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 ūüėČ ), 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.

wet bags

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 appliqu√© 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 appliqu√© 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.

Nappy-related sewing projects: wet/dry bag and fleece soakers

Just recently I’ve rediscovered just how much I love sewing. I did quite a lot as a teenager, but since having kids I haven’t had the sewing machine out much. There were a couple of nappy-related items that I thought would be very practical to have, and these became fun sewing projects¬†to get my teeth into it again.

I realised when Andrew started wanting to wear pants when out and about that I really needed to invest in a good wet bag because we have quite a few accidents still, and I have two children with wet nappies/pants/trousers to take home when we go out. I also wanted one with a ‘dry’ area, as I always had loose spare clothes in my change bag and thought it would be easier to keep them in a bag together. But when I looked online, all the wet/dry bags that looked good quality were a bit too expensive, so I decided to buy some fabric myself and make two wet/dry bags.

Wetbags Collage

The outside is cotton, in Bob the Builder and Animal Alphabet prints, and the lining is a thick and durable sandwich PUL (the laminate layer is sandwiched between two polyester layers Рmakes it very easy to sew with and is extra thick for wetness protection) in bright orange (Bob) or blue (animals). The front pocket is for dry clothes/nappies, and there is a poppered handle that can attach to a buggy (for example) which is triple stitched for durability. I bought enough fabric for four bags, and I have swapped one with a friend for a night nappy that I wanted to try and a daytime wrap for the Nappyness library, and I sold one on a cloth nappy forum. As far as I know, both recipients like them.

During Real Nappy Week, I bought a couple of fleece soakers for Andrew because I’d read that they were good at night and I was also buying some bigger night nappies for him at the same time as he’d grown out of some of his others. The soakers worked brilliantly, and having seen one in real life as opposed to a picture on a website, I realised that my sewing skills were up to making them. So I set about making some more, using fleece from old clothes and blankets, so they are completely upcycled. In fact for one of them, I accidentally cut the fabric to include the ‘The North Face’ logo on the jumper I was cutting up, but then I decided that it actually looked rather cool with the logo, to show that it was an upcycled item of clothing. The next one I made, I deliberately cut the leg cuff fabric to include the ‘Regatta’ logo.

Soakers Collage

Andrew is now getting a bit big for the XL ones I bought, so I’ve made a few more XXL and Joel is just about fitting into the XL (he has a well boosted night nappy and needs it for the rise height, though it’s looser around the thighs and waist on him than on Andrew). I’m also making one of each size for the Nappyness library, and the medium and large are already available for loan – I originally made the medium thinking it would be for Joel but forgot that it needed to fit over a night nappy rather than day nappy (baby brain moment!) The patterns that I’m using are those I found on Katrina’s Sew Quick Soaker Pattern blog. I’ve also sewn some more washable wipes (as I explained in this previous post) from upcycled nappies and clothes, and these are also available to borrow from the library.

Wipes n bags Collage

As I’ve been sewing, I’ve been dreaming about having a better place to do this other than our kitchen table in quite a small flat. I have a little picture in my head of a cafe with a toy corner (like Livng Stones, the one we go to for meet-ups) which is also a shop that sells cloth nappies (new and preloved) and accessories, and there is¬†also space for me to sew wet bags, soakers, wipes etc.¬†All the mums I meet up with in Living Stones agree that ¬†there should be more cafes like that in Cambridge, and I think the city is the kind of place that parents would welcome a shop where you can actually buy cloth nappies having seen them for real, not just online. Of course they could try them from the library first too.

But then I usually hear a noise from one of my boys, or both, and I come quickly back to reality ūüėČ

 

Creative Challenge

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)‚Ķ..

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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!

A fluffy epilogue

Just when I thought there wasn’t much more to know about cloth nappies, Real/Cloth Nappy Week came along and surprised me! After having used just one sort (fitted birth-to-potty with wraps that we were given as a gift) for Andrew as a baby, I did loads of online research last summer and got my head around all the different terminology and mind-boggling options, to add to our stash for when Joel arrived. It was probably around that point that I got really hooked on them, but given that we’ve saved money overall by using cloth rather than disposables, I don’t think it’s an unhealthy addiction.

My aims for Cloth Nappy Week were: (1) enter all the competitions online to try and win some goodies (internet connection on holiday permitting); and (2) find out more about washable wipes, as our rather large supply of disposable wipes that we bought in bulk very cheaply with a load of vouchers we were given is slowly coming to an end.

I didn’t get anywhere with (1) – I never seem to win things, but I’m still of the old ‘if you don’t buy a ticket you won’t win the raffle’ mentality, and in this case all it cost me was my time in entering, which I had a bit more of than usual on holiday. I did, however, get somewhere with (2). I’d heard of Cheeky Wipes before, and they were certainly very involved in the fun of the week, but as I browsed the sites hunting for clues to the competitions, I became aware that there are so many work at home mums (or WAHMs) out there, who are beavering away at making some lovely nappies and accessories including washable wipes, and I didn’t know of most of them.

As I looked in more detail at their wipes, I realised that I could in fact make some myself. Essentially they are a square of towelling backed with a square of fleece or cotton jersey fabric. I’ve always loved sewing and used to do quite a few projects, though like many things in life, I’ve done far fewer since having children (my most recent ones were a toddler tie and the hungry caterpillar curtains that you see in this post). Seeing all the other mums who have put their sewing skills to use on nappies etc. since having children has really inspired me to be creative myself.

Fabric that I've found to make some wipes with
Fabric that I’ve found to make some wipes with

So instead of buying some wipes, I’ve found various bits of fabric stashed away in the flat that I can upcycle (love that word!) into wipes. I’ve also spotted some new fabrics online which I’m going to order to make some wet bags, which I could do with more of. And whilst I’m at all this sewing, we could do with more dribble bibs as Joel is getting through a couple a day at the moment. ¬†Who knows, I might even end up having a go at a nappy or two if I get on a roll and time permits.¬†I doubt I would ever find the time and space (as long as we live in Cambridge) to be a WAHM myself, but I could imagine making these kind of things for friends and family as presents. Watch this space for more posts on the finished items when I get around to making them.

Apart from the inspiration to make my own kit, I’ve also been inspired to think about making cloth nappies accessible to more people. I know I love to ramble on for hours about cloth nappies, given half a chance, whether that’s in person or on the blog. So I thought it might be good to put this enthusiasm to good use on a wider scale. One way of spreading the word about cloth nappies and encouraging others to have a go is running a cloth nappy library – these are popping up in more and more places, though there isn’t one in Cambridge yet, which does surprise me actually. I have heard via a friend that she and some other friends are working on something, so I may get the opportunity to help with that. I need to read up some more on the practicalities of setting one up, but there are plenty of libraries already doing well that could give some advice. If you’re in the Cambridge area, let me know if you think you’d use a nappy library –¬†I’d like to get a feel for how much interest there is.nappy-Collage-lower-res.jpg

Another option would be to become an agent for a particular brand of nappy. There are a few schemes out there, though I’d obviously be more tied to a particular brand than just offering advice on nappies in general. This would involve organising parties in small groups at people’s homes or in places where parents meet up, such as at baby/toddler groups or in cafes. I’d vaguely heard about these before Cloth Nappy Week, but in browsing more websites I became more aware of what opportunities are available. I also learned that nappy demo parties are called Nappucinos! I guess a reference to the fact that many of them are held over a cup of coffee at home or in a cafe. I could always just do this kind of thing on my own, not attached to a company in some way. If you’re in the Cambridge area, or the Coventry area (as we have a free hotel aka my parents’ house to stay at for weekends), let me know if you’d be interested in this kind of thing – again I’d like to get a feel for how much interest there is for nappy demos near us.

If I had more business sense, I’d really love to set up a shop in Cambridge that sells cloth nappies. When I did all my research into the various types and bought some online, I was going on reviews from others and what the online retailers said about the nappies; I kept thinking that all I wanted to do was walk into a shop where I could handle the nappies, see how big they were, look at their shape next to my boys, ask questions to a person there and then, and buy to support an independent business with a local premises. Tom keeps saying that I should set up a shop, but I think he’s not being that serious, and I have absolutely no clue about how to go about such a task, so it sounds incredibly scary!

Here I come to the end of my fluffy epilogue, in which I have talked about my conclusions from Cloth Nappy Week, that is to do more sewing projects and help make cloth nappies accessible to more parents in the future. Let’s see how much of this I get done by Cloth Nappy Week next year! ūüôā