How to Make Cloth Diapers at Home in 30 Minutes: A Simple Sewing Guide

There are many reasons parents choose to use cloth diapers over disposables, and affordability is one of them. Still, the initial purchasing of cloth diapers before baby arrives can be a significant expense as you work to build your diaper stash. As such, many families contemplate making cloth diapers, and it’s not as difficult as it might sound.

To know how to make cloth diapers, you need the motivation, cloth diaper patterns, and a few basic materials.

If your baby is using 12 diapers a day in the first 12 months of his/her life, that is over four thousand diaper changes in the first year alone. The cost of disposable diapers is going to be thousands of dollars as well. However, if you choose to cloth diaper, you can greatly decrease that expenditure. And if you decide to learn how to make your own cloth diapers, you can bring that cost down even further.

We will walk you through the basics of how to make the simplest cloth diapers (flat fold cloth diapers), and also the most common cloth diapers (all-in-one cloth diapers) as well as their inserts.

closeup shot of sewing machine needed with thread

Learn How to Make Cloth Diapers With These Tools

To make cloth diapers you will need a few basic sewing skills and tools. Start with a machine if you are going to make them. If you already have a sewing machine you are well ahead of the game, but you can hand sew cloth diapers if you really need to. If you are in the market for a great machine to learn to sew on, may I recommend this machine by Brother.

While learning to make cloth diapers may save you money, this process will be a significant time expense. However, as you grow more familiar with the process and how to make them, you will be able to increase your productivity in no time at all.

If you don’t have the finances to purchase a sewing machine, you can choose to hand sew your diapers. While this may seem like a tedious process, you will be so pleased with the end result, you’ll probably be telling everyone about the diapers you hand-sewed for your little.

Additional Tools You Will Need:

You will also need the following materials to make cloth diapers:

  • Fabric
  • Sewing kit tools: Stitch ripper, scissors, measuring tape or ruler, exact precision knife
  • Polyester thread
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing needles
  • Cutting mat or board
  • Velcro
  • Snaps
  • Elastic
  • Cloth diaper patterns (available online)
supplies needed to make cloth diapers

A few notes on fabric:

Fabric selection is everything in the success of the functionality of your cloth diaper. You’ll want to look for polyurethane laminate (for waterproof diapers) – also referred to as PUL, for your diaper exterior. You can find PUL in a variety of colors and patterns, which means you will be able to not only create some functional diapers, but some adorable ones as well.

For your inserts/absorbent layers, you will want to look for materials such as terry cloth, microfleece, cotton, hemp, bamboo, and wool fabrics.

You can choose a variety of prints and colors that will conceal hard-to-remove stains, but may want some lighter colors if you plan on bleaching your cloth diapers.

How to Make Inserts for Cloth Diapers

A key component of cloth diapers is the insert that helps to keep baby dry. You can choose to make your inserts removable, or you can sew your insert right into the diaper.

You need all of the same tools for your inserts as you would your cloth diapers. For cloth inserts, you want microfiber fabric and flannel for the best absorbency and reusability.

  1. Cut the fabric.

Use your cutting mat or board to cut the fabric into four-inch wide and six-inch long strips. You are gong to layer these strips. You are going to want five layers of material for each insert.

You can lay each piece on top of each other when you are cutting with your precision knife or scissors so that you get exactly the same size pieces for the layers of your inserts. Flannel and microfiber fabric are best for cloth diaper inserts.

  1. Layer the material.

You want the flannel on the outside of your inserts. Lay the flannel material on the table with the print side down, and lay three additional microfiber layers over this piece.

Place the last flannel piece on top of the three microfiber layers. Pin all of these materials in place to form a neat pile of five layers of material that is four by six inches.

Be sure to take into account that certain materials can draw up/shrink when washed, and you don’t want your inserts to be too small after you have prepped them for use.

2. Sew the cloth inserts.

Now you are going to sew across all of these layers. This is where you may find that having a sewing machine makes the job easier than hand sewing.

Sew in a parallel fashion and keep the fabric flat so that there are no bumps. These would be felt by baby when wearing the diaper. As you sew, remove the pins.

If you have a serge machine or serge function on your machine, you can serge the edges of your inserts. This will help them to last longer. If you do not have that, you can simply maintain and repair the inserts as needed as they are laundered.

After you have made a few inserts, this shouldn’t take much time. It’s a matter of cutting fabric and sewing them together. You’ll get the hang of it. Now it is time to learn how to make cloth diapers, you can do this too!

serging ends of diaper insert

How to Make Flat Fold Cloth Diapers

These are the easiest cloth diapers to make, and involve very little sewing or time. You simply need to sew together several layers of fabric, decide how you want to fasten them, and you are done.

  1. Cut the Fabric.

You will need one yard of fabric for every two diapers. For toddler-sized diapers, cut the fabric into 29.5”inch by 29.5” squares. For smaller diapers, 20” by 20” squares will work.

  1. Layer and Sew.

Layer the fabric into five layers again, more if you want a warmer and more absorbent diaper. As you make cloth diapers, you will simply sew the five layers together. You want the most absorbent fabric on the inside, and the outside layers of your diaper.

  1. Finish the diaper.

You can serger the edges if you want to ensure these diapers will last. However, you can also maintain the diapers over time if machine laundering causes fraying or ripping. If you want to add fasteners such as buttons or snaps,  you can add those as well on the flat folds. Velcro snaps are also very popular.

  1. Using Your Flat Fold Diaper.

There are two different ways to use a flat fold diaper.

  • You will turn the fabric into a triangle, with the baby on the upside down triangle as you diaper. Bring the point up towards the tummy, and cross the two edges over the waist of your baby and secure the diaper as you wish.

Many parents still use pins to fasten flat fold cloth diapers, but I recommend snappies.

  • You can also fold the diaper into a simple rectangle, like this, and lay it inside a diaper shell.

These diapers will only take approximately 15 minutes to make after you have made a few and know how you want to make them best. It is important to note that flat fold diapers will require a shell to make them waterproof.

You can find a basic diaper shell pattern online to create your own. This will be the easiest of the outer covers to make, but we want to make sure you can make a variety of different styles. So, learning to make an All-In-One (AIO) will set you up for cloth diaper making success.

How to Make All-in-One Cloth Diapers

You will need a cloth diaper pattern to make an all-in-one cloth diaper, and these are slightly more complicated than flat folds.

Still, it is just a matter of cutting the fabric, and sewing layers on top of each other. You will need to use elastics for the legs, as this will help with leak prevention. It is not a mandatory step with all-in-one cloth diapers, but it is HIGHLY recommended.

In addition to your fabric, you will need to choose your ideal fastener. The easiest and safest fasteners are Velcro, but snaps are also a great choice for closures.

Cloth diaper patterns for all-in-one diapers are formed with wings, which are then folded, pinned, and sewn. For fabric, flannel and terry cloth are the best fabrics, and a PUL for the exterior is an excellent choice if you want a waterproof option. Light plastic diaper covers that you can affordably purchase are just as effective and less expensive than purchasing laminate fabric.

baby in bear cloth diaper
  1. Cut your fabric.

Once you find a pattern online for your all-in-one diaper, you’ll be ready to get started. You can find a variety of diaper patterns on Etsy or Pinterest. A lot of these patters are available for instant download once you purchase them, meaning you can get started right away if you have the supplies required.

The best dimensions are as follows:

  • Newborn (5 to 10 pounds): 13” (back) x 9” (front)
  • Nine to 12 pounds: 16” (back) x 10” (front)
  • Fourteen to 20 pounds: 18” (back) x 12” (front)
  • Twenty to 30+ pounds: 20” (back) by 13” (front)

Before you cut, trace the pattern onto your fabric using a fabric pen, pencil, or fine marker. Do this on two pieces of fabric that will be the most waterproof or absorbent. Put these aside.

Now, cut the same size of fabric on your other fabric selections, and these will be your interior layers. You want to have at least four layers of fabric, that includes the two you just cut. It is not uncommon to have five layers in every cloth diaper.

  1. Layer the fabric.

Now you are going to layer the fabric, with the two first pieces you cut sandwiching all others. Pin the layers together.

  1. Sew the diaper.

Sew a straight line around the entire diaper’s border, approximately ¼ to ½ inch from the edge of the diaper. You can fold the edges of the diaper over if you don’t want raw edges to show, but this is entirely up to you.

  1. Add elastic to the legs.

Fold the diaper along its length and mark spaces around the legs for elastic, if you are using elastic for legs. You will want the elastic approximately five cm. from the end of the top of the diaper, and around the top of the legs. Make the elastic markings even with the edges you just sewed. Pin the elastic here.

Now, sew the elastic onto the top of the markings with a simple stitch. You may want to stitch over the elastic multiple times to secure it. Some moms sew an additional layer of fabric over the diaper at this point, if you don’t want the elastic to touch your baby’s legs, but that is a personal preference.

  1. Adding Velcro.

You can now add Velcro or fasteners to your all-in-one cloth diaper. Cut approximately 1 ½” wide piece of Velcro to fit along the back of the diaper. You want a long piece of Velcro here to accommodate your growing baby. Pin the Velcro onto the diaper, and then sew it into place.

Add two Velcro squares to the front flaps of the diaper.

Your new all-in-one diaper is now complete! As you practice, you will see that cutting and pinning the fabric takes the longest amount of time. You should be able to make all-in-one cloth diapers in approximately 30 minutes after you have made several of them.

Items that you may want to add to your cloth diapers are waterproof covers that can be purchased, or you can also make those. When you are ready to use your diaper, place it flat on the change table. Lie an insert in the middle section of the diaper. Put the baby on the diaper, and fasten. You did this!

diaper covers

Conclusion

You can’t learn how to make cloth diapers without trying. In the beginning, the process will be filled with a lot of trial and error as you develop your skills and grow familiar with the patterns, process, and how to work with the fabrics. Try it, and you will see that you save both time and money in the diapering department of parenting. It’s easier than it looks.

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