Wool Diaper Covers (Soakers)

June 21, 2011

 I promised to share with you how I make my wool diaper covers from recycled wool sweaters.  Combined with a prefold cloth diaper and snappi, this is my favourite system for keeping my baby comfortable and still keeping my money in the bank.  

And did I mention it's cute?  My son often goes out in just a t-shirt and his little wool shorts and always looks adorable.

Don't you love the droplet of drool dripping past his belly button?
When I'm out doing my rounds of the thrift stores, I often check out the sweaters.  I look for 100% wool (or cashmere is the real score) sweaters that are soft against my face.  I have a few different projects that I like to make with wool sweaters; including mittens, hats, pants, and diaper covers.  All of these projects require you to felt the wool first.  This means that if I can find a wool sweater that has already been felted (read, shrunken so it is boxy and will no longer fit a human), it will save me some time.

Some sweaters felt better than others, and it's hard to know until after you run them through a hot wash and dry how they are going to work out.  I like to felt my wool just enough so that it thickens up and won't easily fray, but still has a little stretch. This is especially important for making wool soakers (and pants), since you will be pulling them on over top of a diaper.  I have had good success with the H&M brand of wool sweaters (like the heathered grey that I used today).  For whatever reason, these are really soft, and keep their stretch even after felting.

I typically buy my sweaters at the Salvation Army on half-price Wednesday, so I usually only pay about $2 or $3 per sweater.  You can easily make one soaker from one sweater (with the arms leftover for pants), so it's a great bargain.   I use the free pattern (with some modifications that I will share with you) over at Katrina's Quick Sew Soaker Pattern.  The one I like is labeled "newer soaker pattern". This really is a great pattern, and you can't beat free!

Once you have felted your sweater, cut off the bottom band with the ribbed edge.  This is going to form the waist band of your soaker, and you will want this piece to be about 3.5" wide for a large or medium (if you are making small or extra small I would still recommend 2.5-3" wide).  I stick with the pattern recommendation for the length of the strip.   

Next, cut out the rest of your main pattern pieces (front, back, extra wet layer - which didn't make it into the picture).  If your wool feels kind of thin, instead of cutting out the extra wet layer, do two sets of front and back pieces.  This will make sure your cover is thick enough to keep all the moisture inside where it belongs.
For the leg bands I chose to use a contrasting wool (and again on the waist band) just for looks, and I would also recommend cutting this much wider than the pattern suggests.  The pattern calls for a rectangle measuring 9.5"x2.5" for a medium, but I recommend adding about an inch to the width on all the sizes.  Another important note, remember to cut your leg band pieces so that the stretch of the knit wool goes from side to side, and not up and down.  The same goes for your other pattern pieces.  You want to be able to get this on your wiggly baby, and if you cut the pieces the wrong direction, it will be trickier. 

At this point, I follow the pattern instructions pretty faithfully.  Sew together the front and back piece at the crotch, and then to the inside sew on the extra layer.  Since we are sewing a knit here, be sure and use a stretch friendly stitch.  If you have a serger, you can use it for all the sewing except for attaching the extra layer.  For this step, use a zig-zag stitch.  Next, sew up the sides.  I don't have a serger, so I like to use the overlook stitch for stretch fabrics on my regular sewing machine.  If you don't have one, use a zig-zag.  It might not be quite as pretty, but remember this is just going on your kid's bum.

Last, you need to attach the leg and waist bands.  For the leg bands, sew the short sides together, and then fold it in half hiding the seam on the inside.  Depending on how stretchy your wool is, you might need to trim a little bit of length off of your piece.  Err on the side of making leg openings that are too roomy, since this is a much better problem than making them too small (speaking from experience).  If you're not sure, try the band on your baby's thighs before you sew them to the soaker.

For the waist band, I sewed up the side, but then I don't fold it in half.  Since we are using the already finished bottom edge of the sweater, we aren't worried about fraying.  The other reason I like to do this, and why I like the waist band to be quite tall, is that this makes the top edge of the soaker less bulky under clothing.  And if you have boys, like I do, you want to be sure and keep the top edge of your diaper completely covered with the wool.  I have purchased covers in the past that have a trim fit in the front, and I have had problems with leaks at the top. Unless you are diapering an infant with an umbililcal cord stump, I think it's best to steer clear of low cut diapers, and especially covers.

Here is the finished cover.  I bought the size tags here for 10 cents a piece, but I have seen them in several other places as well.  You could also make some simple handmade tags with a letter stamp, some permanent ink, and a piece of ribbon or twill tape.  I have a decent collection of handmade diaper items, and I find it essential to know what size each item is.  Labeling is a must for me.

If you haven't sewn much with knits and you are feeling nervous about having perfectly smooth seams, don't be afraid.  Mine always come out a bit wavy when I use my overlocking stitch despite all my best efforts.  The good news is you can't tell from the outside.  This is not the case from the inside, as you can see.

And any imperfections will be tricky to spot once you get your cute little model into them.

After you are finished, all you need to do is lanolize your cover and it will be naturally waterproof.

Have any of you had any experience making diaper covers for your kids?  Or do you just think I'm  a crazy person for even suggesting it?  I know I told you already how much I love using cloth, but it really is awesome.  Especially when I'm making the covers for only a few dollars (and an hour or so of my time) and they are really fabulous.  Happy cloth diapering everyone!


Andrea Cooper said...

Thanks! Can't wait to make these - and thanks for the modification tips. I don't think you're crazy... I'm planning to make some for my son, but also for a Cloth for Cause organization where I live.

Katie Jurisch said...

Fantastic information - thank you for sharing! Just found you tonight from a Google search on "how to felt wool sweater for soaker". :) Love your blog!

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