For a long time I was happy using the bamboo wet wipes I had ordered for my son. They were bio-degradable. There weren’t the same nasties that were found in the off the shelf baby wipes in the supermarket. I found that they weren’t much more expensive. It took me until my son was 10 months old before I clicked. If I was using cloth nappies this whole time, I can make cloth wipes!
At first, I made excuses. It would be too hard to take cloth wipes out when out of the home. There would be too much of an inconvenience. I would be in for a lot of extra work. I wanted to bang my head against my desk when I realised that every excuse was what people usually say about cloth nappies.
What Did I Do?
After an hour at the sewing machine and a butchered flannelette sheet later, I had enough cloth wipes to make the equivalent of one pack of store bought wipes. I chuck them in the wash with the nappies, and they are good to go again!
Ill admit, I know my way around a sewing machine more than your beginner sewer. I’m still determined that even the newest of the new could have success with this.
To begin with, I went the
cheap frugal route. I chose to cut up the odd sized flannelette fabric that I just happened to have in my handy dandy stash. You could definitely cut up a sheet you already have on hand, or pick one up from your local second hand store. The fabric I had on hand ranged from pretty and patterned to plain yellow. In hindsight, I think that using a patterned fabric may be a smarter move. Considering the messes they will be required to clean up and the potential staining that may occur…
The reason I used this fabric was because it is super soft, it absorbs liquid really well and frankly, it was easy to get my hands on. It also rips well, which leads to my first step.
WARNING – This is a super detailed post with steps intended for beginners. If you are an experienced sewer, the short version is: cut out fabric squares and either serge or zig zag the edges. If that description wasn’t enough, please continue!
I used black thread on the top in the photos to make it easier to see. I used white thread for the rest of the wipes, and you can barely even see the stitches against the fabric because of it.
1. You need to decide what size you want to make cloth wipes.
I kept a metal ruler next to me, and used it every time I need to make a cut. You could use a piece of cardboard pre-measured to your required size. It doesn’t need to be exact, the only one who will notice is you. Baby’s bum really aint gonna care if your measurements are off by a centimeter or even two. I made mine about seven inches (yes, not typically a measurement system we use in Australia, but my ruler had both). This size works really well. You can make them whatever size you want.
Start at one end of the sheet (I did this step measuring across the shortest side of the fabric, but it doesn’t really matter), hold your ruler from the edge and snip the fabric with scissors at the measurement point you have decided on. Make it a decent cut, two to three centimeters. Then, with one hand gripping either side of the cut, rip that bad boy right to the end.
As the end of your fabric will be sewn and hemmed, you need to cut the last bit. The edge will be slightly frayed and fluffy – this is what is supposed to happen! You could try and cut this fabric the whole way down instead of ripping it, but then you would have to measure from the edge all along the fabric, lay it on a flat surface, mark a line to cut….yeah, see why I ripped it? It may mean your wipes have a slight variation in size, but I didn’t notice enough to have it matter.
2. You should have a whole lot of really long, 6-inch-something wide fabric strips.
Next, you will do pretty much the same thing along these strips. This time you are cutting out what will be your wipes. Measure from the start of the fabric, snip, rip, and snip again! You may get to the end of the strip and find you either have a really short piece of fabric. It is up to you whether you want to give that baby a home in the pile or put it to the side for another project. By the end of these, you should have a good pile of what are about to become your wipes!
3. Dust off that sewing machine.
Make sure you have it threaded, and that there is a full bobbin. That’s the little wheel thing that goes in the cubby hole spot at the bottom of the machine under the needle. This might seem like it doesn’t really matter, but when you’re doing a huge pile of these, it will. The last thing you want to do is stop and refill the bobbin in the middle of a line. If you’re not sure how to thread your machine or fill your bobbin – Youtube will be your best friend.
4. Set your sewing machine settings.
Use a Zig Zag stitch, on a smaller stitch length. Unless you know what you are doing, DO NOT TOUCH the tension. I never touch mine. If I did, I would end up having to google how to fix it if I did. This is not a setting you should have to worry about.
The reason I chose a Zig Zag stitch on my machine was because my Overlocker (or Serger, for you ‘Mericans) is currently out of order. If someone doesn’t use a sewing machine all that much, I also didn’t expect them to have an Overlocker on hand. If you do, excuse my assumptions! You could almost follow these instructions just using that machine instead.
Zig Zag will help to bind the edge of the fabric without having to do any rolling of a hem. I chose a smaller stitch length because I liked the way it rolled the edges and made it tidy. If you have a play around with it and find you like a longer stitch length, you go for it, you good thing you!
5. Take a deep breath, give yourself a pep talk, and line up the fabric with your needle.
If you’re used to sewing, go ahead and Zig Zag that wipe good and proper. If you are not, it’s ok, we can get through this. Always make sure that at the start and the end of sewing, that you sew a few sitches, hold down reverse and stitch a few, before continuing on. Otherwise, all that hard work will come undone.
The idea is to sew a little in from the edge so the needle zigs out to the edge of the fabric, and back in to get some hold before going back out. If you do it too close to the edge, you might find that the thread you’ve just sewn on actually pulls away from the fabric and the wipe just starts fraying again. Have a bit of practice run to see how far from the edge you want to be.
I will add here a little tip that can often help: if the edge is already hemmed or is the edge of the fabric, you don’t have to do that edge! It’s already done! Look at that, one side done already, you’re on fire. You could, however, use this as a practice edge knowing if you bust it up, it wasn’t going to fray anyway.
6. Sew your corners.
You have a few options when you get to a corner:
- You can try and take the corner and keep sewing. It should result in a rounded corner with a bit of fabric peeking out. This can be good if you just want to keep sewing without stopping.
You can keep sewing till you hit the edge, do a few back and forward stitches, lift the needle and foot, pull the fabric out far enough to cut the thread, and then start from the edge beginning a new line.
I was going to give this as an option. When doing the photos for this post, this option made me frustrated. I got so tangled that I’m not even going to recommend it.
- You could also stop when you get to the edge of the fabric. Leave the needle in the fabric, lift the foot, pivot the fabric so you’re lined up to go again, and put the foot back down. Please, whatever you do, put that foot back down.
It really is up to you as to what works for you, but I would recommend the first or the last one because the second option may end up with you in tears because there are threads getting caught up everywhere.
7. Back it up and sew it again.
Once you’ve got to the end, make sure that you’ve reverse stitched to prevent unraveling. Cut the long threads that are sticking out and sit back and admire your handy work! Told you that you could do this.
I think it is always important to have a go on a scrap piece of fabric (maybe that ugly duckling piece that didn’t make it to the pile). Especially if you’re new to sewing or it has been a while. Once you think you’ve got the hang of it, try it out. I think you might be surprised at how quickly you get the hang of it and how easy it is.
Use the wipes at home, make them for baby shower presents or cloth tissues at home (then you don’t have to feel bad about those trees next time you have a cold!).
There are a lot of recipes online for cloth wipe solutions, so have a bit of a look and find out what you might want to give a go. We store our wipes in a tupper-ware container rescued from the back of a kitchen cupboard and make a mixture up of water (1 Cup), sweet almond oil (1Tbsp), Dr Bronner’s castile soap (1Tbsp) and essential oils. The actual measurements we don’t really measure anymore and it is a bit of a guessing game these days, but we make up enough to cover and fill the wipes. Obviously, if you are worried about a nut allergy or your child has allergies, you will need to find a recipe that meets their requirements. Update: Now that we have two, we literally only use water because of time. We haven’t had an issue at all, and its even cheaper!
If the wipes are too wet, we just squeeze them over the container before we use them. Sometimes we can get to the bottom of the container and there is a lot of water left over, so we will just chuck a few clean cloth wipes that were ready for a new batch in to soak up the water.