Sew, sew, sew your nappies

Just recently I’ve been finding a real enthusiasm for sewing. I used to do quite a bit as a teenager, both in school as part of textiles GCSE and out of school, making a few clothes and bags for myself. It’s my love of cloth nappies that’s really got me into it again. When I figured out that I could make my own washable wipes and good quality wet bags cheaper than I could buy from retailers or work at home mums (WAHMs) (that reminds me, I still have one large wet bag spare if anyone would like to buy it 😉 ), I was happy with my end products and enjoyed making them so much that I then decided to make some more nappy-related items – in fact nappies themselves.

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I started with some fleece soakers, i.e. waterproof nappy covers, instead of a PUL (laminated fabric) wrap with velcro/poppers. We’d started using them when I bought some reduced in Real Nappy Week back in April, and they work really well over night for the boys, but we needed some more as Andrew had already outgrown the XL ones that I’d bought (so they got passed on toe Joel). For the first one I made, I used an old fleece dressing gown that neither of them had worn much because our flat has a pretty consistent temperature all year round with efficient heating. For the next ones I made, I used some fleece jumpers that my parents were going to take to a charity shop when they sorted out their wardrobe. I’ve also bought some new fleece which was reduced online, and will be using that soon (see the zebra print nappy below, plus another frog print fleece).

soakers

My next creation was what I call a ‘nap’ nappy for Andrew – he uses the potty/toilet when awake, and often doesn’t wee at all during naps, but he still has the odd day with a wet patch so I’m keeping nappies on him for a bit longer when napping. It is an all-in-two design, similar to our itti bitti nappies that are a little tight on him and they don’t make an XL. I came up with my own pattern for this nappy, based on one I found on the internet and adapted to give it a higher rise and a slimmer crotch. The fabrics are again up cycled old clothes – a couple of colours of fleece jumper and a cotton jersey babrygro. The shell of the nappy of course needs to be waterproof, so I bought some new plain white PUL (the waterproof but breathable fabric used in nappies and wraps) for this.

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Then I decided to concentrate on night nappies for Andrew, because we have to boost some of his so much that he really looks like a weeble and the fleece covers are hard to get on. I don’t mind night nappies being a bit bulky, as they’re in bed and it doesn’t bother them, but some of Andrew’s are a little ridiculous. I think being dry in the day means he still wets quite a lot at night, but hopefully not for too much longer. I wanted to try some ‘Zorb’ fabric, which is a blend of various fibres, natural and man-made, and is supposed to be very absorbent relative to its thickness. I found a small piece going cheap on a pre-loved site, so bought that as a trial. My first creation with it is a Zorb-lined pocket with PUL and fleece outer, for maximum waterproofing! I didn’t really know how it would turn out, but in the end i’m very pleased with it. We stuff the pocket with a couple of hemp boosters, and this easily lasts him the night and is much slimmer than his biggest bamboo night nappies. The Zorb catches the wetness first and spreads it away from the wet zone quickly (because that’s what Zorb does), and then the very thirsty hemp picks up all the wetness that goes through the Zorb, and the PUL and fleece outer of the pocket stops that wetness escaping. So far we’ve had no leaks, and the extra high rise and extra layer of Zorb that I sewed into the front of the nappy is great for a boy tummy sleeper.

zorb pocket

The next nappy I wanted to have a go at was a ‘hybrid fitted’. The idea of these (such as the ‘A Mama Knows’ brand which we have one of) is that it has a hidden layer of fleece in the core, which repels water back into the absorbent bit of the nappy, meaning that for light wetters in the day you don’t need a separate waterproof wrap and for heavy wetters and at night you still need a cover but you have an extra layer of water resistance to help stop leaks. Whoever knew that nappies could be so scientific?! The researcher in me loves reading about all this kind of stuff! So I made one of these using my pattern from the other nappies that I made, which has seen a few minor alterations with each new nappy, to try and optimise the design. The inner absorbent bit is cotton terry, with 2 layers of Zorb and one layer of fleece inside, then a burgundy corduroy outer with an appliquĂ© monkey on – the cord was from an old pair of trousers and the monkey from a badly stained t-shirt. This works well too. Andrew has worn it over night and again it’s less bulky than some of his other night nappies, and I could probably use this for his nap without a cover though I haven’t had chance to try this yet.

hybrid fitted

My next nappy project is going to be a wrap, made with some lovely bicycle-print PUL that I got in the sale at one of the online fabric retailers. I haven’t used ‘fold over elastic’ before, which is the stuff that I need to sew around the outside as a binding to the raw fabric edges, so we’ll see how that goes. I need to have a day when I have plenty of time to experiment, so probably a weekend.

And finally, I’ve even been inspired to branch out into clothing for the boys. Andrew has recently grown out of his 2-3 years trousers, and his 3-4 years ones are a little big around the waist but he needs the length. As I have quite a few pairs of old trousers of mine that are worn through in some part or are just too small since having kids, I thought it would be great to use a pair to make him some trousers. I chose some jeans, plus an old red fleece to make the waistband, as well as a fire engine embroidery to appliquĂ© on, which was on a baby vest that was stained elsewhere. This was very simple to do, and Andrew is very impressed with his new trousers! I made the length with plenty of growing room, but the waist and hips fit him well so they shouldn’t fall down!

jeans

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at and reading about my projects. So far the feedback I’ve had on them has been very positive, which is lovely to hear. A bit like writing the blog, I sew because I enjoy it, but it’s also nice to know that other people are benefitting from the end result – blog post / wet bag / nappy / trousers.

Washable wipes – homemade and upcycled

The fluffy epilogue that I wrote after Real/Cloth Nappy Week this year talked about my realisation that washable wipes were a very simple concept and that I could make some myself rather than buy the branded or even WAHM-made ones (WAHM = work at home mum). I do like to support WAHMs where possible, but in this case I’m being my very own WAHM and saving myself the cost of buying washable wipes even from them.

Although these took me very little time to make, the process taught me that I would actually find it very hard to be a WAHM myself at this stage when the boys are still so young, because I found I could only grab the odd five or ten minutes here and there between doing things with them, for them and around the flat. I don’t know how WAHMs do it! At least all the blogging I do is when I’m sitting down feeding or have a sleeping baby on me and can’t do other stuff anyway. And at least the wipes were simple enough that I could flit in and out of doing them easily.

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The fabrics I used were all old items of baby stuff that we no longer use for various reasons. We had a baby towel that was free with one of the supermarket parenting clubs (I think) but it’s only for newborns and both our boys grew out of it in about a month. I also found a fleece throw that we hadn’t used much and some old clothes (in cotton jersey fabric) that were either very worn out or had stains on one bit of them but the rest was fine. So I’ve done a bit of ‘upcycling’ (as seems to be one of the latest buzz words) in making these wipes.

The first batch I made with half the towel had this towel fabric on one side and half fleece half jersey on the other. I made them fairly big at 13x20cm. Now that we’re using them I would say that we could get away with them being a bit smaller than this as they clean up poo so easily, so the next batch I make will be a bit smaller. I’d seen washable wipes online made in two different ways: (1) two pieces of fabric overlocked together, or (2) two pieces of fabric sewn right sides together then pulled through back on itself and top stitched around the outside to seal the hole left in order to pull it outside in. I experimented with both methods, and found that the second one worked better with these fabrics on my machine – I don’t have a proper overlocker so was just using that stitch on my sewing machine and cutting off the excess fabric, but it was hard to make a neat straight edge, and although it still functions as a wipe perfectly well, it doesn’t look as nice (or ‘professional’ in Tom’s words) as the outside-in-method ones.

Here’s a tutorial with photos showing how I made these wipes (using the second method described above)
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1) Cut out the fabrics  – for a 13x20cm wipe you’ll need to cut 15x22cm of towel, and then fleece and jersey to cover roughly half each of the area of the towel, plus 1cm overlap where the fleece and jersey are sewn together. Here the photo shows the fabrics folded up in sets of towel, fleece and jersey all cut and ready to pin.

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2) Sew the fleece and jersey together down the one side that will be in the middle of the wipe – put right sides together and sew using a plain straight stitch along this one side, 1cm from the edge. When you’re done, open it out flat.

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3) Place the jersey and fleece piece right side down on the towel. (In the picture – this was the corner of the towel so I trimmed the jersey fabric to fit the curve of the corner here). Pin at right angles to the edge of the fabric every few centimetres along all four edges.

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4) Sew at 1cm from the edge all the way along three of the edges and about 2/3 of the way along the fourth edge to leave a hole where you can pull the fabric through from the outside inwards. Please excuse this photo – it DOES NOT show right sides together as it should – this was the one wipe that I overlocked instead and I must have taken a picture of this by mistake! Make sure when sewing the two pieces of fabric together that you can’t see the print of the jersey – if you’re just using towel and plain fleece, it wouldn’t matter anyway as there aren’t ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides.

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5) Remove the pins and then pull the fabric through the hole to turn it outside in and reveal the pattern on the jersey. Fold the edges of fabric sticking out at the hole (as seen on the top left corner here) inwards, following the fold of the rest of the seam.

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6) Top stitch (using a plain straight stitch on the machine) along the length of the hole and continuing along all four edges of the wipe, at about 2mm in from the edge, to give it a nice finish. Here the picture shows the finished wipe on the right, along with the overlocked one on the left for comparison.

Now to make some more, as well as some wet bags… whenever I find the time!