_Cloth pads have been on my to-do list for a while now.  I'm easily caught up in small, daily projects, like sprouting and making yogurt cheese - it was time to take more of a high-impact action.

Disposable pads, like disposable diapers, are a consistent source of waste - for me, it's 12-16 pads a month, or about 170 pads to the landfill each year.  That amount of consistent waste, as a lifestyle, is not okay with me. 

By crafting my own re-usable pads out of thrifted materials, I'm able to reduce my waste by about 3.5 pounds of cotton, plastic, and cardboard a year, thus saving trees & other precious resources, and re-purpose materials already in the consumer cycle.  Oh, and it's cheaper than buying pads!  So, thanks to instructions in Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knudsen, I made myself a set of re-usable cloth pads. 

One of the great things about making your own pads is that you can design them however you like.  I decided to make three different styles, for different parts of my cycle: light flow liners, average/daily flow pads with wings, and night pads with an extended back buffer and wings

First, I found materials at the local thrift store - mine has regular 50% off sales, so I was able to get yards of fabric for $4.50.  Besides the obvious cost-efficiency, buying thrift uses resources that are already in the consumption cycle and prevents raw resources from turning into new products.

Cloth pads need about three basic layers of material, and you can mix & match from the following:
  1. Topper - Soft, feels good, and (possibly) pretty!  Cotton flannel, flat cotton, natural velour, velveteen. 
  2. Core - Absorbent, as many layers as you like.  Cotton flannel, terry cloth, fleece.
  3. Backing - Water-resistant/-proof and, possibly, non-slip.  Flannel, corduroy, fleece, PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabric.

Ideally I would have used materials I already had, saving money & reducing consumption, but my mending pile was recently exhausted by holiday projects.  I went to the thrift store and bought flannel cotton, fleece, and a water-resistant PUL children's vest that had multiple velcro closures (for the wings).  As you can see, I wasn't shopping for looks (I don't particularly feel the need for attractive menstrual pads, though it can be done!), but instead went for functional materials.

Once I had all my materials gathered, I designed the pads.  I used tracing paper left over from a design class I took in college, but you can use whatever paper/cardboard you have available as a pattern.  I used a disposable light-flow liner that I knew I already liked, and traced its shape onto the pattern paper.

__Then, I riffed off that pattern.  I traced it again, lengthened it on both ends and voila!  A daily pad.  I traced the daily pad, then lengthened and flared the back-end to make a night-time pad.  Finally, I drew an rounded rectangle, nearly the length of the light-pad, to use as my wing pattern (don't mind the wings on the patterns - once I cut them out, they were too short to wrap around, so I removed them and added the new wing section).

On each pattern, I wrote the use, and an 'ingredients list':  a different cocktail of layers, for each type of pad, with different levels of absorbency and water-resistance.  I now had three patterns, all suited to my needs.  My ingredients?
Light-flow liner = 3 cotton flannel + fleece
Daily pad = 2 cotton flannel + 2 fleece + cotton wing + PUL
Night pad = 2 cotton flannel + 2 fleece + cotton wing + PUL

_Next, I cut around each pattern, so I could trace them onto the fabric.  Then I used soft-lead pencil and white chalk (depending on the color of fabric) to mark around the pattern onto the fabric.  I made sure to trace it close to the edge, and close to other patterns/cut-outs, so I didn't waste fabric - this is called 'nesting' your patterns.

I folded my materials into layers, beneath the traced patterns, so I could cut multiple layers at a time.  Then, after smoothing each layer, I pinned the fabric to itself, to keep the layers from moving as I cut around the traced pattern.  I cut each type of fabric separately, but you can also layer the entire 'cocktail' of fabrics and cut them all at once.

Once all the layers were cut into their patterns, I laid out little pad sandwiches - layered the pads in their final order.  It was very satisfying!  I used bobby pins to keep them all together (since, as a dancer, I have a lot of bobby pins lying around - as always, use what you have). 

Then, the sewing.  I, as I said before, didn't place a high priority on the aesthetics of my cloth pads, so I took a sewing shortcut and top-stitched everything.  This leaves the edges of the layers open and frayed - that's okay with me, and I figure it might even create a little edge buffer.

{If you want a clean-edged look, you can layer things in an inverse order (from top to bottom: 1. Backing, face down, 2. Wings, if using, 3. Top material, face up, 4. Core layers), and sew around the edge, leaving a 2-inch hole.  Then you can pull the pad right-side out, through the hole you left, tuck the raw edges in, and neatly finish sewing.}

I sewed different features onto each type of pad, though they all shared a straight middle seam, from front to end, and a seam around the entire edge. 

_For the light-flow pad, since it didn't include wings, I  added curved contour seams to the fleece backing.  This adds greater texture and grip.  (note my vintage Singer sewing machine!  I inherited this from my grandmother, circa the Great Depression - there's a great deal of poetic appeal in rekindling homemaking skills, albeit radical ones, from that era's machinery)

_The daily pad didn't include any extra stitching in the body, but it featured wings.  I seam-ripped the velcro from the vest I bought and sewed it onto the wings, being careful to place it well. 

_The night pad was the most satisfying, because I have never found a pad that worked well enough at night.  I always get blood spots on the back of my underwear while I sleep, because normal pads are a) not long enough and b) are shaped like little slides, letting the blood just run right down to meet gravity.  So I sewed in a series of horizontal buffer strips, creating a few rows of catchment creases.  Hopefully it'll work!

I'm pretty proud of myself - I made three liners, two daily pads, and two night-pads.  It only took ~$1 in materials and 3 hours of work (of course, drinking local beer and eating potato chips while sewing makes it seem a lot less like work!)

I'll take them for a spin when the new moon comes.  I figure if I need to make any changes in the engineering, it's good to start with a small stash and then make more.  I'll keep y'all posted on how well they work, and any changes needed.

For those of you interested in making your own, I highly encourage it!  Check out ClothPads.org - it's very extensive, has great a how-to,  and has a page full of downloadable cloth pad patterns.

Have you made or worn your own cloth pads?  How did you do it?  And how did it go?

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11/27/2012 10:54:26 am

Thank you for sharing

1/4/2013 10:21:05 pm

Just made me a my first one yesterday I love it and like you so you can designs it what ever way you want is the best thing about sewing ur own(I n the money saving) because they do sell 4 like 10 bucks a pop...

6/19/2013 02:10:22 am

You know I hadn't even thought of getting old fabrics or old clothes from thrift stores. Great idea! I'm starting this today. Like you, I could care less about how 'pretty' mine are. Who the heck is gonna see them but me? Thanks!

11/16/2017 10:00:12 pm

I found at our local thrift store some cloth and asked how much the other day and she told me it was 1.00 a bag. I was tickled pink but in no way was there enough to even make half a bag, but at 1.00 the piece I did find was a bargain. I keep going back in hopes of finding a bunch so I can fill a bag. Not many donations of cloth though. I also wanted to share something and if this is not ok to share just delete my post. I am just trying to spread the word so more people can be aware of this and help. Would be soooo neat if ladies would get involved and they could take 20-30K or more. I've got 161 pads made to send so far. Not going to make it in the Feb. trip over there I don't guess but they will get there on the next trip I hope. I just found out about it and it was to late to get them made and sent off by Oct. deadline but they go back so it's OK. Again if this isn't OK to post just delete. :-) Also ladies please share in groups so we can get a bunch made for these girls! :-)


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