Friday, 3 October 2014

On the (beautiful) rag: a cloth pad tutorial

Since having surgery, I am temporarily restricted in my options for dealing with menstruation. Typically, I am a huge fan of the Diva Cup, and use that as my primary, with some homemade cloth liners as occasional backup.

I never use tampons or disposable pads. They are seriously disgusting to me: the weird smell (is it supposed to flowers or baby powder?), the health risks (TSS from tampons, god knows what chemicals/bleach), the environmental impact (those things don't break down in landfills), and let's be real: neither pads or tampons are even remotely comfortable. When you bring in cost (I've invested a ridiculously low $75 on lady products in the last 10 years) and convenience (my Diva Cup is always available, no dodgy emergency runs to the store for tampons), it was a no-brainer switch for me. So being without for a couple cycles is hurting my heart a bit. But, I have a solution!

I made my own (beautiful) cloth pads! 

Oooh la la!
I have made cloth panty liners before, and I love them. They are so much more comfortable than any disposable product available. But they aren't very absorbent. They are adequate for spotting, but I wouldn't trust them with any heavier flow. So I gathered some supplies and set to work. When my first pad was a success, I decided to share a little tutorial, just in case I can inspire anyone else to give these a try. 

The first step is to gather materials. I got everything from Walmart, because low prices really appeal to me. I chose cotton fabric for the tops because cotton is nice and absorbent and feels good against your skin. I picked busy patterns in browns and pinks because sometimes I'm lazy about scrubbing set-in stains, and this way if any staining does occur, it will be camouflaged by the pattern and colour. For the inside lining, I bought the cheap cotton terry hand towels (2 for $4!). When selecting a fabric for the backing, it is best to use something that is non-absorbent so that it keeps your undies clean. I bought a microfleece throw for $5, because it doesn't absorb fluids, and its fibrous texture helps hold the pad in place. You will also need thread in a complementary colour, and snaps for the wings. For the snaps, you can get either the sew-on metal type, or plastic snaps. The plastic snaps require a special tool to attach them, so if you decide to go that route, make sure to get the kit. Also, print this pattern and cut out the pieces.  

The supplies
Fold the towel in thirds and using the lining pattern, cut out three layers of terry cloth. Three layers would be good for a regular flow.  If you have a heavy flow, you may want to cut more layers.  If you have a light flow, or want to make liners, you can use less layers too. Part of the beauty of homemade is that you can customize to meet your needs!


Using the pad pattern, cut out one piece from the cotton and one from the fleece. 


Now it's time to move to the sewing machine. Sew along the perimeter of the terry linings with a zigzag stitch. Sew as close to the edge as you can manage, and overlap your beginning stitches with your end stitches.  It doesn't have to be beautiful or perfect, as it is just going inside the pad and no one will see it. 

Take the liner and centre it on the wrong side of the cotton and pin it in place. Sew along the perimeter of the lining with a straight stitch. Then, if you have a fancy sewing machine with fancy stitches, select one to stitch down the middle. If not, a straight stitch will do just fine.  Make sure you tack down or backstitch the start and end of your stitches to lock them in place.  


Next, layer your pad front and back pieces with the right sides together and pin them in place. Sew along the perimeter of the pad with a straight stitch (remember to back stitch to lock it in!) leaving a quarter inch seam allowance, and leaving one end unsewn. 

The scissors are showing where I left the pad unstitched.  

This is so you can turn it right side out, which you should do now. Smooth out the seams from the inside using your fingers or a pencil. Hand sew closed the opening you left, turning the seam allowance to the inside. 



After you secure your hand stitches with a couple knots at the end, bury your thread, and trim the ends.

Poke your needle in between the layers and up through the top to bury your thread.
Head back to your sewing machine to tack down the layers in your wings. Sew along the perimeter of the wings using a straight stitch and a quarter inch seam allowance. Again, make sure you back stitch a couple stitches on either end to lock them in place. 


Tacking down the layers keeps the wings looking neat
Last step is to attach the snaps. I used plastic snaps because I hate sewing in metal snaps. The plastic ones are super easy to use. Figure out where you want to place them by folding over the wings to the back and seeing where they overlap. Typically, they will be placed close to the end, near the seam allowance. 

Fold over to test snap placement
Using the awl provided in the snap pliers kit, puncture a hold in the fabric where you want to place the snap, and poke the pointy ended snap piece through the hole. 

Using the awl
Use the pliers to attach the other piece of the snap, following the directions of your snap kit. 


Squeeze it tight!
Do the same for the other side, making sure you place the snaps on the fabric and face them the right way so that they will meet properly. 


The snaps need to be able to meet in order to work
Now step back and admire your handy work!! 


Ooooh la la! Front and back, snapped and unsnapped!
Make a whole set to get you through your next period and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you made them yourself, they are environmentally friendly, cost effective, and much more comfortable! 


The whole collection
Make sure you wash these pads at least once before use. The more you wash them the more absorbent they get. It is better to not use fabric softener with them because that can affect their absorbency as well. After you have used them, rinse them in the sink under cold water and scrub them against each other until the water runs clean. If you do this right away, you won't typically have any staining. If you do end up with stains, give them a scrub with a bar of sunlight soap to get them back to looking new. Or, if you are lazy like me, ignore the stains, since the fabrics camouflage them anyway. Then toss them in the wash with your regular laundry. Easy-peasy! 

If you have any questions about cloth pads or the Diva Cup, I would be happy to answer them. If you are interested in using cloth pads, but aren't very handy with a sewing machine, there are many shops on Etsy that sell them, including mine, TheHomemadeHeartShop !