written by
Lisa Sierra

Upcycle Twine: How to Repurpose Cloth Diaper Inserts & Worn Clothes

Zero Waste Cloth Diapers 101 5 min read

What is there to do with old cloth diaper inserts? With single socks? With worn out T-shirts, stain covered kids clothes, and even that stretched out pair of underwear? Welcome to part one of two for repurposing fabric that has no where else to go! In this post, we will learn how to make DIY Twine from old clothes and inserts. Keep your eye on the blog and don’t miss part two- what you can create with the twine!

My “inter-twine-ing” Journey

If you have been anywhere near Lil Helper lately, you’ve heard about the newest insert combo to completely blow the minds of cloth diapers caregivers: The Tank. This new combo is soft, sleek, thin, and more absorbent than any other inserts the company has released! With PUL on the back, your chances of reusing your covers are high and your chances of leaks are low. There was no question in my mind- I wanted it. To be specific, I wanted 18 Tank sets.

My biggest hesitation wasn’t their use, it was what to do with the 18 charcoal inserts that would be left replaced and unused. I took the plunge, made the purchase, and resolved to not waste the inserts. Instead, I set the old charcoal sets aside in hope of future genius.

This discovery came at a cumulative cleaning crisis. Even with two feet of snow and freezing temperatures, I was determined to spring clean our home. Items were sent to the thrift store, to our local Mutual Aid group, to friends who would get a smile from a trinket or book, and many things broken down for recycling. All that was left were the clothes too worn to be donated, and those old charcoal inserts. Then, the moment I of genius I had waited for arrived in the form of DIY Twine.

What You Will Need:

If you’ve read my DIY posts before, you know I am all about achievability! We are talking low skill friendly, no fancy tools needed, and definitely not fragile or easily ruined. I promise- this is the most doable of up-cycles. The one skill that is a must for this project is a comfortability with repetitive tasks. If you, like me, are a parent, then you are already a pro! All day long we say the same words, pick up the same toys, read the same books, now you can put the tolerance you’ve gained to good and creative use! So cue your favorite audio book, pour a cup of tea, and settle into a project that will keep your hands busy for a few evenings of relaxing as trash becomes DIY twine.

You will only need the following: (1) your old inserts or clothes; (2) scissors; (3) an alligator clip, chip bag clip, or anything similar!

A Preemptive Step: If you are using your inserts, socks, or other items that tend to see the worst smells we can create, I highly recommend a good strip before you go any further! You can learn about how to strip your inserts or laundry on this post!

Step One: Deconstruct to Reconstruct

With any thin fabric, such as a cotton shirt, you will want to cut strips that are approximately one inch thick, or a little wider than the average thumb. The more consistent your cutting is, the more consistent your twine width will be. That being said, I found that letting myself use differing textures, colors, and thicknesses created a twine that felt more fun than attempting to create something completely uniform.

With thicker fabric, you will want to cut strips that are about half an inch thick.

If you are wanting a thin twine, you can cut thinner strips. If you want a thicker rope, you can keep them thicker! Just make sure that you are adjusting your width to account of the bulkiness of your material.

If you are tackling your charcoal inserts, you will want to:
- cut off the edge seam (but save it!)
- separate and strip your layers. The grey charcoal can be one inch wide strips. The thicker white layers will be a half inch strip.
- Remove the snaps by trimming that portion of the fabric. (these are the only part of the insert that will remain unused for this project)

You’ll be left with something like this:

Step Two: Tie and Twist

First, you will tie a knot connecting two pieces of fabric together.

Second, taking the fabric father from you, twist it tightly away from your body.

Third, without loosening your twist, cross it on top of the other fabric strip.

Repeat your twisting and crossing motion for the remainder of this project. It really is that simple! By twisting the fabric counter to the direction you are crossing, the fabric will stay tightly twisted into a strand of thick twine or rope! You’re old inserts will begin to form into something new right before your eyes.

More of a visual person? Check out this handy video to help you with these steps!

Step Three: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

That really is all you need to do! Keep twisting and crossing. If you need to take a break, you can use an alligator clip to keep the ends in place.

When a fabric strip has only a few inches left, you will want to tuck a new strip inside of it, twisting the two together as you cross, and keeping the strand extra tight to create a firm transition. This will be trickiest part of the process, but even this step will be mastered in no time! If you want to see this step happen, click here to jump to the connection portion of my how-to video.

Step Four: Stay Twisty for Part Two

Over the next few weeks as you enjoy your Netflix binges, or as plan your next move on family game night, get twisting! You’ll want a hefty spool of twine for all the projects coming your way in Part Two!


About the Author

Lisa is a first time mama who is passionate about sustainable and achievable DIY crafts and activities. Dabbling in a hobbies ranging from knitting to silk screen printing, she loves to help light other's spark for joyful creating. Currently living in Chicago, Lisa has called home: small town NH, Seattle WA, and Vancouver BC. She lives with her husband, their cat, and their one-year-old fluff bum, enjoying traditions of Saturday morning doughnuts and Thursday night nachos.


Cloth Diapers 101 Zero Waste