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Cloth Diaper Fabric and Related Terms

Posted by on Jun. 18, 2010 at 8:36 PM
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Fabrics For Diaper Sewing

There are many different materials that are often used in cloth diapering. The fabrics you choose will be largely a matter of personal preference. Different people have different opinions as to what works best for them and their babies. Some people favor all natural materials. Others are concernd about cost. Still others choose materials based on laundering requirements. Even "cuteness" may be the deciding factor for some. We suggest that you read up on the different fabrics, check out what reasons different people have for linking or disliking different things, and then try them out. The only way you`ll know what you like it by testing out the various options.

In our opinion, there are only three hard and fast rules for cloth diaper materials.

1) The body/soaker fabric must be absorbent. Fabrics whilch have a high cotton content (greater than 80% cotton) will work well. Soft-textured, thick fabrics are better-suited to diapering than very thin cottons. Thin cottons will wear out faster. They also require more layers to build up enough bulk for absorbency, creating a stiffer diaper. Cotton flannel, terry cloth, stretch terry cloth, cotton velour, sherpa, birdseye, cotton fleece or french terry are all good choices. Check the fiber content, as some fabrics are available in a variety of blends (ie: velour may be 100% polyester or 80% cotton). Hemp/cotton blends are also excellent as hemp is even more absorbent than cotton and wears very well. Hemp also has some natural antimicrobial properties. Prewash all fabrics (hot wash and dry) at least once before cutting (up to 3-4 times for fabrics such as hemp). Prewashing removes natural oils, sizing, dirt and any chemical pretreatments that may have been applied ot the fabrics. It also preshrinks the fabric so that your finished diapers will not shrink and distort in the laundry. Do NOT ever use fabric softeners on diaper fabrics. These coat the fibers resulting in decreased absorbency.

2) All fabrics must be durable enough to withstand harsh diaper washing conditions. The fabrics listed above usually wear well. Look for good quality fabrics. Very cheap fabrics such as those from dollar discount tables may not hold up well. Most mid-to-higher quality fabrics found in chain fabric stores and even discount stores will make excellent diapers. Another option is to recycle fabric from items such as old flannel sheets, sweatshirts, t-shirts, towels, etc. If using recycled materials, choose articles which are gently worn and be sure to prewash to remove fabric softener residues. If you have materials which show more wear or staining, consider using them as hidden layers or soaker materials on the inside of a diaper.

3) The outer fabric (or cover fabric if fitted diapers are used with separate covers) must be adequately waterproof to contain wetness, even when the diaper/soaker inside is thoroughly weat through. Popular waterproof fabrics include polyurethane laminated fabrics (PUL), Ultrex, Goretex, Procare, some types of polar fleece (windpro and heavyweight fleeces), and wool.

4) Absorbent fabrics may be used for the inner, but will feel wet. Some water-resistant fabrics can be used as a stay-dry inner; thinner fleece works better than thick.

Cloth Diaper Fabric & Related Terms

Birdseye Fabric - A gauzy material. Can be used for the inner material of all diaper sorts and for making prefolds.

 Hemp - Hemp is a course fiber made from the inner bark of the hemp plant. It is becoming increasingly popular for use in diapers because of its durability, absorbency and natural anti-microbial properties.
     If you are using any hemp diapers, inserts, or prefolds, they usually are not pre-washed and should be washed separately from any other diapers and inserts.  Hemp fabric contains natural oils that need to be stripped and may cause problems with your other diapers, inserts, etc. if you wash them together.  For the initial wash, use lots of hot water and a small amount of detergent.  A squirt of dish soap is also a popular way to get the oils out.  After the first wash, just use hot water and no detergent.  It is best to wash hemp 4-5 times before the first use.  It will continue to become more absorbent after each washing.  It is not necessary to separate hemp products after the initial washing cycles.

Hemp French Terry - Made with absorbent hemp which has the feel of soft terry cloth.

Bamboo - A new fabric for the diapering world. It is made from Bamboo trees and is known for is velvety softness and environmental friendliness.

Cotton fleece - This fabric is super soft and comparable to polyester variety, but is made from 100% cotton. Hemp fleece is another popular variety.

Cotton Prefolds - Cotton prefolds will shrink or "quilt up" the first several times you wash them.  They will continue to become softer and more absorbent with the next few washes.

Flannel - A soft, loosely woven twill weave with a slightly napped surface. Fibers tend to be cotton or wool.

(Absorbent unless lanolized) Merino - A type of wool that originates from pure-bread Merino sheep.

Polyester - A manufactured fiber known for crease resistance, quick drying, shape retention in garments, high strength, abrasion resistance and minimum care. Polyester is a fiber easily blended with other fibers. In diapers, polyester can be blended with another material (like cotton) to add more durability.

PUL - Polyurethane Laminate - PUL is fabric with a waterproof laminate applied to the back. This makes for an extremely thin, soft fabric that is waterproof and easy to care for.

Terry Cloth - A typical uncut pile weave fabric. This fabric is formed by using two sets of warp yarns. One set of warp is under very little tension, and when the filling yarns are packed into place, these loose yarns are pushed backward along with the filling yarns, forming loops. Typical uses include towels and robes.

Stretch Knit Terry - A stretchy terry material that is often used for the inner layer of diapers - very absorbent and soft.

(Absorbent unless lanolized) Wool - Probably the oldest of the natural fibers. Most often comes from a variety of sheep, but can also include camel, angora, alpaca, and vicuna. It is spun into a very large variety of weights and fabrics. Its water repelling properties and breathability are what make it popular for use as a diaper cover. It is often lanolized to increase its water repellent properties.

Sherpa - A heavier weight Stretch Knit Terry with one side brushed to be very soft and fleece like.

Suedecloth - Has the appearance of regular suede but is much easier to care for. It does not easily stain and washes beautifully. Suedecloth is commonly used for the interior of diapers due to its ease of care and wickability.

Microfleece - A lightweight, double-sided micro-fiber fleece noted for its outstanding low pill velour face, stretch, and chamois-like softness. It is commonly used for the interior portion of diapers because of its softness.

(Cotton/Bamboo) (Poly) Velour - A medium-weight, closely-woven fabric with a thick pile. It can be made using either a plain weave or a satin weave construction. It resembles velvet, but has a lower cut pile.

Burley Knit Terry - A long looped terry cloth that is extremely popular for use in soaker pads and doublers.

 Windpro - A polar fleece designed to repel wind and water yet retain breathability. It is commonly used to create All-in-One diapers or diaper covers because of its waterproof capabilities. 200 wt. and 300wt. fleece are also used for these purposes.

Zorb  Super absorbent, contains only tangled cellulose fibers from bamboo/cotton/viscose and poly micro fiber. These non-allergenic fibers are non-allergenic, durable and easy to sanitize.

Minkee - a very soft fleece. HERE is a pdf about sewing with minkee-like fabrics.

by on Jun. 18, 2010 at 8:36 PM
Edited by on Dec. 13, 2010 at 4:39 PM
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by on Oct. 24, 2010 at 6:29 PM

I have alot of "flour sack" material that has nothing printed on it, it is very soft, will this vintage material work good for making diapers?

by Jenny on Oct. 24, 2010 at 7:06 PM

Well that depends...I usually hear of flour sacks being made from burlap, but linen was commonly used as well. Burlap would probably not be a good choice for CDs, but linen would be fine.

This seems worth a look:

by on Sep. 17, 2011 at 12:49 PM
What material touches the babies skin?
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