Friday, January 18, 2013

My favorite DIY baby gift (part 2): Thirsty Burp Clothes

If you recall, part 1 was a flannel blanket; part 3 was adorable baby shoes.

Now get real with me mommies… Have you ever found a really nice store-bought, manufactured burp cloth?

I never have. Sure, folks use folded up blankets or towels or pre-fold cloth diapers… but the secret to having nice burp clothes is to find someone who sews and get them to make one of these easy projects.

I’ve made several types of burp clothes in my day (more tutorials to come!) but these are my mommy-tested favorite. I call them “Thirsty Burp Clothes” because with three layers of absorbent cloth, these babies will soak up crazy messes. (Just ask me about the puking incident at church. ew.)

Here's how:

To make two burp clothes, you’ll need:
  ¼ yard of flannel fabric (again, you can use other fabrics but flannel absorbs best. You'll see I
       inserted a chevron fabric here this is actually duck cloth canvas)
  ¼ yard of terry cloth (chenille is another nice fabric but less absorbent and more $$)
  A small package of natural cotton batting (e.g. “Warm and Natural”; you can buy it by the
       yard too but a crib size package will cost you $10 and last for a long time)
  Matching thread
  A sewing machine (or a needle and a lot of time ;)

Version 1: Sewn Edge
Step 1: Cut your pieces

For each burp cloth, cut one piece of flannel, one piece of terry cloth and one piece of batting. There’s no need to be crazy meticulous here. I think it’s fine to stack the fabrics and whack them with a rotary cutter if you have one. You can also trace the pattern with a marking pen and cut them out with scissors. Copy my pattern onto a 8.5x11 sheet of paper and either cut from the fold or, like I did, trace the full pattern onto a paper bag or whatever.

I have two different versions* cut from the same materials. I’ll show the more traditional version first. I’ll also say you don’t HAVE to include a batting layer. Most tutorials of this type of burp cloth just use two layers of flannel…but let me tell you, it’s worth it. They’re softer, prettier and WAY more absorbent than just two layers of flannel.

*I apologize in advance that I insert a chevron fabric for my tutorial... still learning how many photos to take so I had to supplement. :)

Step 2: Arrange your fabric

Stack your fabrics: terry cloth, flannel (with the right side facing down), batting.

Step 3: Sew!

Okay, if you’re the meticulous sort, you should probably stop and pin your fabrics together here. I am not a pinner (at least… not that kind of pinner.) So I just stack and sew and do my best to keep my fabrics lined up as I go. I use a standard ¼” seam (the edge of your presser foot) for pretty much everything.

Be sure to leave a small gap (2-3”) along one of the long sides so that you can turn your fabric right sides out. Now, I am a backstitcher. Whenever I begin a seam where I will be leaving a gap, backstitch a few stitches when you begin and do the same when you approach your gap.

Step 4: Trim excess fabric

Trim the excess fabric around your seam down to 1/8” of an inch or so, being careful not to cut into your seam. When you reach your gap, leave a bit more of the fabric so you have enough to neatly fold in when you sew your finishing seam.

Step 5: Turn right sides out and press

Stick your fingers in through the gap and turn your fabrics right sides out. If you stacked your fabric correctly, your batting should be in the middle with your flannel and terry cloth visible from the outside.

Use the end of some stick-like object (the eraser side of a pencil, the end of your scissors, whatever you have hand), to gently push at your seam from the inside to make sure your seams are totally turned out.

Iron your fabric with a hot, hot iron to flatten it and prepare it for your finishing seam. Neatly tuck in and press the fabric at your gap so that it fits in with the rest of your seam.

Step 6: Sew your finishing seam

Starting near your gap, sew a border about a ½” from your edge all the way around. You can use a cute zig zag or decorative stitch here. I also like to fold my burp cloth in half hamburger style and mark the fold with a marking pen and sew a seam right through the middle. It looks nice and just makes the burp cloth fold a little nicer.

Trim your excess threads and you’re done!

Version 2: Fringe Edge

This may be a little less traditional for an edge but I like it because it creates a fluffy look and a softer edge. I love the look and feel of rag-time quilts so tried it on a burp cloth and loved it!

Step 1: Cut your pieces

Same as above

Step 2: Arrange your fabric

This time there are no hidden seams so you stack your fabric exactly as you want it in the finished product: terry cloth, batting, flannel (right side out)

Step 3: Sew!

In this case, I use about a 1/2" seam allowance to allow for the fringing. Again, you can pin the fabric but you know how I feel about that. Just throw the thing on your machine and trust yourself to keep your edges together. As Julia Child said, “{sewing} is like love, it should be entered into with reckless abandon, or not at all”

Step 4: Trim excess batting

Fold the flannel and terry cloth back and use scissors to carefully trim the batting right down to the seam. You will want to keep the excess flannel and terry cloth. See in the first picture the batting sticking out on the right. On the right side picture, the batting has been trimmed away.

Step 5: Fringe the fabric

Using your scissors, carefully cut into the excess terry cloth and flannel every quarter inch or so. Go all the way around your project being careful not to cut into the seam.  

Step 6: Wash it

Wash and dry your burp clothes once or twice to allow the fabric to fray to get that softer edge. The first picture is the fringed burp cloth unwashed. The second picture shows the difference after one washing. You may need to trim your terry cloth a little after washing because it frays differently than the flannel. 



  1. Hello...I am getting ready to sew these for my daughter..would you be able to tell me the approximate dimensions of the burp cloth. I can kind of eye the pattern but I am not sure how big to make them. It has been a long time since I held a cloth diaper or I could kind of use that as a guide. :)

  2. GREAT! I am so excited that you're trying them out. Great question! The pattern is 15" long and 8" wide so the finished burp cloth is about 14.5" x 7.5". (Google blogger doesn't let you link pdf's to blog posts so I could only link my pattern as a picture file. If you copy the image onto a letter size paper, the pattern should take up most of the paper.... but of course, no need to be exact!)

  3. I am trying the frayed edge idea on some cloth wipes for my daughter!

  4. I could not refrain from commenting. Very well written!

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  5. What a great tutorial, and so easy! I am a little obsessed with making these now. Thank you!!

  6. Many Thanks... I wanted to make something like store bought burp cloth.:-)

  7. Question: How many burp cloths can be made from the materials listed above (1/4 yds fabric)? Thanks