They really are.
When we were pregnant with Hobbit Jo we talked about doing cloth diapers because we are destitute students. Nothing organic or natural about it, we just didn't want to go into debt for something that was going to be thrown away after a few hours (sometimes a few minutes) of use.
However, the start up for cloth diapers can be PRICEY, so the resourceful woman that I am. I decided to take advantage of my discount at work and buy diaper flannel, elastic, and snaps for a fraction of the price that it would be to buy diapers. With a borrowed diaper from my sister-in-law I set to work.
Before I share these tips on sewing your own diapers I have to say this one thing. DON'T DO IT! If you can shell out the $150-$200 dollars (at the least) to start diapering then DO IT!
After many hours, days, trials, prototypes and tears. I have settled on our current diapers.
Tip #1 - The elastic was pointless.
Tip #2 - Tri-folds are pretty awesome for burp rags and as diapers.
Tip #3 - You will be pee soaked and smell a good majority of your life.
Tip #4 - Get a good bucket with an air-tight seal.
Tip #5 - Research your choices and how to care for your diapers and especially covers.
Tip #6 - Care for your covers. This needed said twice because they are important. They are your only defense against the pee.
Tip #7 - Strip your diapers at least once a month.
Tip #8 - If you can afford it, spring for flushable wipes, because poopy wipes that aren't wrapped up in diapers reek!
Tip #9 - Keep disposables nearby.
Our system is cloth during the day and disposable at night (otherwise we would need to wash her sheets almost everyday. We also use disposables for adventures like church, playgroup, grandma's house, or if we are doing errands or shopping for a long time. We have only needed to buy 1-2 bags of diapers per size and towards the end of the last two sizes we had to use them for awhile to use the rest of the bag. As gross as it was to get use to swished out poop in the toilet and the gust of stink when you open the bucket to throw them in the wash, I like it. It's cheaper, I never have the fear of running out and needing to run to the store; if we run out we can throw on a disposable while the others wash. Another bonus is flushing the stink. Hobbit Jo's diapers keep getting stronger and even more stinky than the last so it is great to flush it away. The paper diapers that are full of poop in the garbage stink more than anything.
All-in-all it is totally worth it to cloth diaper.
Tips about making them - skip the elastic, sew around the edges with a serger if you can, go around the diapers twice to insure they won't fray or shred, buy your covers (they are expensive but you'll be grateful).
Diapers are stinky. They really are. But when they are poop-free, in a bucket they stink a lot less than poopy in a garbage.
"If in doubt, Meriadoc, follow your nose."
-Gandalf, Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien-