What’s the best way to make your own cloth diapers?

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I AM CONFUSED. Photo by supafly, used under Creative Commons license.
We’re currently expecting our first, and on a bit of a tight budget. My wonderful Mum has offered to make cloth diapers for us, but my diaper pattern research has been confusing as hell!

I don’t know the difference between pre-fold and fitted, I don’t know if one-size is best, and I don’t know what to make them from or how to hold them shut. This child is going to be diapered in a paper towel and duct tape if we can’t get easy-to-understand information and assistance.

Parents who have made their own cloth diapers: what patterns did you use, and how easy was the process? — Summer

Comments on What’s the best way to make your own cloth diapers?

  1. I got a pattern at my local fabric store. I’d say it’s worth it to buy the pattern that you can lay out – it makes sewing much less confusing. You’ll want a PUL fabric for the outside since it’s waterproof, and you can use pretty much anything for the lining (old towels or shirts are great if you’re on a budget). Then there’s an insert for absorbing, which also can be anything, but should be something that’s absorbent (obviously). Again, old towels are good, but you can also buy the inserts that are made for cloth diapers. The pattern I have uses velcro for keeping them shut, which I like because it makes you can pull the diapers snug to fit the baby, but I’ve seen snaps used, too. My pattern comes with information for making five sizes, and it’s my understanding that you’ll want a few of each size to grow with your baby (I’ve yet to see a one size fits all, but maybe they exist). Make one practice diaper out of not expensive material to get the hang of it, and then make your real ones.

  2. If you want to go the easy, cheap route, you can always just buy used prefolds off Craigslist. Then, what we did is just buy the regular old plastic covers (they’re soo much better than, I’m assuming, they used to be!!) off Amazon or ebay. We were fully stocked and ready for our daughter by the time I was 30 weeks and we only spent $300, I was truly shocked when I looked at that price compared to what disposable diapers would cost us in the long run!

  3. I have looked this up lately myself. Flat folds are the easiest and instead of needing different sizes, you simply fold them to fit differently as the baby grows. Then you pin them or hold them together with a “snappi.” I’ve heard you can make them from the backing (“outside”) out of anything from old pillow cases to sweatshirts.

    Some sites I LOVE: http://fernandfaerie.com/frugaldiapering.html



    Have fun!

  4. Pre-folds are inexpensive, and you could just buy a couple dozen of those and have your mum make the covers. A fitted is like a shaped prefold that is shaped more like a regular diaper. One size is nice, as you won’t have to keep buying larger sizes as your baby grows. Just be aware that many one-size diapers don’t fit ’till 8-10lbs. You could also check out CottonBabies, where they have Econobum diapers, which they say will diaper a baby from birth to potty learning for very little $$. It may even be more cost effective than having Mum make them. Good luck!

    • Prefolds are *cheaper* than say, buying pocket or all in one diapers, HOWEVER, they were not cheap enough for me at approximately $32 for a dozen, and its recommended to have 36 prefolds. I made my own, using warm and natural cotton fleece batting from Joanne’s for the center absorbent part, and made quick work out of them by using a thrifted flannel sheet (Superman actually, which is kind of cool in its own right!) Cost approximately $16 and I even enlisted my husband to help me make them (cutting and pressing :P)

  5. I can’t recommend patterns as I can’t sew, but the advice we received from our local cloth diaper store owner might be helpful as you decide on patterns.

    She suggested that we avoid buying (or in your case, making) a bunch of diapers until we tried a few out. She said it’s just too hard to know which type we’re going to prefer. I may like one type but my partner or my mom prefers another. Or one type might prove best for a heavy nighttime wetter but another for the daytime.

    Basically, she said wait and see what works before stocking up. I realize that’s more difficult for you given that making diapers takes time. But, I’m expecting that despite our well-known plans to cloth diaper, we’ll still probably receive a few packages of newborn disposables which we plan to use until we know what we want. Or maybe your mom could make a few of each type, enough to get you through a day and then more of the types you prefer later.

    I was completely overwhelmed by all the different types of cloth diapers and this advice really helped me.

  6. I was super confused on the whole cloth diaper thing and every where I looked it seemed like you had to buy these complicated 3-1 diaper systems. Which for twins would have been way way to much $$.

    Then I found a blog by a mom of triplets who exclusively cloth diapers. She shared her system in one of her posts and I literately just copied it. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a pattern.


    I bought the snappies on ebay for $6 and got old cloth diapers from friends and family and made all the inserts (I cut up an old fleece diaper and went to the thrift store and found microfleece shirts to cut up).

  7. I don’t know if you knit or crochet but I’ve had tons of success crocheting wool diaper covers for my baby. Wool is breathable and if you use coupons at michael’s, pretty inexpensive (I use Paton’s classic). We use prefolds from a diaper service because our laundry situation is less than great but they work great for us. You can find tons of free diaper cover patterns on ravelry.

  8. Pre-folds are awesome, but they’re not as convienent as the “new” cloth diaper systems.

    The way the one-size cloth diaper works is that there are a bunch of snaps that you put on different settings depending on the baby’s size. It’s the least expensive route (fits 8-35lbs), but some people complain they don’t offer as good of a fit as sized cloth diaper.

    I suggest finding a pattern for a one sized pocket diaper. These have waterproof outsides (PUL fabric), and a fabric that wicks away mosture on the inside (like thin micro fleece.) There’s a pocket left on the top for you to put in absorbant pads between the two layers. How many you use depends on the age and time of day of use. You can use old prefolds for this, old towels, etc.

    I’m not sure if we can link websites on here, but just look up “cloth diaper fabric”. And for free diaper patterns there’s some good ones if you search “one size pocket diaper patterns”. I like the patterns on cheekydiapers.com.

  9. There’s a woman in my town who sells diapers. She has a really good description of all your options on her website, http://diapering.wallypop.net/infohowto.html

    Basically you need 1)a layer next to the baby’s butt (preferably that wicks moisture away, like microfiber) 2)an absorbent layer. I vote prefolds, because I’m cheap. I like Green Mountain for them. Making these on your own is very very difficult–just buy them. 3)a waterproof layer, so the pee doesn’t get on your clothes/couch/cute baby outfit. I like PUL for this. Your mom can totally handle making these. And since this is the part that shows, you can get whatever cute PUL fabric you want. The local craft store might sell PUL, and the internet definately does. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the PUL sold at local craft stores.

  10. We made our own diapers! I used flannel sheets to make a bunch of prefolds, which I LOVE. We use a snappie, they’re super easy, they dry well and they were cheap. We also have a few “fitteds” I inherted from a friend. I laid them out, traced the shape, and voila! had a pattern for a few more. To be honest, though, I only use the fitteds at night, because I don’t have my glasses on. My husband, though, who isn’t the most dexterous, likes the fitteds more. TLDR: I suggest making a ton of prefolds, as they’re very easy to use. Have a few fitteds is your partner/support system is nervous.

  11. As a cloth diaperer who is eventually going to sew some, I would “copy” the happy heinys’ basic shape and snap pattern, as that has been my favorite out of that, bumgenius, and babyland all in ones. I prefer snaps over velcro because velcro will eventually curl up in the wash, leaving an edge that latches to the inside of clothes and pulls it open (only very used diapers do this.) We also use prefolds with thirsties snap covers, which don’t even need snappis, although we did use those and liked them well. As for putting on the snaps, try it out a few times on other fabric before you put it on your diaper. make sure you are making it snappable. We converted 3-4 of our velcro diapers to snaps, and now we can’t even use them because the prongs were too long, and now they don’t snap. boo… oh well. So, either be prepared to replace the velcro between babies or every other baby, or snap carefully.

    • I had a similar problem with snaps with my home made diapers. You can re-press them to flatten the prongs out, just be careful to get everythig lined up correctly so you don’t break the snap. I found that having someone with a stronger grip than me (in my case, my husband) worked really well.

  12. I do not sew well, so I cannot say for sure what would work best to make your own. However, I have been a cloth diapering mama for 2.5 years now, with 2 kids.

    Since you have the option, I would suggest snaps over velcro. My older son learned quite early how to unfasten the velcro, and we ended up with poop on the living room floor. Snaps are harder for little fingers to unfasten. You can do a row of them across the top, and then fasten closer to the center for a tighter fit, and closer to the outside as the baby grows. It’s not exactly a one-size-fits-all solution, but it helps prolong the life of a single diaper through multiple sizes. We use Proraps covers, which you can google to see what I’m talking about.

    I also vote for just buying prefolds to use inside, and we have never used snappis or pins or anything to hold them together. We just fold them up, put them in the cover, and fasten that on. Very few leaks that way either.

  13. I am very lucky, my mother-in-law is a seamstress. What we did was find a commercially-available diaper that we liked and took it apart to make a pattern from it. So far, the PUL we bought online has held up better than the PUL we got at a local fabric store. A few of those diaper covers delaminated.

  14. I made about 2 dozen diapers for my friend in 2001. I can’t remember what pattern I used — it was one she found, I think.

    I do remember some of the features she said worked well :

    1) She preferred velcro to snaps. I put a strip of the “soft” part in the front and then tabs on the corners so you could just slap them down anywhere in the front.

    2) The diaper was flannel with a padded center portion. The diaper was hour-glass shaped and the center pad was like an oval maxi pad. I used Warm & Natural cotton batting to make the center portion, slipped it in between the flannel and sewed it into place.

    3) I ran some elastic around the leg openings. I can’t remember if the pattern called for it but it was a big hit.

    4) At my friend’s request, I made additional “pads” from the batting. I think I serged a couple of layers together and then stitched down the center to keep them from shredding in the wash. She used them as nighttime “soakers” — she would just lay an extra one in the diaper wherever it was needed most.

    I really enjoyed making the diapers. They’re a quick project and I loved hunting down all the cute flannel.

  15. Check out Very Baby, it’s a cloth diaper and fabric supply business. They also have patterns you can buy for the diapers. Sorry for the lack of hyperlink I’m on my IPhone:)

  16. Yikes! Slow down! First before you sew research research research. I am on my 4th cloth diapered baby. I have bought mine but have made diapers in pool to help less fortunate friends up their stashes. First research what you want. There are an overwhelming amount of choices. My fall back site when this cloth momma of 9 years has a diaper hiccup, is http://www.diaperpin.com/home.asp. These are discussion boards with reviews, tips, patterns ect. You can post a question and other diaper knowledgeable people will answer it for you. You can find out the differences of the diapers and what works for some and what works for others. In my experience – stay away from velcro closures. I find they slip around on a wiggly baby and then the Velcro rubs their soft belly and it get irritated. Also design your whole system at once. Not only what kind of diaper, but how will you store them clean and dirty? Washing how? What about outings? I suggest wash every 3rd day and a simple dry pail system. I also suggest 2 dozen one size is all you need if you splurge. (I love fuzzi bunz one size). Also dont make the mistake I did with my last baby. I loved cloth with my olders ones but didnt start them in it til they were a few month old (due to budget I spent my money on diapers that would fit the longest) This go I bought the newborn size since I didn’t have any and thought my baby would be good to go once born. WRONG! Get paper the first few weeks.Until the cord dropped. I didn’t and the bulky cloth would shift bump the cord and worse let a little pee in cord area. We got an infection which was easy to deal with but boy did I hear it from my Ped. especially since this was baby no 4! Once that cord heals jump into cloth anddont look back!

  17. I like verybaby.com

    The site was recently sold to a new person, and she seems great.

    There are lots of tutorials and supplies.

    I like their pocket diaper pattern ($10) in theory (because I haven’t made them yet) and she carries LOTS of cloth diapering fabrics like fleece, diaper twill and gauze and birdseye cotton, waterproof PUL (laminated fabric), yada yada yada.

    You can also just purchase diaper twill, gauze or birdseye and make your own prefolds. There’s a tutorial on there of how to do it. Good luck!

  18. I agree with some of the other posters and go into a cloth diaper store to check out your options BEFORE making a bunch. A lot of cloth diaper store hold workshops as well. I would be hesitant to pay for this service (I own a cloth diaper store and we do this free as it is basically advertising for the business). That way you can see and touch and feel the diapers to get a sense for it. If there are no shops in your area or you are rural there may be an online only store that does the same. Check out http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/ for some stores in your area (this is a US based website, there are some other countries in the listing as well).

  19. I’ve been exclusively cloth diapering for 9 months, and its great. I wanted to add a couple of points that other people didn’t mention. First, wool soakers are the way to go. Wool keeps the moisture in, and is also breathable. Also, you don’t need to wash the cover when it gets wet (moist, which it will), just air dry. It won’t be smelly. The only time you have to wash is when it gets poop on it. Also, I wouldn’t make a bunch of covers before trying one out. I wanted to make covers and my mother-in-law made some for me. It took me forever to tweak it to work for me and my baby. I ended up going with g-diapers during the day with infant prefolds as inserts, and wool soakers at night with two prefolds secured with a snappy. My baby is long and skinny. I think shorter, rounder babies might need a different system. Flat folds are not very absorbent in my experience, so I prefer prefolds. Make sure you get ones made out of 100% cotton. Some cheap ones have polyfill in them and they will start to stink. That goes for anything with polar fleece. They smell horrible after a while. You think they’re clean then they get wet and your eyes will water. Also, the one size diaper covers don’t work well for me and the all in ones are ridiculous – you’ll always be washing diapers. I bought 3 dozen infant pre-folds and I’m still using them on my 25 lb son, because I use then as inserts in the g-diapers. Not sure when I’ll need to buy bigger ones, but I think this system has turned out to be pretty affordable.

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