I haven’t abandoned my knitting and turned this into a sewing blog – I promise! But here at Casa Del Welford, there has been a sweat-shop equivalent of sewing projects on the go lately. Surprisingly, I have actually accomplished quite a bit on my knitting, but that in another post. And it’s completely selfish knitting (per usual) – no baby knitting happening here!
But the sewing. Lots of it. If you have no interest or need to know about cloth diapers, you may want to stop reading now :) I promise there will be knitting again soon – I appreciate your patience as for those interested in cloth diapers, there seems to be a slight lack of information out there on the internets, so I wanted to share what we are working on.
I finished the diaper bag and was already working on a cloth diaper prototype, wandering The Interwebs, looking for some information/ideas about cloth diapers. I decided with the wealth of information available from personal experience stories to data to support cloth diapers for more than just environmental reasons that it was time to consult the most knowledgeable person on the subject of cloth diapers that I know: My own mother.
As there were no alternatives to cloth diapers when I was toodling around in diapers, I figured that she would have some sound advice. She did. And she’s even helping me make them!
Based on her experiences with my brother and I, advice from friends who’ve also made/used cloth diapers, as well as feedback from a local sewing store that sells a great book, “Cloth Diapers Made Easy” from Babyville Boutique, we decided to make pocket diapers. The reasons are simple: They are easy – dirt easy to make. The soakers are inserted inside the diaper, then pulled out and washed along with the diaper, and this makes night time a little more flexible in terms of how much padding to place. No pins (although I don’t see the big deal with pins but if we can keep this simple and not be fiddling with pins in the middle of the night, I like it already). I’m going to say that they are cheap as well, but I will give you a breakdown of what I spent to give you an idea and you can decide for yourself if they are in fact ‘cheap’ (I think that’s a personal decision and for us, we decided it was economical compared to disposables).
The cloth diaper ‘world’ (for lack of a better description), when I started looking into it, has made them into a profit industry. By this I mean that the marketing around these simple things is quite amazing. Babyville Boutique, for example, has matching Velcro, labels, buttons and snaps that accompany all of their PUL fabric line (PUL is the waterproof fabric that serves as the outer layer). While it’s all very cute, but also very expensive … and there needs to be an element of pure practicality with these: The kid is peeing and pooping in said diaper – it’s going to be washed a lot. Ideally, these will see us through at least 2 children – I have the time and energy now to make them. I’m not naive to the fact that baby no. 2 is going to be more challenging in terms of getting things done prior to said child’s arrival (if we are so blessed to have another) so I want to put the work in now but also, have products that are going to last and wear well. Even if that means they are ‘dead’ when we are finished with them, as a friend’s mom put it after her daughter put her 2 children through cloth diapers :)
So, what are they like? How long do they take to make? Are they easy to sew?
This is the prototype I mentioned earlier that started this whole thing:
I started off with matching Velcro, manufactured by Babyville Boutique, which I quickly abandoned due to expense. The diaper below is has standard 2” Velcro bought in bulk off the roll in white. Using stiffer Velcro was a concern at first but honestly, I can see how this Velcro will actually stand up a bit better over time, as well as create a better ‘seal’ – it is ‘stickier’.
Below you can see the pocket at the back where the soaker is inserted. Those I have decided to buy, which are available from Target and Fred Meyer. Unfortunately, the price outweighs making my own as a pack of 10 is $10. A meter of white flannelette at Fabricland is $6.50 per meter (for a decent weight. The thinner stuff is cheaper but also won’t last).
To make the pocket diapers, there are 2 major seams: 1. Sewing the flannel lining right sides together to the PUL fabric and 2. Top stitching around, creating the inner leg elastic casing at the same time, to finish. Everything else is just fiddly short seams: Folding over and stitching the casing at the back where the soaker is inserted, stitching in/securing the elastic, and sewing on the Velcro. One diaper, start to finish (regardless of the size and not including the cutting out), takes 35 minutes to complete.
When Mom and I sweatshop the diapers, meaning set up a bit of an assembly line together and pass the work back and forth, they are significantly faster. I can have 4 made in an hour with her help.
This is a pile of 20 mediums that I am working on this afternoon. I have finished 6 in the past hour and a half. To get them to this point, I pinned and she sewed the Velcro. Then we did the same for the lining to the PUL. Then again for the inner leg elastic and casings. Honestly, it seems a lot of work but it was only a day and we made … 18 completed plus these 20 that are ready to finish. The goal is to have 48 assorted sizes when we are finished, the majority of which will be mediums.
(Left to right: Small, Medium and Large)
The sizing, as with all baby sizing, is based on weight. We aren’t making any newborn sizes as they are from 6-10lbs. The small size is 8-20lbs. The medium size is 15-28lbs.
From advice online and friends, the adjustability of these diapers (one of the reasons we went with Velcro instead of snaps) means that while the child is between 10 and ~20lbs, the smalls and mediums are interchangeable. We decided to make 14 smalls and 24 mediums.
We aren’t making many large sizes (28-40lbs). While we will need some, experienced friends said that they were into training pants by the time they needed the larges, only used them for about 2 months and didn’t need more than 9 or 10.
I included the photo above because you will see that these diapers have a seam up the middle. The difficulty with these diapers when cutting them out is that they use a lot of fabric so you end up with a lot of odds and ends. Because the pattern is cut on the fold, you can cut two halves, adding room for a 1/4” or 3/8” seam (whatever you prefer) and sew ‘em up! They may not be as perfect as the mono-toned ones but do they ever help to use up the scraps! And they are kinda cute :)
A few thoughts about making these diapers (both based on feedback from people we’ve talked to, information from the internets and things we’ve learned a long the way):
- Don’t get all hung up on perfectly finishing these – if you are a perfectionist, leave that at the door (I had to reinforce this with my mother). They aren’t worth the time to fuss over & they look great even if there are little puckers or not-perfect sewing. Trust me!
- The stiffer Velcro is significantly cheaper and just as effective as the more expensive, colour-coordinated Velcro. You’re talking a difference of about $1.10/meter in cost savings, which when you need 15 meters roughly, that starts to add up ($30CAD total including tax @ 12%).
- Feedback from friends said that the Velcro is much more adjustable than the snaps (yay! more cost savings).
- The flannelette as the lining. The book calls for suede cloth but the cost is prohibitive. White flannel is generally what people use but a friend of mine (having used these herself and loved them) said she was glad she just bought off the sales rack flannel that was relatively neutral for a much reduced price. With washing, non-chlorine bleaching and general wear&tear, the colour will fade and no one’s looking inside the diaper when there are cute monsters and dinosaurs on the outside. I paid $3/meter for ~10 meters of really good quality flannel in a yellow that matched each diaper in some way ($35CAD, including tax ). I also had some scrape flannel that I used up for a few of the smalls.
- The PUL fabric is expensive. There’s just no other way to cut it but here’s how it broke down for me: I bought roughly 7 meters of various prints (mostly monsters as they are my favourite and they were sold out of the dinosaurs) for $15.75/meter. It came to $130CAD (including tax).
- The book cost about $12CAD (including tax).
- To make about 48 diapers, the total cost was $210CAD (including tax). Based on a friend’s calculations, she said they spent in 2011 for 2 children $1800CAD on disposable diapers. Based on information out there on the internet, $2700USD/year is the average a family spends on 7000 disposables/year. I’m rounding numbers just to give you an idea of the cost savings alone. I am fully expecting I will have to make some replacement diapers at various times throughout this process, as they aren’t going to last forever, but I will welcome that in the face of saving over $1500 in the first year alone. For more information, check out this website: Diapering Decisions
- It’s a personal decision about what to diaper our children in and I hope I have shared what we are choosing to do thoroughly and thoughtfully – please, if you have any questions about making these or any details I forgot, please email me! I welcome your ideas too :)
For those interested in this pursuit of ours to cloth diaper our kids, I will keep you posted about how it all goes. I am very aware of the fact that there will be a time and place, as Taryn of Mama Gone Green has attested to, that we will need to use disposable diapers but I hope that we are able to find a balance and minimise the waste leaving our home, as well as the cost of disposables.