the elastic on both legs, it’s fine to take any other cloth diaper and measure its elastic. You don’t even have to use the same brand or type of diaper to measure from; simply choose a diaper that fits your baby’s legs the most comfortably (that is, it doesn’t leak at the legs or leave red marks).

measure-the-good-elastic

Most of the diapers in my stash have leg elastic in the 5.5 to 7-inch range.

Step 2: Open the Casing to Remove the Old Elastic

The method demonstrated here is an exterior replacement method, so first you have to find a place to get into the elastic casing from the seam at the leg. A note of caution: be very careful with the seam ripper – you don’t want to poke a hole in the PUL by accident!

First, use the seam ripper to carefully unstitch the seam right next to where the elastic is sewn in (A). Open a space of about an inch so you can grab the old elastic and maneuver your fingers a bit (B). Next, you’ll need to take out the seam where the elastic is anchored so that you can remove the old elastic. Generally, this will only require ripping a few stitches (C).

removing-the-old-elastic

Now repeat A, B, and C on other end, and pull out the old elastic.

Step 3: Insert the New Elastic

Before inserting the new elastic, fasten safety pins at both ends. This will give you something to hang on to while you wiggle it through the casing.

new-elastic-ready-to-go-in

Insert the new elastic, pushing it through inchworm-style until your safety pins can hang out at each opening.

new-elastic-in-place

Step 4: Sew Down the New Elastic

Now that you have the new elastic threaded through the casing, it’s time to sew it in place. Now, Crunchy Nana (whose sock drawer is immaculate, and organized by color) wishes me to remind you to thread the machine so that the top color matches the diaper and the bobbin color matches the diaper’s lining.

Remove the safety pin from the end that you want to sew in first. To anchor the elastic in place while you stitch it, pull it about 1/4 inch past the original seam that you ripped out and will be sewing over. Then put a straight pin through the new elastic and the lining – just be sure not to pin the PUL!

anchor-the-elastic-before-sewing

Next, Crunchy Nana used a zipper foot to avoid going over that pin. (Tangent here. Zipper Foot would make a pretty awesome band name; am I right?!) Start a little ways back so that you can go over the existing stitches; then make a 90⁰ turn to sew the new elastic in place.

sewing-the-new-elastic

Once you have the first side finished, pull and stretch to make sure it’s stitched tight before moving on to the other end. Then simply repeat this process on the other end! Note that it may feel a little more difficult to keep everything in place on the other end, because now there is a bit of tension.

Step 5: Close ‘er Up

At this point, the new elastic is sewn in place on both ends, but you still have two open gaps where you originally ripped the seams in step 2.

close-up-the-holes

Crunchy Nana informed me that she was just going to quickly whip stitch these using a double thread.

(Once again, my mind wandered. This vocabulary is all so new to me, but whip stitching sounds like a great punishment. In a few more years, I’ll probably be throwing around this term as a vague threat when my children are being overly rambunctious. “Stop that right now, or Mama’s gonna have to whip-stitch you!”)

whip-stitching

Start about a 1/4 inch behind the opening so you catch in the good stitches and hide the knot. Pull it taut and anchor it between your thumb and forefinger while you whip stitch it closed.

Have Any Questions?

Well, don’t ask me! Remember, I can’t sew a button and that’s not an exaggeration. But Crunchy Nana will be monitoring the comments and is happy to chat with you about this project. Leave a comment below if you have any questions about how to replace elastic in cloth diapers.

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