By Taramesha Tatro
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina I began cloth diapering my second child. Watching the news it was very sobering to think about all the mothers and children trapped around New Orleans, many of which didn’t even have basic child care needs like diapers and formula. I began to think about how I would care for my children in the midst of a natural disaster, chaos or even financial crisis. “What better time to learn!” I thought to myself and began sorting through my small supply of cloth diapers and trying them on my son to see what worked, what didn’t and what other supplies I needed. I began making diapers and through trial and error have come up with a few styles I really like and find work well. These particular diapers are simple and inexpensive. I found that if I washed the diapers every night after putting the baby down to bed I really could live off 6 diapers quite easily. By purchasing the materials at a thrift shop it usually only costs around $5.00 to make 6-8 diapers!
The materials needed are several t-shirts, a sweatshirt, a couple flannel shirts or pants, six medium- large buttons for each diaper (often I use buttons found right on the flannel shirt), thread, scissors, some straight pins and, of course, a sewing machine is handy. I find that cotton is a great absorbent fabric and try to avoid polyesters that tend to repel moisture. Old towels, stained shirts, sweatpants, thermal undergarments, and cotton quilt batting all make great materials to work with also! If I use any fabrics that are new I make sure to wash and dry them first to avoid my diapers shrinking later. The Frugal Diaper is made specifically with as little store-bought materials as possible (thread and maybe buttons). I can easily alter the assembly of this diaper with a little elastic and Velcro (as shown in some photos)
Then I choose the size diaper to make. Small fits approximately newborn- 6 months (8 lbs-15 lbs. Medium fits 6-12 months (15-22 lbs) and Large fits 12-24 months and over 22 lbs. These sizes are approximate and I simply adjust these diapers to my kids sizes by changing where the buttons are placed.
I begin by laying out the shirt fabric and, using the pattern piece, cut out several diapers. I do this both on the flannel and the t-shirts.
Next, I cut out rectangular pieces from the sweatshirt that will lay in between the layers down the length of the diaper. This is called the “soaker layer” and helps with absorbency.
Then I put all my layers together: flannel, t-shirt, soaker, t-shirt, flannel and then pin the around the rectangular piece. I like the flannel on the outside simply because it is pretty and soft against the baby’s skin.
Next I stitch the rectangular piece down trying to keep all the layers flat and smooth.
Once that is done I trim any pieces that hang over around the edges of the diaper so that all the edges line up better before I begin stitching around the outside.
I switch my machine to the widest zigzag stitch with a stitch length of 2 and begin sewing around the edge of the diaper trying to make sure I catch the top layer of fabric with the zigzag stitch. After I have completed one side I turn the diaper over and do the same on the other side.
Now it is time for the pin tucks. This is not an absolute necessity but I find having the diaper contoured helps to contain the messes better. I put four pin tucks in along the two sides of the diaper.
Once they are pinned it is easy to run it down through the machine on a straight stitch.
To fasten the diaper I use buttons! They are usually more readily available than Velcro and won’t wear out but keep the diaper adjustable. Diaper pins are great also but not everyone has a stash of those and I wanted this diaper to be made with products that can be found in most people’s homes. Many sewing machines have specific settings and it is easy to follow the manual instructions on making button holes. I, however, just set my machine to the narrowest zigzag stitch with a stitch length of about 1 and then stitch the hole to fit the button. In the end I have two button holes on either side of the diaper tabs.
The last thing to do is sew on the six buttons evenly spaced across the front. The spaces between buttons should be the same distance as the spaces between the button holes so it lines up correctly. The diaper is now done and ready to be used!
I truly enjoy cloth diapering my children and find it rewarding. In a very uncertain world it is reassuring to know that I don’t have to rely on a grocery store to provide my kids with basic baby care needs.