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Picture of How to sew a Pocket Diaper
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If you have decided to cloth diaper your baby, then you know that name-brand diapers can be expensive to say the least. All you need is a few simple supplies and some basic sewing machine skills to make your own fitted cloth diapers.

The diaper in this Instructable is a fitted pocket diaper with hook and loop fasteners. I like pocket diapers because you can remove the absorbent liner for laundering so it gets cleaner and dries more quickly.

Of course prices will vary, but these diapers cost us about $2 or $3 USD to make. It sure beats paying $15+ per diaper! Also with these diapers you will need a waterproof outer layer, either PUL or wool.
 
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Step 1: Materials List

Picture of Materials List
You will need:

1 yard of flannel (any kind, color, or style) OR 1/2 yard of flannel and 1/4 yard fleece or 1/4 yard of waterproof PUL (if you use waterproof fleece or PUL you won't have to use a cover over the diaper.) 
16" of 3/8" elastic
4 3/4" Loop side of hook and loop fastener
2 pieces of hook side 2" X 1 1/2"
Ruler or Yardstick
Tailors chalk or fabric marking utensil
Scissors
1 Prefold diaper (for pocket insert)
Diaper template
Sewing Machine

NOTE: There are many ways to make your diaper template. You can trace a disposable and add 3/4" to all sides. There are also many websites dedicated to helping you draft you own pattern. For our pattern, we used a store bought sewing pattern for a diaper cover and modified it a bit.

Step 2: Preparations

1. Iron all fabric.

2. Trace template onto fabric. You will need 4 layers of flannel OR 2 layers of flannel and 1 layer of fleece (the big side will become the back of the diaper and the small side will be the front).

3. Adding pocket elastic flap: This is very hard to explain, so please use the pictures for reference. Line your yardstick up with the narrowest point of the crotch and the back of the diaper. Trace 1 inch past this back line. Repeat on the other side. You will end up with a tab that is 1" tall as shown in the picture. This step is important to do because it allows for the elastic to be properly installed later in the process. It would also be possible to add this extra flap onto your template.

4. With scraps left over from cutting out the fabric, trace the wings from the diaper to make the hook protector. This will prevent the hook side from snagging the other laundry in the washing machine.

5. Iron all pieces of fabric.

6. Cut your 16" of elastic into four 4"pieces.

Step 3: Sewing on hook and loop fasteners

1. Choose a layer of fabric that will become the outermost layer of the diaper (if you're using fleece, the fleece is the outermost layer).

2. Sew on the loop side of the fastener to the front of the diaper (see picture).

3. To make the laundry tabs: Hem the straight side of the tabs. Hem it again so there will be no raw edges or fraying after laundering a few times. Cut off the excess at the bottom of the hem.

4. Pin tabs to the wings. To sew them on, make sure you leave the straight hemmed side open because it will need to flip over the hook side.

5. Sew your 2 inner layers together. Make sure you sew everything, including the 1" flap that will make the pocket elastic casing.

6. Choose a layer of fabric that will become the innermost layer, closest to the baby's skin. Sew the hook side onto the inside of the wings.

7. Sew your 2 outer layers together like the inner layers. If you're using fleece you won't need to sew the two layers together, because there's only one.

Step 4: Putting the pieces together

Picture of Putting the pieces together
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1. To start this step, place the side that's going to go against the baby's skin face down on your work surface. We are now going to begin to attach the leg elastic.

2. Measure 5 1/4" from the front of the diaper and pin the elastic as shown in the photo (don't stress too much over this step, we're making diapers, not watches). Lay elastic flat with no tension and pin down the other side.

3. Tack down the front of the elastics using the sewing machine. Leave the back pins in place.

4. Take your 2 diaper sides and put them together, with hook and loop sides facing each other, elastic facing out (right sides together).

5. Sew the diaper together making sure to not sew the one inch flap down. You must leave this open, it's very important. Also, make sure not to sew the leg elastic down. When stitching around the crotch area, simply move it aside as shown in the photo.

Step 5: Installing pocket elastic

Picture of Installing pocket elastic
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Attaching the pocket elastic: I must admit, this is the most difficult part of the diaper making process. It will be hard to put into words, but I will do my best so please bear with me.

Take a 4" piece of elastic and tack it down directly below one of your 1" flaps. You don't need to stretch the elastic, but the fabric will bunch up under it because the elastic is shorter than the flap. This is exactly what you want. Once it is tacked on both ends flush with the 1" flap, do the same thing on the other flap (the other side of the diaper).

Now comes the tricky part. Fold the flap over the elastic and stretch it out straight as you sew it down. Make sure not to sew into the elastic, but keep just outside it to make a nice tube for it. Do this to both flaps.

If you did it right, you should end up with a really stretchy, wrinkly back of the diaper. This will work to keep the insert from coming out on accident.

Step 6: Finishing the diaper

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Now that the pocket elastics are properly installed, you need to flip the diaper right side out. Remember that your leg elastics are still pinned at the back.

Also, when flipping right side out, be sure that all edges are turned all the way out. You can even use a knitting needle to get into tight spots.

Now it's time to sew the pocket. The pocket seams serve two purposes. 1) Keeps the insert from sliding around to where you don't want it and 2) makes a casing for the leg elastic.

1. Start with your diaper rightside out. Sew one straight line starting at the edge of the loop side and ending 3 inches from the end of the diaper. DO NOT sew any part of the elastic (remember, the pin's still in there). Repeat on the other side of the loop fastener (see photo).

2. Finishing the leg elastic: There should be room enough between the back of the diaper and the end of the pocket seam to reach in and feel where the elastic is pinned down. Holding elastic firmly in place, carefully remove the pin. Don't let go of the elastic.

3. Now take the elastic and stretch until the leg gusset is desired tension. Tack down with the sewing machine (don't stress over this step, once again we're making diapers, not watches).
Repeat on other side.

Step 7: Insert the soaker in the pocket

Picture of Insert the soaker in the pocket
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Congratulations! You've finished your pocket diaper! Now it's time to put the soaker in the pocket.

The soaker is removed from a soiled diaper before washing and replaced before a clean diaper is put on the baby.

For my soakers I am using a prefold cloth diaper folded into thirds. You could just as easily use a piece of an old towel or anything else absorbent.

Simply take the prefold diaper, fold it in thirds, and shove it all the way to the front of the pocket.

Also pictured is the hook protector laundry tabs. When you want to wash the soiled diaper, simply flip the fabric tab over and it will protect the other items in the laundry from becoming snagged.

rowlf9145 months ago

Greetings all. I hope someone is still watching this article after a few years. I have a question concerning the fold over laundry tabs. From what I am reading and looking at, it looks as though the tabs are sewn onto the right side of the outer layer, the side with the loop fabric, before the diaper is sewn together. In other words, with the right sides facing each other to be sewn together, the tabs are not visible, and the tabs will already be sewn onto the outer layer. This is the only step of this that I am not sure of. Otherwise, great article. Looking forward to making this and cutting the drying time in half. :)

captainwiggles (author) 5 years ago
Hi everyone!  It's been a good long time since I posted this and after months of more research and months of actually cloth diapering I'm way more experienced.

First I recently added that you DO NEED a waterproof outer layer.  You can make it with the outer layer as waterproof fleece or PUL and you won't need any more layers.

If you're just making a fitted diaper, you will need a waterproof cover either PUL or wool.  I would change a few things about this pattern because it was so bulky.  I am going to be updating soon.

You don't need so many layers of flannel.  You just need one inside and one outside.  You could use absorbent fleece on the inside and it will take the feeling of wetness away from baby's bum.  I wouldn't use a prefold as an insert, I would either make some microfiber fleece, terry or other absorbent inserts.  The prefold made it way too bulky.  Although for nighttime you could add an infant sized prefold for maximum absorbency.

Again, I'll me making an updated version of this soon. 
I am new to CD and was wondering about PUL. Can I sew 100% cotton fabric to the pul to make it pretty to look at and then have the inner part that will be against the babies bottom fleece? (So in total I would have 3 layers) and is the shinny side of the PUL facing in our out?
captainwiggles (author)  mdstover4 years ago
You can absolutely sew cotton to the pul to make it decorative. I have a wetbag that is built that way. Just remember that the more holes that you make with your sewing machine in the material the more chance of liquid passing through at the seam. The shinny side is the "wrong side" or inside. If the baby is wearing the diaper, it is facing in. I hope this helps. Good luck.
moiety5 years ago
Note -- if you make this with just flannel, it will not be waterproof! If you make it with fleece, it might be. Most commercial pocket diapers are made with waterproof polyurethane coated fabric as the outside layer.

Great, straightforward instructable, though!
babsalvey15 years ago
OK, I love this but I am really dense right now.... does the soaker go int an opening in the back of the diaper cover. And if it does then wouldn't you replace the whole thing?
A pocket diaper is an easier to launder, faster drying alternative to an "all in one" type cloth diaper. All-in-ones have the soaker material permanently sewn in. they take a long time to dry. Pocket diaper shells like these dry much more quickly. We used covers, foldable cotton cloth diapers and shaped doublers. The main difference between these two methods is that with diapers and covers, the cover doesn't always get soiled, and the lining on covers is usually treated with a durable water resistance treatment to help keep it clean (on a pocket diaper, obviously, the liner needs to be permeable).
captainwiggles (author)  babsalvey15 years ago
The soaker does go into the pocket in the back. You do change the whole diaper every time it is soiled or wet, it is just nice to have the removable soaker for laundering purposes. It helps the diaper and soaker get cleaner and dry faster. Also with the pocket, if your baby is a heavy wetter, you can add more material to the soaker to stop leaks. This pattern is for an actual diaper instead of a diaper cover. (but I guess that it would work very well as a cover too) The purpose is to make a reusable cloth diaper that goes on as easy as a disposable. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message and I will do my best to answer them. Thanks
canida5 years ago
Cool, this looks reasonably easy to do. Any reason not to use a moisture barrier of some sort to line the outer layer of the pocket diaper?