Sunday, August 14, 2011

The No-Sew T-shirt Diaper

Awhile back I read a few articles/blog posts about creating an ultra-cheap diaper stash from things you got at the second-hand store. These articles inspired me to start making my own diapers out of second-hand T-shirts, and if you've been following my blog you'd know that I've made 5 fitted diapers from various colours of T-shirts. While I do like the diapers there are a few things about the process that's recently discouraged me from making more (see 'Diaper Discouraged').

One of the discouraging factors is that I'm a flat and prefold girl. I have yet to find a fitted diaper that fits my daughter the way I want it to, and I much prefer the modularity (if you will) of prefold and especially flat diapers. Since I still had a number of untouched used T-shirts left, I decided to try my hand at making some flat diapers out of them.

I pulled out all the T-shirts and I realised one thing off the bat - I didn't want to make anything that was only one layer of jersey. I have one T-shirt that's a men's XXL that measures about 24" x 29" (!!) that would be a good candidate for two flats, but after working with jersey for a few weeks now I've come to realise that even the thickest jersey is troublesome in only one layer. If you overlock or even just zigzag the edges the needle has the tendency to chew up the fabric (even though I'm using a ball-point needle), making it weaker.

All right, I said to myself, it will have to be 2 layers. I did some more measuring and calculating and decided that any 2-layer 'flat' jersey diaper would have to be at least 15" wide - that's a comfortable width for pinning/Snappi-ing something around my 2-year-old's waist. It could be a few inches wider, but not too many, because then you'd get something way too bulky when folded up. It would also have to be at least 24" long - that would give enough overlap so that you could fold the bottom part up about 3/4 of the way or so (I'm using the Diaperbag Fold as my folding guide).

I measured the T-shirts again and figured that the XL and XXL ones were too wide to make a 2-layer flat without cutting some off, but they were too narrow to cut perfectly in half. I hesitate to cut just a portion because it would waste too much fabric, although I suppose I could make a patchwork diaper from all the cut pieces.

I settled on the one men's size medium I had and decided that would be the one to start with. It was too small to make one entire fitted diaper out of so it could be sacrificed to the cause. The shirt was almost 20" in width and about 26" in length. I could have cut off the excess inches from the width, but I did a test fold and figured I could just fold the two sides in a bit, and more fabric = more absorbency so I decided to keep it.

The next step was to remove the sleeves. I tried to fold the diaper up with the sleeves but there was just too much extra fabric and it made the diaper too bulky at the front. I was deciding exactly how to remove the sleeves when I had a thought - instead of cutting the sleeves off and zigzagging the raw edge, why don't I just keep the serged seam that's already there? I, like many people, am inherently lazy and the less I needed to use my sewing machine the better. Plus, cutting the sleeve off in this way has the added benefit of allowing anyone without a sewing machine or sewing skills to make this diaper.

I then had another thought - I was going to make a diaper that required no sewing skills whatsoever - an easy-peasy inexpensive diaper that anyone on a really tight budget could make in less than half an hour.

I took the sleeves off, cutting as close to the serged seam as possible:

There's a little bit of sleeve fabric left, but it'll just fray away in the wash.

I tried folding the diaper up as it was, sans sleeves, but it was still a bit bulky around the shoulder area. If you've ever looked inside a T-shirt you'll notice that there's a strip of fabric sewn over the seams of the shoulders and the back of the neck. This is put in a better-quality T-shirt to make it more comfortable (a bare seam can be a bit scratchy) and also to make those seams lay flat. From all my T-shirt unravelling experience I know that this strip of fabric can be easily removed to reveal the seam underneath:

The ends of the little strip of fabric was serged to the sleeves so I cut it off close to the stitching:

You don't really need to do this step but in my opinion the strip makes a little bulge in the diaper when you fold it up.

So here's the top of the shirt, sans strip:

You could also cut the collar off in the same way I cut the sleeves off (i.e. close to the serged seam) but I don't think it's necessary. I did another test fold and the collar didn't give the diaper any odd bulges so I left it in.

Like I said earlier, I'm using the Diaperbag Fold (the best flat diaper fold EVER). I folded the two sides in just a bit, then folded up the bottom. I guess it's folded about 2/3 of the way:

Fold the two sides in again, splaying out the edges:

As you can see I left the bottom hem of the shirt intact. Now fold the bottom up and the corners in and voila, a diaper!

Here's what it looks like on my 2-year-old daughter:

Not too bulky, it's nice and soft, and the Snappi holds on quite well. I slapped a bummis SWW on her and off she went. I'm also partial to wool covers so I'd use a wool soaker over this diaper as well.

So there you have it! The No-Sew T-Shirt Diaper that anyone can make. All you need is a pair of scissors and a seam ripper (which can be found at any fabric store or even WalMart). I didn't time myself but I think it took less than 30 minutes to make it, the longest bit being removing the strip of fabric at the shoulders. And the shirt cost me all of $1 - I got it during a Goodwill 50%-off sale, which they hold periodically through the year (so really it was $2).

This was a mens medium-sized shirt; like I said I chose it because it had the length I wanted, even if it was a little too wide. This could be considered a One-Size diaper, but in my opinion it would be too bulky on a newborn or small infant. I'd use a ladies small for newborns and a ladies medium for infants.

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