Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Waterproof and water resistant materials for diaper making

For a chart format of all the diaper fabric information, please see the second tab of the CD Sewing 101 spreadsheet. Information on the basics of fabric, fibers and structure, is in the Fabric 101 post and here on the NY Fashion Center site (see right menu for fabrics). The previous posts on diaper fabrics are linked under Fabrics both on this blog and in the spreadsheet (scroll right for fabric column), including the fabric FAQ, and what fabrics can be used for what.

Since most fabric sites categorize and describe fabrics by structure first and then fiber content, we'll go ahead and make the bullet points fabric structures and then list the commonly available fiber contents. Laminates (mainly PUL) and durable water repellent (DWR) treated materials are the only waterproof materials suitable for diapermaking. However, the DWR materials will only remain waterproof for the number of washes specified by the manufacturer, so they are best for diapers that will not receive regular laundering, like swim diapers. There are a number of waterproof materials that aren't suitable for diaper making, so if you don't see it listed here, it is either very new or probably not suitable for diapers for a variety of reasons, usually durability. There are many water resistant materials that work for diaper making, but some of them require special treatment such as lanolizing or hand washing. These include animal fibers like wool and cashmere, as well as some polyester fabrics. Some water resistant fabrics can be obtained by upcycling garments and other items, and these should always be washed and tested before cutting.

A special note about vinyl: most vinyl is not durable enough for diaper use. It does not hold up to laundering well, it tends to rip at the stitch lines under stress, the seams have to be sealed with either waterproof seam tape or a silicone based sealer, and most of it is stiff and uncomfortable or thin and fragile. Much of the material labeled "vinyl" is PVC, which releases chlorine and other compounds at body temperature or sometimes even lower, like room temperature. I personally do not feel that is safe for use next to the skin or for any baby products. Here is the Material Safety Data Sheet  for PVC. There is a newer "vinyl" that is PEVA/EVA, which does not have or release chlorine, but it is even less durable than the PVC in most cases and may still release unwanted chemicals. Here is the MSDS for EVA
  • Laminates - Generally, a knit or woven fabric joined to a plastic film by heat and/or adhesive processes under high pressure. Polyurethane is one of the most commonly used plastics for this, because it is flexible, relatively sturdy under stress, self-healing with sufficient damp heat, and not known to release any harmful compounds under normal use. There are some PUL (polyurethane laminate) and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) materials that are FDA approved for food storage use. A wide range of fabrics can be laminated with polyurethane, but the best for diaper making are polyester based. This includes the commonly available polyester knit PUL as well as other polyester fabrics like minky, the second most common. Cotton based PUL has an increased risk of wicking and delamination. 1 mil polyester PUL is the most commonly available and most commonly used in diaper making. 

  • Interlock and sweater knits - Medium to heavy weight knits are the most likely to be water resistant. Look for very tightly knit or fulled/felted fabrics, or full/felt them yourself. Some polyester and acrylic knits are moderately to very water resistant even without water repellent treatments, so wash and test these before cutting. Wool and other animal fibers such as cashmere and alpaca are moderately to very water resistant when lanolized, and wool interlock yardage is reasonably commonly available online. Animal fibers may also be upcycled. More info on animal fibers below. 

  • Fleece - Medium to heavy weight fleece is most likely to be water resistant, and it must be tightly knit. If you can see through it, even just pinholes, it is not likely to be water resistant enough for a water barrier. Water resistant fleece is available in polyester, DWR polyester, and DWR nylon. DWR treated fleece is usually waterproof for the number of washes specified by the manufacturer, and moderately to very water resistant after that. However, very thin DWR treated fleece (100 wt or microfleece, for example) may eventually become wicking rather than water resistant! At this time, it is best to wash and test a sample of any polyester fleece before buying a lot or cutting into the yardage, because many previously water resistant brands are being produced with a much looser knit that may not be water resistant. Wool and other fiber fleece is uncommon. 

  • Wovens - any weight woven can be water resistant if tightly woven enough or treated with DWR materials. Smooth wovens are more likely to be water resistant. DWR treated wovens of any fiber, including normally absorbent materials like cotton, will be very water resistant to waterproof for the number of washes specified by the manufacturer. However, they may eventually become wicking or absorbent as the DWR treatment washes out. Some polyester and acrylic fabrics are water resistant even without DWR treatments, so wash and test before cutting.


  • Other knit fabrics - any weight knit can be water resistant if tightly knit enough or treated with DWR materials. DWR treated knits of any fiber, including normally absorbent materials like cotton, will be very water resistant to waterproof for the number of washes specified by the manufacturer. However, they may eventually become wicking or absorbent as the DWR treatment washes out. Some polyester and acrylic fabrics are water resistant even without DWR treatments, so wash and test before cutting.


Here is more information about wool and other animal fibers. Also see the upcycling for woolies post. Wool is absorbent, wicking, and allows for rapid evaporation, as well as being moderately to very water resistant when lanolized. It is less absorbent when lanolized, but still allows for rapid evaporation and wicking, plus the lanolin reacts with urine to make a soaplike compound that makes lanolized woolies self cleaning to a degree. To get the "magic" properties of wool, the fabric should have at least 50% of the animal fiber as wool. Other animal fibers, such as cashmere and alpaca, are more hairlike, less absorbent, less wicking, hold more heat, and do not hold lanolin as well as sheep's wool. However, they still work for diaper covers, just be aware that other animal fibers may not full/felt and will usually need to be washed and lanolized more often than wool. 

Look for items with at least 80% animal fibers (wool/merino/lambswool, cashmere, alpaca, angora from goats or rabbits, mohair, exotic varieties like opossum), no plant fibers (cotton, bamboo and other rayons, ramie, linen), and less than 10% nylon. Up to 20% polyester, acrylic, or silk generally still lanolizes well, although the higher the silk content, the more likely it is for the cover to feel damp on the outside. Anything that feels soft enough to you will be fine, and lanolizing will make it even softer.

It isn't necessary to felt thick or firmly knit/woven materials at all, but you may want to gently full/felt in warm or hot water on the permanent press cycle with a small amount of detergent for ease of care. If you are upcycling or the fabric you are prepping is fuzzy, put each item or about a yard or two of fabric in a large pillowcase or sweater bag. If you have a top loading washer with an agitator, you can and should check every 5-10 minutes during the wash cycle to see how much the items have felted. You may need to add tennis balls or a pair of sneakers to increase the agitiation if little or no fulling occurs in one cycle. It's very possible to felt something, especially a loosely knit or woven item, so much it loses all its stretch! I usually use my front loading washer, the permanent press cycle, and hot water.

Sew with 100% polyester or wool thread, and use a stretch stitch or hand finishing stitch like the mattress or baseball stitch used to finish handknit items. Lanolize before use; I like to run a  sinkful of very hot water, dissolve a large dab of nipple lanolin in it, and put the inside-out woolie in that until the water cools. Roll up in a towel to gently squeeze out the excess water, and lay flat to dry.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wicking/feel-dry materials for diaper making

For a chart format of all the diaper fabric information, please see the second tab of the CD Sewing 101 spreadsheet. Information on the basics of fabric, fibers and structure, is in the Fabric 101 post and here on the NY Fashion Center site (see right menu for fabrics). The previous posts on diaper fabrics are linked under Fabrics both on this blog and in the spreadsheet (scroll right for fabric column), including the fabric FAQ, and what fabrics can be used for what.

Since most fabric sites categorize and describe fabrics by structure first and then fiber content, we'll go ahead and make the bullet points fabric structures and then list the commonly available fiber contents. The most feel-dry of the wicking materials are synthetic. This is because the fibers are designed not to hold any wetness, just allow it to move along the fibers. Next are reconstituted cellulose fibers like silk and rayons, including pretty much all of the bamboo fabrics sold in the U.S. These are not as absorbent as most natural fibers, but the fiber structure still allows wetness to move along. Finally, there is wool, linen, and cotton, which are only moderately wicking because of their absorbency, although certain fabric structures in these fibers are more feel-dry than others.
  • Microfleece - a light to medium weight knit with a brushed nap on one or both sides. Also described as 100 wt, and some 200 wt will be wicking as well. Very feel-dry, but needs compression to wick well in most cases, so may not be a good choice for newborn diapers. May pill. Only found in polyester and microfiber, and the microfiber is only available in the PolarTec brand at this time. Microfiber may cause rashes next to the skin.
  • Wicking jersey/pique - a very light to light weight knit that is either smooth, or has a subtle, very small honeycomb texture. Very feel-dry until the absorbent material is saturated, and wicks almost instantly with or without compression. May be made from polyester, nylon, or a combination of the two, with or without up to 10% Lycra/spandex/elastane.
  • Suedecloth - a light weight stable knit that has a very short loop pile on one side. It may have very little to a moderate amount of stretch, making it easy to work with. It is very feel-dry, and wicks almost instantly. Only found in polyester at this time. Not microsuede, which is a woven that is generally water resistant or not particularly wicking. Brands include buttersuede and Alova, although some online retailers carry wicking suedecloth that does not have a brand label.
  • Velour - a very light to medium weight knit with a cut pile on one side. Moderately to very feel-dry, depending on fiber content. Generally wicks very fast to instantly. Includes panne velour and some crushed "velvets" that are on a knit rather than woven base. Cotton and/or bamboo/rayon velours are moderately feel dry, polyester or nylon velours are very feel-dry. Silk or wool velour is very uncommon and will be a bit more feel-dry than cotton or bamboo/rayon. Velvets or velveteens in these fibers will often function the same way, but are usually stiffer and less comfortable as a diaper inner; see wovens.
  • Wovens - any weight, although lighter weight and textured wovens are more likely to be feel-dry than thicker ones. Some polyester and nylon wovens will be very feel-dry, particularly those labeled "performance", but some will be water resistant, so wash and test before cutting. Bamboo and other rayons, silk, fully prepped linen, and wool will all be moderately feel-dry, with textured wovens more feel-dry than smooth ones. However, wool will need to be very well felted for use in diapers that will go through the regular diaper laundry, and should feel soft to your inner wrist if it will be used next to the skin. Velvet and velveteen is included here; cotton, bamboo and other rayons, silk, and some blends will be moderately to very feel-dry. Blends may need to be washed and tested. 
  • Other knits - any weight, although lighter weight and more loosely knit fabrics are more likely to be feel-dry. As with wovens, some polyester and nylon will be very feel-dry and some will be water resistant, so wash and test before cutting. Bamboo and other rayons, silk, fully prepped linen, and wool will all be moderately feel-dry. However, wool will need to be very well felted for use in diapers that will go through the regular diaper laundry, and should feel soft to your inner wrist if it will be used next to the skin. Linen knits will usually be blends, so look for blends with other wicking fibers rather than absorbent ones like cotton, ramie, or hemp. Blends may need to be washed and tested.









Saturday, May 3, 2014

Absorbent materials for diaper making

For a chart format of all the diaper fabric information, please see the second tab of the CD Sewing 101 spreadsheet. Information on the basics of fabric, fibers and structure, is in the Fabric 101 post and here on the NY Fashion Center site (see right menu for fabrics). The previous posts on diaper fabrics are linked under Fabrics both on this blog and in the spreadsheet (scroll right for fabric column), including the fabric FAQ, and what fabrics can be used for what.

Since most fabric sites categorize and describe fabrics by structure first and then fiber content, we'll go ahead and make the bullet points fabric structures and then list the commonly available fiber contents. Absorbent fibers include cotton, hemp, bamboo and other rayons (viscose, acetate, Modal, Tencel), and their blends; polyester microfiber, composites like Zorb, and less common natural fibers like linen, ramie, sheep's wool, and silk. Blends of natural fibers with synthetics like polyester, acrylic, or nylon are usually okay if there is less than 20% synthetic fiber in the blend. If you don't know the fiber content of your fabric, you can do a burn test (video, chart of results at DitzyPrints), but that will not tell you the percentages of a blend. If you aren't sure whether a material is absorbent enough for diaper use, wash and test it before cutting.


  • Fleece - a medium to heavy weight knit fabric with a brushed nap on one or both sides.  This includes sherpa, which has a textured nap. Brushed surface is prone to pilling. It is usually a good compromise between bulk and absorbency. It is important to note that polyester or acrylic fleece is not absorbent unless it is also labeled as microfiber, and even then it may be more of a wicking material than an absorbent one. Commonly found in cotton, bamboo rayon, hemp, and blends of two or more of these three as well as with polyester or nylon.

  • French terry - a light to moderately heavy weight knit fabric with flat loops on one side and a smooth knit on the other. Also often a good compromise between bulk and absorbency. The loop side may work with a Snappi or Boingos. Commonly found in cotton and cotton blends, bamboo and other rayon blends, and less commonly in hemp or linen blends. 

  • Interlock, rib, or jersey knit - a very light to medium knit. Interlock looks the same on both sides, as do some rib knits. Jersey looks different but still smooth on each side, and curls at the edges, including cut edges. Rib knit usually works well with a Snappi or Boingos. Knits with a high rayon content or low quality cotton may pill. Commonly found in cotton, bamboo and other rayons, hemp, silk, wool, linen, ramie, natural fiber blends, and blends of natural and synthetic fibers. It's starting to show up in microfiber as microfiber jersey sheets, which may or may not be absorbent enough for diaper use and is not recommended to be used next to the skin because of how drying it can be. 

  • Double and single loop terry - medium to heavy woven or light to medium knit. Double loop terry has loops on both sides, and single loop has loops on one side and the other side is smooth. Works well with a Snappi or Boingos. The loops allow for faster absorption, but add bulk, so loop terry does not hold as much for the thickness as a smoother material. Commonly found in cotton, bamboo rayon, hemp blends, microfiber, and less commonly found in linen. Microfiber terry is not recommended to be used next to the skin because of how drying it can be.

  • Flannel - light to medium weight woven with a brushed nap on one or both sides. The brushed surface is prone to pilling. The light, "quilting" weight cotton flannel is the most common and takes a lot of layers to reach the needed absorbency. Diaper flannel and a lot of bedding is a heavier weight. May be more cost effective if upcycled than bought as yardage. Commonly found in cotton, bamboo rayon, wool, blends with synthetics, and rarely in hemp blends.

  • Birdseye and other twills - light to heavy weight wovens with a diagonal or diamond shaped texture. Includes most diaper gauze. Usually works well with a Snappi or Boingos, but prone to snags where a thread or a few threads pull up a loop in the fabric. Traditional flat and prefold material. Commonly found in cotton, bamboo and other rayons, hemp, linen, wool, silk, and blends.

  • Thermal knit or waffle weave - medium to heavy weight woven or knit with a pronounced square/pyramid texture. The knit is stretchy, and the woven often has a small amount of mechanical stretch after prewashing. Works wells with a Snappi or Boingo. Functions much like loop terry, with the same bulk problems. Commonly found in cotton, bamboo and other rayon blends, blends with synthetics, and occasionally hemp or linen.

  • Composite materials - can be any weight and are usually nonwoven/fused. The most common, Zorb, is light in weight and nonwoven, and should be sandwiched between two sturdier and/or smoother fabrics because the surface is prone to pilling. Zorb 2 is already sandwiched between layers of bamboo rayon. Zorb is made from cellulose and synthetic wicking materials. Other composites may include microfiber, bamboo and other rayons, cotton, or wool components, but are much less common. 

  • Other wovens - can be any weight, and smooth or textured. Commonly found in cotton, linen, or bamboo and other rayons, as well as blends, and include quilting cotton, sheeting, and shirting, all of which are light weight and take a lot of layers to reach the desired absorbency. Wool is also fairly common, but wool wovens are often on the scratchy side. Less common fibers are hemp, ramie, microfiber, and silk, and less common fabrics are canvas, duck, suiting, and jacquards/fancy weaves. 

  • Other knits - can be any weight, and include sweater knits, double knits, and nap/pile fabrics like velour and minky. Sweater and double knits are commonly found in cotton, bamboo and other rayons, ramie, linen, silk, wool, and blends, and less commonly in hemp blends. These usually work well with a Snappi or Boingos. Velour is commonly found in cotton, bamboo and other rayons, and blends. The only absorbent type of minky is made from microfiber, and is currently milled only for Fuzzibunz.
All natural fiber fabrics should be prewashed/preshrunk before cutting unless you know exactly how much the particular fabric you are using will shrink, and are using only one fabric or fabrics that all have the same rate of shrinkage. Looser weaves and knits will generally shrink more than tighter ones. If you want to be able to launder wool with the rest of your diaper laundry, it needs to be rather firmly fulled/felted. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Diaper repair tutorials

Tutorials for replacing elastic or hook & loop, and converting diapers to snaps.

Insert tutorials

Tutorials for making absorbent inserts for pocket diapers, AI2s, and gDiapers. Visit the Fabrics post for all the absorbent material options, including upcycling.

Pocket tutorials

Tutorials for diapers with a waterproof layer and an inner layer, with an opening to put in absorbent inserts.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cover tutorials

Tutorials for making waterproof covers with closures to use over fitteds, flap wraps, prefolds, flats, or inserts if you like. Most are made with PUL, but wool or water resistant poly fleece can be used as well.

AIO (all in one) Tutorials

Tutorials for making diapers that have the waterproof layer and the absorbent material all together in one piece.

AI2 (All-In-Two) tutorials

Tutorials for making diapers that consist of a shell/lined cover and lay-in or snap-in insert. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fitteds, flap wraps, and prefolds Tutorials

Tutorials for making fitteds, prefitteds/prefold fitteds, flap wraps, prefolds, and flats. None of these are waterproof; see the cover tutorials post or the trainers and pull-on covers post.