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Thursday, September 22, 2011

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Do It Yourself Pail Liner Project!

So many of us list “saving money” at or near the top of the reasons why we use cloth diapers. How great does it feel to walk right by the diaper aisle at the store and pat yourself on the back for all the money you are NOT throwing away every week? And how many of us have used the money saving argument to win over our husbands to using cloth? So if there is an opportunity to cut costs even more - let’s do it mamas!

What if I told you that you could have a diaper pail liner for less than $4.50? Most pail liners retail somewhere between $15 and $20, depending on the brand. All you need is some VERY basic sewing skills and a few coupons. This project took me maybe an hour, including toddler running around and dog slobbering water bowl drool all over the floor next to me, so if you’re uninterrupted it would take even less time. It’s even an easy enough project that if you’ve never sewn before and can get a buddy to show you the basic ropes of how to operate her machine, you could make this your first experiment! I’ve included lots of pictures to help you out.

Here are the basic details:
* Finished dimensions: 22” wide x 29” tall (copied the measurements from a storebought pail liner I already had.) The elastic at the top edge will draw in the top measurement to 13” (measured across one side, not the whole circle).
* Need to buy: 23” PUL material (the fabric I used came 60” wide), 26” knit elastic, and thread if you don’t already have some laying around. (Note: if you’re new to sewing, just find a sales associate at the fabric store and ask for help finding what you need. It’ll save you some hunting time!)

I bought my supplies at Joann fabric. The PUL is usually $9.99/yard for solid colors ($12.99 for prints), but I used a 40% off coupon, so the 23” of fabric I bought cost $3.83 (doesn’t saving money feel good?? I love paying in the single digits for things!). The elastic is usually $1.29/yard, but again with a 40% off coupon I spent $.58 (I actually love paying less than a dollar for things even more!). That brought the total price of the pail liner to $4.41! Compare that to the $20 that you could spend on buying one already made! (About the coupons - I’m signed up on their mailing list and they send coupons every few weeks.)

So now we come to the how-to part. Use the pictures to follow along and hopefully it will all make sense. :)

Here is a picture of the fabric just as I got it at the store (please excuse aforementioned running-around-toddler). The 23” you purchase is the skinny measurement and the width it comes as is 60”.

Now, fold the bottom up to the top so that there will be no seam on the bottom of the finished bag; just the two sides will be sewn. Now, just in case you get to thinking that I’m a sewing genius, I’ll state for the record that I used an existing store-bought bag to get the general idea of what to do for this project. Case in point - how to do the side seams:

As you can see in this comparison picture (white bag - store bought, green bag - mine), there are two lines of stitching along the side seams. The store bought bag used a serger (special edging machine) to finish the edges, so I improvised with my machine and you see that the results are pretty darn close. Here’s how to do it.

First, sew a regular old straight stitch with a typical 5/8” seam allowance. Start at the bottom fold and sew towards the upper edge. You want to keep the open edges together, but I don’t advise pinning them, because it will puncture the water proofing. Just hold the edges with your hands and go carefully.

After you sew the straight stitch line, go back to the bottom edge and get ready to sew the next line of stitches, which you can see on my machine is listed as stitch 15. Most machines have diagrams of what stitches you can choose, so you should be able to find something comparable on your machine.

Next, I decreased the length of the stitch (vertical dotted line on my machine’s display, next to the number 1.0) to make the zig zag part tighter for a better seal.

Now you’re ready for your next line of stitches! Go patiently at the beginning because this kind of fabric might need some convincing to play nicely at first. Once you get going, it’s fine. Sew approximately 1/4” from your first line of stitches, but not getting too close to the edge of the fabric. I lined up the edge of the fabric with the edge of my presser foot. Again, go patiently and try not to get too close to the edge of the fabric or it will get stuck and make you want to say bad words. Stay away from the edge and no little ears will hear things they shouldn’t. :)

Trim the edge of the fabric down, right next to the line of stitches you just did. This gives you a nicely sealed edge, and strong too!

Now, you’ve got your first side seam! Sit back and admire your skills! Now go make sure the toddler isn’t sticking toys into the outlets. Everyone safe? Ok - next part. Just do the same thing again on the other side: straight stitch at 5/8”, stitch 15 (on my machine) at 1/4”, trim edges. Done! Now to the very last part: the top elastic.

First, a brief note about sewing elastic onto fabric: your elastic is shorter (when not stretched) than your fabric, so you have to stretch it as you sew. Start by anchoring it with a few stitches at the beginning, then hold both edges of the elastic and stretch it as you feed it through the machine. This is the only part of this project that may take a little sewing finesse.

Now, as I mentioned before, you don’t want to pin this fabric because it will puncture the water proofing. So in order to make sure that I was staying on track with stretching my elastic enough, I folded it in half and marked the middle first. That way, I could start at one side seam, then match up the pin with the next side seam, to make sure I wasn’t stretching too much or too little.

So - start at one side seam and lay half the elastic under the fabric. Then fold the other half over the edge to seal it in. You’re going to sew a basic zig zag stitch here because it will stretch with the elastic. Start sewing a few stitches without worrying about stretching the elastic, just to get things anchored. Once you’re comfortably started, pull the bottom elastic out very tight, fold the top of the elastic over the edge of the PUL and pinch it between your finger and thumb. (As you can see from the whiteness on my finger and thumb, you have to do this part nice and tight.) Now feed that section through the machine. You’ll have to do this part in sections like this, since you’re not pinning anything. Helpful tip - it may help you to use your other hand (in my case, my left hand) to gently pull the fabric behind the presser foot, helping to feed it through the machine. This will keep the elastic nice and tight as it goes under the foot.

Use your halfway point mark to match up with your other side seam, and then continue all the way to the beginning point, making sure to leave a little extra on the end for overlap purposes. When you get to the end, go back and forth a few times to really seal it.

You’ve done it! You’ve sewn your own diaper pail liner for $4.41!

I gave you lots of details, trying to be helpful, but I hope it doesn’t sound intimidating - just two side seams and some elastic around the top. That’s all there is to it! If you’re a veteran sewer, this will be a piece of cake. And if you’re a novice sewer, this is a fun excuse to get together with your friend who has a sewing machine and she can help get you started while your kids run around crazy together. :)

Happy Sewing and Happy Savings!


LadyGen said...

Of course! I wish I'd thought of this!

ChellaChella said...

great tutorial! Only, don't you want the shiny side on the inside?

adaynasmile said...

Funny that you posted this! I was just thinking that I needed to go to Joann's to get myself some plain colored pul and make a liner for my trash can/diaper pail. Thanks for the simple how to!

michelle said...

WOW 4 for the price of 1 basically!

Nicole said...

Thanks for this tutorial! I need another diaper pail sized wet bag, but I can never find the color I want in stock. I do have a couple questions:

1) I assume the PUL is facing in, so it's on the inside of the wetbag?

2) Is it really waterproof? I thought the PUL has to be heat-sealed for that? Is there any way to heat-seal it at home? (I'm thinking a hair blower?)

Thanks so much! You've inspired me to make one. :)

Beth @ Sand To Pearl said...

Just a hit, you don't have to do the double stitching along the edges if you don't want to. The PUL will not fray, the double stitching on the purchased bag was just there to make it look a little nicer.

Julia Shober said...

Very nice! Just as a side note, while drying PUL in the dryer can cause damage in the long term, a good hot dry after sewing helps to seal up the holes left behind, preserving the waterproofing. Awesome tutorial! I'll be making a few more of my own to replace the old worn out ones I've got to stop using.

Rebecca said...

Cute! Good advice on watching out for little ears. Nothing brings out the sailor-mouth quite like my sewing machine...

Erika said...

Would it be that much harder to add a zipper? Any tips? I am in the market for a zippered wetbag (the drawstring ones just don't contain the smell well enough for me) and this looks so easy, I was thinking about making one!

I have never sewn a zipper before, though I have basic sewing skills...anyone think it could be done easily?

Jecykah21 said...

Great job!

Manda said...

Fabulous! Thank you for taking the time to do this post! It's great when JoAnn has PUL.

I made my own pail liner, too, just looking at the construction of the one I had bought online. Actually before that, I figured out how to follow a pattern to sew cloth diapers (even though I hadn't sewn anything in over 10 years). Some pictures and information are here:

JenniLoryn said...

You should add what the width of the elastic should be on the list of supplies needed :)