Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eco-PUL color chart

We put together a color chart of our Eco-PUL line from photos of actual fabric swatches. Sometimes it helps to see colors relative to one another. If you want a packet of these swatches to view in real life, they are found here.

Our FOE (foldover elastic) is dyed-to-match our PUL. There's a color chart page that shows what matches throughout the store, including KAM snaps and Touchtape. Sorry, not the PUL prints though...that's a huge project for some other day!

What's a diaper insert and how should I make it?

Diaper inserts are the absorbent part of a cloth diaper. They can also be called soakers. Cloth diapers have gone through a rapid evolution over the last few years, so there are lot of different words for the same thing. It can be really confusing, but there's good reason for all the changes.

The modern cloth diaper of the mid-1990s was often one piece, with the soaker sewn in to the body (the part that fastens around baby). But a one piece diaper was hard to get clean and took a long time to dry. So the soaker became a separate piece...a flap, a petal, or with the invention of the pocket diaper, an insert.

There are lots of different diaper styles today, but no matter what style, it's got to have an absorbent insert. Inserts can lay in, snap in, be tucked under flaps, or stuffed into a pocket opening.

What's the best way to fashion an insert? Here's what I advise:

One: Design your insert so that it is no more than two layers of fabric thick. You can possibly go to three layers thick, but it will take longer to dry. And by fabric, I mean good diaper fabrics like bamboo fleece or hemp fleece. Thin cotton flannel is not going to cut it.

Two: You need at least six total layers in baby's wet zone. Go with eight for a heavy wetter and for overnight. Those of you with super-soaker babies might need even more.

Three: Putting one and two together, and still keeping the diaper trim gives you...
  • A two-layer rectangle that you can fold into thirds. Just like the old cotton prefold, but updated with hemp or bamboo. Why not just use a cotton prefold? Prefolds are usually too long for diaper inserts, while inserts are made to fit into a particular diaper shell perfectly.
  • Or, a long "snake" that folds back upon itself. It can be tacked into position, leaving most of the fabric free to get clean and dry.
  • Plus, do a separate two-layer booster that you can lay into the diaper for naps and overnight, adding extra soaking power only when you need it.
The edges of the insert can be serged, or just straight stitched and left raw. All of the absorbent fabrics (except microfiber terry!) will not ravel. (I do not recommend sewing-and-turning or turn-and-topstitch because that inside seam is going to trap yuckiness and stay damp for a long time.)

If you don't want to draft your own insert, most diaper patterns include an insert pattern.

Will this fabric soak up baby's pee?

Every diaper has to have some absorbent fabric, for the obvious reason, to soak up urine. But people can be unsure whether a fabric will absorb. This is why we classify our fabrics as "stay dry" or "absorbent" - to help you find what you need.

Here's your quick cheat sheet:

If it is an natural fiber, it will absorb.
  • cotton
  • hemp
  • bamboo
  • viscose or rayon
  • combinations of these

If it is a synthetic fiber, it will not absorb.
  • polyester
  • nylon

If there's a rule, there's gotta be an exception, right? Here it is:
microfiber terry - made from synthetic fibers and yet very absorbent

Fabrics - types versus fibers

When we talk about fabric, it can get confusing! There are two things that describe a fabric: how it is made, and what it is made out of.

Take a term such as "fleece". We sell both polyester fleece and hemp fleece. One is absorbent (hemp). The other (polyester) is not meant to absorb, it is meant to do the opposite!

So we need to understand the difference. Let's break it down.

Type of fabric
"Fleece" refers to a fabrication, a way of knitting the fabric. Fleece can be identified as fabric that has a fuzzy side, like a cotton ball or sheep's wool. Some other fabrications we offer are french terry, loop terry, and velour. The fabrication offers you qualities of the fabric such as:
  • thick or thin
  • smooth or fuzzy
  • stretchy or firm
Fabric fiber
A fabrication is different than the type of fiber. Fabric fibers are the plant or material the fabric was made from - hemp, cotton, bamboo, polyester and so on. The fiber offers you properties of the fabric such as:
  • absorbency
  • wicking
  • warmth
  • drying time
  • durability
Here's an example of how the type of fiber can differ: at Diaper Sewing Supplies we carry three different french terries!  Hemp french terry, bamboo french terry, and organic cotton french terry. All of these have the french terry fabrication. Which one you choose depends on the fiber - what you want the fiber to do for you.

Which fabric is best for diaper inserts?

One of the most frequent questions we get asked is...which fabric is best for diaper inserts?

Here's my quick answer:

Organic cotton - Cotton is durable and the long-time standard for cloth diapers. It's easy to get clean, and it can be bleached if needed. Average time to absorb wetness, average time to dry.

Bamboo - Usually blended with organic cotton, bamboo is a delicate fabric. It's virtues are that it absorbs wetness more quickly than cotton. After washing, bamboo is quicker to dry than all-cotton. On the downside, bamboo will show wear more quickly.

Hemp - Looks the least refined, but can really soak. Hemp is slower to absorb than cotton or bamboo but can hold more wetness. It also takes the longest to dry.

Microfiber Terry - Absorbs like the dickens. Takes special care in handling and sewing, but once it's sewn up many people swear by it. Quick to dry. Cannot touch the skin, so must be topped with some other fabric like suedecloth.

We have a lot of different absorbent fabrics, so you can choose what you like best. There is no one perfect fabric!

What would I use?

If I wanted to make a premium diaper, I would use bamboo fleece (sewn smooth sides out), possibly topped with bamboo velour. For an extra-trim diaper, I would go with bamboo french terry. And for an ultra-premium diaper I would choose double loop terry because it doesn't shrink and stays soft even when lined dried. I would know that my inserts might not last several kids if washed a lot, but my bamboo inserts would perform beautifully.

If I had a super soaker kiddo, I would go with hemp fleece or hemp french terry to make separate nap and night boosters. If my baby was a super-super soaker, I would do the entire insert out of hemp or microfiber terry.

If I needed inserts that would last through several kids, and cost was a factor, I would go with organic cotton. I would not have to be picky about rinsing out all the detergent (important for bamboo!) every washing. I could hang the inserts to dry and then finish with a quick fluff in the dryer.

The fantastic thing about sewing for yourself is that you can try different combinations of fabrics.