How To Turn A Wool Sweater Into A Diaper Cover

I haven’t talked a ton about my plans for cloth diapering on the blog just yet (don’t worry a post all about cloth is in the works)…but one of the things I’m most excited for is using Wool as diaper covers…especially at night.

From what I’ve read, wool is apparently like magic. Just to give a brief overview, when you cloth diaper, you usually have a basic cloth diaper, and then add some sort-of cover over that to make the diaper waterproof (fleece, wool, or PUL) – MUCH better than the old ‘plastic pants’ days our parents might remember. You can also get All-In-Ones that have the cloth diaper already sewn into the cover, but we’ll get into all those details in another post.

The great thing about wool is that not only does it keep baby warm in the winter, but it keeps baby cool in the summer! It’s super breathable. Also, it can absorb so so so much moisture, that it usually makes a bullet proof cover for nighttime. Also, as long as the cover no poop escaped onto the cover, you only need to wash the cover every few weeks. Wool is antimicrobial and antibacterial, so just let it air-dry and use it again!

Okay, I’m writing way too much, I’ll get into all the crazy cloth diaper details in a later post. If you’re really anxious to learn more about wool right now, please visit this link at The Eco Friendly Family blog.

For now, I want to share with you how I turned an old Target sweater into a soaker last night! I’ve had this sweater for a while now and have only worn it a few times because I just don’t like it that much. Thought it would be perfect option for trying my hand at making one of these upcycled soakers. Now, you can also make long pants (longies) or shorts (shorties), but I chose just to start with a soaker. I knew it wouldn’t be the cutest thing we own for Baby Crunchy, so we’ll probably mostly use it at night…not so much for going out in public. It’s functional, just not that cute.

If you want to try your hand at this but don’t have any old wool sweaters at home – hit up your local thrift store…usually you can find wool sweaters for a couple bucks! And I promise, I’m no expert sewer, and this was super easy to make.

What you need:

  • 100% wool sweater (or as close to it as possible)…mine was 100% Merino Wool. You can use a blend, but make sure at least 75% is wool.  Don’t use a blend if it has cotton or rayon in it. You could also use fleece and follow this same pattern…fleece works just as well as wool, but DOES need to be washed after every use. (Look for 100% polyester fleece)
  • Thread (polyester preferably as cotton will absorb urine)
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine
  • Ruler or some sort-of measuring device
  • Pins
  • Chalk or other way of marking your fabric
  • Elastic

For the most part, I followed this tutorial and it was super super helpful (Thank you SO much Ashlee)! My sweater was super super thin, so I thought it would be best to sew in a soaker layer in the wet zone. Hopefully this will help to make it thick enough. If you have a thick wool sweater, you can skip that step when you get there. I love pictures when I’m following tutorials…so I took a ton (Sorry!) – hopefully they help. I apologize for the quality, it was night so the lighting wasn’t ideal.

1. Wash your sweater on hot and then dry on high. This helps to felt it up a bit to make it even more bullet proof. This is what my sweater looked like to start.


2. Decide what size you want to make. I followed the guidelines in the tutorial linked above and went for a small. Follow my numbers if you want yours to be a small, otherwise add 1.5 inches for Medium and 3 inches for Large.

3. Mark the middle of the sweater on the bottom. Then, measure 4 inches to the left and 4 inches to the right and mark. Measure up 6 inches from the bottom of the sweater toward the middle and mark.

4. After that, find the exact middle of the body of your sweater. Just measure from the very bottom to the top and divide by two, then measure from left to right and divide by two. Put mark there to mark the center of your sweater. After that, measure 2.5 inches to the left and 2.5 inches to the right and put a mark at each of those spots. I used white chalk to make all these marks. This is what it should look like all marked up:

5. Cut out the shape! Not all the way though!! Don’t cut across the 5 inches at the top as that is your crotch! Also, only cut out ONE layer of just the front of the sweater if that’s what you’re using. I’m terrible at explaining, so just look a the picture below:

6. Fold the part up to the top that you cut out and use it as a pattern to cut the rest out. Just cut along the edge of what you already cut out so you end up with this:

7. If you fold it in half, you can see the shape of your cover already!

8. Here is where I made the sewn in doubler. If you don’t want to do this, just skip to step 15. Note, Baby Crunchy isn’t here yet, so I wasn’t really sure where to put the doubler/how big to make it, so I just went with my gut and did what felt right. I just kind-of eyeballed it to get the measurements. I decided to cut out a big rectangle from the back side of the sweater. You can see from the picture I decided to make it about 8 inches by 13 inches.


9. Fold your piece of fabric in half, the LONG (Tall) way…so now your fabric measures 4 inches by 13 inches.


10. Finally time to sew something! Pick out some thread that you think will match…or not match if you’re like that :) I store everything in mason jars, and my thread is no exception. Again – choose a NON cotton thread.

11. At this point, you could probably just skip to step 12 and sew the doubler into the body of the soaker right now. I don’t know what I was thinking and decided to sew around the doubler first. I also used zig-zag stitches which ended up sorta pulling the material. I think it will be okay, but you live and you learn right? If I had to do it over, I’d probably just sew it right in and use straight stitches. But, I’ll show you what I did.  Here, I sewed around the whole rectangle that was folded in half. I lined up my sewer foot with the edge of the fabric.

12. Now, I opened my soaker that we cut earlier and pinned in the doubler to the WRONG side. You might not have an obvious wrong side, which is fine. Just choose one to be the wrong side and go with it. I just eyeballed where I put it…tried to center it. See how my zig zag stitches are pulling on the fabric? Dumb. Oh well.

13. Sew all the way around the rectangle so that your doubler is now sewn into the cover! To be consistent, I used zig-zag stitches again…probably should have just done straight stitches here, too. I also sewed right on the edge of the doubler.

14. Yay! Now take a look at your work so far. Here’s what the WRONG side looks like. EW look at all that pulling.

Here’s what the RIGHT side looks like. Definitely better. Not perfect, but better. And now I feel WAY better about the thickness/durability of my soaker. Three layers of wool fabric all along the wet zone. Nice.

15. Ooo we’re getting close! Now, fold your soaker back in half along the crotch area RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER. Sew up the sides. But ONLY the sides…not along those diagonal parts because those are the leg holes and need to remain open. Don’t sew across the top either! I did 1/4 inch seam allowance.

16. Now, pull out those sleeves from the sweater and cut off the cuffs. Do this by cutting about 1 inch above the ribbed part. Like this:

17. Now, take one of your cuffs that you just cut off and slide it up by the cover by the leg hole. Make sure the ribbed part of the cuff is point in towards the leg hole. Your cuff will be RIGHT SIDE OUT and your cover will be WRONG SIDE OUT.

18. Slide the cuff INTO the leg hole of your cover until raw edges are lined up. So…the ribbed part will go in first. This means your raw edges of your cuff will be touching your raw edges of your leg hole. Make sense? Here’s what it looks like (can you see how you see 4 raw edges? The cuff is in there, I promise!):

19. Now…to me this was the hardest part, but I’m also no expert sewer. But, I just made baby legs the other day, and it was this exact same process so it was fresh in my brain. Sew AROUND the entire cuff in a circle. Do this twice for extra durability. Just pick a spot to start…put your sewing foot on the inside and sew around the cuff. I lined my sewer foot up with the raw edges…crossed my fingers and started sewing! Again, I used a zig zag stitch, but this time not such a big one. Remember, sew around twice.

If you pull out the cuff after you’re done sewing, this is what it looks like:

20. Do the same thing on the other leg hole/cuff. If you’re curious like me, now is when you’ll want to turn the WHOLE thing right side out so you can see what your soaker looks like so far. Cute! My cuff’s don’t look perfect, but they’ll do.

21. Now it’s time to do the elastic waste. You don’t have to do elastic if you don’t want to…you could do a draw string or something, but I chose elastic because I had some on hand and it seemed easy. I folded over the top 1 inch per the tutorial I was following, but if I did it again I’d probably do 1.5 inches, or even 2. Oh! Before you fold over the top and pin it…be sure to turn your work back to WRONG SIDE OUT. Fold over the top all the way around and pin it.

If you’re anything like me, at around this point (or maybe sooner) you’ll have run out of thread on your bobbin. It never fails…I always underestimate how much I need. So, I had to quickly wind up a new bobbin.

22. Sew around your hem…but STOP before you get all the way around. Leave yourself about an inch so that you can stuff the elastic in there in a minute.

See how I stopped about an inch before reaching where I started?

23. Now, measure out your elastic. Just measure around the circumference of your soaker with either your elastic or a measuring tape. Take that number and subtract 1.5 inches. Mine was 15 inches around, so I cut my elastic to 13.5 inches. Put a safety pin at the end of your elastic so you can slide it through your hem. Once you have the safety pin on, slide it through your hem all the way around…be careful to hold onto the end so it doesn’t end up getting lost in the hem.

24. When you get your elastic all the way through, uickly pin the ends together so you don’t lose them. Then pull a bunch of the elastic out to make it easier to handle and sew the ends together. I just sewed a zig zag stitch back and forth a bunch of times.

25. Let your elastic go back into the hem. Pull and stretch as needed. Once it’s back in there, sew up the one inch of the hem you left open before. Then….turn your whole work right side out….take a deep breath  and start admiring your work! Easy huh?

I actually knit up a soaker a few weeks ago and that took me like 5 days. This took me a couple hours (will probably take less next time since I know what i’m doing now…especially if I don’t sew in the added doubler). TCH couldn’t believe how quickly I was done! He thought it was going to be another project that took days!

I think next time I’ll do the leg cuffs differently and maybe add some decoration. We’ll see.

Questions/Comments/Helpful tips? Leave them below! I’d also love to see pictures of any soakers/longies/shorties you’ve made! I think maybe I’ll hit up Goodwill this week and see if I can find some more wool sweaters.

Don’t forget – if you choose to make one of these out of wool, you’ll need to wash and lanolize before you can use it. Lanolizing helps to make it waterproof — it’s usually a good idea to lanolize 2 or 3 times before the first use. Then you’ll need to lanolize maybe once a month or so (depending on how often you use it). Again, for more info, visit this link for now as my cloth diaper mega series is still in the works!


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Posted on by thecrunchywife

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9 Responses to How To Turn A Wool Sweater Into A Diaper Cover

  1. The Balanced Mama says:

    Does it seem like this turned out to be an appropriate size for a newborn?

  2. thecrunchywife says:

    It's hard to say because I know there will be bulk under the cover from the actual cloth diaper…but I'm thinking it might be a little big for a true newborn. I think my son will grow into it quickly, and I think it will work on a newborn – it'll just be a bit on the big size. If you want it for a true newborn, or you know you have small babies – I'd make it a tad smaller. I'll definitely post an update about how it fits once he's here!

  3. Rachelle says:

    Did you end up using this cover? How did you like it?

    • thecrunchywife says:

      I did! It worked ended up being one of my favorites – I loved that I sewed in so many layers, I think it really helped with absorbency.

  4. Kelsey says:

    I had a question about step 5. You said not to cut the fabric out all the way, meaning not to cut across the part that says 2.5in right? But how are you supposed to get the fabric off? Sorry if this is a dumb question but I am confused by that :)

    • thecrunchywife says:

      Okay….I greatly apologize if my instructions aren’t clear. So, you DO cut out the entire shape from the sweater. What I mean is do not cut so that you have two pieces of diaper. You will have one BIG piece that looks like the image in step six. In step five, after cutting out half, you’ll fold it over and cut out the other half. This is when it will be cut out from the fabric. Look at the image in step six, that should help you see what you’re trying to get. I hope that makes sense. If not, let me know and I will try to better explain myself!

  5. Pingback: Wool Along | Salt of the Earth Urban Farm

  6. natalie says:

    Why do you say to not use a sweater if it has some rayon in it?

  7. Pingback: Home-Sewn Diapers

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