Fitted diaper tutorial (using a prefold)

July 14, 2008 § 39 Comments

It’s another tutorial, folks. Thanks for hanging in there. Especially those of you that don’t have an interest in these things. I’ll get back to roaming around my brain… when it’s back from holiday.

Today, I’m going to show you how to make a fitted diaper. I went to Joann’s and picked up some cute fabric (see my flickr if you want to see folded up fabric, hehe) and let it sit on the floor of my (ahem) sewing room (aka, computer room, cd room, and other room; soon to be known as pool hall and viewing lounge) for about a week. Before starting a new diaper, I went back to one of the diapers I hadn’t finished and tried to work on it. For some reason, I couldn’t get the elastic on right. I kept sewing a zigzag along the elastic while stretching it out and it just wasn’t doing the trick. Finally, I decided to just use a straight stitch while stretching out the elastic and that seemed to work better. I tried to keep the stitch on top of the seam stitch because I figured the elastic would fold in half and I’d want it to be in line with the seam.

That worked, but then I couldn’t get the casing to work. The casing is just a stitch sewn on the outside of the diaper for a cleaner look. I particularly like this look but made the decision to leave out the casing because it was giving me so much grief (in trying to get it right, I had to rip the seams out several times). So, I’m learning a lot about this process. Plus, the diaper needs a cover so it won’t really matter in the end.

What I wanted to mention was what prompted me to go back to this “trouble diaper”. It was a comment I received from bilingual papi. I was telling him that I was having a hard time finishing this one diaper and he suggested that perhaps I was done with sewing diapers and it was time to move onto another project. That, my friends, was what got me back into sewing diapers. Just the thought that I wouldn’t sew another diaper made me want to sew more. So, thanks. Ok. On to the tutorial.

How to sew a fitted diaper with a prefold as the soaker

What do I need:

Matching (or not) thread

A strong sewing needle to get you through the prefold- I used a 14

Sewing machine (no Serger needed)

flannel cotton fabric

outer fabric of choice (your choice)

elastic (3/8th or 1/4 inch)

1 prefold (flat) infant size diaper

and the regular sewing items and tools (you may want to have a marking pen, but you can also use a pencil or regular pen)

Begin ! (Instructions will precede the accompanying photo)

1. Trace your favorite diaper (mine is now a composite) onto one layer of fabric, adding your desired seam allowance- I added 3/8ths of an inch. As you can see in the photo below, I traced it on the fold so that both sides will be the same. Then, I trace copies (also on the fold) of the other fabric I need. In total, you want 4 layers; 2 of the flannel and 2 of the print. However, you can also just do 1 flannel and 2 print since you’re adding in an entire prefold.

2. Prepare the prefold by cutting the edges off. I cut 1/2 inch off each side so that it would fit better in the diaper.

3. Fold the prefold in thirds.

4. Flip the tri-folded diaper and place on top of one of your layers of fabric. Pin and sew down (all the way around) with a zigzag stitch. Try to get the zigzag on the prefold without stitching over it and onto the fabric. What I found was that keeping the zigzag on the prefold kept the fabric from pulling in on the sides. The picture shows the pulled version. It still works, but I’m starting to prefer it the other way.

5. Layering the fabric: I put the second layer of my cute print facing up on top of the layer with the prefold sewn onto it. Then I put the two flannel layers, facing down, on top of the prints. Basically, you want to remember that you’ll be turning the whole diaper right side out, so you want the two layers that’ll show to be facing each other and surrounded by the fabric that won’t show. (The second photo just shows the two flannel layers facing down.)

6. Pin and sew the layers together, leaving the narrower end open (seen at the bottom of the photo below). This open end is the end that goes in front, when on the baby. I like at 3/8ths seam allowance for some reason.

7. Trim around the diaper (just enough so you don’t have extra bulk), leaving the open end untrimmed. You’ll want the extra fabric for when you sew it together.

8. Fold the diaper in half lengthwise and mark where the elastic will go. The only thing that matters is that the marks be equidistant so that the elastic is even. If you look carefully, you’ll see the lines I’ve drawn to mark where the elastic should go from and to (the purple lines near the corners of the photo).

9. Sewing on the elastic:

Place the elastic just before your first line and, with a straight stitch, backstitch the elastic in place. Now, stretch the elastic (but not completely stretched) and hold it together with the fabric. Keep the elastic stretched out and sew a line through the middle of the elastic. This stitch should be on top of the stitch you sewed when sewing the layers of fabric together. Do the same for the back and the leg openings.

Note: I’ve had problems with elastic and although it’s a pain, I’d recommend you take out the elastic if, after you’re done stitching it to the diaper, it doesn’t stretch. What you can also do is tack down at both ends and then create the leg casing.

UPDATE (April 26, 2011): Here is another tutorial I whipped up with more detailed photos of how to attach the elastic. Hope it’s helpful.

10. Turn your diaper right side out.

11. Take some time to admire your work so far. You’re almost done. The photo below shows the flannel (inner) side. *Notice the opening (at the bottom of the diaper) that you’ll be closing next.

12. Take the open part of the diaper and tuck in about 3/8th of an inch toward the inside of the diaper. (You’ll tuck the print toward the flannel and the flannel toward the print.) Pin it together as you go. Sew together pretty close to the edge. If you sew it further from the edge you run the risk of missing some fabric (which has happened to me) and it takes more time to fix. So, go for about 1/8th of an inch from the edge.

*Decision point: You can, at this point, sew the leg and back casing onto the diaper. One of the three diapers I made out of this combination of fabrics doesn’t have the leg or back casings while the other two do. Below is a picture of the leg casing being sewn. Make sure you pull the diaper (and elastic) fully to sew the casing. I don’t recommend pulling the fabric with just one hand (as seen in this photo). I did this so I could photograph it while it was a little stretched to make a point.

Here’s a photo of how it looks after sewing the leg casing:

13. Measure out how much velcro (the soft side, aka the loop), pin it to the front (the side you just sewed closed) and, using a zigzag stitch at about 1-1/2 width, sew it down. You may have to help the needle get through the thickness of the prefold so be ready to help the wheel turn.

14. Flip your diaper over, measure the amount of velcro (the scratchy side, aka the hook) you want for the tabs, pin them down and, using the same zigzag stitch, sew the velcro in place.

15. Congratulation! You just finished your diaper!

If you have any questions, please let me know. I’m trying to make it really doable to make a diaper at home and want to make these directions as clear as possible. If it works for you, let me know, too.

While typing this tutorial up, I wanted to test it a couple of times so I made a couple more diapers to check to see if the directions made any sense. I hope they do. Here’s a photo of the triplets. The top two have leg and back casings and no velcro. The bottom one has velcro and no leg or back casings:

You’re also getting a preview of the next diaper stash to be sewn up. I’m currently trying to figure out how many diapers I can get out of a yard of fabric. That is, a yard of the print that goes on the outside and a yard of the flannel I sew on the inside.

UPDATE: I added another tutorial in 2011 on how I attach the elastic. You can see it here.


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§ 39 Responses to Fitted diaper tutorial (using a prefold)

  • Judy says:

    Bless your heart! I’ve wanted to make some of the fitted diapers and have not attempted them, because I couldn’t picture the “how-to” in my mind. Your tutorial makes it look so easy I’m going to give it a try. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Leila says:


    I’m so glad you’re gonna give it a try! Let me know how it goes or if you need help or support along the way.

  • Judy says:

    I’ll do that. I’ve got grandkids visiting right now, but after they leave, I’ll give it a try. I subscribed to your blog so I can keep track of you…and what you are doing. πŸ™‚

  • Judy says:

    Hi Leila,

    My grands went home, and I made a diaper. It’s posted on my blog if you would like to check it out. Your tutorial is great! Thanks so much for sharing it.

  • Leila says:

    You are so welcome!

  • I just made one, and can you believe it, as I was sewing the top part of the front, my needle broke! I’m sure a lot of strain when sewing the prefold.

    Very easy directions, and I will post a picture on my blog once I have it finished. I opted to make longer wrap arounds (for lack of better words, hope you know what I mean), so rather than velcro, I will pin it together (have you ever heard of frugal fanny flannels (or something like that) – it will be the same idea). It will make sense once I show a picture – no more time left to do so today though!

    By the way, I have no idea how I found your tutorial, but it was very easy and clear!


  • Leila says:


    I’m so glad the tutorial worked for you! Can’t wait to see your pictures… and I do think I know what you mean about the longer wrap arounds. I’ve left off the velcro on some of the diapers and simply use a snappi.

  • Jai says:

    I just found this site and am so glad! The instructions seem very easy. I have used prefold w/ both of my girls & with getting ready to go back to school, it will be much easier on my hubby and I (and church nursery workers) to make my prefolds into this! Do you think the toddler prefolds will work as well? My youngest is 7 mos. & wears the toddler size and I use the infant prefolds as burp rags…guess I can sacrifice though…hope to get this finished soon!Thanks so much!

  • Leila says:

    I think they would work. Make sure you make the waist tabs long enough so that the diapers will last…I didn’t.

  • Heidi says:

    How long will these take to dry?

    • Leila says:

      In our old non-efficient dryer, it takes an elongated cycle. I also dry them on the heater and outside and it takes a morning doing that. If you want a diaper that takes less time to dry, sew the layers on the outside. You’ve probably seen these kind of diapers. good luck.

  • amanda says:

    Thank you so, so, SO much for this tutorial! This is by far the most helpful thing I’ve found anywhere. I just finished sewing up my very first diaper (sans velcro…gotta go buy some tomorrow) and it looks awesome. I can hardly wait to try it on my babe tomorrow (and to make more)!

  • Jaci Hayden says:

    Did you use a layer to make it waterproof, or will you need to use a diaper cover with it? I used another tutorial today to make the prefolds into a fitted diaper, but I’d love to have some cute ones like these too. Thanks for the great tutorial!

    • Leila says:

      I chose not to go the waterproof route. I actually prefer the wool knit covers to the plastic (PUL) covers. You can always add the PUL layer on the outside. Just join it with one of the outer layers and sew the same as the tute shows. good luck!

  • Hollie says:

    Hi Leila,
    Thanks for your tutorial. I really found it to be user-friendly. I can’t wait to try making one. Did you just make your own pattern? Do you have any measurements by chance? Have you tried sewing microfleece inside to help with the feel of wetness? Thanks

  • Sarah says:

    Cool! I was also wondering about the actual pattern. Do you have measurements?

  • Leila says:

    What I used as a pattern was a diaper that I already owned and made adjustments to. Sorry for the delay in my reply. I’m guessing I intended on posting measurements.

  • Laura says:

    Could you maybe post a pick of how to stretch the elastic?

  • Laura says:

    I meant picture…sorry!

  • Laura says:

    Thanks, you’re awesome! I can’t wait to try this πŸ™‚

    • Leila says:

      I haven’t forgotten about you. I almost have everything. Just stressing about the basement walls leaking water. I’m coming.

      • Laura says:

        No hurry, life happens! But yikes, I hope the leak was caught before much damage?!

      • Leila says:

        It’s been kind of annoying cos nobody wants to fix the holes (yup, multiple) in the wall or the floor until things dry up. Water gushed in during a bad storm in Feb/March and it’s been trickling ever since. Last couple of days we’ve had tons of rain so the gushers are back.

        But I do have my sewing machine upstairs. I’m a hopeful person. πŸ™‚

  • Laura says:

    Wow! I’m so sorry – that’s terrible! But yes, at least the sewing machine is safe! πŸ˜‰ Please don’t worry about the elastic picture, until things are better with your basement walls are taken care of. I can only imagine how stressful that is. 😦

  • […] how I added the elastic into a handmade diaper. I wrote up a tutorial a couple of years ago titled Fitted diaper tutorial which shows you how to convert a flat diaper into a fitted diaper. This tutorial left out some of […]

  • ioana says:

    Where can I buy prefold?

    Thank you for understanding.

  • ioana says:

    Do you know any store that sells absorbent material?

  • ioana says:

    Do you know any store in Romania that sells absorbent material?

  • Leila says:

    I’m not sure about places in Romania that sell. Sorry for my lack of knowledge beyond the U.S.A. is a site I found online that is based in UK. Would they ship to Romania? If you find someone in Romania, please leave a link in the comments. You never know who might benefit from this information. πŸ™‚

  • ioana says:

    ok, thank you.

  • Dave T says:

    Just a quick comment. I sew fitted cloth diapers myself, and your design is basically just like mine with a very small, but to me important step. I usually sew a matching loop velcro right next to the hook velcro for laundry tabs. That way your velcro won’t attach to each other in the washer and dryer. It extends the life of the velcro and the diaper, and you don’t have to rip the diapers apart after they come out of the dryer.

    Also, be sure to leave allowances for additional shrinkage. I found that even doing two pre-shrink washings, the diapers will still shrink enough that if I don’t leave a good allowance that after a few washings the back tabs have a hard time reaching the front loop velcro.

    I’ve been making both adult and baby cloth diapers for about a year now, , and the whole design works equally well for both. Great tutorial…I used one similar when I started sewing cloth diapers….never realized how easy it is to sew your own.

  • […] For her full fitted diaper tutorial, click here. […]

  • Diane says:

    Just made your diaper. Love it. Here’s a pattern I used. Just print it off. In case someone doesn’t want to take a diaper apart to trace it.

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