DIY: Cloth Pocket Diaper Tutorial |

DIY: Cloth Pocket Diaper Tutorial

admin March 6, 2015

Written by Kate Tietje

Soon after I started blogging, I posted a tutorial for sewing cloth diapers.  That pattern and tutorial were based on a diaper I used a few months back when my oldest was a baby- almost 7 years ago.

My pattern has evolved significantly since then, and I found my favorite diapers right before my oldest son was born.  I have made dozens more of this same pattern since then.  Literally, dozens — 3 dozen each in newborn, small, and medium.  I lost those diapers (some of which were 5 years old and wearing out anyway) when we moved last summer, and I’m now in the process of sewing 3 dozen more in each size.

I knew some of you would like to sew diapers like I do.  I’ll be honest and say that I’m typically not great at sewing clothing.  I mostly stick to blankets.  But despite how complex these diapers appear, they are quite simple if you follow this tutorial step by step.  I have taught classes on making these in real life, and people have liked the pattern and done just fine sewing them, even with limited sewing skills.

This pattern — which will be available soon here — comes in three sizes and is for a pocket diaper with snaps and a sham opening.  If you prefer, it could easily be adapted to hook and loop (and I’ll tell you how in the tutorial).

The sizes are:

  • Newborn (fits 6 – 10 lbs.)
  • Small (fits 10 – 25 lbs.)
  • Medium (fits 18 – 35 lbs.)

I can still easily get a medium on my 3.5-year-old, who weighs 32 – 34 lbs.  (something close to that).  Small goes on my 2-year-old, who weighs about 28 lbs. but not easily — it’s really a bit too small at this point.

The newborn pattern fits very tightly around their skinny legs, so babies usually outgrow it by 10 lbs. or so when their thighs begin to put on some chunk.  This was between 3 and 10 weeks for my babies.  Very tiny babies (under 6 lbs.) may not fit the newborn size in the early weeks because it will gape around their very skinny thighs…but an average newborn will be fine.  I loaned my newborn diapers to several friends, and the only one who had trouble was one whose baby was barely over 5 lbs. at birth.  Mine were 7 lbs.  5 oz. and 8 lbs.  11 oz. and the newborn diapers fit them from birth.

I choose to use prefolds to stuff these diapers.  I buy newborn-sized prefolds to stuff the newborn diapers (it’s a tight fit and you’ll need small hands to stuff — my husband can’t do it easily).  I also use the newborn-sized prefolds with the small diapers for the first few months when they don’t wet as much and need a trimmer fit.

I use an infant-sized prefold to stuff the small and medium sizes from the point that they need more absorbency until they are out of diapers.  I have light to heavy wetters, and this has not failed me, although there were periods of time when they needed to be changed a bit more frequently.  I also sewed doublers from birdseye cotton (the same material prefolds are made from) for some diapers but didn’t use them often.  A major benefit to this system is that prefolds don’t have compression leaking, don’t hold onto stink in the wash, and you don’t need too many sizes.  Plus, they’ll stand up to 4 – 5 years of daily use.

These diapers are made of two materials: Alova suede cloth and PUL.  Suede cloth wicks moisture away from the skin — they’ll feel it if the diaper’s pretty wet, but not immediately.  PUL is waterproof.  This diaper is as easy to use as a disposable!  I chose plain white suede cloth and solid yellow and blue PUL for mine (I like the perfectly coordinated diapers!), but PUL comes in lots of solids and prints, and suede cloth comes in many different colors, too, so you can feel free to choose whatever appeals to you.  You can make some seriously cute diapers!

You’ll also need elastic.  Choose Lastin, which is clear swimsuit elastic.  It has better stretch and is less noticeable in the finished diaper.  It also lasts a long time, but should it ever break — mine did after a few years of daily use — you can replace it.

Cloth Diapers

You will need:

  • 20×20 diaper cut of PUL (this will make 2 diapers in a newborn size)
  • 20×20 diaper cut of suede cloth
  • 2 yds.  of 1/4″ elastic — I recommend Lastin (clear)
  • Coordinating thread
  • 10 – 20 snap sets OR 6 – 10″ hook and loop

All right!  Here we go!

It is important that you follow these instructions exactly.  There are a lot of little steps, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the full process if you try to skip ahead.  This is far more complicated than when I started sewing diapers, but it is really easy if you go step by step.

Step 1: print and cut out your pattern pieces.  Then, lay them on your fabric and cut them one by one.  You will need one outer cut from PUL.  If you make several diapers, you will get between 6 and 12 per yard, depending on size.

Step 2: Cut one inner from suede cloth:

Step 3: Put one sham opening from suede cloth.

Step 4: Cut two tabs from suede cloth.

Okay!  You should have all your pieces cut out now.  

Step 5: The next step is to hem the top of the inner and the bottom of the sham.  Fold both of them over (the fuzzy side is the “right” side) and sew.

Step 6: Sew across.

Step 7: Next, you will need a scrap of fabric to use as a facing on the back of the outer.  This will help to keep the snaps in place and sturdier.  The PUL pulls and comes apart if you don’t do this.  Pin across the front of the outer (the part where the snaps will go, the rounded part) and sew it on.

It does not matter if the facing is not perfect.  If you stick close to the edges like I did, you won’t even see this stitching when the diaper is finished.  Trim off any extra material once it’s sewn on.

Step 8: Now, we need to place the snaps.  Fold your outer in half like when you were cutting it.  I use a permanent or fading sewing marker to mark the snap placement.  You won’t see these marks when the diaper is done.  Your first mark will be 1/2″ from the fold and 1″ down from the top of the stitching you did for the facing.

Step 9: Open the diaper up and mark the first row of snaps.  It should be straight (all 1″ below the stitching) and 1″ apart.  The second row should be 1″ below the first.

Step 10: Once all the snaps are marked, it’s time to put them on!  Now — if you’re not using snaps, you will use hook and loop (the loop part) where the snaps are placed.  You need a 1″ loop that is 10″ long, placed exactly where these snaps are.  Simply sew it on.

Step 11: If you are using snaps, put a snap on your press.  You can also use snap pliers if you prefer (they’re much cheaper).

Step 12: Put the marked snap placement over the point of the snap.

Step 13: Now, push the snap and press down hard to put the snap on the fabric.  Finish all the snaps on the outer the same way.

Step 14: Now it’s time to pin the diaper together!  First, lay the sham opening at the top of the diaper.  Then, lay the outer over it.  The snaps should be facing up, and the fuzzy side of the suede cloth should be facing down (right sides together).

Step 15: Put some pins in it to hold it in place.  I pin the top, the bottom, and one on each side.

Step 16: Then, we need to pin the tabs on.  Grab the two layers of fabric that overlap (the sham and inner; you can see where they overlap above) and pin them to one side of the tab — you will have to open it.

Step 17: Then pin the other side of the tab to the PUL.  Do the same thing to the other tab.  Now the whole diaper is pinned together!

Step 18: Now it’s time to sew it.  First, we need to sew the tabs on.  Sew the sham/inner/tab part first.

Step 19: Then, sew the other side of the tab.  Then, it should be sewn on.

Step 20: Do the same to the other tab.  Then, it’s time to sew around the outside of the whole diaper.  Start at the top at the edge of the tab (moving across the back of the diaper first — PUL to sham).

Step 21: Sew all the way around, making sure to go slowly around curves.  Once you’re done, you can clip any extra bits of fabric that there may be.

Just a few more steps!  The next one is elastic.  First, the top elastic.  It will start at the back of the diaper, stretching from the end of the tab (beginning of the PUL/sham) to the other side.  Don’t put any elastic on the tabs.

Step 22: For this, you will need a zigzag stitch.  Tack the elastic down by sewing a few stitches forward and then backward to stick it in place.  Then, slowly begin to stretch the elastic.  Pull it tight, but not so tight you think it will snap.  You can pull just a bit more as you go along.  Use the zigzag to sew along it.  If your machine has the option, use a three-step zigzag to make it last longer and be sturdier.

Now, it’s time to sew the elastic into the legs.


Step 23:  Start at the very top of the body, right below the tab.  Same procedure — tack it down, then stretch it and sew with a zigzag (preferably three-step) until you are right above the snaps.

Step 24: Sew the elastic on the other side, too.

Step 25: Time to turn it right-side out!  Flip it through the sham opening.

Step 26: Now, you could leave it like this and just add the final snaps on the tabs and be done.  I like a very neat diaper, and I think it helps to have all the parts stay where they should (if the inner touches clothing, it could potentially wick and make your kid’s pants wet; that won’t happen if you do this next part), so I top stitch.

Step 27: Start sewing around the outside of the diaper again at the edge of the tab, just like before.

Step 28: When you get to the elastic, you must stretch it out to sew around it very smoothly.  This works best if you do it in small sections at a time.  When you are finished and have gone all the way around the diaper, it looks like this:

Now it’s time to add the snaps to the wings.  For the front, we used the “female” snaps; for the tabs we will use the “male” snaps.  I mark the first snap’s placement about 1/2″ down from the top and 1/2″ in from the edge.

Step 29: Mark the other snaps 1″ away.  It will be a square where all the dots are 1″ apart.

Step 30: Do the same to the other tab.  Then, place the snaps on the tabs like you did on the front.

That’s it!  Your diaper is finished!

I recommend washing them before use.  Prefolds must be washed several times before use to improve their absorbency.  I usually wash and dry them twice, then repeat and consider them good to go.  I use a large wet bag that I sew (I’ll teach you how to make one in a week or so — it’s easy) inside a trash can with a lid for the dirty ones.  This sits in my bathroom and is transferred to the laundry room when it’s time to wash.  I also use cloth wipes with them (and I’ll show you how to make those, too).  My 2-year-old closes his legs and yells “NO!” if I come near him with a disposable wipe…but he likes the cloth ones.  It’s a no-brainer!

One beautiful, functional diaper.  It will take about 30 – 45 minutes to sew the whole thing.  I like to do them in batches of 6 – 12 so I can get through them faster.  I choose to make 36 in each size, so I have a large stash and can keep extras in the car and not have to wash more than every 3 days.  You could get by with 18 – 24, though.

Your cost on these will be $2 – $3 each (as opposed to $18 – $20 for a purchased diaper), so it’s just a matter of how much time you want to spend sewing.  I started with only 18 or 24 in some sizes and found I really wanted the extras, and it made my life much easier.  But it’s up to you!  I hate laundry, so a bigger stash makes things easier.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask!

Have you ever sewn a cloth diaper before?

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  1. Where do you buy your materials? I looked a couple of yrs ago into sewing my own and it seemed with the cost of PUL it wouldn’t be that cheap 🙂 Thanks!


  2. Thanks for this fantastic and detailed tutorial! Have you put the pattern up yet? I don’t know for sure if we’ll ever have another baby, but if we do, I love the idea of sewing at least some newborn diapers (we still have all of the “regular” ones from when my son was in diapers, but we used disposables when he was a newborn).


  3. Awesome, how can I get the pattern?


  4. […] that picture above is my not-so-new little guy, wearing one of the cloth diapers I sewed for him.  He’s the fourth baby to be cloth diapered from birth.  (Our oldest baby started in cloth […]


  5. Great tutorial! But how can I get the pattern?


  6. I also would love the pattern


  7. Where can I get the pattern?


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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