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Insert Hemp Here

bamboo Blog fleece hemp soaker pad

Hemp is a great thing for diapers.  It fact, for us, it became a necessity. I had always used the plain cotton prefold diapers as stuffer inserts for the PUL and micro fleece pocket diapers that I made.  They worked great!  That is, until my daughter hit 12 months old.  Her bladder must have gone through a huge growth spurt and we were springing leaks everywhere.  I panicked and did what I always do when I have a problem that needed answers, I went online and did hours of research.  I came up for air after ordering two yards of hemp fleece.  Ah.  Problem solved. Hemp fabric usually comes 55% hemp and 45% cotton.   The cotton is necessary to keep the material soft and flexible.  Hemp/cotton fabric is 3 times as absorbent as cotton alone, it is more durable and the hemp has natural antibacterial properties.  We love that in diapers!

Click on the photo to be taken to a great website on Hemp and its history.

I am a seamstress.  I have a degree in fashion design. Sewing is what I do.  Yet, I don't often work with knits.  Knits and I have agreed to disagree for some time.  We're getting used to one another now.  The best selection of materials I could find for diaper inserts was a hemp knit fleece.  *Whine!*  To properly work with knits, your sewing machine has to be set properly, you need a special knit machine or you need a serger.  I have a serger, but once a seam is sewn, you've lost seam allowance.  If you need to go back and change something, well, the seam allowance has been neatly wrapped in thread, cut off,  and you're just out of luck.  Seam allowance is the amount of fabric left between the sewn seam and the edge of the fabric.  Wedding dresses often have a good amount built in.  The designers know we're going to be altering, and just might need to let out a dress for a bride that thought she'd drop and extra 15 pounds a month before the wedding.  Or a bride's maid that forgot to mention she was pregnant...sigh... When working with hemp, make sure to preshrink your fabric before working with it.  Run the fabric through a minimum of 4-6 HOT wash cycles and HOT dryer cycles.  More are preferable. Not only are you shrinking the material, you are also stripping out the natural oils that keep the fabric from being absorbent. Here are some pictures of my first attempts with hemp.  I learned a lot.  Mostly, my serger is still my best friend, right next to all my other sewing machines. This was my first attempt to battle my newly acquired hemp stash.  I put two pieces of hemp fleece wrong or fuzzy sides together (the soft fuzziness pills over time, leave the pills on the inside) and encased the edges with strips of scrap flannel.  No fraying and no mess.  Success.  After two years of use, this is what it looked like.  Folded in half, I have four layers of hemp.   My next attempt was to sew the hemp to sweatshirt material.  I found that my hemp got stiff over time and by adding something that stays soft, I had a much nicer insert overall.  Think about your boyfriend's old sweatshirt.  Diaper inserts are also a great time to practice the various settings and stitches on your sewing machine.  This insert was turned and top-stitched on the long edges, then serged on the slightly shorter edges.  I uses a curvy (gasp, I should know the technical name for that stitch, right?) stitch to top-stitch everything in place as well as running a stitch line down the center to make folding in half easier.                   I continued to play with my hemp, as you see here.  This time I encased two layers of hemp between cotton flannel.  Essentially I created a pillowcase or duvet cover for the hemp out of the flannel.  This way, I could avoid turning the edges of the hemp and reduce bulk.  Once inserted into the flannel jacket, I top-stiched everything in place.  It worked well.  Over time the hemp shrunk more and the flannel didn't.  Oh well.              

My last and final attempt was also the best.  It worked perfectly for my needs.  I stuck with this design for the rest of my inserts.


Simple, easy to sew, washes well and dries fast.

This is a single layer of hemp fleece paired up with a single layer of cotton fleece (sweatshirt material).  Two layers of hemp took too long to dry.  One layer by itself didn't offer quite enough for absorbency.  Adding the sweatshirt material was the perfect combination.  It cost a lot less then the hemp, sewed up just like the hemp, dried a little faster than the hemp and kept the over all pad from feeling too stiff.  As you can see here, I went to town with my sewing machine to make sure nothing would fall apart.  Two years later...we're still good.  I used a piece of the sweat shirt material to hem the top and bottom edge of the soaker pad.  Along the lengthwise grain of the fabric, I serged, but you could just as easily use a regular or triple zig-zag stitch. The trick to sewing a knit of any kind is to work with/treat the lengthwise and crosswise grains separately.  The lengthwise grain is not going to stretch as much as the crosswise grain.  You can run a straight or zig-zag stitch up the lengthwise grain without too much puckering.  Hemp usually comes in one continuous tube.  If you stepped into the tube and wore it like a skirt, you would understand the lengthwise grain.  It's the grain that runs the length of the fabric.  From your head to your toes.  Often there will be a selvage edge running the length of your fabric.  That's it.  Say hello to your predictable friend, the lengthwise grain. Now if, while donning your hemp skirt, you stretch the tube in any way, you would have discovered the crosswise grain.  My archnemesis, we meet again.  The crosswise grain of a knit is what allows a size large person to  fit into a size small T-shirt.  It may not look pretty, but it can be done, because it stretches.  A straight seam sewn on a crosswise grain will pop if it is stretch too far.  This is where a serger or your handy zig-zag stitching will come in handy.  Insert annoying accordion sound here here.  Just like playing the instrument known for Polka music, a zig-zag stitch will allow the fabric to stretch and relax...mostly.  It's the mostly part that drives me nuts. A lettuce edge CAN be pretty.  Just not on a soaker pad for a diaper.  Rule number one, DON'T stretch the fabric as you are sewing it!  Here's an additional way to battle the stretch; remember the purple strip of sweatshirt fleece that I sewed across the top and bottom of my favorite soaker pad?  It's not there just to be cute.  It actually acts as a stabilizer to combat the stretch of the crosswise grain.  Just make sure to cut your strips of material from the lengthwise grain or use a woven material like flannel.  You can use a straight stitch to secure the stabilizing strip and then go over the edges with a zig-zag to prevent fraying.  I didn't bother to turn under the strip, it would have added too much bulk.  Remember that the lengthwise grain of the strip will not fray too much, so you're good.  If you have any doubt, take a look at the photos from a heavily used soaker pad. I can't believe I'm showing pictures of something my daughter peed on daily for two years.  Perhaps I'll save them for her first date! Of course...I made these years ago, before I found bamboo...Oh Bamboo, how I love thee.  We'll save that for another day.

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  • Leatrix on

    Knocked my socks off with knowledge!

  • Nikki on

    Very cool! Thanks! I have some hemp fleece, microchamois and hemp jersey waiting for me to make into inserts and nursing pads. One of these days, I’d love to meet you, bring along my serger and material and perhaps you can show me (I’m definitely a kinesthetic learner!) I’d love to come to the playdate, but I can’t yet…van issues and tight budget.

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