Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cloth Diaper Making 101: Choosing Fabrics

Back for more? GREAT!!! So let’s have a talk about fabrics. There are lots of fabrics out there. And like I said before you can do it the cheaper way or you can splurge for some nicer fabrics.
In this post we will cover:
  1. Economical fabrics
  2. ‘Expensive but worth it’ fabrics
  3. Shopping for ‘diaper making’ fabrics
  4. Prepping your fabrics

Economical? YES! You can make diapers and save money. So where do you get these fabrics that won’t cost a lot of money? Here are a few places you can check:
  • Hubby’s closet
  • Your closet
  • The nursery linen closet
  • The thrift store

Those are easy places right? Yep they are. Look through closets for old t-shirts. T-shirts aren’t terribly absorbent but they make a good outer layer for the diaper because they wear well. For a good stash I would say 15-20 diapers. So go through your closet too. LOL!

So now that we have the outer layer of our diapers let’s find some absorbent layers. This is where you visit the nursery linen closet. Those receiving blankets. Or the Gerber prefolds that we all use for burp-cloths. Also microfiber cloths that you use for dusting -grab some of those, too. Depending on the type of diaper you are making, you cut these items up for the absorbent layer of the diaper. If you are using a pocket you need a long skinny insert. If you are using a fitted make an insert shaped like the inside middle of the diaper. If you are using an AIO (all-in-one) then you need to cut them to match up with the pattern you choose to use. Your receiving blankets can be folded over multiple times and used as absorbent layers in diapers too. They can also be cut into squares and used as wipes.
Two things of note here:
  1. Do NOT cut the gerber prefolds. Just fold them in thirds and sew them together if that is what you want. Or you can use them as inserts without sewing them. If you start cutting into them you will end up with a mess of batting you can’t control.
  2. NEVER put the microfiber cloths right next to the baby’s bum. They are super absorbent and as a result will dry out the baby’s bum... this can cause rashes. So if you are going to use them as a lay in insert you need to line them with something. Your flannel receiving blankets, for example.

You can also use fleece as an outer layer of the diaper. Or as diaper covers. So if you have some fleece blankets laying around or you find one at a thrift store you can use that. Also don’t discount wool for covers. I LOVE wool covers. I love to shop for wool sweaters at thrift stores and them make covers out of them.

What do we use as the inner layer of the diaper? Well flannel works... so those receiving blankets can be put to use here. Or Microfleece, or Microchamise. Those are not a thrift store buy though. You can usually find some at a JoAnn’s or another Fabric store.
Also if you want diaper with a waterproof layer like PUL (polyurethane laminated fabric) you can buy that at a fabric store. Usually what they sell will de-laminate quickly but you can find lots online. We will talk about that later.

So now we have covered the Economical fabric choices. This is a great way to start cloth diapering for less start up expense. Then if you want to save along the way to splurge for those brand name diapers or the nicer fabrics you can, but still have cloth diapers now.

Now on to the ‘Expensive but worth it’ Fabrics.
There are really 5 types of fabrics out there for cloth diapers.
  • knits, interlock, jerseys: great for outer layers
  • woven or shirting: no stretch not the best for diapers
  • velour: good outer, good inner, good for inserts, good for wipes -just good all around!
  • terry: good for hidden absorbent layer, but a little rough for an inner, great for wipes
  • thermal: this is really too stretchy... in every direction so it won’t hold it’s shape well
  • sherpa: an absorbent fabric... good for absorbent layer, inserts, wipes, it maybe soft enough for the inner layer too

  • fleece: this comes in a mix with either cotton or bamboo -VERY VERY absorbent 10X’s more absorbent than cotton. good for inner absorbent layer and inserts
  • jersey: this is a mix with bamboo - very absorbent. lots of stretch. good for outer layer... and possible flats or prefolds

  • velour: great for just about everything... outers, inners, inserts, wipes -super soft, absorbent, and stretchy
  • fleece: soft and absorbent -good for outer layer, wipes
  • terry: good for absorbent layer and inserts
  • interlock, jersey: stretchy so good for outer layer
  • thermal: again thermals are really too stretchy for diapers
  • flannel: good for your absorbent layers, inner layer, flats or prefolds, wipes
  • woven or shirting: no stretch not the best for diapers

PUL (Polyurethane-laminated fabric):
  • on Polyester fabrics: stretchy, good for outer layer/hidden layer of pockets and AIO (all-in-one) and AI2’s (all-in-2’s), good for covers. this is your waterproof fabric
  • on cotton woven: not much stretch... can use for covers

  • this is a good inner fabrics that will touch the baby. This is a great wicking fabrics

Where do I think you should splurge? If you are going to go the Economical route to making your diapers but you want to splurge a bit for something nice, I think you should spend good money on absorbency.
-If you are doing fitted diapers or AI2’s (All-In-2’s), make your insert so you have 2 to 4 layers of hemp fleece and then the top layer you put next to baby is velour. The velour will help wick and is going to help keep baby drier with less rashes.
-If you are doing pockets them I would splurge on velour or microfleece as the inner layer for wicking purposes and them you can use microfiber as an insert since it won’t be touching baby’s bum.
-If you are doing AIO’s with all those layers of absorbency I would splurge on Bamboo for your absorbent layer it will dry faster and wash up better.
-I would also splurge on snaps and a press... I HATE velcro. LOL! That is just me though. BUT please do note you do not want to buy the Velcro brand for diapers. It wears out too fast. Go for Aplix or Touch Tape, they are designed to hold up to multiple washings better.

Now we know what the nice fabrics are... Let’s go Shopping!
Where are we gonna get them?
There are a few places. I look all over when I buy and I check prices. I also pay attention to feedback... not all fabrics are made the same. The things to think about here: Are they a quality fabric? Where are they made? How are they made?
You can find some on Etsy and Ebay. I have bought there before. There are also sites such as Natures Fabrics, The Fabric Fairy, Wazoodle, Very Baby, Celtic Cloths, Sew Many Diapers. Here is a search on Etsy, and here is one on Ebay. For cute prints you can check out: Print Knits Studio, The Fabric Fairy,, and Etsy is a great place to find them!
If you are serious about it and have time to wait you can join co-ops on Yahoo groups. BUT you have to have time to wait for co-ops so you have to decide if the wait is worth the little bit of money you will save. Now... did I tell you who my fabric supplier is? LOL! keeping that secret sorry. :)

You have your fabrics now... and your patterns. Now what?
Well we need to Prep the fabrics. What is prepping? Washing... ironing.... LOL! Just kidding. No ironing. Washing is important though. If you are using used items then I would wash them to make sure they are clean. With new fabrics washing will pre-shrink fabrics so your patterns work out right. Plus with the hemp you need to wash out the oils they use in manufacturing. So prepping fabrics equals washing them. Wash them all then you can start cutting. Oh YAY!! This is going to be fun. I hope you will share your successes... and your failures. I am the admin for a facebook page called We Want to See Cloth in Hospitals. Come and post pics!!

Vilate Thacker
mama of 6 cloth diapered kiddos
maker of Nifty Nappy Cloth Diapers

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baby foot fluff said...

Hi,great post! I wrote a guest post for all about cloth diapers about diapering from the thrift store. I tried to make a stash for less than thirty dollars. It was so much fun!

Me and Mine in a Small Town said...

What a great post and tips!!! If I could just sew straight and not always get the thread in knots of the bottom of my fabric I would love to make my own! I really need to keep practicing with my machine!! :)

HappilyDomestic said...

Glenda- That comes with practice. It happens to me alot too! :-( I spend a lot of time fixing mistakes!

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