Wednesday, November 7, 2012

DIY cloth diapers (Part 2)

I already wrote about a simple cloth diaper stash, using flats and Flips covers.  Today, I'm writing about  DIY cloth diapers, using flats, fitted diapers and wool pants.

There are many patterns available for homemade diapers.  There are fitteds (the soaker is sewn in), all-in-ones (soaker plus waterproof cover sewn together), or pockets (waterproof cover with an interior pocket to stuff the soaker into).

My favorite pattern is designed as a pocket, but I'm using it slightly differently.  My version is easier to sew (no extra step to make a pocket or special steps for specialty fabrics) and easier to clean (no thick layers or waterproof covers).

My flannel-fitteds, based on Rita's Rump Pattern, are sewn from two layers of flannel, elastic around the legs and along the back (I added back elastic for more containment), and snaps to fasten.  They work like a cover, holding a pad-folded flat (you'll need two dozen in your stash).  They aren't water-proof so do need wool or fleece pants over the top, which is nice for a truly breathable break from PUL diaper covers.  

The rise can be folded up or down.  

The free pattern calls for a pocket to stuff the absorbent layers into, but to save sewing time, I turned and topstitched around the entire diaper so they don’t have a pocket and I just lay the folded flat inside.  Easier to sew!  I think each diaper took about 15 minutes start to finish.  My regular sewing machine handled two layers of flannel, turned and top-stitched, without too much trouble.  I didn't need a serger or heavy-duty needle.

I'll estimate high on the price, and guess that each one cost around $1, not including snaps.  Snaps really do make this user-friendly, but you could pin them instead.  Some people love pinning; it does give a very custom fit.

I used the KamSnaps plier to apply plastic snaps.  With several package deals to choose from, they are a little more expensive than metal snaps, but if you are willing to sew diapers, I'm guessing you also sew other things that can benefit from cute plastic snaps.

I haven't tried these Dritz pliers for metal snaps, but they are more affordable.

I shortened the wings when I made these, but I should have followed the pattern exactly to allow for more growth.  Sized as the pattern calls for, with longer wings, you'd have enough room to add more snaps for a bigger baby.  My baby outgrew them just as he was potty-training so I didn't add more snaps.  

Homemade wool (or fleece) 
pants and covers
Babies were diapered before PUL covers.   I think our grandparents might have worn wool covers, like bloomers, over pinned flats.  

In the fourth part of my diaper series, I'll talk about how to wash wool.  It isn't hard, but it is done separate from the regular diaper laundry.

Wool pants over a fitted diaper work as a cover and clothes.  Wool breathes and is good for the skin, and is great for all-night diapers.  It is amazingly waterproof.  My son often wears wool pants to bed and never has a leak.

Using this pattern for yoga pants (or karate pants, as I call them for my boy) or this free pattern for diaper covers (see the picture at the top of this post) or pants, you can make your own pants and covers using upcycled wool sweaters.  Thinner wool works fine for daytime, but nights require thicker wool. 

There is some really soft, non-itchy wool.  Cashmere is really nice too. Try it on your arm before buying a thrifted sweater.  I've also found wonderful, thick wool knit via long, straight skirts or dresses.  One dress yielded three toddler-sized pants.

Or you can splurge for some fine wool yardage.  It is beautiful!  Expensive, yes, but still cheaper than ready-made wool pants.  

Polar fleece, made of polyester not cotton, works too.  Making fleece pants to use as covers would be a very affordable way to cloth diaper.  Even store-bought pants are easy to find inexpensively at thrift stores or Old Navy or Target.  I've had good luck with store-bought fleece pants, even overnight if worn with a nice, thick diaper.  

DIY ... economical or not?
Two dozen fitted diapers for $100 is unbeatable, and that includes the price of snap pliers.  

If you know you want natural fibers like wool, using a fitted diaper makes sense.  But ready-made fitters can cost quite a bit.

If you need fitteds that wash easily like a flat, using a flat inside the flannel-fitted makes sense.  Less layers means easier to clean.

If you can sew your own wool pants using upcycled wool sweaters, it will definitely be a good deal.   

If you find a dollar-days deal at Old Navy and get 10 pairs of fleece pants, it is a good deal.

Finally, if breathable wool or fleece isn't the only thing you're looking for, this pull-on cover is inexpensive at $6.50.  A few pull-on covers plus some wool or fleece pants could make a very nice stash.

Without trying cloth diapers on your baby, you might not know what works or doesn't work for you. Especially before investing time in sewing, I'd make a few flannel-fitteds to test before committing to a full stash.  Sewing pants seems a little less risky since the baby can wear pants over any kind of diaper.

I do think flats are so versatile, so economical and so easy, that I can, without qualms, suggest purchasing 12 right away.  Even if you decide upon other diapering options, including disposables, flats can be used in so many ways in your nursery and your home.

The best advice I can give regarding cloth diapers --- don't get too wrapped up in having a diaper stash of all one kind.  A mix of different diapers makes nice options for different diapering needs.

{This post linked up with Gnowfglins Simple Lives Thursday}


  1. I am 63 years old. We raised 6 babies. The oldest is now 40 and the youngest 28. Where did all that time go? I used cloth diapers, of course. My first stash was 4 dozen gauze pre-folds and a selection of "plastic pants" that were available for very little money at the time. Through the years, we used those, also flat Birdseye, flat gauze, square flat terry cloth (my favorite!) and for covers, sometimes nothing, plastic pants homemade "soakers" that I knitted from wool yarn, homemade soakers that I sewed from re-purposed felted woolen sweaters... I miss the diapering years. Really. The first disposables were "Pampers" and they were next to useless. They have improved, over time, of course, but if I had the care of a baby today, I still would not use disposables. The nice thing about woolen soakers is that they protect clothing from wetness, but allow are circulation, and help prevent diaper rash. As to disinfecting... 15 minutes hanging in the sunlight kills germs.

  2. Awwww, I love your comment about missing the diaper years. I love that. I can tell that it is true. We have ten years between our oldest of four and our baby, and I'm cherishing the baby days more this time.

    Thank you so, so much for sharing what you used. I love hearing what was used on my generation and before. My mom didn't use wool covers on her babies. That's neat that you did. My mom said that the plastic pants wore out pretty easily, and that disposables were useless. She said they were such a waste of money.

  3. so much great info Christie. thanks.

  4. So fun to read all of this Christie. :) Never did do cloth. But, would probably give it a try if we had a 4th. :)

    1. It is a fun change. As you can see from the photos I took of diaper changes, using cloth diapers on my newborn was like playing dolls!

  5. Both my children wore cloth diapers and I love the fitted overwraps!