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Cloth Diapers

How to Replace the Elastic in a Cloth Diaper

If you have read my post on Disposable versus Cloth Diapers, you know the story of me finding 8 free bumGenius All-in-One cloth diapers. Cool! However, they all needed their elastic replaced on the sides, and a few of them also needed the back elastic replaced.

Now, I had never replaced the elastic in anything before. I do own a sewing machine, but don’t let that fool you. I am actually not a great sewer. (“Sewer?’ “Seamstress?” That sounds waaaay too formal for the sort of things I sew.)

So trust me when I say, this is EASY!  You can do this.

Here is what you need:

  • 1/4″ Width Braided Elastic Cord. See my note below. At first I got elastic that did NOT work and had to buy a different kind—no need for you to do the same.
  • A safety pin.
  • A sharp, small pair of scissors.
  • A needle and some polyester thread.
  • (optional) a sewing machine (you CAN do this by hand if you need to).
Left: CORRECT kind of elastic! Right: INCORRECT elastic!

First things first. Make sure to get the right sort of elastic.

The elastic on the left is “braided,” or has really stretchy little cords running through it. This is the type you want. This type has so much more stretch to it than the type on the right. The type on the right is good for face masks but not strong enough for this project. I link to the “good” one above and in the caption.

Use polyester thread instead of cotton so that it doesn’t shrink or do anything weird. (In all honesty, cotton may be fine, I just heard to use polyester for this reason, so I did. I am not a thread expert.)

STEP ONE

Cut slits in your diapers on each end where the elastic will go. Make sure to cut along the INSIDE layer only. (Note: these pictures will show replacing the side elastics, but it’s the same process for the back, and I have pictures of that at the end.)

See where my slits are along the side of this diaper? This pic already shows the elastic through, but ignore that for now. See, the slits are close to the ends of where the existing elastic begins in the diaper. Just cut a small vertical slit on each end. Don’t be scared 🙂

I did NOT remove the old elastic. It won’t hurt anything to stay in there and it’s just one more step to get it out, so I left it!

STEP TWO

After your slits are cut, clip your safety pin to the end of your elastic, and use it to feed the elastic through the opening. No need to cut it first; wait until it is fed all the way through the diaper. It will take a little finagling to get it all the way through but it’s not too bad once you get it started. I found that pushing directly against the bottom end of the safety pin helped it get through faster, rather than trying to push it along by its sides.

Here is my diaper with elastic fed through one side and still attached to the spool.

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STEP THREE

Once the elastic is through, you can cut if off at each end. Leave yourself a little to spare on each end, but you don’t need too much. Do this on both sides, then you are ready to sew!

STEP FOUR

Once your elastic is fed through both sides, you’re ready to sew. You can definitely do these by hand, but I used a machine to make it faster. If you are sewing them by hand just do a tight stitch right across where the elastic enters the slit to secure it, and clip off any extra thread.

Beginning on whichever end feels comfortable to you, line up your machine foot over the area where your elastic enters your slit and stitch across it, using a zig-zag stitch.

Once you have one end of the elastic sewn, you must scrunch up the fabric and pull the elastic as tight as you think it needs to be, using your fingers to hold the other end in place. Use a “good” diaper as a guide, or use your best judgement. For me, this took the longest because I kept second-guessing myself as to how tight it should be, but it turns out my guess was pretty spot on. I would pinch it where I thought I wanted it, and then kind of fold the diaper over to look at it and see if it looked right. If you are uncertain, try ONE diaper on baby for fit before you do more. Once I did a couple, I became much faster at getting it to the right tautness.

Now, while still pinching the elastic at the tautness where you want it, place it under the foot of your machine and press the foot down to hold it in place. Then sew it with a zig-zag stitch the same as your first end.

STEP FIVE

After you repeat this sewing, scrunching, sewing process on both sides of your diaper, just trim off the extra threads and elastic ends…

And you end up with this!

NEED TO REPLACE THE BACK ELASTIC?

No problem! It’s just the same, if not a little easier. Cut your slit where the elastic begins in your back piece, and feed your safety-pinned elastic through as shown.

After you have elastic through them they should have a little hanging out on each end to work with. Here I have four diapers with new elastic fed through the backs and ready to sew. (Look how flabby they are before the new elastic is tightened—sheesh! They are almost completely flat.)

And here’s a before and after of my replaced back elastic. The green is OBVIOUSLY the “before” and the teal is “after,” after I have tightened and trimmed my excess off. Look how much of a difference it made, woo hoo!

I hope this helps a mama out there who needed a little encouragement to replace the elastic in your baby’s cloth diapers. It honestly was not hard! I cut the slits in them, then had my husband feed elastic through, then I sewed them up, and between us it took less than an hour to do all 8. Even if you are working alone, you can totally do a couple of these in one sitting!

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