Today I want to share with you a diaper cover tutorial for cloth diapers. According to Pubmed, many children still wet their beds at age 5 more than 6 times per year. My daughter A is one of them. Every morning that she wakes up dry, she gets a sticker on the calendar. Last month (February) she got 19 stickers. So far this month, she has 9 stickers. This means she has an accident approximately 1/3 of the time. This month, she was sick for two of those wet nights, and she is on a five day streak right now. I have told her that once she goes a whole week staying dry, she can wear underwear to bed.
A need for diapers
I don’t want to wash her sheets and pajamas 4-5 times a week, so at bedtime I put her in a diaper. Since I use cloth diapers, I need covers that are large enough for her. My older cloth-diapered children all stayed dry at night by 2-2.5 years old, though my second youngest reverted back to bedwetting when Little A was about 6 months old and E was 5. The doctor said E’s new bedwetting (after years of being dry at night) was likely due to Little A’s birth. I did not put him back in diapers, though a couple of times I seriously considered it. I did get him a rubber sheet for his bed, but that just protected his mattress and still meant frequent laundry.
For Little A, I have never gotten her out of diapers at night. When she was 3, I started making her diaper covers myself to save money. I found a couple of patterns online and made up a half dozen or so covers for her. At that point she was still day wetting, too, so we went through them quickly. When she was 4, I found that I could not find cover patterns anymore that were large enough. I finally took her best fitting cover and traced it the best I could, enlarging it a bit to make a larger size. At 5 years old, she has outgrown those, too.
I still cannot find patterns for children her size online. I am sure that not all children her age who still wet the bed use paper diapers, so I don’t understand why I can’t find anything. Therefore, I will, as they say, scratch my own itch.
Making my own
I present to you a tutorial for making a diaper cover for older (early school-age) children. As soon as I figure out how to take my paper pattern and digitize it, I will post it here for you. For now, I have a photo with hopefully relevant measurements so you can draft your own. From there, you can scale up to the size your child needs. In theory, this should work all the way up to adult, for those children who have developmental disabilities.
To make diaper covers, you will need some specialized items. I use PUL fabric for covers. This is a knit fabric that has been treated with a waterproof layer to keep the wetness contained. Only very rarely has it leaked for me, and that was usually when I had a wimpy diaper in it. I bought my fabric at Diapersewingsupplies.com a few years ago. I have no affiliation, but I was very happy with their service and fabric selection. They have everything you need in one place.
The other specialized item you will need is press snaps and the pliers to apply them. Again, I found these at Diaper Sewing Supplies. I chose to invest in the pliers and snaps because even just making the four diapers I originally planned, I broke even pricewise compared to buying similar diaper covers already made. The snaps and pliers are in the Notions section of their store.
I am hoping to get a PDF pattern up soon, but first I need to set up our scanner and learn how to manipulate the images into a useful file for you. For now, here is a photo of what I used. Click on it for larger version at original resolution.
In the future, I think I would trim down the back wings by a couple of inches. These wings are so long that they very nearly meet in the front. This is the size I used for making covers when A was four years old. This time, I made it longer by about 3″ to accommodate her growth.
Cutting the fabric
Since my fabric (bought when I thought we wouldn’t need diapers for more than a couple of months more) was 20″ long, the pattern did not fit on the fabric in whole. I traced around my pattern from the top down to my “lengthen here” line, removed my pattern, and continued the lines straight down for another 2″. Then, I laid the pattern down in a new spot and traced from the bottom up to the same line, removed the pattern, and extended those lines for another 2″. This gave me the 3″ extra length that I wanted, plus a half inch on each side for seam allowance. Having a seam will make leaks more possible, but that is a risk I am willing to take. I was able to get two covers out of one 20″ piece of PUL.
I also traced the ends of the wings in the back to about 4″ to make facings to better secure the snaps. For the front, I traced the entire front panel down about 4″. Here are all my pieces laid out in relation to each other. The back facings point the opposite direction because they will be flipped around and lain wrong sides together with the main piece.
Be sure to transfer your markings using non-piercing methods. I forgot to transfer some of my markings until after the elastic was on, which made it 1000x harder.
The first step was to seam the front and back pieces together with a half inch seam. I did not use any pins during any of this process since pins could damage the waterproof lining. The fewer holes, the better.
Next, attach the facings to the wings and the front sections. These will go on the wrong side of the main piece. Stitch them in place, staying as close to the edge as you can.
Now trim the corners to make it easier to apply the elastic in the next step. I just snipped them off at a 45° angle.
Now we are ready to apply the foldover elastic (FOE). Again, I bought mine at Diaper Sewing Supplies, but JoAnn also carries it. I believe I got the 1″ width. This type of elastic folds down the center, over the edge of the fabric. This part was a little tricky the first time I tried it. First, look for your markings of where you will gather the fabric as opposed to not gathering it. These gathers will be along the back waist, around the legs, and across the front waist. They are marked by lines and asterisks on my pattern.
Begin by stitching the elastic without gathering an inch or two before you will start gathering the back waistband. This will anchor the layers together so that the elastic doesn’t fly forward and hit you in the face or otherwise misbehave.
Trying to explain how to do the gathering was proving difficult, so I asked my husband to hold the camera for me while I made a short video. A video is worth a thousand words.
When you get to the second asterisk (a few inches from the edge of the wing), stop the gathering process and stitch it down with no tension, just as you did to anchor it in the first place. Sew it down all around the wings, going carefully around the corners. When you get to the next asterisk, begin gathering again until you reach the next asterisk, and so on around the whole cover. A few inches before your starting point, cut the elastic long enough to overlap your start point for a half inch or so.
Placement for the snaps is marked on the pattern on the wings with Xs, and on the front with Os. These are the marks I forgot to transfer, so mine are just pencil dots. Since placing the snaps is as permanent as cutting your fabric, always check twice before finalizing them with the pliers. First, poke a hole with your awl. Diaper Sewing Supplies sent an awl with the pliers, even though it isn’t shown in the product picture. I used my own awl in these pictures, though.
Using the awl makes it much easier to put the thumbtack-looking piece in. Poke the spike of the back through the hole. Settle the business side of the snap over the spike. On the wings, the back of the snap should be on the outside of the cover, and the business side of the snap should be on the inside of the cover. If you click on the pictures, you will see which piece you need, as pointed to with the red arrows.
Once you are sure that you have the proper snap pieces, and they are facing the proper direction, clamp them down with the pliers. The pliers will squish the spike and flatten it, which holds it all in place (and renders it unremoveable). My snaps are a mishmash of colors here because I am near the end of my variety stash (the free ones that came with the pliers).
Repeat for both snaps on both wings.
For the front, the spike backs will go on the inside, and the business side will go on the outside. This will allow the snap halves to secure to each other. The pliers will also need more persuasion to get in place to reach the lower snaps.
Congratulations! You now have a diaper cover to keep your child’s bed dry at night. Of course, you will need cloth diapers to go with them, but these are fairly easily found, with cheap quality ones available even at Walmart. In a pinch, a hand towel folded up will work, too. At this age, Little A’s bladder is large enough that I stack two or three diapers at a time in there to soak it all up.