Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Cloth Diaper Soakers

UPDATE:  My daughter has been using these diapers on my granddaughter for a year now and it is time for an update.  These diapers are not sufficient on their own, even when granddaughter was very small.  The pads can't soak up fast enough and leaks abound.  So instead daughter bought flour sack toweling to use as diapers.  Yes, they need to be folded, but she felt they worked really well and were easily adjustable as granddaughter grows.  She decided against having me make them out of flannel because she didn't want to use diaper pins and the plastic clasp hooky thing she uses doesn't grab the flannel as well because the flannel is too tightly woven.  She does use these shells along with the flour sack diapers, and they have worked out really well for her.  As far as the inserts go she uses them to supplement the flour sack diapers for overnight.

A diaper with one main soaker snapped in at the top.
The bottom snap is to add a booster.
 Now that I'm well on my way to having my cloth diaper shells, I started on my snap-in soakers.  I had made one that was just a big rectangle, and used 4 layers of diaper flannel, two layers of terrycloth, and backed with a layer of waterproof lining to help keep the inside flannel layer of the diaper shell dry.

Yesterday I found some websites that tested how much water different diaper soakers would hold.  This got me curious so I tested my own soaker as well as a couple of different fabric variations.

Ultimately I will be working with four types of fabric:  diaper flannel, microfleece, terrycloth and microfibre.  (Yes, that's a funky camo design on my microfleece, it's what was in my stash lol.)  The diaper flannel is known for its softness and the other three are known for their absorption.  The microfleece is also supposed to be more of a "feel-dry" fabric when wet, and from what I'm reading it "releases" poop more easily.  Sorry, but we are talking diapers here.  There is lots of information online so I won't go into the whole procedure, but my original rectangle soaker help up quite well and soaked up over eight ounces of water.  The problem is that after air drying for more than 24 hours it is still quite damp.  I then decided that I need to do what is known as a petal design, or two separate soakers of maybe 3 layers each sewn together at one end so that they separate and dry easier.  Then I changed my mind again and decided to make three layer soakers that can be combined with a snap as needed.

I have therefore made a three part system of soakers; a main shaped soaker, a rectangle booster/soaker and an overnight shaped booster.  The main soaker and overnight booster is based on this pattern I found on this website that is chock full of good diaper info.

For the main soaker I used a top layer of diaper flannel, a middle layer of microfleece cloth (used for sweatshirts, scarves, lap blankets, etc) and a bottom layer of terrycloth backed by a waterproof liner.  I am hoping that this three layer one will dry faster than my original six layer one, although the waterproof backing may be preventing it from drying more quickly.

The second part is a basic rectangle three layer "booster".  The booster has the same fabric composition at the main soaker minus the waterproof liner: a top layer of diaper flannel, a middle layer of microfleece and a bottom layer of terrycloth.  There is a male snap on the underside.  Therefore it can be snapped on top of the main soaker to double the absorption (without the waterproof backing so it can soak through to the main soaker).  It can also be used alone snapping into the shell, although it could soak through to the flannel liner of the shell depending on how heavily it is wet and/or how frequently baby is changed.  I'm not overly concerned about this because I am making twenty shells, so there should be lots to work with.  This doubles the soaker "stash" of singles, especially when baby is newer and changed more frequently but with smaller wet loads.  I am making twelve of each, so when baby is a little older and a heavier wetter it will likely have less frequent changes, so I am hoping this will be an adequate stash.  I'm sure daughter will let me know if it isn't.

The third part is intended for overnight for older babies or heavy wetters.  Therefore I only made three of these.  It is shaped as the original soaker.  It has a top layer of microfleece, a middle layer of microfibre (what is sold in bulk lots for washing cars and whatnot - very absorbent), and a bottom layer of terrycloth: three heavy hitters in the absorption department.  I added a male snap for using alone or with just the main soaker but if using it with two soakers then you would just lay it in the diaper.  I didn't put snaps on the top side of the secondary soakers.  I could always add them after the fact if daughter wants them.

This third layer can be added to the two other layers to make a very bulky but hopefully effective overnight diaper for toddlers.  It can also be used instead of either of the other layers or by itself.  This is the only soaker in the system that has microfleece against baby's skin instead of diaper flannel.  The idea here is that it should feel drier against the skin than wet flannel.  While I understand one of the benefits of cloth diapers is earlier toilet training because toddlers don't want to feel wet, I also think it's important for everyone to be able to get a good night's sleep.  Therefore something that feels comfortable even when wet should be a good choice for overnight.

Having said all that, daughter may feel it's too bulky with all three layers.  My guess is that baby will make the final call on this one.

That's about all the research I can do without a grandbaby here yet to test on.  Ultimately daughter will decide what works for her, but hopefully she will be able to work with this system in one way or another.  After obsessing about diapers for weeks, I am looking forward to some adult sewing as well as going to the Novi Sewing Expo on Friday with my mom.  Yay us!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cloth Diaper Sewing Tutorial

Now that I've made the prototype diaper and got my daughter's approval (she loves it), I can now go ahead and make a stash of these for her.  Once I was partway through the first batch I thought I should make a tutorial post so that if I don't get to them all right away I will remember how I made them lol.  I'm not including the actual pattern because there are already lots of free patterns out there - Google is your friend.  The one shown here was done with a commercial single size pattern that I converted to a one size pattern, but for the next batch I am going to try this pattern from this site (which has a ton of great resources and tutorials).  The reason for this is that I have read complaints that many of the commercial diapers aren't quite long enough for older babies/toddlers and the linked pattern is a little longer than what I am currently using.  I bought a meter of PUL in each of three colours.  By staggering the pattern back and forth I can get eight covers out of a meter, all oriented the correct way (so the bears are upright on the bum).  If there is no obvious direction to the pattern of your fabric you may be able to juggle more covers out of a meter.

I cut out my PUL cover and the lining using the same pattern piece.  I put the snaps in the prototype after sewing the diaper together but this leaves the back of the snaps exposed.  This time around I put in the snaps before any assembly and used scraps of fabric to reinforce the snaps.  This is how the commercial diapers I repaired were done.  The snap on the flannel side is centred 2 3/8" down from the top edge of the back (back waist).

Baste the front waist seam, then using a pressing cloth so as not to melt the PUL, press this seam open.  You could skip this step but I do it because it gives me a nice neat straight folded edge later when topstitching.

Stitch the rest of the way around to join the two pieces.  I used a 3 stitch length.  You don't want too small of a stitch with the PUL.

Mark the starting and ending points of the elastic placements (2 legs and the waist back).  I just use a black pen or sharpie for all my markings since they won't show after.

Backstitch the elastic to the starting point, then stretch it out while basting it down in the seam allowance.  Cut the excess when done.  I do it this way rather than precutting the elastic because it is easier to hold and stretch when one long piece.

Remove the basting along the front edge and turn the diaper.

I use Wonder Clips instead of pins so as not to add any unnecessary holes to the PUL.

Rolling the seams between your finger and thumb before topstitching helps to get the seams right to the edge.
Topstitch all the way around, jogging out at the elastic to create a casing and stretching out the elastic as you sew.

Mark the front flaps for the snaps 1/2" from the edge, 1" down from the top and 1" apart.  I added an addition outward facing snap between the flap snaps on one side to accommodate smaller sizes.

And that's it.

I'm looking at changing the soaker pattern as well.  The prototype one is just a big rectangle, but I think something that is wider on the back side will better contain messes and make them easier to deal with.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Cloth Diaper Post

So it's been since April that I've posted.  I guess it's true what they say about retirement being so busy! lol  I have worked on a number of projects from the garden to the garage to the sewing room that I really should have posted about.  Maybe I will do a catch up post one day.

In the mean time, today has been spent in the sewing room working on cloth diapers for my daughter's first child due early in the new year.  She was given some hand-me-downs from a family member and they are a whole lot more complex than what I made when she was a baby.  I spent the first part of the afternoon replacing worn out elastic and velcro on the hand-me-downs which was a good opportunity to see how commercial cloth diapers are put together.  Then I spent a crazy amount of time making my first prototype - the million dollar diaper based on how long it took me to put this together! lol  The pattern I had bought was for a pocket diaper but it turns out she prefers the ones with a snap in soaker.  To be fair I didn't realize it was a pocket diaper pattern when I bought it but I figured I could make this pattern work.  I used the size small and it turned out to be the same size as the all-size diapers I had just repaired.  So instead of making diapers in all the different sizes I added adjustment snaps and we will play it by ear.  I can always make bigger ones down the road if needed.  The snaps and applicator tool are very expensive so I buy them when my local fabric store has its 50% off sales.

It's hard to tell in this pic but when set to the smallest size it is the same size as the name brand one underneath at it's smallest size.

Here they are side by side.

Same thing when set to the largest size.

And again side by side.

Here it is with the soaker inserted.  For the soaker I used four layers of flannel and two layers of terrycloth backed by a layer of wicking waterproof fabric that I am hoping helps keep the flannel lining of the outer diaper dry.

This final pic shows the snap (click on the pic to embigen) to attach the soaker to the diaper.  Again, looking closely, you can see the wicking waterproof fabric on the back side of the soaker.

I tested that fabric to see which side needs to face out.  This fabric is amazing!  When you pour water on the one side the water pools, but when you pour it on the other side it completely soaks through leaving that side dry.  I am tempted to use a layer of this on the side against baby's skin to keep a dry bottom but it is a plastic type of fabric so for now I am sticking with the soft goodness of flannel against sensitive newborn skin.  I will have to discuss this with daughter and get her input.

Edit: I tried to recreate this experiment to show my daughter and the fabric is waterproof from both sides.  As a breathable waterproof fabric it should be perfect for backing the soakers but would not be appropriate as the layer against baby's skin.

I've got about 4 months or so to get this project done, but I know that will fly by with all the other projects and hobbies singing their siren songs.

Tell me that isn't adorable!