Cloth Diaper Tutorial

admin November 29, 2009


Image by MissMessie


First, I wrote this tutorial over a year ago. My diaper-making has changed since this time! This diaper was right after I started using cloth tabs, but before I started doing snaps or the sham pocket opening. I took some pictures to update this tutorial a few weeks ago, as I was making my last batch of diapers. But then I downloaded them to my laptop and erased them from my camera, and now my laptop doesn’t work! So, um, the pictures are stuck on there and I can’t get to them, and I’m not currently making diapers to take any more. So either when my laptop gets fixed or I start more diapers I will get pictures and update this tutorial to show you what my newest diapers look like, I promise. The pattern I use now is also better, so that you don’t have to “guess” on the size of the tabs. I linked to the proper pattern below. The tutorial I linked to above will show you what the sham opening looks like.

Here is the original tutorial:

Interested in learning how to make a cloth diaper with nice cloth tabs? You’re about to learn! With this pattern, I was able to get 11 diapers out of less than a yard of fabric. Yes, really! They are a size small (fits 8 – about 20 lbs.). I chose Alova suede cloth for my inner fabric and PUL for my outer fabric. My tabs are made of a stretch knit, with Aplix as a closure. You can use this pattern actually for any type of diaper you want — AIO, AI2, fitted, pocket fitted, or PUL pocket. This one happens to be a PUL pocket. The instructions for a pocket fitted would be the same, except for the fabrics used. The instructions for any other diaper would be slightly different due to sewn in/snapped in soakers. There are plenty of other resources on the internet for those, though!

You can also choose to use your own pattern with these instructions. If you like the look of this pattern in particular, I am willing to sell it fairly cheaply. 🙂 Just send me a message!

Materials needed:
*Inner fabric (Alova suede cloth, minkee, lightweight fleece, flannel, etc.)
*Outer fabric (PUL, Procare, Windpro fleece, anything else if you’re doing a fitted)
*Cloth tab fabric (stretch knit, cotton, really anything)
*Elastic (about 1/2 yd.)
*Thread (100% polyester)
*Hook and loop (2″ hook, 8″ loop)

First, the pattern itself. Here it is, laid out so you can see it all:

The easiest way to cut the fabric, though, is to fold the pattern in half and cut it on the fold. This way you’re cutting less (two layers at once) and you know it’s going to be symmetrical. So, here it is folded:

Now, remember that this is the pattern for the WHOLE diaper, not just the body. You’ll have to cut the body first, leaving off the tabs. The next picture is the body of the diaper, cut, laid on top of the pattern so you can see how much to leave. It’s about 3 – 4″ and doesn’t matter too much really.
This is just one layer. You need to now use the piece you’ve already cut (the piece in the picture, the magenta, is PUL) to cut any other layers you will need. You will definitely need at least an inner and an outer, probably more if you’re doing a fitted. What matters most here is that your two pieces match, so use the one you’ve just cut as a pattern for all the other layers.

Then, you’ll need to cut the tabs. Lay the cut piece on top of the pattern as shown above. Pick up your tab fabric and fold it. The folded section needs to be AT LEAST as wide as the uncovered area on the pattern, but can be wider. Lay this part on top of the pattern with the fold on the outside edge of the tab. The idea is, you’re going to cut it so it slightly overlaps the body of the diaper. You’ll need two of these, one for each side. Here is a picture of the tab, folded and by itself:

Once you have cut the tabs, set them aside. You won’t need them until after the next few steps.

Place the two body layers on top of each other, right sides together (for suede cloth, the soft side; for PUL, the not-shiny side). These layers will face out later. Pin it carefully. Alternately, use a glue stick to baste the two layers together. Here it is:

Now, you will sew a seam around the diaper, avoiding the tab areas and the back of the diaper. Here is a picture of where to start sewing:

Once the diaper is sewn it looks like this (ignore the kitty paws!):

Notice where it is sewn and not sewn. The back of the diaper and the tabs are not sewn yet. Now, clip around the area that is sewn to even the edges. The seam allowance should be around 1/4″ when you are done, and it will look like this:

Now that the body of the diaper is sewn, it’s time to pin the tabs to the diaper. Lay the tab next to the diaper like this:

The top half of the tab will be pinned to the top layer of fabric; the bottom half of the tab will be pinned to the bottom layer of fabric. Remember that the tab is folded, with the fold on the outside, facing away from the diaper. It will be sticking up when it is pinned properly. When it is pinned, it looks like this:

When you’re sewing it, open up the tab so you sew one side at a time. It will look like this:

Carefully sew each side of the tab, being careful not to sew the diaper closed where the tab is pinned to the body or you won’t be able to turn the diaper. Once it is sewn to the diaper, it will look like this:

Just one more step with the tabs, and then we’ll sew in the elastic. Remember that the tabs are closed on the outside due to the fold, and they are now sewn to the body of the diaper on the opposite side. But, there are two remaining sides that aren’t sewn yet. The tabs need to be sewn along the curve (bottom of the tab) and along the top (which connects to the back of the diaper). Make sure, when you are doing this, that you sew all the way from the folded edge of the tab onto the body of the diaper. For the back of the diaper, start about an inch away from the tab, then sew all the way across. Here is where you should start:

Once this has been sewn, trim the tabs the same way you trimmed the seam allowance on the body of the diaper, so it looks smooth.

Now, we need to mark where the elastic will go. Fold the diaper in half so that you can mark the same thing on each side. The bottom of the leg elastic should be about 3″ above the bottom of the diaper. The top of the leg elastic should be in the curve just before the tab (about 2 – 3″ away). Here are two pictures to show you where these marks should be (slight pinkish marker):


Set the elastic (I use 1/4″ Lastin, but you can use polybraid or whatever you want) at one of the points. Tack it down by sewing forward slightly then backward. Then, switch to a zig zag stitch and sew the elastic down (stretching it out until it is taut but not as tight as it will go) into the seam allowance. I don’t measure my elastic, but I would think it’s 4 – 5″.

Here is the tacking and starting the elastic:
When you’re done, it will look like this (the picture is one leg):

For the back elastic, I like to do both the inside and outside of the pocket opening. Some people prefer to do only the outside. I think doing both gives a better fit, helps the diaper stay stuffed, and looks better. You can choose though.

At the point where your stitching ends (remember sewing about an inch onto the back of the diaper? The rest of the back is open still), clip the seams towards the outside of the diaper. This will leave a higher part of the diaper (the unsewn part). That’s where your elastic goes. It will look like this after the clipping:

Sew one layer at a time. You will probably have to remove the tray on the sewing machine in order to put the pocket opening over the arm to do this. Once it is done, the whole diaper should look like this:

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You can choose, at this point, to fold down the extra fabric at the back above the elastic and hem the pocket opening. In this particular diaper, since it is for home use and these fabrics don’t fray, I am not going to bother. Then, turn the diaper right side out. It will now look like this:

Some people prefer to just leave the diaper like this, and sew on their hook and loop (or snaps). That’s fine. Others, like me, prefer to topstitch. Start the needle about 1/4″ from the edge, right next to the opening of the pocket. Stitch around the diaper, just inside the elastic (it’ll be about 1/2″ from the edge there). This will form a casing for the elastic, and mini-gussets around the legs to keep in the messes. When you sew around the elastic, stretch it out. It will look like this as you are sewing that part:

At this point (whether you’ve top stitched or not), attach your hook and loop. About 6″ of loop tape goes on the front of the diaper. About 1″ square of hook goes on each of the tabs. It’s also a good idea to add 1″ square of loop tape to each tab (just a bit away from the hook) to function as laundry tabs so your diapers don’t turn into a giant chain in the wash. Once you have done that, here is your finished diaper!

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  1. I have been making cloth diapers but I like this method much better than what I have been doing… thanks!!!!!!!


  2. I have been wanting to sew some of these diapers to give as gifts. Thank you so much for the directions!


  3. I've got the supplies; just waiting to find a tutorial that I like — perfect!


  4. Muchos Gracias for the post.Really thank you! Great.


  5. […] out of sewing cloth diapers for yourself–and maybe even for your friends! Here’s a cloth diaper tutorial from my friend Kate over at Modern Alternative […]


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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