Making Diapers for WAY Cheap Tutorial

For a pattern I suggest making your own following the Dutch Girl Diary tutorial:

These were made using the BWH pattern. I cut down the one on the left to have a smaller crotch. When I made these I didn’t have a sewing machine. You can see the whip stitch around the soaker and the larger stitching around the edge.

If you’re not the type to draft your own pattern then here is another suggestion, this is the Back Woods Home article that got me going in the first place.  They have a lot of great tips to diapering your child and a free diaper download at the bottom of the page.

my pattern-you can usually find something hanging around to trace your pattern onto.

Now that you have a pattern you need to think about what to make this diaper out of.  The most important tip I have to offer is to always use a fleece material for the outer layer of your diaper.  Never, never, never think in terms of using new material.  I have never purchased new material for the many diapers I’ve made.  When I look at my diapers I am often reminded of the shirt I cut up or the fleece blanket or the robe etc.  Start looking around for fleece you probably have an old blanket you can cut up or a fleece sweater you never wear.  If you really have nothing then go to your local thrift store and you’re sure to find something there.  Trace your pattern onto the fleece then cut.

Next, are you looking for a very light weight diaper?  If so then you may want to keep your diaper to 2 layers, or use a fleece outer and then 2 layers of very light material.

I like to use a soft cotton sheet for a thin layered diaper.  If I don’t mind a bit of thickness I’ll add in a towel or a bathrobe as a second layer.  I make several different kinds that way depending on what I’m doing I’ve got the type of diaper I want.  At night I use a thicker diaper.  If I need the diapers to dry quickly I use a thinner diaper.  Etc.

An old pillowcase

For this tutorial I used a cotton pillowcase that I had hanging around and hadn’t used in years. After I cut out the patterns I cut up the extra material and keep it under the sink in the bathroom to use as disposable cleaning rags.

I cut out my three diaper pieces and the rest I cut for disposable rags. These go into the bathroom for quick wipe downs of the toilet and sink.

I got 3 patterns out of the pillowcase

I also used an old towel for this project.  I got two diaper pieces from this scrap piece of towel.

After I cut the pattern out then I cut out three soakers from the towel material.  I always stitch a soaker piece onto one of the layers of my diapers.  Using your zigzag stitch, stitch the soakers to the 2 towel layers and one soaker to one of the cotton layers.  If you do not have a sewing machine do not worry you can use a whip stitch to stitch the soakers on (As shown in the picture above).  I’ve done this a lot and it works great!

I traced 2 patterns onto this portion of an old towel we had

I’m going to make three diapers for this project, 2 of them will be 3 layer diapers and 1 is a 2 layer diaper.

2 Soakers stitched

First, lay down the layer of fleece with the right side up. Next, for the three layer diapers, lay down the cotton piece with the right side down.  (If you are making a 2 layer diaper this is where you stop, the layer with the soaker will be on top.  Either way you are going to lay these two layers of the diaper right sides facing each other.) Finally lay down what will be the middle layer, the layer you sewed the soaker to, on top.  It doesn’t matter which way the third layer is facing because you won’t see it.  It will be sandwiched in between the other 2 layers.

three layer diaper with fleece bottom, cotton in the center, towel with soaker on top

After you have the diapers assembled, pin together and stitch a straight stitch around the outer edge.

Start at the bottom and stitch around leaving an opening to turn the diaper rightside out. Think about where the elastic is going to go too and if needed stitch those areas slightly larger (depending on the width of elastic you will use)

I always start stitching at the bottom.  I do this because I don’t attach any elastic here and so it will be easier to turn and to seal off in the end.

Then clip any extra material hanging around the edges.  This will help after you turn the diaper inside out to keep it nice and trim.

Trimming off extra material

Next, it’s time to sew the elastic on.  Now, where are you going to find elastic.  You can’t just run to the store and purchase some so what do we do?  Well, do you have some pants or a skirt you don’t like that has an elastic waist band?  If so use them now.  The material can be salvaged for future projects.  Or if you have a fitted sheet that is stained or you don’t use much or maybe you already cut one up for this project then use the elastic from it to stitch onto the diaper.  If you must run to the store go to the thrift store I’ve always been able to find what I need there and for WAY cheap.

Elastic stitched to the back and sides of the diaper.

I always stitch the elastic on evenly – same place on each side.  If you fold the diaper in half the elastic across the top will be even.  If you wonder where exactly to stitch it look at the pattern from Back Woods Home and there are markings to follow.

I use a zigzag stitch back and forth a few times across both ends of the elastic.  Make sure you are pulling the elastic tightly or the diaper won’t stretch the way it should.  If you don’t have a sewing machine just use you hands and stitch an X design to secure the elastic.

Now you can turn the diaper inside out. For the 3 layer diaper take hold of the two layers shown, leaving the fleece layer alone and insert your hand, begin pulling the material through.  Be sure to pull everything through snugly so as you stitch around the outer edge it will be nice and trim.

Gather the top two layers together, insert your hand and turn the diaper so that the fleece and the previous middle layer are now the only two layers you see.

Once the diapers are turned they are ready for their final stitch.  The only tricky part is making sure I encase the elastic and don’t stitch over it.

I make sure to hold the elastic in place so I don’t stitch over it!

When I get around to the front of the diaper, if it is thin enough I will stitch the front closed.  If it is a very thick diaper then I will hand stitch it closed after I finish stitching around.

The red diaper was to thick so I stitched around the diaper but didn’t enclose the opening, I’ll do that by hand. The white diaper was thin so I just used the sewing machine to stitch the opening shut.

Here are the three completed diapers.  the one with the red fleece was the thickest diaper with a towel in the center, the cotton on top.  It was more difficult to stitch because of the thickness of it.  The white fleece with the cotton top had a cotton center (I stitched the soaker to the cotton center piece)  It was nice to sew.  It should work well.  The third one only has two pieces.  White fleece on the bottom then a towel with a soaker stitched to it.  You can see the stitching around the soaker.  It is very soft because it is a towel and will work very well but it doesn’t look as professional with it only being 2 layers and the soaker is exposed.  I have several this way and really like them though.  If you are looking to make a very light weight diaper instead of using a towel on a two layer use a cotton material to stitch the soaker to.  They work well for me and dry quickly.  But, I usually put in a thick inserted soaker when I use the really thin diapers.  I usually insert a separate soaker when I put the diaper on my son.  If only the soaker gets wet I can just swap that out for a dry one and keep the same diaper on him.

To make external soakers to insert as you are putting the diaper on I just use a thick piece of towel or bath robe.  I stitch around the edges so it won’t fray. If I want to be fancy I’ll stitch the wrong sides of a towel and a cotton fabric together than flip and seal off the opening.

The final process is attaching the diapers.  This has been the most difficult of all the processes for me.

I lucked into some very old unused clasps at Salvation Army and bought them all up and used those.  But, I found that they bent or came off often in the dryer and I was constantly stitching new ones on.  So, I don’t recommend that route.

Buttons, I have little trouble with these so long as the ribbon is stout (or use material as ribbon) and the buttons securely attached. They are way cute and have been free so far for me. If you haven’t already, start collecting buttons.

Next I tried stitching on buttons and sewing on ribbon or material that you fold over and use as ribbon.  This is very cute and works quite well.  Just make sure the ribbon is strong. Sometimes I don’t tie a bow I just wrap the ribbon around the buttons 3 times and they have always stayed securely.

These work great! You may need to attach more than one place to snap the snap because babies grow.  This diaper was entirely hand stitched.  They don’t look bad that way and is definitely doable!

I’ve also used some snaps I got for .25 at the thrift store.  I like the snaps the best.    I’m still trying to work something better out though.  I may resort to purchasing Velcro.  If I do it will be the most expensive thing on the diaper.

So far a diaper in general has cost me no more than  .25 each and often far less.

Alright, I just bought velcro for the first time and so this will change my cost per diaper.  It cost me 1.25 per foot and I was able to do 3 diapers with one foot.  So that ups my cost by .42 each.  There was a point in my life when there was no way I could justify that expense.  This is the first time I’ve used velcro-I’ve already talked about every other option and there are many so be creative.  It doesn’t have to cost much.  If you use velcro be sure to get a good strong type otherwise it could be a frustration because it won’t stay together.

The first velcro I’ve ever used! It sewed on nicely and I tried one on my son and it worked great!

Once again, the key to a good diaper is having fleece as the outside layer. Some of these diapers pictured don’t have fleece and that’s because I didn’t learn that secret on the first round of diapers that I hand stitched.  This diaper and the white diaper are some of the very first I made. They stayed at our remote property when we moved into town.  So, I never used them.  If you want more of that story read the previous post about making diapers for WAY cheap.

For cleaning I just throw the wet diapers into a bucket and add water and vinegar.  Then rinse and wash as normal.  Of course if you’re dealing with a BM I use a scrub brush to clean off the mess into the toiled and scrub up the diaper then I put it into the bucket.  I have a designated scrub brush special for the job.

If you are in any way intimidated by this project don’t be.  I was once too.  Now, it’s just fun and a satisfaction worth experiencing.  I have a package of store diapers (I’ve had the same package for over a year now)  I used one the other day and our son kept tugging at it saying, “ow”.  We finally switched him over to one I made and he was content.  We’re currently potty training him so he shouldn’t need them for much longer and I can now go for many days in between laundry loads.  But, we’re due to have another babe in 3 months so we’ll get to start all over again.

Sherrad 6 at the time and Jasper 2 months shy of 2. Jasper is wearing one of my 2 layer fleece diapers. The black is fleece and the second layer I cut from a blue robe, super soft and super absorbent. They are holding “beaver works”, sticks beavers chewed on. That was the highlight of our last trip to our remote property.

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