Saturday, 5 June 2010

How To: Cloth Pads and Pantyliners

Tonight I'm going to talk about something that isn't talked about very often. Women seem to think it's shameful and gross, and yet we all do it once a month. Yup, you got it - menstruation. Hey, it's Lingerie Month, and we've all gotta protect our precious underwear once a month, so why not talk about it?

I won a giveaway last year during the May Day Giveaway at Sew Mama Sew. The prize was two cloth pantyliners from HoneyBee Hill. I was pregnant at the time, but I promised to give them a try when my cycle started going again. I admit, I'm a disposable type of girl, and cloth pads didn't appeal to me.

So imagine my surprise when I found that they weren't terrible.

Here are a few of the benefits I've found:
- Another way to become more eco-friendly is a plus
- saves on money. They're re-usable after washing.
- always accessible even in the middle of the night when you don't feel like running to the drugstore
- comfy - no plastic-y hot feeling. They're breathable.
- I love to have a back up when I think my period is going to start, but don't feel like wearing plastic all day just in case

These aren't your grandmother's rags! We have advanced A LOT in the design of underwear and now have easy to wear, snap closed cloth pads with wings! :)

Here's how to make your own:

Supplies needed:
I used entirely upcycled fabrics for my example. I figure if I'm going to be green, might as well do it up right.
- scraps of fleece and cotton
- snaps. A note on snaps: I upcycled mine from articles of clothing I had in the house. If you do laundry as much as I do (I have 2 kids) then the metal ones should be fine. If you're a once a week kind of laundry girl, then I recommend using the poly resin snaps, or the plastic sew-on type that you can find at your local fabric store.
- matching thread

1) Make your pattern

- the pattern is simple. The first piece is basically an oval. The length is 8 inches and the width is 6.5 inches. Connect the dots in an oval shape and you've got the first piece.
- the second piece is for the cloth pad (you don't need this piece if you're just making the pantyliners). It's 7 inches by 2.5 inches. Round off the ends a bit.

2) Cut out your pieces
- for the cloth pad, cut the first piece out once of fleece and once in cotton, linen or raw silk. These are natural fibres that will be absorbent and easily laundered over and over again. Cut the second piece out in fleece, terrycloth, or anything else you can find that is super absorbent. I cut this out three times and layered them to make it my desired thickness. You can cut out the thickness you prefer.

3) Layer the pieces together
- place the bottom fleece wrong side up on the table. Put your absorbent pieces in the middle lengthwise. Place your cotton main piece on the top, wrong side down. Pin the absorbent layers in place
** Note on layering: there are products out there, an example is Zorb, that are made for extra absorbency. Hemp and Bamboo are also wonderful absorbers. You may choose to add some of these into your layers. I haven't for this tutorial because my goal was to make an upcycled product out of things I had on hand.
- if making a pantyliner only, then you just layer the two main pieces wrong sides together

4) Sew the cloth pad together
- Select a small zigzag stitch on your machine. Sew down both sides of the absorbent layers. This will form the pad part.
- using the same zigzag stitch, sew around the outer edge of the pad. Trim off excess.
- if sewing the pantyliner, just zigzag around the entire outer edge of the pad and trim off excess.
** you can also serge around the edge to make a nice finished edge

5) Attach snaps
- I've upcycled my snaps, so I've placed them in the correct position on the wings and sewed them on.
- You can also attach the snaps using the instructions on the package they came in.

Now go make some more!

The ones in this tutorial are for me. I used a terrible colour of thread just to make the pictures show up for you, so I get the guinea pigs. But on Sunday evening, or possible Monday, I will have a starter pack available for purchase at Tawny Bee if you'd like to try them out, but don't feel like sewing them yourself. :)


Jennie said...

What a great project to include in Lingerie Month! I've seen cloth pads made using absorbent hemp or bamboo, the same as used for modern cloth nappies. Super absorbent without layers of bulk. I'm going to give them a try once I rejoin the menstrual club!

Modred Vintage said...

I didn't know they existed until I saw one yesterday on Craftcult. My question is, how do you wash them throughly?

Tawny said...

They are super easy to wash. Just throw them in your regular laundry (snapped) and dryer. I do laundry often, so I just throw them in with the towels. But if you don't you can soak them in cold water and throw them damp into your regular wash when you're ready. It's basically the same care as cloth diapers.

Cloth pads last about 5 or 6 years if you take care of them :) Talk about saving a ton of money and landfill space! It is a big commitment though and it seems like taking a step back in time, but if every woman just used the panty liners at the beginning and end of their period, that would be a huge step forward!

Patricia said...

I just made some cloth pads last month and LOVE THEM!!! Here's a link to mine:

I also love you upcycled the snaps, how smart and green is that?

chickenetti said...

For soaking put some white vinegar in the water to inhibit bacterial growth. I made myself some out of dark colored fleece so that if it did stain a bit it wouldnt show. They work way better than the plastic yucky diaper-y ones from the store for preventing odor and itchiness, and you don't notice you're wearing it as much- it feels more like your normal underpants. Plus I use a diva cup so my cloth pads are backup. Haven't had to use mine for a while since I'm preggo- but I gotta get me started on sewing postpartum pads (my first baby, postpartum stuff sounds a bit icky)

coffeebean said...

Nice tutorial!
However, I'd like to add: You cannot find poly resin snaps at a local fabric store, you need to use an industrial press to apply them (, only metal snaps are easily available.

Also, you used polyester fleece for the inner of that pad. Polyester fleece is not a good inner fabric for a cloth pad as it is synthetic and mainly used to be water-resistant against moisture. There is however: cotton fleece, hemp fleece, etc, those are good fabrics for the inner of the pad.

Cloth is very easy to care for,'s not a good idea to use fabric softener and bleach on them.

... :)

Tawny said...

Patricia - that's awesome! Thanks for sharing your project. I can't believe how many wonderful, like-minded women I've come across since posting this tutorial. :)

Chickinetti - yeah, the postpartum stuff is a bit icky, but you won't even really notice because you'll be too busy with a new baby to care :) Thanks for the washing tips!

Tawny said...

Coffeebean - thanks for the correction. I actually meant to type that I recommend poly resin snaps or the plastic sew on kind that you can find at your local fabric store. I'll correct it now. It's hard to type when you've got two kids running around near you while blogging!
And yes, I'm aware that I used polyester fleece for this tutorial. The point was to upcycle materials that you have around the house - and since I don't have hemp or bamboo just hanging around, I had to go with what I had. I was also trying to choose contrasting fabrics and thread in order to improve picture quality. Of course these are just for displaying the tutorial. :)

Tracy said...

Thank you so much for this great tutorial! I've been wanting to try green for my period--and even give sewing pads/liners an go! The green the better... :o)

Anonymous said...

Great sharing this.