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Cloth Menstrual Pads

saving the earth one period at a time!

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New user/Core materials/DIY/Wing shapes
kaleidoscopeeyd wrote in cloth_pads
I've been exploring the world of menstrual cups lately and have stumbled upon cloth/reusable pads. I like the idea of being "greener" about my period and I definitely like the idea of saving money long term.
I went out today and bought some PUL and flannel fabrics to make my own pads and panty liners.
I have a few questions, though.
Where can you buy hemp or bamboo for cores? I didn't see anything at the craft store (Joann Fanrics)
Do you think using multiple layers of cotton flannel would be ok for "lighter" pads? It will be backed with PUL made for cloth diapers.
If I want them to be the same size as my current disposables, I think I should trace the diposables as a template. How much extra fabric should I leave for stitching? I intend to sew them inside out and flip them for a neater appearance.
I'll be using a sewing machine, but I haven't used one since 5th grade home ec. My grandmother should be around to help me (I'm going to her house to use her machine and I'm not shy about asking her for help sewing pads lol) so I'm fairly confident I can accomplish this.
Also, which wing shapes do you current users find to be the least leaky? What about multiple sets of wings?


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I don't make my own, but I have tried several different handmade styles from Etsy & LunaPads. I'd say you definitely want to extend your waterproofing layer into your wings. That is my biggest complaint about the Lunapads is that the wings are just fabric, no waterproofing and if I'm going to leak, that's where it happens.

Some of my favourite pads are terry cloth soaker layers and even a couple use terry as a top layer and I quite enjoy that.

Some of my lighter pantyliners are just a layer of windpro fleece and 2-3 layers of flannel/cotton and I find them to be a great thickness. They're awesome for everyday, spotting days and would probably be great for a cup backup as well.

Good luck and let us know how yours turn out!

Thanks for the pointers! When you say "terry cloth" do you mean like a normal bath/beach towel?

And I love the tip about waterproofing the wings. I was wondering whether I should and hadn't seen that particular piece of advice anywhere else.


Yep, exactly that kind of terry cloth. :)

You're welcome, might as well learn from the experience of others.

Hello and Welcome!

Bamboo or hemp fabrics are mainly available online. I love this source: http://www.naturesfabrics.com/
These are specialty fabrics well known to the cloth diapering world, not likely to find them in shops!

I recommend bamboo fleece because it is softer than hemp and more absorbent than hemp. You can try this one (I personally purchase this): http://www.naturesfabrics.com/bamboo-fabric/bamboo-fleece-1/bamboo-200g-fleece.html
It's a lighter weight so it dries a tad bit more quicker than the medium weight and is not as thick (especially important when making heavy flow pads!)

Never using "batting". There is bamboo batting out there and folks think this is the same as Bamboo Fleece, it is NOT. Bamboo Fleece is an actual fabric (knit fabric) that is designed for absorption. Bamboo "batting" is a bunch of fibers needle-punched together for warmth/insulation - Quilts specifically! Just wanted to point that out.

Another point I should state is that if you are on a tight budget, you can just use cotton flannel for the inside of your pads and ditch the bamboo fleece. Cotton flannel (when used in the correct layers) is still great for heavy flow pads. But the negative is that you'd need to cut/buy way more flannel since you need more of it for absorbency. Bamboo fleece on the other hand needs about 2 layers for a heavy flow (depending on the thickness you purchase).

You could also use old towels in substitute for bamboo fleece, but I'd pair that with cotton flannel.

Light flow: I personally recommend about 3 layers of cotton flannel for the "core". It's enough for gushes and still pretty thin for a light flow pad.


PUL: Backing a pad with PUL can lead to a sleek pad because the fabric (non-shiny side) of PUL is usually polyester, which doesn't stay well next to cotton material (undies). It's good to back the pad in cotton flannel instead. Just a tip!

Here is a very informative website on the world of cloth pads (and other reusable menstrual products): http://www.ecomenses.com/

- DIY website: http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~obsidian/clothpads/DIYpads/DIY.html

Pattern tracing: Disposables are known to be bulky and not fit all too well to body shape. I'd start with the many downloadable patterns (usually in .pdf forms) online and start from there to make adjustments.

Here is a link to patterns: http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~obsidian/clothpads/DIYpads/Patterns.html

I leave about 1/4" extra fabric for stitching, this creates a neat seam allowance and its great for top-stitching (the method you described - sewing right sides together then turning inside out). I recommend using something like a chopstick or knitting needle to gently push curves and such.

Sewing on machine: Ha! Well at least you have *some* background on sewing machines. I was totally new to the world of sewing about 8 years ago. The trick is to start slow, so you can get a feel for your machine. Not all sewing machines feel the same! Back-stitching is your friend on the start and end of seams.

Wing shape: I personally love hourglass shaped pads OR pads with the wings coming out of the center pad. I don't like pads with super wide wings (like sting-ray shape), they tend to "bunch" and squish. Just my personal opinion!

This looks like a pattern, I'd use: http://www.labyrinth.net.au/~obsidian/clothpads/DIYpads/patterns/wwwdonatepadsorg_padpattern2.gif
But I'd probably round out the top and bottom corners. I love the pointy wings.

I hope I didn't scare you off with too much information. Please reply with questions! Best of hopes in sewing your new cloth pads :D

Thanks! I'm definitely welcoming any and all info.
Once I get a cup(it's in the mail now), the cloth pads will mostly be a back up for that. I might end up using some cloth pantyliners for regular daily use if they are comfortable enough. I'll probably use them before my next period to see if they sit comfortably or need adjustments.

I bought a couple of yards of flannel today and a few squares of PUL made for cloth diapers. I also have a towel or two that can be sacrificed =P My flow is generally pretty light so I'm not worried about getting more absorbent (read: more expensive) fabrics unless I find that something changes and I need them. I think that a few layers of flannel, backed by the PUL and reinforced with the towel, should be more than enough.

Thanks for the patterns. Tracing my normal pantyliners seemed to work well enough but when I tried a regular pad and an overnight pad they did come out looking a little awkward. I like the pointed wings on the patterns as opposed to wide tab shaped wings. I find that wings are essential for me with disposables, but they are usually much too long.

I will most likely go with flared and rounded ends but may experiment with different shapes once I am more comfortable in my crafting abilities.

I've heard people say not to stitch through PUL... Do they just mean they center of the pad? Or even the edges? How else would you keep it together? I'm going for an all in one pad so I think I'd need to sew at least the edges... The packaging says to send it through the dryer on hot and it will help seal up holes a bit. Hopefully that will be enough. Maybe ironing could help too?

Since you mention your flow is light, you probably don't even need the use for towels. The toweling is more used for heavier flows. This way your pads will be thinner and more flexible without the toweling :)

I'd go with whatever shape is more comfortable for tracing. When I first started sewing cloth pads, I made a pad using a disposable pad pattern. It didn't fit right at all!

When people say do not stitch through the PUL, they mean don't stitch entirely through *all* of the center layers, specifically. Because that is where flow is most concentrated, in the center of the pad, and PUL needs to be stitch free in that area (holes).
My personal method:
1.) Attach the core to the TOP layer of fabric on the wrong side of the fabric (the top of the pad fabric)
2.) Assemble the layers of fabric in the right order===>
- PUL (shiny-laminated side DOWN)
- Bottom pad fabric (the cotton flannel) right side UP
- Top pad fabric (with core sewn onto it) right side DOWN! (you'll be staring at the "guts"=the core of the pad as you are sewing it together- ha!

Now you've got a "sandwich" with the last layer on the bottom being the shiny side PUL facing DOWN, the bottom fabric facing right side UP, and finally the top pad fabric facing right side DOWN.

3.) Use clips (see note about sewing PUL in last paragraph) to secure all layers together
4.) Sew (see note about using paper for PUL in last paragraph), leave a gap for turning inside out, mine is usually ~2 inches
5.) Clip to a nice seam allowance, I leave about 1/4 of an inch of fabric FROM the stitching line.
6.) Finally turn inside out and poke out corners/curves with a chopstick or knitting needle, etc.
7.) Close gap and top-stitching around EDGE of pad! (depends on how close you want to be from the edge)
8.) Yay a cloth pad!

***I need to make a tutorial for this, someday!

I use a full layer of PUL, not just behind the core. (some folks back the core of the pad with PUL). This creates a full leak barrier even in the wings, and the core would dry quicker this way because it doesn't have PUL sewn to its back (kinda gross...the only area the core would get clean is from the top! -too needy for cleaning routines. My personal opinion!).

Usually they say after sewing a pad (or buying one), it's best to wash it and dry it on medium/hot in the dryer, if it has PUL in it. Helps the holes seal up and become smaller.

PUL must NOT be ironed = melted PUL!

Another note I should state (forgot to mention this) is that because these are light flow pads, you can instead us polyester fleece as the back of the pad. Polyester fleece is leak-resistant, not leak-proof (for the most part) like PUL is. But, polyester fleece is more breathable, easier to care for, and definitely easier to sew with.

If you do decide to go with the PUL, grab some tissue paper or thin notebook paper. Put it under the pad when your sewing machine "feed dogs" (the teeth) are going to touch the shiny side of the PUL. The paper keeps the tension on the machine just right and your machine won't go crazy because of the PUL.

Another tip I have is that with PUL, I would try to stay away from pins. It's best to use things like clips (hair clips) or clothing line pins. This way all the layers of the pad can be sewn together without damaging the PUL.
Some clips I recommend are these cheap ones you can find at a dollar store or beauty supply store: https://lh3.ggpht.com/-uE_W5YUJrE8/TheHqxJJHrI/AAAAAAAAHmE/z0uCvuLqNN4/s320/metal%2Bhair%2Bclips-2.gif
(folks also use them for quilting to attach binding!)

Another tip I have to recommend for the sewing process is that an iron can be your best friend. It's best to iron all the cloth pad pieces (NOT THE PUL!) before sewing, it tends to keep the fabric crisp. Especially after something is sewn and doesn't look nice, a quick pass with the iron does wonders and helps the thread adhere to the fabric (they say it is good for those who use polyester thread (my favorite thread).

Again, I sincerely hope I didn't confuse you or scare you off. I hope my tips didn't sound silly or rude, I just want them to sound simple :) These are the exact methods I use and I do occasionally sell cloth pads on etsy.

Let me know if you have any further questions, I hope I helped some! Best hopes!

Thanks for the tips on clips and removing the towel. I decided to only leave a layer of towel in the 2 overnight pads and one of the two regular day pads. I might make a smaller pantyliner type pad with a towel layer if I have leftover materials. I'm getting things cut and stacked today, then tomorrow I'm going to sew it all.

I definitely plan on washing them before I use them to 1. test the seams and 2. i've heard it helps with absorbency to wash them a few times before use. I had read on the PUL packaging that running through a hot dryer helps with "sealing" holes.

Thanks again for all of the pointers. I'm fairly confident now that these will come out alright. I will post a photo here as log as they aren't terrible =P

Yay! I'm incredibly happy I helped a bit! I'm hoping I can scrounge up some time to post tutorials on the construction process :)

Another (last and final) tip I have to say is that please don't wash cloth pads with any kind of fabric softener. I know it's tempting and all, but fabric softener "covers" the absorbent fabrics with oils/fats. If you want to naturally soften them, it's been said adding a few tablespoons of white vinegar does wonders. I usually add it to the fabric softener dispenser slot in the washing machine.
The white vinegar is washed away and leaves the wash load a little bit fluffier (in my experience). But then again, some people believe white vinegar is bad for PUL? But it's not like you are *soaking* the cloth pads in this, it's just added to the washing machine in the rinse cycle :)
I have a cloth pad that is about 7 years old that has PUL in it and i've used PUL in the rinse cycle lots of times, that pad still looks great and is still leak-proof. Just my two cents!

Best hopes on the sewing process! Have your Grandmother near you! It's great to have someone with sewing experience by your side, it lessens frustration and you'll learn quicker :)

Aahhh so that's why you shouldn't use fabric softener! I saw that everywhere but never with a reason. I may use your vinegar idea. I think I'm going to try baking soda to reduce stains. I'm going to wash the pads in a zippered pillow case so that nothing else gets stained (we are far too lazy to separate laundry haha)

She will definitely be around to help. I brought up menstrual cups with her the other day. We are close so it wasn't awkward at all. She actually said something about wishing she had them when she was younger. I've just been so excited about finding this whole new world of cleaner, healthier periods! Kind of nerdy, but it seems a lot of girls have had a similar reaction. I love looking at all of the different cups and I can't wait until that first grouchy period day where I get to wake up to a DINOSAUR PAD! Haha so much better than white plastic-y fluff.

Now you know! Ha!
I was also going to recommend a laundry bag (the zippered pillow case) but you beat me to it :D It's great because your pads won't get lost and it keeps them looking good. You can store the used pads in it too, don't need anything fancy. Baking soda is great too! I use OxiClean powder, but the dollar store sells a tub super cheap. Whatever works for you and fits within your budget.

It's great isn't it? I've switched years ago and never looked back. It's just more comfortable. I've had so many problems with disposables, that I dreaded menstruation. But now, it's like "Oh, well welcome! Here is a pretty pad!" Still painful but shorter periods! Funny you mention that your Grandmother wasn't awkward about it! My mother isn't from America and she used to use rags from undershirts for pads that would be re-used. She thinks the concept of cloth is outdated and nasty :( Like it gives her a bad memory? What a shame!

If you are not home and out and about, use a sandwich bag or cosmetic pouch to hold a used/clean pad. I always have a clean pad if a "period ninja" comes out of no where.

Best hopes! <3

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Hey ideas - I learned a lot from the analysis - Does someone know if my company might obtain a sample GA Child Support Addendum form to complete ?

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