Non-wicking hidden PUL pocket diaper

UPDATE 2/10/16: I highly recommend reinforcing the topstitching with PUL sealing tape (available from Sahara Fabrics, though I’ve never tried this) or a strip of PUL behind the stitching. Even though these diapers work better than those with the outer fabric sewn as a single layer with the PUL, there’s still a little wicking along the stitching. The sealing tape was recommended by someone in a sewing group who’s tried it using this method.

I never thought to make diapers until I had a baby and realized that all these people are buying their first ever sewing machines and diving right into diaper making. I realized they’re actually really easy, and the most intimidating part to me, the snaps, isn’t actually intimidating at all (another Kam Snap win).

I’m not going to give a tutorial on how to put the diaper together. There are plenty there, along with lots of great patterns. I took my favorite features from my daughter’s diapers to create a pattern that fits very well and is also easy to stuff the absorbent inserts into the pocket without risking the insert touching the skin.

One of the most popular questions in diaper making seems to be how to hide the waterproof fabric (called PUL, which is short for polyurethane laminate) with whatever beautiful fabric you want. At first glance, it should be easy – just layer your outer fabric on top of the PUL and treat it as a single cut of fabric. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple! If your inner fabric (usually something stay dry like microfleece so the baby doesn’t feel wet) touches the outer fabric at the leg seams, the outer fabric will draw moisture toward the outside. Clothes will get wet, moms will get frustrated…

To prevent this problem, there are three approaches:

  1. The Chelory method – this method seems to be the most popular. It involves cutting the outer fabric a little thinner than the PUL and then sewing a strip of PUL to the edge. There are lots of tutorials and YouTube videos explaining how to use this method. The downside, in my opinion, is that this method adds an extra seam, seam allowance, and an extra layer of PUL around the legs, which adds a lot more bulk and makes a perfect fit more difficult.
  2. The method I’m going to describe below, which involves cutting the outer fabric a little thinner than the PUL and folding the edge under before just topstitching it on top, like an applique.
  3. Line the inside of the diaper with PUL around the edges, like a brand new pattern floating around recommends. From the reviews I’ve read, this is a great idea, but it’s kinda tricky to sew.

My most recent pocket diaper features an upcycled tshirt outer, a hidden PUL layer, and an athletic wicking jersey (upcycled dri-fit shirt) inner).

Here’s my method, step by step:

1. Cut your fabric pieces out, using whatever pattern you choose. Cut your outer fabric using the same pattern piece as the one for the PUL. *It helps to cut the inner fabric ~1/4″ narrower than the outer fabric. Then, when you sew it all together, the inside won’t fold outward.*

2. Trim about 1/2″ of the outer fabric along the legs.

3. Along the leg openings only, fold the edge under and press, as if you were going to hem it.

4. “Pin” your outer fabric to your PUL. Every time you add a hole to the PUL, you’re risking a leak, so I would recommend using clips. I use alligator clips (like the kind hair bows and flowers attach to).

5. Sew your outer fabric to the PUL, using a ballpoint needle, which slides into the PUL without tearing it. In this step, there’s no seam. You’re just stitching the outer fabric directly to the PUL.

6. Iron on top of your stitches. You want to protect your PUL, so use mid-level heat and cover the PUL so the iron never touches the shiny side directly. This step will seal your stitching holes.

I covered my PUL with the papery stuff that comes with iron-on vinyl
7. Treat your PUL + outer fabric as a single piece in your pattern from this point forward!
Now you just have your two main pieces instead of three!
The rest of the steps should include applying your snaps, assembling the rest of the outside and inside as your pattern recommends (attach the tabs if separate, sew the pocket if it’s not going right along the top of the back, etc.), assembling your diaper and inserting elastics, topstitching around the outside of the diaper, adding snaps to your tabs, and sealing your stitching holes with the iron and in the dryer.
Applying snaps
Rest of the outside and inside assembled
The finished product
Pocket stuffed with a microfiber insert
Back of the diaper
Front of the diaper on the smallest rise
See how the red outer fabric never touches the purple stay dry fabric along the legs?
On the bum!
Once your diaper is finished, you can wash it just like any diapers: two cycles, one with a little bit of detergent to get all the bodily fluids off (so you’re not doing your main wash in poopy water) and another heavy duty wash with what might seem like an excessive amount of detergent to really get them clean. NO EXTRA RINSES. You should never have to bleach your diapers unless your baby gets a yeast rash or if you have to sanitize them after stripping them of mineral build up due to a poor washing routine, but if you do, the outer fabric COULD fade a little bit. Most fabrics are not color-safe like PUL is, so keep that in mind when you select your fabric!
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4 thoughts on “Non-wicking hidden PUL pocket diaper

    1. Sorry I never replied to this comment. I must have missed it. I’ll respond now in case anyone has the same question. I definitely think you could use the same method, you’re basically just topstitching your outer layer onto the PUL. There’s not as big of a risk for wicking since there’s no seam between the layer that touches baby and the outer layer when you make a cover instead of a pocket, but I would still find a way to reinforce the stitching if possible.

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