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Three free nappy patterns: A comparison

As nappy nerds will know, there are three popular free patterns for home use online. Like many newbies to the art of making nappies, I wondered which one was best, which would fit my baby and so forth. As the information about these patterns is scattered across fora, and I couldn't find a collation/comparison, I decided to do my own, complete with pictures.

Common opinions about these patterns seem to hold true; the Ottobre pattern is enormous, and the Mamabird much smaller, relative to the size ranges claimed for each nappy.

Test subject:
Maeve is four-and-a-half months old, 8.6kgs and blessed with, um, generous thighs and tumtum. She is a medium in most WAHM and commercial nappies, and a size 0 in clothes (when fitted over big clothie bottom).

The three patterns I used:
Wee Weka S-M-L pattern for fitted nappy, available here.
The Mamabird fitted nappy pattern, available here. I chose to make the Large size due to popular opinion that this nappy runs very small.
The Ottobre fitted nappy pattern, available here. I used the smaller size, as this nappy is considered to run very large.

As I'm a beginner seamstress and lack an overlocker, I made all nappies using the same turn'n'topstitch method with an internal soaker. A good overview of this method can be found here! Each nappy has an outer of pretty quilting cotton, a body layer of hemp, and a flannelette inner. The internal soaker (sewn to the hemp body layer) is constructed of two layers microfibre and a layer of the same hemp. All are fastened with HTH and loop.

With the Wee Weka, I decided not to put the second row of loop on the tummy, thinking that Maeve is so ginormous that surely she wouldn't need it. See photos below - I'll have to add it later.

The first bump I ran into was that none of these patterns fit on a standard "nappy cut" of fabric! See below:

(for these fabrics (50x45cm I think?) I ended up using a pattern of my own devising - based on the Wee Weka, but with a shorter rise and tabs.)

Because I used the same method to sew each nappy, I won't make remarks on the various patterns' clarity of directions or ease of sewing.

Here is a picture of the "raw" nappies (cut, not sewn). Note the difference in rise!

Photographic Analysis
Wee Weka:

Uh oh. See big gappiness?

Shortening the rise (need second row of loop as pattern indicates) fixes the problem.



Nappies side by side:

From left to right: Wee Weka, Mamabird, Ottobre

The Wee Weka, being a multi-sized nappy, definitely needs the second row of loop on the belly, so as not to gape hugely at the legs on a babe of Maeve's size. I generally don't like the look of this kind of thing, so will unpick it when she no longer needs the smaller size. Also, presumably due to the fact it's designed to fit a huge range of babies, the tabs are extremely long, and meet round Maeve's middle. I would imagine a smaller/skinnier babe would need a crossover tab. However, it's a nice trim fit through the crotch, and will fit for ages, even though it's the smallest "looking" nappy.

The Ottobre pattern is HUGE. It's so long in the rise that it well and truly covers Maeve's belly button, and our one-size covers don't fit over it! It's also very big around the legs/high cut over the thighs; we just roadtested it thoroughly with a poo, and it leaked out one leg! It is cut generously through the bottom though, and should come into its own when Maeve grows a little more.

Even though I made the small Ottobre and the large Mamabird, the Ottobre is still bigger!

The Mamabird pattern is quite wide across the front, and as a result isn't as trim through the crotch as the other two patterns. However, it fits best of the three right now, even if it won't last as long. It's also nice and easy to cut out and sew, what with the straight sides!

Of course, the pattern that fits Maeve best is the one I drafted for her - it's based on the Wee Weka though, just with shorter tabs and rise (eliminating the need for that second loop row/fold down at front). For a bigger baby, the Ottobre would work well (love the extra bum room), and if you like multi-size nappies, the Wee Weka is great, from a baby Maeve's size and up. If you want simple and easy, the Mamabird may be the way to go!

An excellent resource for nappy sewing is held at Oz Cloth Nappies. There are links to suppliers, patterns and sewing hints. Enjoy!

EDIT, 21/03/2007: It is now almost a year later. Believe it or not, I am still using one of these nappies! The Wee Weka really came into its own as Maeve grew. The innards of the nappy were designed for a young infant who didn't wee a lot, so I sewed up some microfleece boosters. As I said I would, I added an extra row of loop to the belly, but unpicked it when Maeve no longer needed it. Still is lovely and trim, works fine until a PUL or knitted cover. Occasional near-leaks at the legs though, though never onto cover or clothes, it's just very trim through the crotch. Still my favourite design, and still going strong.

The Mamabird fit for the shortest time, and I wasn't a huge fan of how wide it was across the crotch. But to be fair, I don't think we EVER had a leak or a poo blowout from this nappy. It worked great, just not a cut I prefer, and was very small.

The Ottobre... *shamefaced* This nappy was WAY too big for Maeve when this article was written. She christened it with a poo, which ran EVERYWHERE as the nappy was gappy and loose. I kept it aside to let her grow into it, moved house... and now I can't find it. :( I'd love to try it out and see how it works! If I find it, I'll let you know.

EDIT, 13/03/2008: It is now two years later, and both the Wee Weka and the Ottobre nappy STILL fit. :D Kids really do lengthen and get leaner as they grow; I suppose it's not so amazing, but still. A very versatile couple of patterns indeed!


Apr. 10th, 2006 09:48 am (UTC)
I love the fabric you used for the second one.
Apr. 11th, 2006 08:36 am (UTC)
It's pretty innit? I bought a m of it, so can make some more. :)
Apr. 10th, 2006 10:27 am (UTC)
your baby has the coolest nappies evah! :o)
Apr. 11th, 2006 08:35 am (UTC)
well, the cutest baby in the world needs the best nappies, of course. :P
Apr. 11th, 2006 02:34 am (UTC)
cutest nappies ever! =) (I am a random ozcloth member) ;p

thanks for th comparison btw
Apr. 11th, 2006 08:34 am (UTC)
Hee, thanks. Hope it's useful!
Apr. 11th, 2006 10:06 am (UTC)
Wow! Lucky fashionable Maeve and her natty nappies.
My baby, who is now 21, wore boring white nappies in a triangular fashion, she never wore disposables because she was allergic to something in them, with no colour in sight. She'd have been the bee's knees in nappies like that if I had had even the smallest inclination to sew. :)
Apr. 15th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC)
I was in plain old white terry flats too! Nothing wrong with them, except these modern nappies are quicker to put on, and somewhat prettier. :)
Apr. 11th, 2006 10:39 am (UTC)
(I'm another random OzCloth member) Thank you so much for going to this effort! It's great to see. I've made a Wee Weka but nothing else, so it's great to see how they compare. And I looove your fabrics - what are they exactly?
Apr. 15th, 2006 05:37 pm (UTC)
The outer fabrics are nothing more than quilting cottons! If you check out the quilting section of any Lincraft or Spotlight, you'll see a whole range of patterned and colourful cottons. Even some exciting flannel, too.
Apr. 11th, 2006 02:07 pm (UTC)
Very cool!
Another random Ozclother! LOL

I'm very impressed with your efforts here! I was wondering the same things about the 3 patterns. Been debating what to make. After reading this I think I'll go the wee weka path for the time being but that gapiness is a worry...

Are you going to retest these 3 nappies in 3 months or so and see how they are fitting? Could be an interesting experiment.

Apr. 15th, 2006 05:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Very cool!
The wee weka is really quite a well fitting nappy, if you put that second strip of loop tape. It shortens the rise a lot. It's so trim through the crotch that I wonder how it will fit by the time Maeve's on the bigger size though! That'll be the time to revisit these patterns and compare them, you're right.
Apr. 12th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
Great post Shiv! :D
Apr. 15th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC)
Ta! More pics of your nappy-making shenanigans, I demand it! :D
Jul. 26th, 2006 02:54 am (UTC)
I made the Ottobre nappies for my daughter, I also used the same method as you, I didn't like the way the pattern called for the raw edge to be against her skin. I not only found the pattern to be huge (I have made the pattern in small and large and find they fit 0-12 months and 12-24 months respectively), but I thought the elastic lengths stated lest everything to gappy and resulted in huge amounts of leakies. I put the elastic in where they say to, but instead of cutting to the lenght the pattern suggests I sew the elastic in stretching it to it's greatest extent and then cut it when I have sewn enough in. I have also had to unpick my nappies a couple of times and replace the elastic because I didn't use an elastic suitable to wet conditions, please make sure you buy suitable elastic, swimwear elastic is best and a number of WAHM's sell it on the internet.
Aug. 8th, 2006 10:49 am (UTC)
hi baroque, i saw the link to this lj entry on the Natural Parenting Forum, and am SO glad i did. I'm a visual person and your observation photography answers lots of my questions.

thanks for going to all this effort. I'm in the researching phase, which means i'm a big wuss - ha ha - no really i don't have a sewing machine, so am a little hamstrung, but i do have an overlocker so will try to work out how much of it i could do on the overlocker.

Love your work, love the fabrics you choose, and top marks to your darling bub for being such a terrific nappy model.

If someone like you wrote a book on this topic, i would buy it, cos you make things straightforward and put in lots of structure. I look up free patterns and instructions for cloth nappies online and often just feel bamboozled cos i feel important bits are just inferred or left out. Whereas when i read your stuff, it makes sense and i feel "in the loop".

i really do appreciate someone with a clear head and a good writing style like you.

Would you mind if i "friended" you (cos i have an lj too).

i am bilby1915, pleased to meet you baroque.
Aug. 8th, 2006 01:23 pm (UTC)
Hi! Very pleased to meet you, glad you found this project of mine useful. Enjoy the nappy sewing, I know a lot of people overlock their nappies, but having never done so myself, I don't know if/what parts of the process you need a sewing machine for, I'm afraid! Please feel free to join Oz Cloth Nappies, and ask any questions you may have there, too.

And yes, feel free to friend!
Sep. 9th, 2006 03:37 am (UTC)
I just wanted to say thank you so much for this comparison. My son is a similar age and weight as your daughter - so the information is fantastic for me. I am now about to go and get stuck into the wee weeka pattern and see how we go. Thanks again
Dec. 4th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC)
WOW! That is so useful!!! Thanks!
Your comparison and photo's were all I need to finally get started! I already studied many patterns and printed out all of them but was still a bit in the dark which one I'd do and when they would fit. My first baby had thighs like your Maeve :)), so I might expect more of those to come... In return maybe my site can be of use to you, it holds free sewing patterns for babies up to 18 months. You'll find it at http://babypatterns.atspace.com
Dec. 6th, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you found it useful. Enjoy the nappy-making!
Feb. 18th, 2007 11:53 pm (UTC)
my saviour!
thank you so much!!! i was just about to make the ottobre large for my 4-mo boy who is like your Maeve generously proportioned around the thigh and bum but regular everywhere else. i would have been waiting a long time to put it on him! now i will make the small instead...

Feb. 24th, 2007 11:56 pm (UTC)
Great , Great, great
Thanks a million for taking the time to review all of these patterns. I had all three in front of me,and was trying to decide what to do next. You covered all the issues I came across,and even offered solutions! All the work was done for me. Thanks a million.
Apr. 11th, 2007 01:17 pm (UTC)
GREAT comparison, I really appreciate it! Makes me want to whip up a few Wee Weka's . . .

Maribeth in TX, USA
Aug. 30th, 2007 05:15 am (UTC)
Glad I read this!
So glad I found your comparison. My daughter is very thin and I was thinking of using the Ottobre as it looked like a well fitting pattern for Miss Skinny-pants, especially as it seems higher in the back. (Just to give you an idea, she wears size 1 for length but needs a 00 for girth - she is still in infant sized disposables even though she is just over 8kg and she is 16months old!) Maybe I should just use the Wee Weka and trim it down at the front to a similar shape? I am also thinking of increasing the leg edges (without changing the elastic placement) so that it might catch any leaks (hope that makes sense - I'm on a Tim Tam pack a day addiction and the caffein is going to my head). And just to be really lazy, I've purchaced a Tontine waterproof mattress protector ($50 for a queen) to add between layers (terry side facing in of course) so that I don't need pilchers or any other covers and a tiny bit of extra absorbancy. I have made a nappy in Baby Born doll size, but haven't tried it out yet. I am also going to use wider elastic to really keep the mess in when she is teething.

Have a lovely day, Kerrie :-)
Jan. 31st, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Glad I read this!
Just thought I'd give you an update on the Ottobre - I made a small and it was massive. I altered it in a few places to make it 3" shorter in the rise and it is fantastic. Don't give up on the Ottobre - it just needs to be tweaked. I have tried others and this seems to work well for us as it covers her bottom and is trim in the crotch. I am also now using snaps as she gets the velcro undone easily and it is bulky and hard.

Bub is now 22mths and we haven't bothered with a sposie since. I have now bought bamboo fabric from bubba earth and will make some newies soon as well as some for bub's baby born doll for later use.

Cheers again, Kerrie :-)
Oct. 13th, 2007 02:51 am (UTC)
This is sooooo valuable thanks so much!!! I'm just starting out on the 'making nappies' pathway, and so excited, but also don't want to waste any material, so what to do the best one first!!

I made up a dummy of the weeweka last night, but I find it too long for my little Miss (3.5 months). I know its designed to fold over - but when you fold it, does it stay over? I want it to be trim! Maybe I'll just have to go with fitteds in different sizes then?

Natalie :)
Oct. 23rd, 2007 09:39 am (UTC)
Hi! Sorry, must have missed this comment.

Yes, the foldover does seem to stay down ok when there's a cover over it, but like you, I wasn't all that enamoured of the extra bulk at the tummy. However, if you are able to take out a couple of inches in the rise, you'll find you have a perfectly good, trim nappy! It just might not last as long. However, the shortened wee wekas I made I can actually still JUST squeeze onto Maeve, and she's now almost 2!
Dec. 16th, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC)
So... what pattern would you receommend for a beginning sewer with a baby of unknown size? My last three were on the "large" size (I don't think they're that big, but that's that ppl tell me) but this one could be substantially smaller... maybe... but she could stay cooking and end up "big" like her sibs, too.
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:41 am (UTC)
Thanks for your efforts here! I have just made 5 nappies in the wee weka pattern for my daughter who is only 4.45kg still and was wondering if I should have chosen a different pattern. Im glad to see that they should last through to TT...
I didnt put the fastening tape on, I just use a snappi and fold the front or back down a little to fit better at present. It works fine this way and avoids the need for two rows of tape.
For the fabrics I use a layer of microfleece for the inner, old towells cut up for the soaker and inner and any old cotton or knit fabric which snappis will grab onto. I have make boosters with microfleece tops for later when she is bigger but am wondering if the crotch will be wide enough to handle them?
Apr. 20th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
wee weka...way to go
I've sewed diapers using the wee weka, but added the gusset, and used fold over elastic instead of stitching and turning. The gusset really contains the poop. Even if you make the small wee weka, it still fits for a really long time, over a year for my girl.
Oct. 25th, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
Other patterns
Hello there

I used your reviews to do nappies for my daughter, and it was so useful! I have now put my own list on my website - http://luckysprog.com/?p=814 - have you done any of the others on it? If you have any new nappy stuff I would love to put it on my website / link to it.

Dec. 2nd, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for writing this...I have an almost 18 month old and I wanna make more ( I found some cloth diapers at a second hand store) diapers and LOVE that you wrote this up...I'm gonna try the Ottobre....thanks again!
Mar. 8th, 2010 10:55 am (UTC)
thanks--a million
Merci beaucoup from up here in Brussels! My 5-week-old daughter needs a nappy update from cotton flannel prefolds, and thanks to your thorough research here we're going to go with a Wee Waka made with bamboo terry.
Aug. 15th, 2010 12:36 pm (UTC)
Brilliant comparison
I am just about to make my daughter, who has been in cloth since she was born, a new nappy. Thanks so much for the work you have done, it will make my job a whole lot easier!
Feb. 16th, 2011 01:29 pm (UTC)
Questa è la mia prima visita ho tempo qui. Ho trovato tante cose interessanti nel tuo blog in particolare la sua discussione. Dal tonnellate di commenti sui vostri articoli, credo di non essere l'unico ad avere tutto il divertimento qui! mantenere il buon lavoro.
Samantha Nerf Herder Townsend
Feb. 26th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
I'm bookmarking this post for reference later in my pregancy, thankyou for updating it one year and 2 years in, really useful!

Apr. 23rd, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)
mamabird: link update
The Mamabird nappy/diaper link in the original posting is no longer active.

I have found this one:


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