On the “things you have to decide about when you have a baby” list, after “Home birth?” “Circumcision?” “Keep it or allow it to be raised by wolves?” is “Diapers: disposable or cloth?”
We decided to use cloth diapers, because if we’re going to bring another human into the world it might as well not spend the first 3 years of its life filling up a landfill. So rather than pay $20-30/week for a diaper service, I decided to make cloth diapers and wash them at home. I know, the baby is still 6 1/2-ish months away, but I have free time now, so I did a little research (cloth diaper websites, UPDATE YOUR LAYOUTS) and following the instructions here (scroll down to “Stuffable Prefolds) with some variations (more edge finishing and no backing fabric, because why?), I made 25 diapers and 10 diaper inserts out of a double-sized flannel sheet set, which I got from Goodwill for $10.
Note: These are not real prefolds. Real prefolds are, apparently, a single large piece of fabric folded many times and sewn down. This is a more fabric-efficient, easier home alternative.
If you’re using old sheets, wash and dry them thoroughly before you begin. Cut the folded-over top bit off the flat sheet (you can use this to make diaper inserts later) and the elastic off the fitted sheet. Figure out the most efficient way to get 18″ X 18″ squares out of your sheets. If the numbers work out better if they’re 17″ or 17.5″ x 18, that’s OK too, just make sure you use the same sized squares together. How you cut will depend on what size sheets you’re starting with.
If you have any left over, cut it into strips ranging anywhere from 2.5″-4.5″ in width and 14″-17″ in lenth. These will also make diaper inserts.
To make the diapers, take two of your 18″ x 18″ (or whatever) squares:
Fold each in half, wrong sides together, and overlap the folded sides by about 5″.
If the fabric you’re using has stripes or a pattern, line them up if you can, but don’t worry if they don’t match. Remember, they’ll be covered by a waterproof diaper cover or bum sweater (yes, there is such an object as a “bum sweater” and YOU CAN KNIT THEM), so we’re going function over fashion here. Pin the two layers together along the folds, leaving about an inch below the top. This is so you can finish the edge without sewing the top together.
Folding the other layer down, overlock stitch/serge across the right side top. Repeat with the left side top. (You can omit this step if your pieces are taken from the finished edges of the top sheet. Just use that edge as the top and skip to the next step.)
Straight stitch along the right side fold as close to the edge as you can.
Flip the diaper over and repeat on the other fold. When you get to the bottom, turn and stitch along the bottom to meet your other line of stitching.
You’ve just made the insert pocket. Now all that’s really left is to finish the edges. Insert the needle on the top right side of the insert pocket and straight stitch across the top. Turn and overlock stitch around the right side, bottom, and left side of the diaper. At the top left corner, turn and straight stitch to the left side of the insert pocket. I didn’t successfully take any pictures of this, so I can’t illustrate it, but I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. If you want to reinforce it further, you can straight stitch all the way around (leaving the insert pocket open, of course), but I didn’t think this was necessary. I figure the only part that will be under any pressure will be the top, by the insert being inserted in the pocket. If after much use and washing, the edges start to come apart, I will repost this with a correction.
The finished product:
To make the diaper inserts, take the strips you’ve cut, put two or three of them together, and overlock around the raw edges.
A warning: This is not a particularly exciting sewing project. It is extremely easy but, once you’ve gotten the hang of it (about the 4th one), kind of dull. And while sewing each diaper takes 10 minutes max, the cutting out and folding takes about an hour for each sheet. BUT if you have the free time and you want to diaper your baby for around $10, it is a simple and environmentally friendly way to do so. I have a third flat sheet which I will also make into diapers…later, because I am totally bored with making diapers, but I plan to end up with around 35 and an equal number of inserts. I’m hoping that will be enough even accounting for air-drying.
If you really, really, really want me to, I will make you 12 recycled prefold diapers/inserts for…let’s say $35 CDN, but trust me, even if you’ve never sewn anything more complicated than a throw pillow, you can make these yourself. And it’ll be one extra thing to guilt-trip your child about when they’re 12 and starting to talk back. Priceless!