* edited 3/6/13 at the end of post to answer some FAQs and add a few things I have learned with another baby and a few years more CDing experience. Please look there first if you have questions, and please read through the whole post before beginning.*
Several of you have asked how I made the diaper covers for Munchkin, so I thought I would put together a tutorial for all the other crafty mommas out there. I have never written a tutorial before, so please let me know if any part of this is unclear. If you have ever used bias tape, you will find that fold-over elastic is very easy to use, and if not, it isn’t hard to learn! I hope to explain it well enough that even a beginner will be able to create some cute covers for your little one :-)
Here are the instructions to make your own diaper covers:
1. First, you will need to gather your materials: for a small diaper (to fit approximately 9-14 pounds) you will need at least a 16″ square of PUL (waterproof) fabric and a 16″ square of printed fabric (I use cotton), about 1.5 yards of fold over elastic (FOE)*, about 8 inches of 1-2″ wide velcro loop (soft), and a couple of inches of velcro hook (rough) per diaper. Oh, and some thread:-) Some scrap paper, a pencil, a ruler, and some scissors will do for drafting your pattern.
* A note about the fold-over elastic: make sure you get high-quality elastic that will stand up to repeated laundering as diapers get a lot of use! I have been using the 3/4″ no-pill elastic from this store and it seems to work well. Also, the wider the elastic, the easier it is to use. If you have never used FOE or bias tape before, you might want to start with 1″ elastic.
2. Next, you will need to draw out your pattern and cut the pieces. You can use a cover or diaper you already have that fits your child well or even a disposable diaper to figure out the general dimensions, then tweak it if necessay. The neat thing about making your own covers is that you can customize them to fit your baby just right! The pattern I came up with looks something like the sketch below. It is 16″ wide at the back, 8” wide at the front, and about 5.5″ wide at the narrowest part in the middle. The entire diaper is 16″ high. This is small diaper that will fit approximately a 9-14 pound baby. Of course, the pattern can be adjusted for any size diaper you wish to make. Red dots indicate where you will begin and end gathering the elastic. You can also cut a dip into the front of the cover (red dashe line) to give a bit more room for the umbilical area if you are making your cover for a newborn.
3. Cut out your pieces from the fabric. Notice how I seamed the middle of my printed fabric to ensure that the cupcakes are right-side up on the front and back of the finished diaper. This isn’t necessary unless you choose a fabric with a directional print. Of course, the PUL fabric should be one solid piece. You don’t want any holes for moisture to wick through! Go ahead and attach a strip of velcro loop across the front of the fabric piece, then baste the cotton and PUL pieces together very close to the edge and trim if necessary so that your stitch line will be covered by the FOE. Make sure your PUL is facing shiny side out. Also be sure to mark the points where the gathered part of the elastic will begin and end along the leg openings and back (red dots on my pattern) on the pieces.
4. Gussets at the leg openings help keep messes in. If you would like to add them, you will need to cut out 2 PUL semi-circles about 8.5″ long and 2.5″ high for the small diaper. (see pattern)
5. Fold a piece of elastic over the straight edge of the semi-circle, tack the end, and stretch the elastic fairly taut while you stitch it on using either a wide 3-step ziz-zag if your machine has it (see photo below), or a plain wide zig-zag. The zig-zag should fall near or just over the inner edge of the elastic. When you are finished, the edge of the gusset should be gathered up. If it doesn’t seem very gathered or doesn’t stretch well, you may be using too narrow a zig-zag or not stretching taut enough. Expirament if you need to until the elastic seems to gather and stretch well:
6. Now, find the center of curved edge of the gusset and the center of the leg opening on the diaper and pin them together. To attach the gusset, I find it easiest to begin near where the pin is and stitch towards one end using a straight stitch just a little at a time while I carefully pull the edge of the gusset to match the edge of the diaper. Take your time! Then go back to where the pin is and stitch towards the other end until the entire curved edge of the gusset is attached to the leg opening of the diaper. Do the same thing on the other side. The finished gusset should look somewhat like a dam along the leg-opening of the diaper:
7. Now comes the fun part; finishing the raw edges of the diaper with fold-over-elastic! I usually start the FOE right behind the gusset on the back of the diaper with the printed fabric facing up, since that is the side that will show on the finished diaper. Make sure you can see the marks for the beginning and ends of the gathered elastic. Fold the FOE over the edge, making sure that the raw fabric edge is completely enclosed and begin stitching without stretching the elastic (just like bias tape) using the wide 3-step zig zag. Make sure the zigzag falls just over the inner edge of the elastic and go slowly, especially around the curve of the tab. Stop frequently and double check that your fabric edge is completely enclosed in the FOE.
8. When you get to the mark where the gathered elastic should begin on the back of the diaper, stop, pull the elastic taut, and stitch a couple of inches at a time until you get to the end mark. Continue stitching unstretched around the second tab. Next, you will come to the leg opening. Here you will be enclosing the unfinished edge of the leg opening and the gusset in the elastic as you stretch and carefully stitch between your marks. Keep going, you’re halfway there now! Continue around the front of the cover and back up the other leg opening, stretching wherever the elastic needs to be gathered.
9. When you get back around to the begining, stop a couple of inches short and cut the elastic so that it just overlaps where you started. Finish stitching the last couple of inches, go right over the cut edge and backstitch a couple of stictches to finish off. Here I like to remove the diaper from the sewing maching, turn it sideways and stitch a plain, narrow zigzag over the cut edge of the elastic to prevent any fraying and make it look a little neater:
10. You’re done! Well, almost :-) now, all you need to do is add a little square of velcro hook to each tab so that you can fasten the diaper and trim off all your stray threads, then diaper your baby and admire your handiwork. Now, isn’t that the cutest little bum you’ve ever seen???? :-)
*Edited to add:
• “Does the cotton fabric on the outside cause wicking?” Not in my experience. They may be somewhat more prone to wicking than covers with just PUL, but only if they are allowed to get really, really soggy. I generally don’t use them for overnight/long car trips, etc… and have had very good luck (Zeke is actually using a few of Miles’s original covers, only they have since had snaps added)
• on that note, “Can I use snaps instead of velcro.” Yes! And after a few years of experience, I actually recommend it. Velcro sticks to everything in the dryer (face it, you will occaisionally forget to fasten it before tossing in the washer) and it eventually wears out and needs replaced. It s also easier, in my experience for an older baby to undo velcro and escape the diaper. Ahem… The process is essentially the same, you will just need a few plastic diaper snaps and either a snap press or snap pliers designed to work with them to attach them to the cover instead of the velcro.
• “Do I have to use the cotton outside fabric?” Absolutely not. It is purely decorative, and something that I came up with after procuring a LOT of really cheap plain, white PUL. Since my original writing, cute printed PUL has become much more widely available. I actually ound ome really cute robot PUL at JoAnn’s a while back to make a few new covers for Zeke.
• “Do you have a pattern for___size? I am not in the pattern business, but I will say that it is easier than you think to draft your own pattern from an existing cover or even a disposible diaper, which is all I have done. (and which is why I am not comfortable offering a printable pattern) All you need are general dimensions: total length stretched out, width across tabs, width at narrowest point, width across the front. Try to make sure your pattern is symetric. Don’t stress out too much about it – it is not an exact science! :) If you want to size up/down, remember that the narrowest width does not change very much at all from size to size.
• “what kind of diapers do you use with them?” You can use folded flats (a large square-ish single-layer diaper, folded to fit the baby) or prefolds (rectangular diaper that already has a thicker layer through the middle), fastened with a Snappi, or pins. I have used both since I have some of each, but personally I like the flats. Husband prefers prefolds.
• “My cover looks great, but it leaks.” A couple things to check: make sure that the cover is the appropriate size for your baby and the diaper you are using, make sure that your fold over elastic is not made of or covered with a wicking material, and make sure you are not using a cotton thread to attach the elastic, as it can also cause wicking. And, this should go without saying, but please change your baby frequently. No one likes sitting around in a soggy diaper! :) Try adding a soaker if you child is a heavy wetter.
• “Can gussets be added to a one-size fits all cover?” Yes! My latest batch (with the cute robot fabric!) are size adjustable and use snaps to ajust the size. I used a Blueberry cover for measurements to draft my pattern.