The diaper inserts in this tutorial can be used with gdiapers, the flip system, or really with almost any diaper cover or system. Several months back, I wanted to make some inserts for gdiapers, and I had the hardest time gathering information. If you're sewing-savvy enough to want to make your own diaper inserts, you can probably figure out how to duplicate gdipe inserts just by looking at them. The hard part is figuring out exactly which materials to use and where to buy them, right? Lucky for you, I've done the legwork and am now going to share all my secrets.
First, lets talk materials.
The term "fleece" can be confusing. Most people think of polar fleece when they hear the term "fleece", but "fleece" can also mean the fabric that sweatshirts are made from. Polar fleece (or blizzard fleece) is made of polyester. It's often used in jackets (like a North Face fleece jacket), blankets, hats, etc. It's lightweight but insulating and pretty inexpensive. It is a synthetic fabric. It does not hold water well, but is very useful to wick water, which is why it's so popular in winter outwear. It does not stand up well to repeated washing and is prone to pilling. "Microfleece" is just a thin version of polar/polyester fleece. Where to buy: most major fabric stores or online. For the micro-size, you might need to buy online.
Sweatshirt fleece (not sure if that is a technical term, but that's what I'm going with) is a knit fabric that can be made of different materials. The term "sweatshirt fleece" refers to the type of knit/weave, not the material from which it is made. This is an important distinction. Three types of sweatshirt fleece I know of are cotton, bamboo, and hemp. It is more expensive (especially the hemp versions). The materials used to make sweatshirt fleece determine whether the fabric is natural or not. Cotton is a natural fiber. Cotton is not naturally antimicrobial, so it is sometimes sprayed with pesticides. Organic cotton is pesticide-free. Hemp is a natural fiber. Hemp is naturally antimicrobial, so it does not require pesticides. Bamboo is actually not a natural fiber even though it sounds natural. Bamboo is a plant, but when bamboo is processed to become a fiber, it is converted to rayon and is no longer a natural fiber. Bamboo the plant grows extremely quickly and does not require pesticides, which is why you hear about bamboo as the hot eco-friendly material. Where to buy: cotton is easier to find in stores. Hemp and bamboo are usually online-only, imported
French terry (or terry cloth) is another type of knit. Again, it refers to the way the cloth is made, not the material it's composed of. This material has tiny loops that enable it to absorb fluid. French terry has one side with loops and one smooth side. Terry cloth has two sides with loops. Bath towels are made from terry cloth, so if you've never seen french terry, you can picture a fabric with one side looking like a bath towel and one side looking like the smooth side of a sweatshirt (i.e. the side that faces out). Terry is usually made from natural fibers (cotton, hemp). Where to buy: cotton is easier to find in stores. Hemp is usually online-only and imported
Microfiber is a synthetic fabric that is very thin and absorbent. I don't have a lot of experience with microfiber, so I won't discuss it at length here, but it is often found in pocket diaper inserts and is not suitable for directly touching baby's skin.
Suedecloth (sometimes "suede cloth" or "alova") is polyester, just like polar fleece. It is brushed (i.e. fluffy/fuzzy) on one side only and shiny/smooth on the other side. It is less expensive and thinner than microfleece. It is also not prone to pilling and holds up well with multiple washings. Where to buy: online
Yes, there are other fabrics out there, but these are the main ones you need to know. For the most effective diaper, you want a "wicking" layer next to baby's bottom and "absorbent" layers under the wicking layer. The wicking layer (commonly polar fleece or suedecloth) pulls the moisture away from the skin, making baby feel dry. The absorbent layer (microfiber, french terry, sweatshirt fleece, etc.) soaks up the fluid once it has passed the wicking layer. Almost all diapers operate on this model (pockets, gdipes, and anything "stay-dry").
If you're trying to exactly duplicate the commercial gdiapers, you'll need white polar fleece (the micro size) and hemp/cotton french terry. You also need a serger, thread, ruler, and scissors or rotary cutter & mat.
Cut 1 layer of microfleece and 2 layers of french terry in these dimensions:
For small gdiapers: 5" by 10.75"
For large gdiapers: 5.75" by 13"
Layer your cut pieces so that the microfleece is on top and the french terry layers are below, loop sides facing down. Using a serger, serge all the way around. The serger trims off a quarter inch or so from each side, reducing the insert down to fit into the gpants. If you're not familiar with a serger, it is a special type of sewing machine that binds off edges and trims the seam allowance as you sew.
If you don't have access to a serger, I've heard of people using a zigzag stitch on a regular sewing machine to make these. I have not tried this myself, so I can't really vouch for it, but you could try it. I'm not sure that the zigzag would stand up to the abusive laundering that diapers are subjected to, but again, I don't have personal experience with it. In that case, you probably want to cut your fabric pieces about 1/2" smaller in each direction and round the corners.
If you want to be extra green, save the trimmings from your serging and use them to stuff crafts, toys, and pillows. They can take the place of polyester stuffing for all kinds of projects! My trimmings came in handy for this project.
If you're feeling adventurous, you might experiment with different fabric combinations, maintaining the model of wicking layer + absorbent layers. I really like suedecloth as a wicking layer over microfleece. It is thinner, less expensive, and holds up better with repeated laundering. I also prefer sweatshirt fleece over french terry for my absorbent layer. I think they are comparable in terms of absorbency, but the fleece is a little nicer to work with. But honestly, they're very similar and usually cost the same, so I do use them both. One thing I do not recommend is using only polar fleece with no absorbent layer. I have tried this, and it doesn't work. It is super inexpensive and easy to find, so it's tempting, but it does not work well. You've been warned. An advantage of making these yourself is that you can customize your inserts for day or night, adding extra absorbency to some of them.
Now the fun part–making them unique and pretty. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to individualize your inserts is to use different thread colors in your serger or use colored fabrics.
Polar fleece, suedecloth, and cotton sweatshirt fabric all come in many different colors. Hemp/bamboo fabrics dye well. You can also add a layer of quilting fabric, cotton print, or flannel print to the bottom. This layer is completely aesthetic. My preferred combo is:
top layer suede cloth
3 layers of hemp/cotton sweatshirt fleece
1 layer of cotton print
I think this is the perfect balance of trimness and absorbency. Make sure your print faces out when you serge so that it will show up on the bottom of your insert.
Ok, now you are totally ready to go make some inserts. Use them for your gdiapers:
Your pocket dipes:
Or in just a plain old cover (or Flip system). They act just like a padfolded prefold.
If you can't sew (or don't want to), I sell them in my Etsy shop! Aren't they cute? You can choose from bamboo or hemp, two different sizes, and lots of adorable patterns. Use coupon code CBM5OFF for 5% off any order. Happy sewing and/or shopping!