A Step-by-Step Process for Crafting Homemade Diapers from Towels
Changing diapers is an unavoidable part of caring for babies. Most parents rely on store-bought disposable diapers for their convenience and absorbency. However, disposables can get quite expensive over time and generate lots of waste. With some basic sewing skills and towels from home, you can make reusable cloth diapers for a fraction of the cost!
Crafting diapers out of old towels is an easy, eco-friendly way to save money. This comprehensive DIY guide will walk you through everything you need to know to make simple yet effective towel diapers. You’ll learn handy techniques for designing, cutting, assembling, and using towel diapers so you can outfit your baby affordably.
Why Make Diapers from Towels?
Before jumping into the how-to, here are some of the top benefits of opting for towel diapers:
- Dramatically lower cost – Towel diapers only require cheap supplies you likely already have at home. The average baby goes through 6-10 disposable diapers per day, costing parents over $70 per month. Reusable towels slash these costs considerably.
- Reduce waste – Disposable diapers generate tons of plastic waste. Americans send 3.6 million tons of them to landfills each year. Using reusable towels eliminates this waste.
- Customizable absorbency – You can add extra towel layers exactly where your baby needs more absorbency. Stores don’t offer this level of personalization.
- Softer on skin – Towels made from natural fibers like cotton are gentle on a baby’s delicate skin compared to disposables. You avoid chemicals and plastics.
- Fun to decorate – From prints to embroidery, you can get creative decorating your homemade diapers. It’s a great crafting project!
- Better for the planet – Reusable anything reduces waste. Cloth diapers also lower demands for raw materials, manufacturing, and distribution compared to disposables.
Now that you know the main advantages, let’s dive into how to actually make functional, durable diapers out of towels step-by-step:
Selecting the Right Towel Material
Not all towels are suited to the task. When selecting or shopping for towels to repurpose as diapers, look for:
- 100% cotton – For softness and absorbency, cotton is ideal. It’s a natural fiber that feels gentle on skin. The more cotton, the more absorbent the diaper.
- Thicker towels – Look for plush or looped terrycloth towels. The thicker and more layered it is, the more moisture it will absorb. Thin towels won’t get the job done.
- Undamaged – Avoid towels with holes, tears, or worn thin spots. You want the whole surface absorbent and durable.
- Large size – Bigger is better for maximum coverage. Look for bath sheets or beach towels rather than hand towels.
- Low pile – Terrycloth loops shouldn’t be too long or they can irritate skin. Find towels with shorter loops under 1/4 inch.
- Gently used – Brand new towels are not essential. In fact, a few washes makes them even softer. Upcycle old towels lying around your home.
With the right towels selected, proper measuring and cutting is next.
Measuring and Cutting the Towel Fabric
The actual size and shape of your towel diaper will depend on the size of your baby and design preferences. Here are some measuring tips:
- Use a paper pattern – Map out the diaper shape you want on paper to create a reusable template. This allows for consistency.
- Map out all pieces – Diapers require multiple cloth pieces, like the front, back, core, etc. Measure and cut patterns for each piece.
- Account for shrinkage – If hemming or running stitches, cut panels approximately 2 inches wider and longer than the final needed size to allow for shrinkage.
- Mark fabric – Use chalk or disappearing ink to mark the paper pattern shapes onto your towels before cutting to maximize the fabric.
- Leave edging – When cutting, leave a 1/4 inch towel edging along the sides to prevent raveling. This also helps reinforce stitching.
- Cut efficiently – Place pattern pieces close together to use as much of the towel surface area as possible. Align the grain carefully.
- Repeat for layers – Cut identical shapes multiple times depending on how many absorbent layers you want. 4-6 layers is common.
Once your pieces are cut, it’s time to assemble them into the full diaper using your sewing skills.
Assembling and Sewing the Towel Diaper
With the towel fabric cut to size, you’ll want to sew the pieces together into the final diaper shape. Here are some tips:
- Serge edges – If you have a serger, run cut edges through it first. This prevents fraying. If not, use pinking shears.
- Align edges – When sewing pieces, carefully line up the edges to ensure even alignment. Pinning helps.
- Stitch seams – Use a 1/4 inch running stitch close to edges to assemble into the diaper shape. Remember to backstitch.
- Press seams – After stitching seams, press them open or to one side with an iron to flatten. This makes the diaper lay smoothly.
- Topstitch – Run a second top stitching 1/4 inch along seams and edges for durability. The extra pass reinforces seams.
- Mark décor – Add any decorative stitches, embroidery, or appliqués you desire for style. Do this before assembling.
- Attach closures – Sew on snaps, hook and loop tape, or other closures at the hips for easy fastening when wearing.
- Finish edges – Bind edges with cotton tape or bias tape. Or, turn raw edges under 1/4 inch twice and topstitch for a hemmed edge.
- Inspect – Double check all seams and edges to ensure they are secure and no holes are present before use.
With a fully assembled diaper, it’s time to prep and use it!
Prepping and Using Your Towel Diaper
To maximize performance, you’ll want to prep and launder new towel diapers before having your baby wear them. Here are some useful tips:
- Wash hot – Machine wash hot and dry on high heat 1-2 times to pre-shrink fibers and increase absorbency. Add towels to your own heavily soiled laundry.
- Use diaper detergent – Wash towel diapers in non-bleaching, non-staining detergent formulated for diapers to get them extra clean and residue free.
- Skip fabric softener – Don’t use any fabric softener or dryer sheets when laundering diapers. This leaves chemical residue on the fibers that reduces absorbency.
- Air dry covers – Let any waterproof diaper covers fully air dry rather than machine drying to preserve their integrity.
- Velcro wears out – Expect to have to replace hook and loop diaper closures eventually as they lose stickiness with frequent washing.
- Store dry – Before reuse, always ensure diapers are completely dry. Storing wet can lead to mold, bacteria, and odor over time.
- Consider a liner – Use a paper liner or separate small cotton cloth to protect the diaper surface against very runny newborn stools for easier cleaning.
- Reusable wipes – Cut squares from old t-shirts or flannel to make reusable wipes. These are gentle and effective cleaners between diaper changes.
With some towels from your linen closet, you can make a whole stash of diapers for just the cost of thread and closures! Getting started is straightforward, but here are a few key takeaways to remember:
Key Takeaways for Making Towel Diapers
- Stick to large, 100% cotton terrycloth towels for best absorbency. Flannel also works well.
- Map out all the diaper pieces on paper first to create reusable patterns for consistent sizing.
- Always leave 1/4 inch edging when cutting to prevent fraying and make seams sturdy.
- Use multiple layers of towel fabric to increase absorbency where your baby needs it most.
- Wash hot and dry on high heat several times before first use to maximize absorbency.
- Air dry any covers, avoid fabric softener, and change out velcro closures as needed.
- Store completely dry between uses and use a liner for very runny newborn stools.
With some clever folding techniques and cute prints, your homemade towel diapers can be just as convenient and reliable as disposables. The ability to customize absorbency provides an advantage you can’t get from storebought diapers. And you’ll save bundles by making them yourself.
Whether you want to save money or reduce waste, towel diapers are a simple, practical option for your baby’s diapering needs. Their soft fibers will gently hug your little one’s bottom while reducing the impact on our planet. Just follow the steps in this guide to begin sewing and using your own innovative towel diapers today!