DIY reusable nappies

diy reusable nappies

I have used reusable nappies for both my children. They save you money and prevent an average of 4,000 disposable nappies per baby ending up in landfill. They really aren’t as scary as people told me they would be and only a bit more hassle (an extra 2-3 laundry loads a week). They also look really cute. Like every baby product there is a massive choice available from the more old-fashioned but cheap and effective systems to modern all-in-one styles or pocket styles that are more convenient but often quite expensive.

Having tried out a few designs I thought I’d make them myself and came up with this Nappy pattern.

home made reusable hybrid/ pocket style nappy

A note on the design

This design would make a large-sized nappy (it fitted my average sized baby girl from 10 months and I’m hoping it will fit until potty training). I decided on a pocket style/all-in-one nappy as I wanted it to be quick to dry but easy enough for out and about changes.

I made the design in a main piece with sewn on tabs to economise on material usage. With this pattern it is possible to make 4 or 5 (depending on the fabric width) nappies from a half-metre of PUL, which is handy as it can be pretty pricey.

A note on materials

The wide range of fabrics available used in making nappies can make it pretty confusing whether you’re making your own or buying nappies. This is a really good guide from the Real Nappy Campaign to the types of fabric commonly used. I’ve found that there is no perfect combination, and whatever you choose there is some sort of compromise involved. If you want a really absorbent nappy it will generally mean choosing a bulkier one that takes longer to dry or is less convenient (comes in more that one or two parts and involves folding etc).

I used a combination of materials I already had (old towels, microfibre tea towels from the pound shop) and materials bought at Plush Addict which has one of the best selections of PUL I’ve found in the UK.

For this all in one/pocket nappy you will need:

Absorbent materials – for the optional soaker pad I used 3 layers of microfibre terry (this is quite absorbent but still quick to dry so ideal to use as part of an all-in-one design). I then made boosters (absorbent rectangular pads) in cotton towelling and hemp fleece.

Stay dry materials – the lining of the nappy is made in a stay-dry material to wick moisture away from baby’s skin. I used suedecloth but you could also use a lightweight microfleece.

Waterproof materials – PUL or polyester/polyurethane laminated knit fabric. This is likely to be the most expensive material, particularly if you want to use a printed design.

Poppers vs Velcro/Applix – I prefer poppers on nappies as I hate the way velcro picks up fluff and gets stuck together in the wash which keeps the nappies looking nicer for longer. It’s also harder for babies to undo their own nappy (which of course means it’s slightly  more fiddly to take on and off too). Some people prefer velcro as it allows for a more adjustable fit.

You will also need some 1/4 inch elastic

1) Print out the pattern pieces and piece together. (Print pattern at actual size on A4 and do not rescale to fit printer margins. Use the edge of the paper as a guide to fit pattern together. Nappy pattern

nappystep1 copy

2) Cut out pattern pieces: 1 of piece A on fold  and 2 of piece B in PUL and 1 of piece A and 2 of piece B in lining fabric such as suedecloth. You can also cut pieces of material for the optional soaker pad using the dotted line on the pattern as a guide. I used 3 rectangles of microfibre terry.

Reusable nappy tutorial

3) The next step is to put the snaps in place on the front of the nappy (as it would be very fiddly to do after making the nappy ). If you don’t have KAM snap pliers or prefer velcro fastening you could easily use that – and it would probably be quicker.

Use the markings from the pattern to place the snaps, it is also a good idea to add a scrap of suedecloth behind the snap panel to reinforce the area and make sure that the PUL is not damaged by the wear and tear of fastening and unfastening snaps.

Reusable nappy tutorial

Reusable nappy tutorial

Reusable nappy tutorial

4) With right sides together sew lining pieces B to lining piece A along stitching lines and PUL pieces B to PUL piece A.

Reusable nappy tutorial

5) If using a soaker pad pin the layers into place on the wrong side of the lining fabric.

Reusable nappy tutorial

Sew using a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying. (I do not have an overlocker)

Reusable nappy tutorial

6) Pin the PUL piece to the lining piece with right sides together. To avoid damaging the PUL make sure the pins are close to the edge in the seam allowance. Stitch together starting and finishing at the points marked on the pattern with the blue squares.

Reusable nappy tutorial

7) Using the red circles marked on the pattern as the starting and finishing points for the elastic at the legs. The elastic should be sewn in using a mending zigzag stitch into the seam allowance between the red markers. The elastic must be kept as taut as possible while sewing into place to make sure the leg openings end up snug round the baby.

Reusable nappy tutorial

Reusable nappy tutorial

8) The whole nappy can now be turned inside out. Topstitch about 5-6mm away from the edge all the way round leaving the gap between the blue markers.

Reusable nappy tutorial

9) To finish the pocket opening (between the blue markers) sew elastic on both the PUL and the lining edges using the mending stitch and the turn and top stitch

Reusable nappy tutorial

10) To finish the nappy add the opposing snaps to the tab sections. (or velcro) Apparently to seal the stitching holes in the PUL you can put the nappies in a tumble dryer on a low heat. (I don’t have a tumble dryer and the holes have not caused any leaks)

Customising the nappy design

The sewn on tabs mean it’s easy to make contrasting tabs which can look pretty cute.

As the choice of PUL prints is quite limited and pricey in the UK its also possible to use a plain PUL with an extra layer of cotton print on top. As cotton is an absorbent fabric moisture would tend to wick out of the nappy into the print causing leaks. To minimise this you can use a technique called the Chelory method.

chelory method on reusable nappy

Materials shown in the photos include Robert Kaufman Forest Animals Nature cotton, Little Fleur PUL, DiaperMaker PUL Stars Navy and White, Michael Miller PUL Bicycles and PUL Yellow Flower.


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