Complete Rehab: Giving My Pocket Diapers A Second Life Part 3

If you are just joining us on our bumGenius rehab journey, please start with Part I.

Replacing the hook & loop tabs and laundry tabs.
Usually I first replace the laundry tabs. You don’t have to remove the old laundry tabs unless you want to. You can just sew the new ones right over the old ones.

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Simply place the new tabs over the old ones, stitch all four sides and then an X across the middle for extra stability.

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The bumGenius repair directions suggests sandwiching the hook and loop pieces with the stretchy tab between them. I found this to be incredibly difficult to do so I developed a method that worked easier for me.

First I sew the loop side of the Hook & Loop (the soft side) onto the diaper. Then I sew the hook side (the abrasive side) to the loop side. This way the abrasive side doesn’t scratch against the throat plate of the sewing machine and the Hook & Loop is much less crooked.

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Finished laundry tabs and Aplix tabs from bumGenius repair kit
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Finished DIY laundry tab and small Touchtape hook & loop replacement tabs
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Finished DIY laundry tab and large Touchtape hook & loop replacement tabs

Stitch closed the ends of the elastic channels where the elastic was replaced, sewing along the stitch holes from the previous stitches.

I like to wait until the end to trim all of the loose threads. (If you leave some loose threads on the inside of the diaper, no one will probably notice as long as you are the one using the diapers and you aren’t giving them away or reselling them).

Other procedures I’ve seen, recommend drying the diapers in the dryer to help seal any small holes in the PUL laminate. This is up to you. There is always a remote possibility of damage to the PUL, but bumGenius diapers (while preferably line dried) are approved for occasion dryer use so the risk of damage is low.

I also added some tabs and a front loop strip on two Grobaby (now Grovia) diapers that were given to me as hand-me-downs as well when the hook stopped sticking to the loop fabric laundry tabs. (These are an older design. I believe some kind of hold back strips were included in the newer version to help prevent this problem.) I was surprised to find how easy this was. Grovia is definitely a higher quality diaper with higher quality PUL that was easier and more pleasant to handle than the bumGenius PUL. If I had it to do over again, I might have considered Grovia a little more.

I’ll say right now that I am a beginning seamstress. I am also a lazy sewer. I get easily frustrated, I struggle to cut in a straight line (even when I use a rotary cutter) and I hate pinning. But I want to learn and I think I have the ability to, if I keep at it.

So that was my very long journey through diaper rehab. I hope my documentation of this process will help you as well.

Complete Rehab: Giving My Pocket Diapers A Second Life Part 2

So now on to the scary part.  Taking the diaper apart. (If you are just joining us, please check out Part I)

First step, remove all of the old hook and loop tabs. Lots of seam ripping, but very doable. Try to avoid snagging the stretchy tabs whenever possible, as it will weaken the diaper. (Don’t worry, I snagged mine a few times, it’s unavoidable sometimes unless you are an expert seam ripper.)

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Second step, this was the big one, open up all the seams (both inside and out) to remove the front loop strip. Start by ripping out the stitches on the front loop itself. Then take out the stitches at the top of the diaper. This will help you to see whether your PUL is already in two convenient pieces of whether you will have to cut it.

IMG_1481This whole process was terrifying. I found a great youtube video that walked me through it. Unfortunately the video didn’t document putting the diapers back together as well as I would have liked so I kind of had to fudge it. Having to cut the PUL on the top edge of the diaper on all the 3.0s and some of the 4.0s scared me. I kept telling myself that at this point I had nothing left to lose. I did cut a lot of them crooked, which made reassembling harder, but I did get better at it as I went along.

Ripping out the top seams and part way down the side seams of 28 diapers was a very long process that I did while watching TV in the evenings over the course of weeks. It was frustrating as it led to lots of loose bits of thread all over my house. This was one point where I was almost ready to pack it in. If you feel that way now, try and persevere. The good part is coming.

Reassembling the Diaper

I found it easier to reassemble the diaper in the following way:

Replace elastic

Attach front loop strip

Reassemble diaper

Sew on new laundry tabs

Attach new hook and loop tabs

Sew the ends of the leg and back elastic channels where elastic was replaced.

Replacing Leg and Back Elastic

The first few times I replaced leg elastic I tried to use the sewing machine. This was a disaster. Finally a friend suggested that I sew the elastic on by hand, using a thimble if needed. I quickly realized that she was right.

The below pictures are of replacing the back elastic, but it works pretty much the same regardless of it you are replacing the back or leg elastic.
Sew the new elastic to the old elastic as close where it is attached as possible.

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Use a seam ripper to pull out just enough stitches to expose the elastic on both ends. Turn the diaper inside out.

IMG_1984 Then cut the old elastic. Secure the detached end of the new elastic to the detached end of the old elastic with a safety pin.

IMG_1985  Pull on the attached end of the old elastic until the safety pin comes through the channel dragging the new elastic. Then remove the safety pin, attach the loose end of the new elastic and then clip off the last of the old elastic.

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Sewing on new front loop strip

This can be scary, but really isn’t so bad. Use the old strip as your model for cutting a new strip of loop. I like to cut mine a little long. If you have as many diapers to replace as I did, I recommend cutting several strips at a time so you have a stack ready.

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I’ve seen demonstrations pinning the elastic on with the pins running in either direction. I used the typical rule and pinned in the short direction. I tried pinning just the ends initially but it led to too much bunching when I tried to sew.

The hardest part of sewing on the new front loop strip is keeping the nylon sheet the goes behind the loop strip from getting sewn into the loop during reattachment. It is a pain, but doable. I’ve had to rip out a few and redo them, but ultimately no permanent harm was done. It might be worth using a safety pin to hold it out of the way. Better one or two holes then a whole row of holes from stitching through the vinyl.

Sewing the Diaper back together

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Restitching the hems on the interior sides (this can be done in several different ways depending on how you choose to do it). Mine had fairly intact creases so I just lined up the fabric, folded it over, and let the presser foot hold it in place while I sewed the sew. It wasn’t the easiest and it definitely led to some crooked seams, but so far it hasn’t affected the functionality of the diapers.

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Then turn the diaper right side out and stitch the side and top seams.

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This image beautifully highlights my crooked top stitching, but the diapers do work, so I guess that’s all that matters.

I debated whether to serge (well, really just zig zag stitch since I don’t own a serger) the inside seams after I top stitched the outside, but it seemed like to created more problems than it prevented.

In Part 3, I’ll cover sewing on new laundry tabs, attach new hook and loop tabs and sewing the ends of the leg and back elastic channels where elastic was replaced. Stay tuned.

Complete Rehab: Giving My Pocket Diapers A Second Life Part I

I’ve written before about replacing hook and loop tabs on my old bumGenius pocket diapers. After my son was born I quickly realized that the elastic on the legs was failing too, even on my new 4.0’s that my daughter had barely used. I was also disappointed to see that while the new 4.0 hooks were stronger, as a result the front loop strip (or landing strip as some cloth diaper mamas call it) was getting bald patches. I also had a stack of hand-me-down 3.0s from a generous friend that all needed new hook & loop and elastic as well. So I decided the time had come for a full blown diaper rehab project.

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This is a picture of what my dining room table has looked like for the past few weeks (OK, months) as I have slowly worked through this project.

With the diapers I already owned (both 3.0 and 4.0) as well as the hand-me-downs, I had 28 bumGenius to repair. Just looking at that number made me want to give up. At first I decided to try and assess each diaper individually, replacing only the elements that needed replacing. But I finally decided that was just going to drive me crazy. So every diaper got new laundry tabs, hook & loop tabs, leg and back elastic and yes, (drum roll please) front loop strip. I lived in terror of ruining my diapers. Would they leak when I was done? What if I stitched them so crookedly that they were unusable and I couldn’t resell them. I reminded myself of a few things.

1. I didn’t buy more than half these diapers, so there wasn’t a large a potential financial loss.

2. The reason I was embarking on this enormous project was that they were already unusable. The hook & loop wasn’t reliable enough to stay closed and the weak elastic was allowing leaks, especially on my skinny boy.

3. Part of why we decided to do cloth diapers was to save money, and that only really works if the diapers get us through as many of our kids as possible. If I did all the repairs, there was a possibility that the diapers would make it onto future children. As they were now, they would be lucky if they followed my son to potty training without failing completely, and that was only because we used them so intermittently.

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Materials needed:

-Three pieces of ¼ inch elastic approximately 4.5 inches in length

-10 inches of 1.5 inch loop for front strip

-Two 2 inch pieces of 1.5 inch loop for laundry tabs (You could also try using loop fabric, but I prefer the same loop you use for the front strip)

-Two hook tabs and two loop tabs, approximately 1.75 inches long and 1 inch high.

-100% polyester thread

-a sewing machine with a ball point needle (While some steps of this project can be done by hand, I think that doing the whole thing would be incredibly cumbersome. The only thing I can see is that maybe sewing by hand might mean not having to take the entire diaper apart to replace the front loop strip, but I still think it would take way more time and effort than using a sewing machine.)

You can use either Touchtape or Aplix, both have advantages and disadvantages. I personally chose Touchtape because it is supposed to be sturdier and last longer. I would love never to do this again. (Though I’m not sure that my diapers would survive another rehab anyway). It is a little stiffer, but I didn’t find it bothersome. My main concern was wear and tear. BumGenius diapers originally come with Aplix and I wasn’t pleased with how that held up so I thought I should try another option.

Where to get materials:

Cotton Babies sells bumGenius repair kits with 3 elastic pieces, laundry tabs and new hook and loop tabs (all aplix). But NOT a front loop strip. This is thought by many reviewers to be a major failing of the repair kit. I think this is mostly due to the fact that replacing the front loop is a big job, one which most people wouldn’t bother with and would sooner buy new diapers. (Honestly, if money were no object, I think I would have given my diapers to a more crafty frugal friend and bought new ones too, but in this case my budget won out over my fear of a large and detailed sewing project).

IMG_1477Initially I bought repair kits for several of my diapers. At $1 a piece if figured it was a worthwhile investment. But when I realized I was going to replace all of the front loop I rethought it a little.

The above amount listed is enough to repair one diaper. If you are doing several, it might be more cost effective to order the materials in bulk, since you need loop from the front of the diaper anyway. I bought large roll of loop 1.5 inch Touchtape from Kids in the Garden. Their shipping was reasonable and prices the cheapest I could find. I also priced their hook and braided elastic, discovered that if I cut my own tabs and elastic I’d save quite a bit over using the bumGenius repair kit.. But if you don’t want to be bothered $1 a repair kit isn’t too bad for the convenience and the nicely rounded tabs.

There are a couple of options when cutting your own tabs. I personally prefer to use 1.5 inch loop for the laundry tabs so that they completely cover the old ones. But cutting my own hook and loop tabs proved to be a little more complicated. I didn’t want to have to purchase more loop in the different size so I purchased 1.5 inch hook and a larger quantity of 1.5 inch loop. (You will need quite a lot more loop than hook if you are replacing the laundry tabs and front strip as well). So I had two options, make my tabs a little taller in height (1.5 inch instead of 1 inch) or a little shorter in length (1.5 inch instead of 1.75 inch).

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Top: bumGenius replacement tabs. Left: smaller DIY tabs. Right: larger DIY tabs.
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Replacement bumGenius tabs

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Smaller DIY replacement tabs

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Larger DIY replacement tabs

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I think I prefer the smaller tabs.

Other companies that sell Aplix and Touchtape for rehabbing or sewing your own diapers are Very Baby, Wazoodle and many others.  Or you could try a local craft store or even a cloth diaper boutique. My experience as been that large chain craft stores don’t carry the quality you need.

Next time, we start the process of rehabbing our diapers and giving them a second life. Be sure to come back for Part 2.

Fleece Sleeper to Baby Doll Diapers: Upcycled Presents for My Daughter

Last week I featured a post about the baby doll carrier that I made my daughter for her birthday. That first project set off two weeks of a sewing frenzy just prior to her birthday. I found this website and was suddenly inspired to attempt a whole baby doll diaper changing set, plus a few baby doll clothes too.
My goal: 1 size 4T fleece sleeper, with holes in the feet +  two pair of old jeans (or really one and a half ) + pink corduroy maternity pants with ruined cuffs = Equals diaper bag, changing pad, wipes and wipe case, doll baby diapers, and basic doll clothes
It was most definitely a tall order, and I only had a two weeks to do it.
I started with the baby doll carrier and followed quickly with the cloth diapers. I found a free and easy pattern. But I modified the instructions slightly.
I used fleece from the sleeper for the outside and scraps from a pair of old cotton shorts (they had a seriously large hole in the crotch and were only saved from the textile recycling for use for household rags).
IMG_1501 I folded each piece of fabric in half before folding it and cutting it as instructed. Since I don’t how to do much more than a basic stitch, that was mostly all I used.
IMG_1500I pinned the two pieces of fabric, right sides facing each other. The fleece had an obvious right side and wrong side and for the cotton knit fabric it didn’t matter. Then I stitched all the way around except for the center of the top back edge.
When finished I turned the diaper inside out and top stitched all the way around the edges. I should probably have done something special to close the opening at the top back edge, but I just folded the fleece down over the exposed edge and stitched it closed. I added two little tiny tabs of velcro and there you have it–two finished doll diapers.
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The diaper bag pattern was easy to follow and while the sewing didn’t take long, but it required some very detailed measuring and cutting which took me quite some time. (Of course anything involving numbers is always harder for me when I have two small children clamoring for my attention and in this case quite literally climbing on my back.) For the outside fabric I used old denim blue jeans and for the inside a cut up pair of pink corduroy maternity pants.  I didn’t have the fusible fleece that was recommended for the pattern so I just decided to go without it. It made the bag more floppy, and a bit more casual-purse like (I think my high school backpack was very similar actually), but still fully functional. It was a little bigger than I imagined so my daughter can actually carry her baby doll around in it when she wants to.
IMG_1633The instructions for the changing pad came from here and it was really almost an afterthought, as I finished it the night before my daughter’s birthday.

I never did get around to finishing the wipes and wipe case (the pieces are mostly cut up I just never sewed them together) and the doll clothes were a complete disaster. My main advice is to follow the patterns carefully. Part of my problem was that I ran out of fabric because I misunderstood the instructions and cut everything all wrong. Hopefully I’ll be attempting the baby doll clothes in the future. For now my daughter is enjoying her diaper bag, changing pad and cloth diapers.

This was definitely one of the more challenging sewing projects that I have attempted, but overall it turned out well.

What new challenging sewing projects have you attempted? Any tips for easy to make baby doll clothes?

Great Beginner Sewing Project: Old Jeans Become Baby Doll Carrier

About a month ago I discovered an adorable tutorial on Simple Mom about how to make your child a carrier for his or her baby doll. I thought it was an adorable idea and wanted to make one for my daughter for her fourth birthday. Problem: I didn’t have much left in the budget for buying her presents.  Solution: an old pair of jeans.
Ages ago I had started a scrap fabric bin for my sewing practice, since I am still a beginning sewer. In that basket were two pairs of my husband’s old jeans that had rips in the crotch or shredded pant cuffs. But one pair ended up being the perfect for this project.
Start with an old pair of jeans, at least 32 inches in length. If you don’t have an old pair of jeans available try a thrift store or garage sale. If you are worried about not having enough fabric because you want to make the project larger, buy the largest size you can find. (A sewing friend of mine said that she goes to the thrift stores and purchases the largest clothing she can find in good condition for the yardage alone, since fabric has become so expensive). My husband’s jeans are 32 X 32 and I had enough for this project plus enough to spare towards another project (more on that later).
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Cut off all seam edges (don’t try to stitch rip and reuse the prehemmed sections, trust me).  Then follow the directions of the tutorial.

You need to cut: 

  • Long straps: 2 pieces that are 3″ x 31″
  • Short straps: 2 pieces that are 3″ x 15″
  • Main: 2 pieces that are 7 3/4″ (top/bottom) x 9 1/4″ (sides), or one piece that is 7 3/4″ x 18 1/2″ (folded in half)

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To make the straps, fold each one in half lengthwise (“hot-dog style”) and press it. Pin along the long side and one short side, then sew a quarter-inch seam down the one long side and one short side.
I am not the best at pressing, Ok, in truth I can’t remember the last time I used an iron. I know it was sometime before my children were born (my oldest is 4).
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In spite of using a rotary cutter and a cutting mat, I am still terrible at cutting in a straight line. Fortunately, this project is very forgiving when it comes to that sort of thing. In fact in some ways it makes a great first sewing project because it is involves basic sewing in straight lines. (Yes, that is a box of cereal in the background, I’m ironing on my kitchen table)

Turn straps inside out. I use a fat, dull knitting needle that I stole from my mom’s stash. Stick the knob end in rather than the pointy in if you use one.

Turning the straps right side out actually took longer than the whole rest of the project combined. I was beginning to regret using denim. I suggest making the straps a little wider if you are using a heavy denim to make this step easier. While the knitting needle was helpful initially I mostly ended up working with my fingernails and had very sore fingers the next day.

Press your straps and top stitch around three sides.

So with my apologies I will admit that I forget to take photos of this oh, so important assembly stage and now that it’s done and my daughter is using it, I can’t exactly take it apart so please refer to the Simple Mom post for detailed pictures. Don’t worry, I’ll wait here.

1. Start here by laying the long straps at the top of the main piece– sticking the unsewn ends out one of the shorter sides just so about a quarter inch sticks out. Gently fold them back towards that same side.

2. Do the same with the short straps– their unsewn ends will stick out a bit at the bottom of each of the long sides of the main piece. Line them up just above the fold or if you used two pieces for the main part, position them about 5/8″ above the bottom. Gently position all the straps so they are going out the top edge of the main piece.

3. Carefully fold over the main piece or lay the second main piece over all the straps (right sides together).

4. Pin where the strap ends are and in-between. Sew along both long sides and along the top just far enough to stitch down the top long straps but leaving an opening where all the straps are sticking out.
Now you’ll be able to magically turn the whole thing rightside out and you should see two long straps sticking out the top and two short straps sticking out the sides. Press, turning under and pinning shut your opening.
Top stitch around the top and put an X through the middle for extra stability.
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This project was great practice for my sewing skills and denim is very forgiving at hiding crooked stitching as well. It won’t fit my daughter for too long, since she is big for her age. But I plan to add some velcro to the end of each corresponding strap so that as she grows the straps won’t need to be tied anymore.
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I give full credit for the italicized portions of this post to Simple Mom where the tutorial was originally posted. This was their idea, and I am providing my own modifications of it and personal experience in this post. Please use their post for more details.

BumGenius the Second Time Around: Using Version 4.0 and Refurbished 3.0’s on My Second Child

One of my favorite diapers to use when we began cloth diapering our first child was the one-size bumGenius 3.0 pocket diaper. We started with one that was givev as a shower gift and within days of our daughter’s birth bought a second one. A month later we added three more to our stash and then when our daughter was three months old we were given a wonderful set of six more that my father-in-law ordered from Kelly’s Closet. Since she was born at eight pounds, we were able to use the diapers on her almost from birth. Mostly it was a good experience. However, after two years of use, the hook and loop was less sticky and the laundry tabs shrunken and virtually non-functional. Right around this time the new bumGenius 4.0 diapers were released and I was torn between buying the new versions to try and repairing my old diapers. I did both.

With new hook and loop, my bumGenius 3.0’s performed practically like new and the new 4.0’s seemed even better than the old version, with improved hook and loop and laundry tabs; and let’s face it, who doesn’t love new cloth diapers? While I did use the new bumGenius diapers on my two year old initially, I can’t speak to their supposed extended size. Now three, my daughter is still less than 35 pounds, the supposed weight limit, but she out grew the rise on these diapers long ago. Now she is tall and skinny for her age, so it is possible that these diapers would do well for a shorter child with more meat on her bones.

When baby number two arrived, weighing over eight pounds at birth, I looked forward to using these one-size pocket diapers immediately. Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get them to fit. The newborn size insert left the diaper feeling saggy. Even double stuffing with a newborn and a one-size insert resulted in leaks. I had gaps in the legs in spite of overlapping velcro tabs all the way in the front which led me to two conclusions. 1: my son was simply too skinny to wear these diapers yet even though he met the minimum weight recommendation. 2: my old bumGenius 3.0’s officially needed new elastic.

I was hugely intimidated by the prospect of replacing the elastic but a few Youtube tutorials made it look easy. Unfortunately it was harder than the talented demonstrators made it look. Stitch ripping is always a tedious process, so that part of the process went as expected. But attaching the new elastic to the leg openings without accidentally sewing the diaper closed proved to be very difficult. It’s hard to center those tiny little strips of elastic under the sewing machine needle without sewing my fingers too. Perhaps a more experienced seamstress would have more success. It took me almost two hours to replace the elastic on one pocket diaper. The newly repaired diaper works very well, though not quite as well as new, but certainly worth the time put in and the cost of the $1 repair kit. However, I haven’t been able to repair my other diapers as quickly as I had hoped because of how long it takes.

Now at just over 12 pounds I’m finally able to regularly use these pocket diapers on my son without leaks. I use one at night with the one-size insert snapped down and a BabyKicks Hemparoo Joey-Bunz Premium insert. Overall, I’ve not been hugely pleased with the bumGenius microfiber inserts. The only really good thing I can say is that when they get nasty, they can be bleached and they do line dry fairly quickly. The sun drying does help keep them from developing smell issues, but discoloration seems to be inevitable regardless.

I’m looking forward to using these diapers with my son and perhaps even with a third child, if I don’t mind repairing the elastic again if needed. Of course, by then, it’s possible that the bumGenius Version 5.0 will have been released and it will be difficult to avoid buying a few of those to try as well.

Replacing Hook & Loop on bumGenius Diapers

I bought Refesher Kits for my bumGenius pocket diapers months ago. At a $1 a piece it seemed a better option than buying more pocket diapers for our next baby. But then the Laundry Tabs, Hook & Loop and elastic just sat in the drawer until I got my new sewing machine for my birthday. Since then I have replaced the Hook & Loop and Laundry Tabs on five out my nine bumGenius that needed repair. It’s been a slow process.

The stitch ripping took much longer than I anticipated. To remove the Hook & Loop from nine diapers took me about two hours.

It was especially hard not to snag the stretchy tabs the Hook & Loop is sewn to. Attaching the laundry tabs actually proved to be the easiest part, though some of mine are crooked. But they work great.

Attaching the new Hook & Loop was harder. First of all, you can’t pin through the Hook & Loop so I had a hard time keeping in straight. My first set was quite crooked. I also succeeded in breaking my first sewing machine needle. Apparently I should have used a larger needle to go through two layers of Hook & Loop. Oops.

I finally discovered a trick which has worked thus far. First I sew the loop side of the Hook & Loop (the soft side) onto the diaper. Then I sew the hook side (the abrasive side) to the loop side. This way the abrasive side doesn’t scatch against the throat plate of the sewing machine and the Hook & Loop is much less crooked. I no longer have to try to sandwich the stretchy tab between two pieces of Hook & Loop while trying to sew straight and prevent sewing my own fingers in the process.

Now if only I could figure out how to replace the loop strip across the front of the diaper. I know that the elastic is far beyond my capabilities, though a replacement set was included with the Hook & Loop. Has anyone else figured out an easy and efficient way to replace the elastic and the “landing strip” without ruining your diapers?