Hemp Diaper Inserts

Planning to use cloth diapers for your baby? In order to avoid lots of leaks and unecessary stress, you'll need to invest in good quality inserts. Our cloth diapers came with one microfiber insert and it alone does not hold very much urine at all! A friend recommended hemp because of its high absorbancy and after a little research, we bought some and have been very pleased. 

I decided to sew my own hemp inserts because I've seen store-bought hemp inserts range from $5.00-$10.00/insert. At night we use two hemp inserts and two microfiber inserts in one diaper, so that could get very expensive to buy them pre-made! Ryan was able to find "Hemp Natural French Terry" fabric here for $10.95/yard and I was able to make about 11 two-layer inserts/yard. That comes out to less than $1.00/insert--yes, please! Their website has a lot of great information about their hemp and how to make them, so check it out.   

This is what my hemp looked like straight from the package in the mail.

I ordered two yards of material {72 inches} and the KidsintheGarden website was very correct, after washing and drying it on high heat, it shrunk to 62 inches, which is about 14% {their site says it is natural and expected to shrink up to 15%}. Because hemp is a natural fiber, versus man-made or synthetic, it will release natural oils in the first wash. You don't want these natural oils to get on your diapers or synthetic fibers {microfiber, microfleece or suedecloth} because it can cause them to repel moisture {remember, we want our diapers to absorb moisture!}. Therefore, you will want to "prep" your hemp fabric before cutting, sewing or washing with any other materials. I washed my hemp once in hot water and dried it in high heat--that's it, from then on you may just wash your hemp with your other inserts and diapers. I offered some more in-depth care instructions for cloth diapers and inserts here.  

By measuring the width and length of my diapers and microfiber inserts, I figured my ideal hemp insert size would be 14.5"x5.5". I wanted to make sure I was wasting as little material as possible, so I had to do some math--hopefully a visual will help. The hemp that I recieved in the mail measured 62"x59" after washing and drying it. To figure out the highest number of inserts I could get from the amount of fabric I had purchased, I needed to decide which direction to measure my inserts. 

Measuring out the inserts horizontally {diagram on the left} yielded two less diapers than measuring them vertically {diagram on the right}. Keep in mind that I made two-layer inserts, so though I could fit 44 pieces of 14.5"x5.5" hemp, making them two-layers-thick will yield 22 inserts out of the two yards of material I ordered. How I did this without originally having a visual aid was as follows:

59" {divided by} 14.5" = 4.06 inserts
62" {divided by} 14.5" = 4.27 inserts
62" {divided by} 5.5" = 11.2 inserts {this option had the least waste--that's how I knew I needed to draw my inserts vertically}.
59" {divided by} 5.5" = 10.7 inserts 

After you know which direction you will be measuring your inserts, it's time to physically draw out your insert rectangles and start cutting! When I took my hemp out of the dryer, the edges were curled and there were a few wrinkles, so I suggest ironing it before drawing. I tried skipping this step the first time {well, I didn't "skip" it, I hadn't found any tutorials on how to make inserts in the first place, so I was figuring out how to do it on my own!} and I wasn't able to measure as many inserts as I had drawn on my paper--my material wasn't laying flat enough so I was wasting more than I wanted. I cleared a large area on my hardwood floor and started measuring out my rectangles. I used a ball point pen and didn't worry about if it was dark, light or permanent--these inserts are for catching human feces; I would be glad if I saw pen marks at the end of the day instead of poop. 

Hemp is a very soft and stretchy material, so I found it easier to draw all {or at least several rows} of my inserts first and then cut, instead of one by one. I originally used scissors to cut out my rectangles, but my hand hurt so badly half way through, I decided to try an Olfa mat with a rotary cutter. I did have to continuously slide my mat under the material, but in the end it was quicker and less painful. Maybe if I keep running into this problem, I will convince myself I need to shell out the cash for a larger mat like this {swoon!}!

Use an Olfa mat, a metal ruler and a rotary cutter to easily cut hemp material quickly and painlessly.

 Then, just continue measuring and cutting until you have all your insert layers! 

  Next step: sewing! You'll want to take a look at your sewing machine's user manual to see if there is a special foot recommended for very stretchy material. I used an overcasting foot and chose the number 14 stitch option {with my machine, there were only three options while using an overcasting foot}, but chose to make my stitch width 3.5 and my tension 5 in order to make my stiches tighter and closer together. My machine didn't recommend this, but after sewing a few stitches at the recommended settings, I felt like it would not hold together long with multiple, potentially high-heat washes.  

On the left, a regular sewing foot and on the right, an overcasting foot.

Lay your two layers of hemp together--I chose to lay them with the loops in and smooth side out, but I've read that either combination is fine. My husband always says the loops in any material is what holds on to the moisture, so I wanted those loops to be inside, farthest away from my baby's skin as possible.

Then you may start sewing around the edges! I used a variety of thread colors and combinations--have fun with it, if you like! It took me multiple, multiple inserts and many, many mistakes before I felt like I was satisfied with the way my inserts looked--the material is so stretchy! Again, if they look terrible, just remember their reason for existance is to collect feces. I refused to stress about the less pretty ones. I played around with different stitches and also sewed a line of stitching down the middle of a few of them to help keep the layers in place while sewing the outer edges. After sewing a few with a line down the middle, I realized the line really didn't help all that much to keep it in place--the material is just stretchy! In hindsight, it does help in laundering a little, but I'm not sure it helps to the extent that I would take the time to stitch down the middle of all of them again. 

Here is a view of my prettiest to ugliest from left to right. 

I originally tried making square corners, but soon realized it is next to impossible to leave the needle down in the material, lift up the pressor foot and rotate the material, all with an overcasting foot. So, after taking a peek at my microfiber inserts, I started trying to round the corners with the help of my seam ripper to keep the material from bunching up. After several rough-looking inserts, I managed to end up with some decent-looking inserts {matter of opinion, I know!}. My husband helped me record a little video for you to see more clearly how I sewed the corners.


Side Note: Since it has been almost a year since I actually made these inserts {I have been meaning to write this tutorial for quite some time now}, I have had a handful of inserts come unraveled in a few places and have had to hand-stitch the openings closed. I'm not sure if it was because my material wasn't lined up exactly and one layer wasn't sewed from the beginning, if my stitches broke in the washing machine or some other reason. I haven't minded hand-sewing them as I find them, but if you have any other ideas as to why they have come undone, feel free to let me know in the comments below! This is the first time I have ever used an overcasting foot, stretchy material and truthfully I have only sewn about 20 projects before this one, ever. The only reason I felt qualified to actually write a tutorial on how to do this was because I couldn't find any detailed ones for me to learn from--I figured mine had to be better than none! 

Okay, back to the sewing. To finish it off, I continued sewing past the point where I started and made a few back-stiches. With the overcasting foot, I honestly couldn't tell if the back-stitches actually did anything, but I believe it worked because I haven't had any unraveling near the opening/closings of the stitching--maybe I should have made two passes around the entire insert from the get-go. {Maybe I'll do that before we have baby number two!}. 

Lastly, just trim around your edges to round the corners. I can actually still hear my elementary school art teacher saying, "Rooooouuuuuunnnnd the corners, just rooooouuuuuuunnnnddd the corners". You may have had to be there hearing her say it for six years straight to appreciate it like I do. 

And that's it! Your insert should be complete! Did I miss anything? I did almost forget to mention that a certain little girl wanted in on the action sooo badly! 

This made her a little happier--I think her favorite thing in the world is to play with, chew on and lose our Apple TV remote controls. 

We have been using our homemade inserts for over a year now with almost no problems {I mentioned the occassional unraveling, which I hand-sew closed again, or you could make two passes around the entire insert to make it extra secure} and I anticipate being able to use them for all of our future babies as well.

Have any questions? Feel free to comment below!