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Thread: Sewing Your Own Pre-fold Cloth Diapers

  1. #1

    Default Sewing Your Own Pre-fold Cloth Diapers

    Introduction

    There are many places available on the internet to purchase pre-fold cloth diapers. They come in a variety of materials and thicknesses. Cloth diapers can be re-used, over and over again, though they do require a pair of plastic pants over the top to contain moisture. Costs on cloth diapers and plastic pants vary, and for those who have some minor experience in sewing and are looking for a fairly thick cloth diaper, there are some ideas on the internet, another is presented here. Cloth diapers have very good wicking properties to help spread moisture through the diaper, so there can be plenty of upsides to cloth.

    Pre-fold versus Fitted


    Fitted diapers are available and are very close to the commercial disposable diapers in the way they look and attach. They are basically an hourglass shape, often with velcro tabs and front landing area that is close in utility to disposable diapers. They will often have elastic in the legs (much like a disposable) to help maintain the fit, and can be made with the waterproof cover in place (often known as an all-in-one, or AIO diaper).

    One drawback of having the waterproof cover attached to the diaper is in washing and drying of the diaper. The waterproof cover often will not hold up as well as the rest of the diaper through repeated wash cycles and will often be the first point of failure.

    Many patterns are available for free on the internet, a quick sample is available here: Cloth Diaper Patterns. As this is an external website I have no control over, I cannot vouch for how up-to-date any of the links are or how good the information is.

    Pre-fold diapers are basically flat pieces of cloth with thicker areas for more absorbency that are folded in any of a number of fashions and then pinned in place. Various folds are shown here for reference. One benefit to pre-fold diapers as opposed to fitted or AIO diapers is that there ends up being extra material that gets bunched up in the crotch, the place where absorbency tends to be most critical (this goes for both guys and gals, gravity tends to pull the moisture there).

    Plastic or Rubber Pants

    Pre-folds will require a waterproof covering pant of some sort. There are a number of available suppliers on the internet for waterproof pants. Gary Manufacturing, Babykins, and Fetware are three major manufacturers that can be searched for on Google. All three of these companies seem to be AB aware, so offerings are available both in plain colors and prints that are more "little" in nature.

    I have not seen any recommendations for making your own waterproof pants that I consider worthwhile; seams and potential leaks are an issue, as is leg and waist elastic to ensure a good seal. Given the cost that most of these companies offer their products at, my personal recommendation is to bite the bullet and buy rather than try to make your own.

    Making Your Own Pre-fold

    My wife and I came up with this design for a pre-fold diaper after having several pre-folds from online sources fall apart after about one year of use. The nice thing about making your own pre-fold is that you can purchase the material you like, both in pattern and material weave, for making your diapers. I have even heard of some people using cloth cut from old T-shirts to make diapers from.

    The pre-fold design I have makes a single 36" X 36" diaper that has a twelve inch wide center section that is ten layers thick, and two twelve inch wide side sections that are four layers thick. Be warned, this design takes a total of six (6) yards of fabric to create. If you are paying $3.00 per yard, that calculates to a cost per diaper of $18.00. Given the thickness and absorbency, it is not a bad cost. When coupled with the ability to choose your own fabric, you can get a fabric that will hold up better after multiple washings as well as one that will last through all the pinning and stretching that can occur in the corners.

    I started with three pieces of fabric, each 36" X 72". This utilizes the entire width of a standard fabric roll that one would purchase from most fabric stores, and gives the added bonus that the long edges have a border that requires no hem. The first piece is folded in half, and then the inside folded back to double the thickness across the center twelve inches. The second piece starts inside the twelve inch fold, goes back to the outside, folds back on itself, and again is used to double the thickness in the center. The last piece is a mirror image of the first.

    Attached is a picture showing the folding pattern for the three pieces of fabric, together with the sewing locations (dashed lines on entire diaper).
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	drawing.jpg 
Views:	566 
Size:	34.3 KB 
ID:	19313
    The only places where hems may be required is on the left side where single cut edges of fabric could potentially unravel. As shown, this creates a thick cloth diaper that is capable of absorbing quite a bit (depending on your fabric choice).

    Fabric Choices and Care


    I used diaper fabric available from Jo-Ann fabrics, but the cost was approximately $5.00/yard. This meant I spent more than $30 per diaper when thread and time was factored in, but I have found that these diapers are more than equivalent to being double-diapered with a pair of gauze pre-folds that cost $20 each. In addition, these diapers have outlasted the thin gauze diapers by more than a factor of two, meaning that a choice for a tougher fabric gave longer diaper lifetime.

    Cotton is considered to be the best fabric from most every place I have researched. It absorbs well, launders well, and lasts. Synthetic fabrics are not recommended as they do not typically absorb moisture as much as repel it. Wool is also a poor choice as natural oils in the fiber will keep the diaper from having maximum absorbency.

    The diaper fabric from Jo-Ann fabrics is a heavier weave, but it holds up well from the minor holes put in it from pinning diapers on, stretching as you move around, etc. There are other options, such as terry, twill, and T-shirt material. Choices are up to the individual, and diapers do not need to be limited to white.

    In terms of care for the diaper, it is recommended to rinse them out when changing out of a soiled (either wet or messy) diaper. Shake any fecal matter into the toilet and flush it away before rinsing. Wringing out the diaper allows them to be placed into a pail for a day or two until one can wash them. Washing with hot water is recommended to sanitize the diaper as well as possible. Bleach must be used very sparingly as it can attack the fabric and shorten the lifetime of the diaper.

    Above all, DO NOT USE FABRIC SOFTENER. Fabric softener creates a thin wax layer on the cloth to make it feel softer and avoid static. This waxy layer prevents the fabric from being able to absorb like it should. Brand new diapers will often have a 'sizing' agent on them as well that will prevent them from having maximum absorbency. A few washes will leave the fabric soft and absorbent.

    Diapers will shrink slightly depending on the fabric, but these diapers can fit 32" to 42" waists.

    Final Words


    There are several articles already available on ADISC regarding different types of cloth diapers, sewing, and caring for cloth diapers. Please consider this only one more way of creating a good cloth pre-fold diaper that can serve those of us with some of the more demanding needs from our diapers. While the upfront costs may be slightly higher, the diapers can be rather economical in the long term, I have less than half a dozen of these (I wear one every night for bed) and they have lasted me longer than two years at this point. When you look at the price I paid per diaper, I have gotten 120+ uses per diaper (less than $0.25 per use compared to $1+ for disposables), and these diapers are not showing wear and tear to the point I would consider replacing them.

  2. #2

    Default

    This was an amazing read. I just got the wife a serger, so I will show her this. I think even I could make a serviceable diaper with these instructions. Thanks!

  3. #3

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by AnalogRTO View Post
    Introduction

    There are many places available on the internet to purchase pre-fold cloth diapers. They come in a variety of materials and thicknesses. Cloth diapers can be re-used, over and over again, though they do require a pair of plastic pants over the top to contain moisture. Costs on cloth diapers and plastic pants vary, and for those who have some minor experience in sewing and are looking for a fairly thick cloth diaper, there are some ideas on the internet, another is presented here. Cloth diapers have very good wicking properties to help spread moisture through the diaper, so there can be plenty of upsides to cloth.

    Pre-fold versus Fitted


    Fitted diapers are available and are very close to the commercial disposable diapers in the way they look and attach. They are basically an hourglass shape, often with velcro tabs and front landing area that is close in utility to disposable diapers. They will often have elastic in the legs (much like a disposable) to help maintain the fit, and can be made with the waterproof cover in place (often known as an all-in-one, or AIO diaper).

    One drawback of having the waterproof cover attached to the diaper is in washing and drying of the diaper. The waterproof cover often will not hold up as well as the rest of the diaper through repeated wash cycles and will often be the first point of failure.

    Many patterns are available for free on the internet, a quick sample is available here: Cloth Diaper Patterns. As this is an external website I have no control over, I cannot vouch for how up-to-date any of the links are or how good the information is.

    Pre-fold diapers are basically flat pieces of cloth with thicker areas for more absorbency that are folded in any of a number of fashions and then pinned in place. Various folds are shown here for reference. One benefit to pre-fold diapers as opposed to fitted or AIO diapers is that there ends up being extra material that gets bunched up in the crotch, the place where absorbency tends to be most critical (this goes for both guys and gals, gravity tends to pull the moisture there).

    Plastic or Rubber Pants

    Pre-folds will require a waterproof covering pant of some sort. There are a number of available suppliers on the internet for waterproof pants. Gary Manufacturing, Babykins, and Fetware are three major manufacturers that can be searched for on Google. All three of these companies seem to be AB aware, so offerings are available both in plain colors and prints that are more "little" in nature.

    I have not seen any recommendations for making your own waterproof pants that I consider worthwhile; seams and potential leaks are an issue, as is leg and waist elastic to ensure a good seal. Given the cost that most of these companies offer their products at, my personal recommendation is to bite the bullet and buy rather than try to make your own.

    Making Your Own Pre-fold

    My wife and I came up with this design for a pre-fold diaper after having several pre-folds from online sources fall apart after about one year of use. The nice thing about making your own pre-fold is that you can purchase the material you like, both in pattern and material weave, for making your diapers. I have even heard of some people using cloth cut from old T-shirts to make diapers from.

    The pre-fold design I have makes a single 36" X 36" diaper that has a twelve inch wide center section that is ten layers thick, and two twelve inch wide side sections that are four layers thick. Be warned, this design takes a total of six (6) yards of fabric to create. If you are paying $3.00 per yard, that calculates to a cost per diaper of $18.00. Given the thickness and absorbency, it is not a bad cost. When coupled with the ability to choose your own fabric, you can get a fabric that will hold up better after multiple washings as well as one that will last through all the pinning and stretching that can occur in the corners.

    I started with three pieces of fabric, each 36" X 72". This utilizes the entire width of a standard fabric roll that one would purchase from most fabric stores, and gives the added bonus that the long edges have a border that requires no hem. The first piece is folded in half, and then the inside folded back to double the thickness across the center twelve inches. The second piece starts inside the twelve inch fold, goes back to the outside, folds back on itself, and again is used to double the thickness in the center. The last piece is a mirror image of the first.

    Attached is a picture showing the folding pattern for the three pieces of fabric, together with the sewing locations (dashed lines on entire diaper).
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	drawing.jpg 
Views:	566 
Size:	34.3 KB 
ID:	19313
    The only places where hems may be required is on the left side where single cut edges of fabric could potentially unravel. As shown, this creates a thick cloth diaper that is capable of absorbing quite a bit (depending on your fabric choice).

    Fabric Choices and Care


    I used diaper fabric available from Jo-Ann fabrics, but the cost was approximately $5.00/yard. This meant I spent more than $30 per diaper when thread and time was factored in, but I have found that these diapers are more than equivalent to being double-diapered with a pair of gauze pre-folds that cost $20 each. In addition, these diapers have outlasted the thin gauze diapers by more than a factor of two, meaning that a choice for a tougher fabric gave longer diaper lifetime.

    Cotton is considered to be the best fabric from most every place I have researched. It absorbs well, launders well, and lasts. Synthetic fabrics are not recommended as they do not typically absorb moisture as much as repel it. Wool is also a poor choice as natural oils in the fiber will keep the diaper from having maximum absorbency.

    The diaper fabric from Jo-Ann fabrics is a heavier weave, but it holds up well from the minor holes put in it from pinning diapers on, stretching as you move around, etc. There are other options, such as terry, twill, and T-shirt material. Choices are up to the individual, and diapers do not need to be limited to white.

    In terms of care for the diaper, it is recommended to rinse them out when changing out of a soiled (either wet or messy) diaper. Shake any fecal matter into the toilet and flush it away before rinsing. Wringing out the diaper allows them to be placed into a pail for a day or two until one can wash them. Washing with hot water is recommended to sanitize the diaper as well as possible. Bleach must be used very sparingly as it can attack the fabric and shorten the lifetime of the diaper.

    Above all, DO NOT USE FABRIC SOFTENER. Fabric softener creates a thin wax layer on the cloth to make it feel softer and avoid static. This waxy layer prevents the fabric from being able to absorb like it should. Brand new diapers will often have a 'sizing' agent on them as well that will prevent them from having maximum absorbency. A few washes will leave the fabric soft and absorbent.

    Diapers will shrink slightly depending on the fabric, but these diapers can fit 32" to 42" waists.

    Final Words


    There are several articles already available on ADISC regarding different types of cloth diapers, sewing, and caring for cloth diapers. Please consider this only one more way of creating a good cloth pre-fold diaper that can serve those of us with some of the more demanding needs from our diapers. While the upfront costs may be slightly higher, the diapers can be rather economical in the long term, I have less than half a dozen of these (I wear one every night for bed) and they have lasted me longer than two years at this point. When you look at the price I paid per diaper, I have gotten 120+ uses per diaper (less than $0.25 per use compared to $1+ for disposables), and these diapers are not showing wear and tear to the point I would consider replacing them.
    That was an informative read. I myself use Dependeco AIO's. I prefer them because of my handicaps. I use them every night and been using them now for almost a year. I recommend if you consider AIO's get the
    ones with the PUL liners and not the PVC ones. I have to hand wash mine and air dry them. I don't have laundry facilities. Mine are still like new the for first ones I got.

  4. #4

    Default

    A great article. I have a question, and please don't take it as an offense. My cloth diapers have lasted me four or five years, I think, and they are still going. I rinse them after use, collect them over a week or two, and then wash in the washing machine. I'm wondering why yours have only lasted a year? Have you used bleach or something else that might be considered harsh? It seems to me they should have lasted much longer, like mine. I purchased mine from All Together Enterprises, if that is an indicator of high quality, long lasting cloth diapers. Of course, I don't know, so that's why I'm asking.

  5. #5

    Default

    Nice write-up, AnalogRTO. I've accumulated a bunch of old Curity gauze flats with the intent of someday sewing my own prefolds with them -- the adult-size Curity prefolds that, sadly, never existed. Also, like you, I would make mine perfectly square. I usually end up folding my store-bought prefolds in until they're square, as that works best for my stocky build.

    I'll also add a "me too" to what dogboy said; my AdultClothDiaper prefolds and some of my Changing Times prefolds are 2+ years old now and holding up fine. Of course, it's less a matter of time and more a matter of wash cycles (and wash temperature, and use of bleach, etc.), and I'm not incontinent. Longevity of a cloth diaper may be of less practical importance to a recreational diaper-wearer like me than to somebody who's going through multiple cloth diapers each day.

  6. #6

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by oleman72 View Post
    That was an informative read. I myself use Dependeco AIO's. I prefer them because of my handicaps. I use them every night and been using them now for almost a year. I recommend if you consider AIO's get the
    ones with the PUL liners and not the PVC ones. I have to hand wash mine and air dry them. I don't have laundry facilities. Mine are still like new the for first ones I got.
    I'm considering getting some Dependco AIO's to save me a bit of money, being a recreational user. Are they good quality? It would be nice to have one or two, so whenever I run out of disposables I'll always have something to wear.

  7. #7

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by DeftLeppard View Post
    I'm considering getting some Dependco AIO's to save me a bit of money, being a recreational user. Are they good quality? It would be nice to have one or two, so whenever I run out of disposables I'll always have something to wear.
    They are excellent quality. I also recommend the use of her stuffers if you wear them for overnight.

  8. #8

    Default

    First, to those of you who commented about AIO diapers, I understand the choice of those. Pre-folds will not fit as well as a a typical fitted AIO. To oleman72, your diapers are probably like new because of the fact you hand wash and air-dry them. This is going to be the easiest on the materials and will provide the longest lasting items possible. This is why many very expensive fabrics like silks and women's delicate items are tagged to be 'hand wash only'.



    Quote Originally Posted by Cottontail View Post
    Nice write-up, AnalogRTO. I've accumulated a bunch of old Curity gauze flats with the intent of someday sewing my own prefolds with them -- the adult-size Curity prefolds that, sadly, never existed. Also, like you, I would make mine perfectly square. I usually end up folding my store-bought prefolds in until they're square, as that works best for my stocky build.

    I'll also add a "me too" to what dogboy said; my AdultClothDiaper prefolds and some of my Changing Times prefolds are 2+ years old now and holding up fine. Of course, it's less a matter of time and more a matter of wash cycles (and wash temperature, and use of bleach, etc.), and I'm not incontinent. Longevity of a cloth diaper may be of less practical importance to a recreational diaper-wearer like me than to somebody who's going through multiple cloth diapers each day.
    I will certainly agree with you here. Those of us that aren't wearing on a recreational basis go through more diapers on a regular basis and it will certainly be directly related to wash cycles. Material choice is also important for handling more wash cycles, some materials have a much looser weave that will come apart in fewer cycles than others.



    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    A great article. I have a question, and please don't take it as an offense. My cloth diapers have lasted me four or five years, I think, and they are still going. I rinse them after use, collect them over a week or two, and then wash in the washing machine. I'm wondering why yours have only lasted a year? Have you used bleach or something else that might be considered harsh? It seems to me they should have lasted much longer, like mine. I purchased mine from All Together Enterprises, if that is an indicator of high quality, long lasting cloth diapers. Of course, I don't know, so that's why I'm asking.
    No offense taken. I had bought half a dozen four-ply gauze diapers originally based on the cost of those and found that I had to double-diaper in order to get the absorbency I needed for my nighttime diaper. This meant I effectively had three diapers, not six, and so they were being put through 120 or so washes a year. My wife uses a small amount of bleach on occasion to try and keep them as sanitary as possible, and I do know about the damage bleach can cause. What tends to happen is that bleach will help unravel the cotton fibers and gauze is a loose enough thread and weave that it takes less to wipe it out (the loose thread and weave is a lot of what makes gauze such a "soft" diaper material). When that was coupled with the stretching that occurred with the looser fabric around the pin areas, the diapers didn't last that long for me.

    A lot of the reason I waited to write up this whole article was so that I could make sure the diaper design would suit my needs and last like I wanted. One of the nice things about these diapers is the fact that you can use whatever fabric you want, and can get sturdier fabrics that will hold up better across wash cycles.

    I use disposables for convenience through the day while I am at work, and just need one diaper for bedtime now. Normally, I will completely soak an Abena M4 if I use it as an overnight diaper (to the point it is often leaking), but I rarely run into a situation with these pre-folds leaking.
    Last edited by AnalogRTO; 04-Dec-2013 at 18:36.

  9. #9

    Default

    Thanks for you response, and what you say makes absolute sense. You're right. I wear for recreational purposes, so I'm not washing them at the rate you are. That's probably the difference. I wondered if brand made a difference as well. I've had good luck with the diapers I've bought through All Together Enterprises. I would imagine that many of the sellers use similar suppliers.

    Will you be able to buy comparable material, such as gauze, twill or birdseye? I wondered what the general consumer demand was on such material, and whether it would be stocked.

  10. #10

    Default

    i tried using cloth diapers before but just cant find a cloth diaper that hold alot

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