When looking to start cloth diapering, many mothers are also looking to save money. But when money is tight, the price of even used cloth diapers can be daunting!
With just a little sewing know-how, and a stash of old clothes, you can get started cloth diapering for about $30 - maybe less! And we'll show you exactly how to do it right here.
Sewing prefold diapers and pull-on wool soakers is definitely one of the most inexpensive way to go - if you can collect all of your used clothing from friends and family, the only thing you'll have to buy is your thread & some sort of closure - pins or a Snappi. If you can't find enough clothing for your project (each diaper takes about 2 t-shirts), try your local charity thrift shop. My local Salvation Army sells me garbage bags full of the t-shirts they can't sell on the floor for about $3 a bag - I can get blue-jeans & sweatshirts for the same deal.
Our prefold instructions page will step you through a number of prefold styles (including a stuffable prefold!), all suitable for use with a Snappi.
Sewing wool soakers from old sweaters is fast & easy. Use our Recycled Bum Fuzzy pattern, or find instructions on various sites on the web. You can make 2 covers from one sweater, and sometimes a pair of pants, too. I look for sweaters that are at least 30% wool, with no plant fibers. If your baby is allergic to wool, you may find that 100% acrylic works just fine. You'll want sweaters with a nice stretchy ribbed waistband, cuffs, and neckband. The softer the sweater, the better it will feel for your baby.
A Step Up Fitted Diapers and Wool Wraps
Making fitted diapers and wool wraps takes the same basic materials as the prefolds and pull-ons, but a few more supplies are needed for this type system. Elastic is used for the leg openings, to better contain messes and give a closer fit, and Hook-and-Loop tape (Velcro, Aplix, TouchTape, or similar products) is added to make the diaper self-closing. Fitted diapers are often the best choice if people other than yourself will be changing diapers - they tend to be the most Grandma/Daddy/Babysitter friendly, as they more closely resemble the disposable diapers that everyone is used to these days. If you can gather all of your basic supplies, you may be able to make this type system for about $20, if you only have to buy the elastic & hook-and-loop!
Our fitted diaper instruction page will step you through the construction of a basic turned & topstitched fitted diaper, with both pocket-style and internal soaker options. The pocket style (with removable absorbent pads) is my favorite, as the absorbency can be customized and the inserts can be removed to make the diaper faster-drying. Experiment with the ideas presented to find the system that works best for you!
Just about any diaper wrap pattern can be used to make a recycled wool wrap - just cut your pieces from a shrunken wool sweater! Pull-on soakers can also be used with fitted diapers.
Versatile Simplicity The Humble Flatfold
For sheer versatility, nothing can beat the good old-fashioned flatfold diaper! Since a flat diaper is basically a hemmed square of single-thickness fabric, it is also the cleanest washing and fastest drying diaper, and is generally regarded as the best choice for travelling and camping trips. And if you're looking for a trim-fitting diaper, the flatfold is the way to go - our Oragami Fold instructions will step you through from a big square to bikini-fit finish.
Sewing flatfold diapers is probably one of the easiest diaper-sewing projects in existence - and the most inexpensive if you can collect used sheets and stashed fabric from friends and family. Even buying your fabric new can set you up with a fairly inexpensive stash if you shop wisely - most larger fabric departments will have a selection of $1/yard fabrics that will work well.
See the previous sections for informaton on sewing wool covers from old sweaters. Both pull-ons & wraps will work well with flatfold diapers.
You can use leftovers from your diaper-making project to make other helpful diapering items.
Cloth Wipes: 8"x8" squares cut from too-small t-shirts, sleeves, and leftover bits make excellent wipes. For t-shirt fabric, sew 2 layers together (serging holds up best, but straight stitch &/or zig-zag does just fine), and for heavier fabrics, one layer will do. Try sweatshirt fleece, waffle knit, heavy rib knit, or french terry for variety. Cloth wipes also make good handkerchiefs.
Diaper Doublers & Pocket Inserts: Cut extra soaker pad pieces from the sides of t-shirts, or leftover sleeves. Serge them up to keep on hand for when extra absorbency is needed!
Wet Bag: If you have acquired a wool sweater that is too scratchy to use for diaper covers, turn it into a wet-bag! Turn the sweater upside-down & lay it out flat. Starting at one underarm, cut in a shallow U-shape to the other underarm, removing both sleeves & the neckband. Turn inside out & stitch the cut edges together for the bottom seam. Turn right-side out & thread a shoelace through the waistband ribbing for a drawstring, and you're done!
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This page last updated May 2004
Price breakdown for 36 prefold diapers & 6 wool covers: "fabric" in the form of old clothing from a thrift shop - $6 thread (serger cone thread) - $2-$10 3 wool sweaters (thrift shop) - $6 Snappi or pins - $1-$3
Price breakdown for 36 fitted diapers & 6 wool covers: "fabric" in the form of old clothing from a thrift shop - $6 thread (serger cone thread) - $2-$10 3 wool sweaters (thrift shop) - $6 Touch-tape - $15 Elastic - $5
Prefolds & Pull-ons Your basic penny-pincher stash