Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cloth diapering rundown

When I was pregnant with Yaya, I wouldn't even have considered cloth diapering. Because eww poop, right? Plus back in 2004 there weren't the kind of resources online that there are now and I wouldn't even have known where to start. It was a similar situation in 2006 with Mr. Man. Now, however, information about cloth diapers is everywhere and it's something I'm ready to consider. To be honest, we're doing it more for the monetary savings than for any environmental reason, but if it doesn't work out then it's not a big deal to go back to disposable. Actually she might be in disposables when she's first born; from what I've read some newborns aren't big enough to properly fit a cloth diaper.

I did literally months of research before I started, so I like to think I can coherently share a little of what I've learned.

If you're going to cloth diaper, the first decision you have to make is about the type of diaper to use. I won't do a very in-depth run down here because that would take up too much space--there are a lot of options, especially when you add in different types of fabrics, closures, gussets, etc. The basic types are: all-in-one (probably the most similar to a disposable, but the most expensive and the type that takes longest to dry), all-in-two (a waterproof outer layer and a feel-dry inner layer with absorbent layers in between, with a sewn-on or snap-in soaker), fitted (looks like a disposable diaper but must be used with a plastic cover) and pocket (a waterproof outer layer and feel-dry inner layer, with an absorbent soaker stuffed into the pocket). I decided to use pocket diapers.

I also decided to make my own diapers, which meant that I had to then decide on fabrics, methods, and patterns. If you are going to buy cloth diapers the price depends on what you choose and where you buy from. I've seen all-in-ones at the local children's consignment store for $20 each, which is frankly a rip-off--new BumGenius all-in-ones go for about $22 each. I've also seen diapers on Craigslist for as little as $6 each, though I can't remember what type they were. Etsy is a great resource for cute cloth diapers (and you're supporting small businesses), and if you're willing to risk leaks you can buy tester diapers and save a few dollars.

Since I'm making my diapers I don't need to worry about any of that, I just need to pick a pattern. There are free patterns and paid patterns and, being cheap, I was hoping to stick to free patterns. Some of the most popular free patterns are Rita's Rump Pocket, Darling Diapers Newborn (this one is only for the newborn size; Darling Diapers has a different paid pattern for other sizes), Cloth Revolution (download this one whether you plan to use it or not; the instructions are incredibly comprehensive and have some fantastic information that applies to cloth diapering in general, not just this pattern), Wee Weeka and Witteybums. I decided to use the Witteybums pattern, specifically the double welt pocket.

For most cloth diapers, you will need a type of laminated fabric for the outer layer called PUL. Since diaper making is more popular now, you can find PUL in fun prints at a lot of fabric stores, but I've heard lots of complaints about it delaminating. I know Joann sells it, I've heard that Hobby Lobby sells it, and I've seen it on Hancock's site but I've never actually seen it in a store. I decided to just buy plain white PUL, which is all that my local Hancock Fabrics had in stock. I can't remember if they called it PUL or "cloth diaper fabric" on the label, and of course I used a 40% off coupon. I used butter suede, also from Hancock, for the inner fabric. For the soaker--the part that gets shoved inside the diaper to soak up various bodily fluids--I'm going to start out with microfiber cloths (the type you find in the automotive section). To get the cute diaper effect I'll be sewing simple covers using this pattern.

So far I've made four diapers. My goal is to make between 20-30 in the newborn size; I'll need fewer diapers in each larger size, and each diaper takes about two hours to make (I'm very slow, though). The first three I decided to make with T-shirt fabric outers and suede inners, mostly because I didn't want to cut into the "good" fabric without making a few prototypes first. I learned something new from each diaper. Here they are all lined up.

These are lined up in the order that I made them. Look closely at the first one and you can see my biggest screw up.

Ignore the threads I didn't clip short enough for the hole I ripped in the outer layer. Oops. I had somehow gotten the idea that you weren't supposed to sew through the PUL. I don't know why, it doesn't even make sense if you think about it, but apparently I wasn't thinking. I ended up sewing and ripping apart this area a few times and basically ripped a hole in the T-shirt fabric. I patched it and we'll see how well this diaper works. These need to be used with plastic covers, anyway.

The other two T-shirt diapers aren't too bad, other than the fact that on #2 I forgot I was supposed to be using a 3/8" seam allowance and went to my default 1/2", so it's a bit smaller. When I finally got around to making the PUL diaper, things went pretty well except for my machine balking at sewing the hook tabs on. I'm pretty sure the issue was that the machine needed to be rethreaded; I got thread nests when I first tried to sew them on using a straight stitch and skipped stitches when I tried to zigzag, but once I rethreaded and switched back to straight stitch things seemed to go much better.

Here's a picture of the inside of the diaper. This is the double welt pocket, which means the soaker gets shoved inside the diaper in two spots instead of one. This is supposed to make it easier for the soaker to agitate out in the laundry, and even though baby poop is no longer quite so disgusting to me I still don't want to have to remove the soakers by hand if I don't have to.

You can also see that I've added gussets (a.k.a. "poopcatchers"); those are not included in the Witteybums pattern.

Here's a shot of the messed up stitching on the fourth diaper, which my camera really did not want to focus on properly.

I'm hoping to finish eight more over the next week, then probably eight more the week after that. I'm not sure if I want to go ahead with the second batch of eight or if I want to wait until she's born and make sure the diapers fit.

To finish things up, here are a few great resource links about using cloth diapers and which type of diaper to choose.

Cloth Diapering 101
The Much Requested Cloth Diaper Post
Doodie Duty

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