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Ok here’s the deal. When I was just starting to make diapers, I downloaded this awesome newborn cloth diaper pattern called the “Darling Diaper” newborn fitted pattern. However, it does NOT come with sewing instructions and I am an instruction follower. I needed them! I couldn’t find a good source out there on the internet, so I decided to go ahead and figure it out myself and post the instructions for everybody’s benefit.
First of all, if you haven’t downloaded the free pattern, please do so at the following link. It’s from the Darling Diapers website (free pattern on the bottom of the page).
Now that you have the pattern, know that I am sewing the larger ‘orange’ one. The smaller red one can be done with these instructions also but you might want to do a different length of elastic. I decided on the bigger one because the smaller one lasts only to 10 lbs, and my first son was there at about 1 month. Also, I’m using the ‘turning and topstitching’ sewing method. I also chose to tack down the elastic (sew it only on each end) and then sew a casing around it so the elastic will be somewhat easily replaceable since I’m hoping these diapers will last for multiple children and elastic is always the first thing to go. Also, I’m doing an ‘all in one’ diaper so there’s no pocket, it’s all connected.
Here are the materials you need to follow my instructions:
- PUL (waterproof diaper fabric).
- Inner fabric that is wicking.
- Soaker fabric that is very absorbant.
- 1/4″ poly-braid elastic. (I use 15″ for each diaper)
- Snap pliers and snaps (Each diaper takes 13 sockets, 5 studs and 18 caps; I use the double row of snaps option for a more secure fit to lessen leaks. Totally worth it.)
- Crayola washable crayons (they are so useful for marking on your fabric and it all washes out in the first wash so you don’t see any mistakes).
- Regular no frills sewing machine.
- Polyester thread. The thread HAS to be 100% polyester or it will wick through and your diaper will leak. This is very important.
Now, to start the actual sewing tutorial.
First, you need to print out, tape together, and cut out the pattern. I found that my printer did mess up on the sizing of one of the pieces so definitely measure your testing square once it’s printed to make sure it’s the right size. I also cut out a rectangle of paper that is 6″ x 2 3/8″. This is used as a pattern for material to attach the sockets since they need extra thickness to make sure they don’t rip out of the diaper (which happened to my first one!).
Second, you need to draw and cut out all the pieces of fabric; each diaper needs an outer waterproof layer, an inner wicking layer, and a soaking layer to absorb messes. I found that what worked best for me was to use the paper pattern and a crayola washable crayon to draw it onto my layer of fabric, then remove the pattern and cut. The picture below is a different pattern, but shows how I drew it on.
Third, you need to attach the sockets to the outer (waterproof) layer of fabric. In order to do this, I used the crayons to draw on the fabric where the sockets should go, then I used the awl and snap press to attach the sockets. Make sure that the sockets are on the side that will eventually face out and the caps are on the inside. Also, MAKE SURE you use a reinforcement layer of fabric when attaching them or they will rip right out after everything is finished and they’re impossible to fix at that point! (See the third picture in the series below for the reinforcement rectangle layer).
Fourth, you need to choose how many soaking layers to have. I tried one with three layers of microfiber material but it seems much too bulky for a newborn’s messes, so I settled on 2 layers. After you have figured out how many layers of soaker material to have, you need to sew these layers together. In the picture below, the soaking layer is yellow. I have sewn 2 layers of this yellow microfiber fabric together down the middle to keep it together (it’s a little hard to see the line in the picture). The purpose of sewing them in the middle is so that eventually after many washes they don’t get all bunched up just in case the edges aren’t perfectly sewn down (which is hard to do).
Fifth, you need to draw several things on the wrong side of the inner layer with your crayon. It’s a little difficult to see in the picture below, but I’ve drawn a dot where the back and leg elastics are sewn on, as well as a mark at the top, bottom, and sides of where the soaker layer is sewn on to make sure it’s centered.
Sixth, you need to pin and sew the soaker layer to the inner layer. I HATE pinning things and I generally just ‘wing it’ and it turns out fine, but here is one place where you have to pin it or else it gets off center, every time. Make sure you are pinning the soaker layer to the wrong side of your inner fabric, because you want it on the inside of the diaper eventually. I use three pins to secure the soaker to the inner, making sure it’s centered. Then, sew it on. You need to use the widest zigzag stitch and sew around the edge of the soaker. When you begin and end stitching, make sure you reinforce your stitches by sewing forward for a few stitches, then backward (use your machine’s reverse button) for a few stitches, then forward again. In the second picture below it is sewn on and turned to the right side to show what will be up against baby’s bottom. Make sure you remove the pins!
Seventh, and this is where it starts getting tricky, you need to tack on the elastic to the wrong side of the inner material. I use 5 1/2″ of elastic for each leg and 4″ for the back. Make sure you follow the pattern’s location for where to attach it because it leaves enough space to sew around it later. To ‘tack’ elastic means to only sew it down in two places and leave it mostly free. This lengthens the life of your elastic and allows you to use a seam ripper to replace it later. (Some tutorials show sewing it down the entire length but it is then unable to be replaced and when it goes your whole diaper needs to be thrown away.) Sew it on with a small-width zigzag stitch, going back and forth (with your machine’s reverse button) 5 or 6 times to make sure it’s really connected well. As you can see in the first picture, I leave at least 1/4″ on the end of the elastic. I do this because I have had experience with diapers where if you sew it too close to the end of your elastic, it will just rip right out when it gets stretched and your diaper will be ruined.
Eighth, and my favorite step because it’s really coming together now, is to sew the waterproof layer of the diaper to the inner layer. You need to make sure that you have the right sides (the good sides, the sides that will eventually be on the outside) both facing each other. You also need to make sure that you sew with the waterproof layer facing down so you can see where the elastic is and avoid sewing it.
The first picture shows you where to start sewing. This is the end of the diaper that will wind up being at baby’s belly; it’s where all the sockets are attached on the waterproof layer. You need leave an opening in order to turn the diaper right side out, so start sewing where shown in the picture, about an inch away from the turn of the diaper. Sew with a medium length straight stitch. Also in order to get the right seam allowance, line up the edge of the fabric with the edge of your presser foot. Make sure you reinforce your starting seam by sewing forward for a few stitches, then push your reverse button and sew backward for a few stitches. Repeat that a few times before continuing to sew, staying right along the edge and sewing around the diaper.
Sew all the way around the diaper until you get about an inch into the straight part after the final turn (back at the belly section) – you have to leave an opening big enough for your hand to fit through. Make sure you reinforce the end by sewing forward and backward just like you did at the beginning.
Finally, put your hand in (as shown in the third picture) and flip the diaper right side out. Make sure you use your fingers to push out the round parts of the diaper so it’s facing the right way and ready for the next step.
Ninth, again a tricky step, is to top stitch around the diaper. THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS STEP is to make sure you do NOT sew the elastic at all.
Start your top stitching by the sockets where it is already sewn together (see picture below). You can see that this is where the opening was to put my hand into the diaper. You need to use a straight stitch of small to medium length, whatever your preferences are since this is the part that is seen. Sew as close to the edge as possible – I usually leave only about 1/8″ seam allowance. Make sure you reinforce your stitches by sewing in reverse and forward once before continuing to sew. As you can see in the second picture below, you need to fold over the part that’s open and sew over it to seal it closed.
Keep sewing around the edge until you reach the first leg elastic. Make sure you are feeling with your fingers where it starts and make sure you don’t sew the elastic at all. As soon as you get to the top of the elastic (first picture below), leave your needle in the diaper, lift up your presser foot, and turn it so that you can sew in and give yourself a much wider seam allowance to avoid sewing the elastic, as seen in the second picture below. Make sure you lower the presser foot again before you start sewing. (This is called ‘making a casing’ for the elastic.) Continue sewing, keeping the elastic pressed against the edge with your fingers as you sew to make sure you don’t accidentally sew into it. Eventually it’s necessary to stretch the elastic in order to keep sewing all the way to the end of it. Once you get to the end of the elastic, go back to sewing right along the edge of the diaper until you get to the next piece of elastic. Make a casing for it just like you did for the first one.
Here is what the diaper looks like once you’ve top stitched all the way around, making casings for the elastic.
The tenth and final step is to attach the studs to the diaper. Lay the diaper on the pattern again to see how far apart to space the studs (first picture below) and draw the placement with a crayon (second picture below). Don’t forget to use the awl since you’re going through such thick fabric and also don’t forget to put on the stud for the umbilical cord snap (last picture). Congratulations! You’re all finished!
Here are a few pictures of the final product. Leave me a comment and let me know how I can improve this tutorial!