Today is an open topic day for the Flats Challenge bloggers, and I decided to write a Flats 101 post! Before I started researching for the challenge I didn't know much about flats, and a post like this with all the information in one place would have been so helpful!
What is a flat?A flat is simply a large square of fabric. The edges can be turned and hemmed or can be simply serged, and the size can vary from 27"x27" to 30"x30" or even larger! Most flats are only one layer of fabric, though sometimes you can find some that are two layers in order to have a decorative side. Flats can be made from really any type of absorbent material. Most are cotton, bamboo, hemp, or some combination of those. If you are looking for flats on a budget you can use cotton flour sack towels that can be found at most stores near the kitchen towels for around $1 each, or you can use receiving blankets as flats! You can even upcycle old t-shirts as flats: just take an XL-XXXL 100% cotton t-shirt and cut off the bottom, side, and top seams so that you end up with two large squares that you can use as flats! If you are on a very small budget a great option is to go to a thrift store and look for receiving blankets and t-shirts on a day when the thrift store offers $0.50 items. You could feasibly get a whole stash of 24 flats for as little as $6 - $12 if you found twelve t-shirts for $0.50 - $1 each and cut them to get two flats out of each shirt.
How do you fold a flat?Since a flat is just a large square of fabric, it must be folded into a diaper to place on your baby. The amount of folds you can do is only limited by your imagination! There are many flat folding tutorials available online in both pictorial and video form. I have step by step pictures of four folding options and each one that I list has a link to a video tutorial from Dirty Diaper Laundry.
- First up is the Kite Fold: to do this fold, you first make sure your flat is square. Once it is square, the corners get folded in to make a kite shape. The bottom of the kite folds up to determine the rise height, and the widest part of the kite becomes the diaper's wings. Check out the tutorial to see this in action!
- Next is the Diaper Bag Fold: each side of your flat folds toward the middle, and then the bottom folds up to determine the rise height. Then trifold it like a prefold and fan out the top for wings. Fold the back down slightly to help contain poop, and then put the diaper on baby. Check out the tutorial to see this flat fold.
- This is the Jo Fold: you fold all corners of the flat in toward the middle to make a smaller square and then trifold and fan out the wings. I have found this to be one of the quickest folds and it fastens really nicely onto baby. Check out the video tutorial here.
- Lastly, this is the Origami fold: after you fold the flat in half to make a rectangle, you take one corner and pull it across so that you have a triangle facing you. Then you flip the whole thing over so the triangle is on the backside, and you fold the oblong side in toward the middle to make a thicker pad for the wet zone. This fold is tricky to explain, so definitely watch the video. Once you try it, it is really doable though!
- The other fold that I use often is the Pad Fold. I don't have pictures of this one, as it is pretty basic. Take your flat and fold it in half to make a rectangle. Then, fold it in half again so that you get a square. Then just trifold your square like a prefold and lay it in a cover. This is a great way to pre-load covers to keep in your diaper bag or to send along to Grandma's house. This is also a great way to continue using flats that might be too small to fit on your baby using a "fancier" fold.
- There are a lot of other folds out there and in fact I just found this Master List of Flat Folds the other day. I can't wait to experiment with some new folds! Whenever I am trying a new fold I just remind myself that it really doesn't matter what it looks like as long as it stays on baby and contains messes. Once you get the hang of a fold it is easier to make it look pretty.
How do you fasten a flat?
There are three main options that I know of for fastening flats. The first one that most cloth diaper mamas are familiar with is a Snappi. You just clip it to each wing and to the front of the diaper and you're all set to go. I have found that some flats are very hard to snappi due to the type of material they are, though. Another option you can try is the Boingo. I haven't had a chance to try this yet, but it is the same type of concept as a Snappi but it has only two ends so you use one Boingo on each side of your diaper to hold the wings. The last option that you can use is a diaper pin. When I first started using my flats there were quite a few times where I found myself wishing I had a diaper pin, something I never thought I would have wished! Since my Snappis don't work on every fabric, I ended up going out and getting a few diaper pins to try and honestly I really like them. I have read that if you keep them stuck in a bar of soap between uses, it helps the pin glide through the fabric better. I need to try this because I have had a little trouble getting some of my pins through the flats. Overall though I like the pins because they give me the ability to fasten some of the fabrics that my Snappi struggles with. The great thing about diapers pins is that you can pick them up at most stores in the diaper section for about $1 for 4 pins. Much cheaper than the other alternatives and great for diapering on a budget!
What do you use to cover a flat?
Almost any cover will work over flats, depending on what fold you are using. If I have done some of the bulkier flat folds then I reach for my Blueberry Coveralls or my Bummis covers. If I am pad folding a flat, I reach for a GroVia or Flip cover. At night and naptime I always reach for my wool covers! If you are starting out on a budget, check out Imagine and Sweet Pea one size covers. I know that both of those are around $10 for a one size cover. You could even try a Gerber cover from your local grocery store. At around $5 that would be a great cheap way to start cloth diapering with flats, and with the money you save on disposables you could invest in a couple better quality covers. If you have a heavy wetting baby I highly recommend wool, even if you are on a tight budget. Check out my review of Gordy's Girl for a very affordable wool option!
I hope that this Flats 101 post will be a great source of information for someone looking at flats for the first time, or even someone looking into flats again! I will have another post later in the week comparing the different types of flats I am trying. I hope the Flats Challenge is going great for everyone participating!