Prefold Cloth Diapers – a Tutorial!

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We are a cloth diapering family.  There are lots of reasons for this [any of which I could happily discuss with you if you are curious!] … I love not filling landfills with poopy diapers, I love putting cloth on my baby’s bum versus a disposable, and I absolutely L.O.V.E. not having to shell out all that money each month for diapers.

And seriously, how cute is that?

But I’ll be honest, my budget doesn’t allow for me to buy lots of “fancy” cloth diapers – the kind that go on just like a disposable.  And if you haven’t guessed by now reading my blog, I am uber-cheap.  So when my second son was born (and I had two in dipes!), I made a set of prefold diapers.  If you’re not familiar with the term, these would be like the “old school” diapers that our parents or grandparents would have used.

How to make your own Prefold DiapersPrefold diapers are perfect for anyone who wants to try cloth diapering, especially if you are on a budget, because they are SO inexpensive to make yourself.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • flannel (the amount you need will depend on how many diapers you want to make)
    microfiber towels for absorbent insert (you could also use terry cloth) — a used and unloved flannel sheets works GREAT for these! I’ve made many this way, and it’s super budget friendly.
  • sewing supplies
  • microfiber towels like these.  You can also find these in the automotive section of many stores.

1. Prewash your fabric – this is especially important for the microfiber towels.  I’ve found that some of these towels will bleed color, so I always wash them several times on hot.

2. Cut your flannel.  These are the sizes that I found to work for me, but you can easily adjust the sizes to meet your needs.

  • Small (Infant-sized) Prefold: 12.5in. x 21in. — when folded, it should be about 12.5 x 10.5in.
  • Medium Prefold: 14.5in. x 27in. — when folded, it should be about 14.5 x 13.5in.
  • Large Prefold: 16in. x 29in. — when folded, it should be about 16 x 14.5in. [This is the perfect size for my 19 mo. old, until he grows even a little bit]

*There really isn’t a huge difference between the medium and large sizes, so it may not be that important to you to make both sizes.  If you make only the larger size, you can always fold down the front a little.  I like having them be a little more trim and not have too much bulk – especially for the newborn size.  Plus, my microfiber towels are only 16in. long, so my prefolds can’t be longer than that.

You want to make sure that when you fold your fabric, the folded edge is the longer side.

3. Cut the microfiber towels for the absorbent panel.

These inserts should be the length of the folded edge, for example:

  • Large size prefold: 16 x 4.5in. — I use three of these in the large size
  • Medium size prefold: 14 x 4.5 in. — I use three of these in the medium size
  • Small size prefold: 12 x 4in. — I use two of these in the small size

4. Fold the flannel (as shown above), with right sides together.  Sew the longer side together. (I used a serger, but you could also zig-zag with a regular machine)

 5. You will have created a tube – turn that right side out, with the seam in the center.

5. Stack the microfiber pieces together and place them inside the flannel – centered in the middle 

6. Zig-zag stitch along either side of the microfiber.

It will look like this:

7. Serge or zig-zag the short edges, trimming the microfiber insert if necessary.

8. Now go put your baby in your new prefold!

(This is the newborn size… obviously I don’t have a newborn yet, so this baby doll was the next best thing! :)

Note: prefold diapers need a cover. The covers that I used when E was a baby were so good that I never actually used pins. These are just for the photo, so you can see the prefold. If your cover doesn’t seem to get your prefold tight enough, try a Snappi fastener .

Here’s the newborn sized prefold compared to a newborn disposable diaper, just to give you an idea of the size. [When you put it on your baby, it can be tighter and more fitted than this picture looks]

Happy cloth diapering!

If you liked this post, you might also like my tutorial on how to convert velcro diapers to snaps.

Convert Velcro Diapers to Snaps Tutorial

To cover your baby’s fluffy bum, sew up a pair of Bottoms Up Pants – an instant download PDF pattern!



*If you are looking for the different ways to fold a prefold diaper, visit this site for a good resource.*

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    1. Jen, you definitely don’t need a serger to make these! I made my first set without one, and they are still holding up great!

  1. What a great idea. Never heard of it before, and as you don’t have to fold the nappies, they are very easy to put on. Love the idea.

  2. I would love to cloth diaper, but like you I am uber-cheep and when I look at the prices of the cloth diapers or covers I cringe. I’m sure I’ve spent WAY more now on disposable, but I don’t want to commit to a cover unless I know for sure I’ll love it. You said the covers you used were so good. What kind do you use?

    1. I used the Thirsties covers when my guy was an infant, and they were awesome! They really held in those newborn poop blowouts! I did make some wool covers that I used, but those (in my opinion) weren’t as great for prefolds, because they didn’t hold in poop as well. And I didn’t like cleaning that off of the wool covers! I have also used the Econobum covers from Cotton Babies – they are nice too, but not quite as sturdy as the Thirsties. The Econobum, though, are very inexpensive and also can be used for multiple sizes. The Thirsties covers (I didn’t use the Duo – just the regular cover) are sized, but are pretty generous. I used the XS on my nearly 9lb baby for quite awhile. I hope that helps! :)

    2. I have always preferred the prorap classics but you can also look up wool soakers if you want to go that route… plenty of options to buy or diy tutorials.

  3. Ok, I am stoked about this tutorial and I don’t even have a baby, ha. I just keep thinking of all of the adorable flannel prints out there…well, I guess now I’ll know what to do when we do start having kids!

    1. you are so funny! :) i especially love to use upcycled flannel for these. i have some awesome plaid flannel sheets that i’m using to make some for the new baby!22

  4. Thank you! The prefolds are so expensive! I am making some for sure. What is your favorite cover? I need some suggestions. We have used Bummis.

  5. These would also totally work as awesome burp rages… i didnt cloth diaper, but i loved the prefolds as a more absorbent burpy… now i know how to make my own and make them more adorable! :) the regular burpy tutorials i have found dont seem like they would be as absorbent, i love the idea of using the towels… why didnt i think of this?!

  6. Have you found different levels of success with different fabrics for the insert? (like hemp, or cotton?) I assume the tutorial work exactly the same, just switch out the fabric you like best, right? I’ve heard hemp is one of the best, but I know it can be expensive.

  7. Hi Jess! I LOVE this tutorial!
    How many prefolds did you get out of 1 yard of the fabric? Just so I have an idea of how much fabric to get! I’m looking at making 20+ prefolds.. Thank you!! =)

  8. I used cloth back in the day and am planning to make diapers for my first grandie, but I’m wondering how absorbent microfiber would be. Seems like it might be a good lining, to keep baby dry, but not so good for absorbing. ? Has anyone tried it?

    1. I find the microfiber to be very absorbent! Lots of big brand cloth diaper companies use microfiber for their inserts. It doesn’t work well as a lining, because it doesn’t wick the moisture away from baby’s body. Perhaps you’re confusing it with micro fleece?? That would definitely be better as a lining instead of a prefold. I’ve been using these prefolds for years now, and they’ve held up great!

  9. Hi! I am in love with the cheapness! Super excited about how easy they are as well. My questions are.. Do they hold up good? Do you NEED to put a cover over them? Do they leak, like.. ALOT, or ever? I have 2 in diapers and need to find a CHEAP way to go until I get my older one potty trained. Thanks :)

    1. They do hold up very well!! Mine have lasted through three babies! You definitely need a cover – they aren’t made to be waterproof. They absorb a lot, but they will certainly make a mess if you don’t use a cover. But you can make do with only a few covers that you wipe/wash out between uses. I’ve had two in diapers three times, so I know how expensive that is!! These are a great way to do it a little cheaper.

  10. Hello, the flannel prints are so pretty, I was wondering if this idea is adaptable for the elderly, as a bed pad, certainly prettier than plain white.

  11. Great tutorial! I am looking to make some as a gift for a friend who used cloth diapers but needed some new ones for her 8th child. I have the same doll that you have in the picture – a gift from my childhood.

    1. It really depends on your child and their comfort level, and how soiled it gets. I would change baby sooner than that, as prefolds don’t keep the moisture away from baby’s skin. But if baby falls asleep and is wearing a good leak-proof cover, I definitely wouldn’t wake him :)

  12. My goodness gracious! I knew there would have to be something good out there in English, as opposed to Spanish, but this turned out to be magnificent!

    Simply awesome and easy!

    Can you recommend a different fabric instead of flannel? Else, I’ll just use flannel!

    Tania Rdz
    Spanish speaker natively.

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