Anyone who has researched cloth diapering knows there are seemingly infinite methods, types, and systems. Overwhelming, to say the least. I have tried several different types of cloth diapers, and my favourite system is one of the most simple and old fashioned. I use either a prefold or flat cloth diaper, with a wool diaper cover on top.
Why wool? Wool diaper covers are soft, naturally waterproof, and require less washing than their plastic counterparts. I will go more into the care of wool diaper covers at the end of this post. Suffice it to say that wool is more simple and comfy, in my experience. In the case of wool longies, which are a pair of baby pants made from lanolized wool fabric, they eliminate the need for an extra pair of pants. Baby simply wears a prefold, flat, or fitted cloth diaper, with the longies on top. For a busy but naturally-minded mom like myself, it couldn’t be easier.
One more benefit of wool diaper covers for me is related to Elimination Communication (EC). EC is the practice of offering your baby opportunities to use the potty. Wool diaper covers are soft and stretchy, and can be pulled up and down much like a pair of tiny undies. Perfect for EC!
Selecting Fabric and Finding a Pattern
Sewing your own wool diaper covers can save you a lot of money. Anyone who has searched for pre-made wool diaper covers online knows they often cost $50 a pair. On the other hand, you can buy a yard of wool interlock fabric, enough to make 3-5 diaper covers, for about $40-$50.
The type of fabric you want to look for, as I already mentioned, is called wool interlock. This is a knit material of similar weight to a sweatshirt, but made of wool. The type I used was 97% wool and 3% spandex or lycra. There are also 100% wool interlocks, but I chose the 97/3 because it has that extra stretch, making it easier to pull the diaper covers up and down. They also won’t shrink as much in a hot washing machine or dryer. (See “Care” paragraph below) Don’t buy wool jersey, as it is too thin to make a good diaper cover.
You will of course, need to pre-shrink your fabric, by washing it on a hot-cycle.
I have heard good things about these patterns over the years. They are simple to follow, multi-sized, and of course, free! Thank you, Katrina! There are also patterns you can buy, on Etsy for instance, and there are methods of drafting patterns to your baby’s measurements.
Longies Sewing Process
To clarify before we begin the sewing directions, “longies” are a wool diaper cover in the form of pants. They are great for nighttime and heavy wetters, and eliminate the need for an extra pair of pants. Soakers, on the other hand, are shaped like a pair of undies, much like a regular diaper, except they usually pull up and down rather than having a front closure.
If you have a serger, great, but it’s not necessary. The ends of wool interlock will not fray, and you can even get away with a straight stitch. I opted to use a narrow zig zag for my diaper cover seams, to better accommodate the stretch of the fabric. I used a wide zig-zag stitch for the seam allowances.
Let’s begin! For the longies pattern I used, there are two identical leg pieces, and a waistband piece. That’s it!
You begin by folding each leg piece in half lengthwise, and sewing the inseams, ending at the crotch point (marked with a notch).
Then, turn one of the legs right side out, and put it inside the other leg, so the right sides are together. Line up the crotch seam and sew all the way around. Now would be a good time to zig-zag the edges, to add extra reinforcement to this seam.
Next, sew the short sides of the waist band together, forming a circular band. It is double the width you need, so as to be folded in half lengthwise, with the fold at the top of the finished waistband.
After folding, you can now attach the waistband to the pants. But first, you need to mark with pins the centre points of the waistband, and then the centre points between those first centre points. This way, there will be a pin marking every quarter-point of the waistband. The reason for this is that the legs have a little extra width than the waistband. You will need to stretch the waistband to fit the legs, and you want to evenly distribute the extra width of the pants around the waistband. So, before you begin, you will also pin the pants portion along its quarter points, and attach to the waistband’s quarter points. This all sounds confusing to explain but it’s actually quite simple in practice. The video will help you visualize it.
Then, sew the waistband to the pants, carefully stretching as you go along. You can leave the inside edges raw, or zig-zag stitched, as desired. Finally, finish off the pants with a hem.
Soakers Sewing Process
The soaker pattern consists of an underwear shaped panel, a waistband, thigh cuffs, and optionally, a pad-shaped insert for the crotch.
If you are adding the extra pad to the crotch, begin by sewing that in place along the centre of the diaper cover, with the larger end of the pad over the bum part of the diaper. I used a zigzag stitch for this.
Next, sew the side seams of the diaper, with raw edges inside. Press these open.
Then sew the short sides of the waistband and the thigh cuffs together. Fold these in half lengthwise as we did with the longies’ waistband.
You will attach these to the diaper in the exact same way as I described sewing the longies’ waistband above. First mark each quarter point with a pin, attach to the diaper’s quarter points, and sew together while gently stretching the cuffs and waistband to fit.
Voila! You are finished! It’s easier than it looks, isn’t It? I opted to add a cute tag to the back of my diaper covers, but of course that is optional.
How to Care for Wool Diaper Covers
Caring for wool diaper covers can initially sound more difficult than regular diaper covers. However, that is balanced by the fact that they require less washing than their PUL counterparts. The reason? Unless the diaper cover has gotten poop on it (in which case you have to wash it, duh), it typically doesn’t get smelly the way plastic diaper covers do.
When you do need to wash your diaper covers, it is best to hand wash with a gentle soap, like castile soap. Then they will need to be lanolized. Lanolin is a natural substance found in sheep wool which helps sheep stay dry. After wool has been sheared and washed, this is stripped away, and must be reapplied if you desire that waterproof-quality. The way to do this is by dissolving a pea sized amount of lanolin (or more if you are treating more than one diaper cover) in a jar of hot water. Shake it up. Then, add this lanolin-water to a basin or sink of warm water, and soak the diaper covers for a few hours, or overnight. Hang to dry. If you are confused, there are many Youtube videos about caring for wool diaper covers.
Something I’ve discovered with my most recent baby is lanolin oil - it is more liquidy and therefore easier to dissolve in a sink or bathtub of hot water. It could even be added to your gentle soap to combine the steps of washing and lanolizing.
Are you inspired to sew your own wool diaper covers? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments section!
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