Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sewing a Basic Diaper - Start to Finish

There is now a VIDEO tutorial for this up on YouTube as well!

This is a great way to practice your diaper-sewing skills before venturing into more expensive fabrics or even buying the more specific diaper-sewing supplies.

For this you can use new or recycled flannel, a flour sack towel, or really any absorbent woven fabric or fleece (poly or natural fibers). Starting with more stretchy fabric is harder unless you have a walking foot or are very practiced already with sewing stretchy fabrics.  You can also use any sewing machine needle for something like this.

Choose the pattern you want to use and cut an inner and outer fabric piece.  

* If you were going to apply snaps or velcro to the front of the outer, you would cut a piece of fabric for reinforcement and apply them now.
 Lay the pieces with their faces inward towards each other.
 Clip or pin them together, faces in.
 I use a fairly wide stitch for the initial sewing.
 Lower your needle into the front edge about 2/3 across the body.
 Sew forward a few stitches and then reverses your direction for a few stitches.
 Continue sewing forwards again and proceed to sew around the outer edge of the body.
 I use the edge of my sewing foot to keep my distance from the fabric edge consistent.
 When you get to the opposite side of the front again, sew back and forth for a few stitches again.
 Sewn around the outer edges:
 This will be your turning hole.
** For many types of pocket diapers, you would sew all the way around and turn through your pocket opening.
 Reach your hand inside and pull the wings through.
Continue turning. 
 I reach my hand back inside to push all my edges out evenly.
 Turned diaper:
 Now to sew your elastic casings. I use a little bit shorter of a stitch length.
 Make sure the edges are pressed cleanly, and lower your needle to the correct width for your elastic casings.
 Begin sewing back and forth a few stitches and then the length of your casing channel.
 Finish it off the same way.
 Repeat for your other elastic casing channels.
 Now select your elastic.  I used 3/8" polyester braided with a bodkin.  You can use any elastic for your practice diapers though, and a safety pin works great as well!
 Feed your elastic into your casing channel.
 I feed with the outer fabric up so I can guide the elastic OVER the inside turned fabric edge and against the outer edge.  This proves helpful when sewing PUL diapers later on and to stop little things like twisted elastics and unevenly puckered edges.
  Feed the elastic all the way to just past the end of the casing channel.
 Shorten the stitch length a bit more.
 Sew back and forth a couple times to secure the end of your elastic.
Remove your bodkin or safety pin.
Stretch your elastic so that you can still pull the fabric all the way straight but with good tension.  I pinned it here to show, but once you are practiced, you won't need to pin through your materials. 
 Sew back and forth to secure, and then trim your elastic to about 1/2" from the end of the casing.
 Repeat on the other side and fold over to measure against the first side before securing to get even leg openings.  Then sew in the back elastic. I don't tighten the back elastic as much as the legs.
 Once the elastics are installed and the bodkin or safety pin is removed, we are ready to close up our turning hole.  Fold the fabric edges evenly inward.
 Clip or pin closed.
 Close your hole while top-stitching.
 Finish top-stitching around the front and the wings.
 Your basic practice fitted diaper is complete.
 Very useful with added absorbency like a trifolded prefold.
You can even sew in or snap-in a soaker after-the-fact.
 Most flannel is not snappiable, but you can use pins or even sew on hook and loop (like velcro.)  However, a flour sack towel or fleece usually IS snappiable.
 Adjust the size/rise by just folding over the front.

My free pattern templates can be downloaded for print here:


  1. I am planning to make some fitted diapers using FOE. I want them to be quick dry, with hidden snaps. Do you think an outer layer of flannel and an inner of really plush sherpa is enough? Or do I need a third hidden layer (plus my snap in soaker)? Thanks!

    1. It would be a shame to use a flannel outer with a sherpa inner. You'll lose any stretchy plushness to the diaper by using flannel as the outer. You should use either two layers of sherpa only, or use a different stretchy outer like interlock, jersey, or fleece. If you do use only flannel, you'll need at least 2 layers for the outer in order to support the snaps and to have good balance for your elastic casing (because of the thicker inner layer since sherpa is quite plush/thick.)

    2. I am planning on using flannel as the outer layer and fleece as the inner layer. I bought bamboo and 100% cotton to layer for the inserts is this going to work?

    3. ive been trying to sew my own cloth diapers and thank you for a relatable tutorial that has a simplistic approach that a beginner like me can understand!!! Thank you

  2. I'm going to start sewing some diapers very soon, when I get the energy... This will surely help Thank You :)

  3. how do get the elastic into the casing channel? like I saw what u did, but do u cut a little hole in it and feed it threw then sew it up after? of what do u do, I am sooooo confused, elastics are the only reason I haven't made like 500 diapers by now!!! please help!!!

    1. There is a separate cased elastic tutorial linked from the upper right side menu. You feed and install through your turning hole before closing it.

    2. I make the casing and attach it. Then I cut a few threads of the stitching at each end. Put a safety pin on one end of the elastic and pin the other end near the opening I have created. Feed the safety pin through and pin elastic to the inside of the casing. Pull back the casing and stitch through the elastic. When both ends of the elastic have been stitched down inside the casing, I then go back and stitch over the stitching that I removed, being careful to overlap with the rest of the casing stitching.

  4. I'm loving this tutorial. I've looked at quite a few websites by now to find diaper patterns and basic sewing strategies and nothing has been so thorough. Thank you... I'm a little intimidated because I don't have a sewing machine so I'm going to try to do some work by hand (yikes!). Luckily I already have my stash all set and I'm mostly doing this as an experiment/to prepare for newborn diapers if we have another baby.

  5. Can you please comment on the actual usage of cloth diapers with inserts - does the diaper also get moist, does it have to be changed with every changing? Which materials are best to avoid soaking through? How many diapers+inserts on average would i need to make?

    1. this tutorial is for a fitted diaper, which is not intended to be waterproof. This type of diaper is intended to be used together with a waterproof shell. It can be confusing, all the different terminology! IF you made this diaper with PUL as the outer layer, it would be called a pocket diaper, and that WOULD be waterproof. However, whatever you make the outer layer from, you'll still need to "stuff" the inside with something that can absorb the pee/poo, and that can be a handmade 'soaker' or it can be a trifolded prefold diaper.

    2. This page has helped me a lot in understanding all the different terms and abbreviations:

    3. hello, i dont find any download button so i cant download the pattern. can you help me please?

  6. love this! thanks so much! I love to sew but I'm new to cloth and have been using some i purchased. I really would like to make my own just like a certain style and brand I own and this tutorial is very helpful! Thank you thank you thank you :) I hope mine come out as nice as the purchased ones I have.

  7. can you make a pattern for a adult with disabilities? 38.5" waist 44" hip rise of 36" that's from back waist thru legs to front waist. would need padding front to back. any help would be great-full. total loss of bowel and bladder due to severe injuries and nerve damage.

  8. Do you have a tutorial on how to do the reinforcement fabric for adding snaps to the outer pul layer?

  9. I have some homemade pocket diapers that were gifted to me but the elastic are shot. She must have used this template/tutorial, because they are identical. Now I know how to fix the elastic... at least, I know how to get at the elastic!

  10. This is by far the easiest instructions I've read yet on sewing a diaper!! Well done! Can't wait to make some diapers!

  11. I am thinking of using a stay dry fabric for the inside and interlock for the outside. Can I add microfiber in the middle? And is it possible to make it with velcro instead of snaps?

  12. Ummm..... any thoughts on how to feed the elastic through the back casing if your hand wont fit past the leg casings?

    1. That is usually indicative of the crotch of your diaper being too narrow. But, you don't need to feed your hand all the way in. Just feed the safety pin or bodkin in by working it from the outside. Just like when you make a scrunchy or any other small notion with elastic.

  13. Do i cut the elastic in half from original size in template

  14. Which pattern was used for this tutorial? There’s a long list of patterns and I’m not sure which to try.

  15. Arfy,

    You are the bees knees! This tutorial rocks!! THANK YOU!!


  16. What is the length of the garter

  17. what seam allowance are you using?