Just my 2c worth:
(a) used cloth diapers
Yes! We have a 16-month-old who is almost exclusively in cloth (with the occasional disposable for big outings and overnight) and another on the way who will also be in cloth.
(b) made your own
(c) can recommend patterns or tell me which ones to avoid
There are so many patterns out there, you'll just have to try a few and decide which one works best for you. I found that the best thing was to find a friend who already used some (in my case my cousin who has a little boy a year older than my DD!), borrowed one and traced it to make my own pattern!
(d) what style worked best for you? the worst?
Like the previous posters have said, it's really a matter of personal preference. Before my DD was born, I went mad sewing up loads of gorgeous fitted nappies out of the sweetest printed flannelette and rainbow coloured fleece, and then found that after a few months, she'd already grown out of them. They also took a very long time to dry (she was born in the winter which didn't help!!). So we switched to plain old terry towelling flat nappies, and we've been in them ever since! We use the Jo fold here: http://www.thenappylady.co.uk/public/articledetails.aspx?id=141
. They're cheap to buy, last about 6 months before they get all hard and scratchy and you need to chuck them out (I cut them up into quarters, overlock the edges and use them as cleaning cloths! Fab!), and then all you really need to do is invest in some good quality covers. PUL is fine, but wool is better!
(e) had problems with daycare/family/babysitters using cloth instead of disposables
Didn't even bother to make a point, I just let daycare use disposables because I wouldn't expect anyone to do the flat+cover nappy system. But what the previous posters said - if you really want to, get/make some all-in-ones that will be just as easy to use as a disposable.
(e) give some advice in general
Go recycled fabric as much as possible, otherwise you'll spend a fortune! Charity shops are unreal for finding old towels, sheets and wool jumpers for cutting up. Check out the Frugal Diapering site here: http://fernandfaerie.com/frugaldiapering.html
(f) fabric recommendations
Cheaper fabrics like terry towelling, flannelette and cotton work fine, but you'll find that spending a little bit more on hemp, bamboo and microfibre for boosting the existing nappy will give you extra absorbency and less leaks.
(g) what should I consider when making cloth?
You're saving money, saving the environment, saving your baby's skin from awful chemicals and plastic, and being able to say, "I made it myself!".
Go for it! You won't regret it!
, are you sure your friend is planning to use cloth? I'd personally think of making her something like a knitted soaker (http://www.tinybirdsorganics.com/soakers/pattern/
) or bumjumper/butt sweater (http://www.borntolove.com/frugal-column2.html
), which bub can wear even if mum decides that cloth is too much of a hassle and ends up using disposables. It's also winter over there, right? But in answer to your question, "easiest, quick, cheap": You guys have some lovely soft cotton prefolds over there that would make a lovely gift with a snappi or two and a couple of your hand-made soakers!