Cloth Menstrual Pads, v.2
More than five years ago, when I was 7 months pregnant with my youngest daughter, a group of friends and I got together and had a big sewing party to make dozens of cloth menstrual pads. I had never even used one before, but had used cloth diapers on my two older children, cloth wipes on my middle child and had an interest in using reusable menstrual products for myself. One of my friend’s sisters had recently had a scare with toxic shock syndrome from the use of tampons and that was really the impetus to organizing the sewing session and getting them finished.
These have served me well for the past five years. However, I find myself needing to make a new batch and though they have been functional and long-lasting, there were issues that bothered me about the design. Some of the issues were simply annoying and some affected function. The list of things that I wanted to change:
- I used plastic sew-on snaps as closures. These cracked after a few years, with meant that I had no way to fasten the liner or I had to use a safety-pin, or I could have sewn on new snaps, which I never got around to doing.
- We chose velcro as the fastening method to secure the pad(s) to the liner. The velcro gets full of lint and strings after many washings, which decreases its holding ability.
- We didn’t include any type of water-proof layers.
- Some of the thicker pads take a very long time to dry.
With these in mind, I looked for a different pattern. I found this tutorial for a circle pad. These were a bit time-consuming to make, but they addressed all my issues and I was able to use fabrics I had on hand, with the exception of flannel, which I purchased on sale. I mostly followed the tutorial, but I did the circle pad holder slightly different. I’ll give a brief description from start to finish below.
First, this is what the finished pads looked like:
They are comprised of these parts: a circular holder (with a water-proof layer), flannel strips which are folded into long rectangles and inserted under the felt strips on the circular holder and fleece strips which are sandwiched in the center of the flannel strip to discourage wicking. One excellent advantage with this method is that you can control the thickness of your pad for light or heavy flow days by having different lengths of flannel. For very light days, I cut the flannel about 6-7″ long, and for night-time or heavy flow pads, the flannel is 30″+ and I cut lengths in between those two for medium days.
I started by cutting flannel strips 7.5″ wide by however long I wanted, from 6″ to 30″. I ended up with 17 strips of varying length. This will give me 17 pads.
Next, I used my serger to make a short, close rolled hem serged edge around all four edges of each flannel strip.
Then, using the template provided in the tutorial, I cut out 14 circles from cotton fabric (not flannel, though flannel would be just fine). Two circles will be used for each pad holder, giving me a total of 7 pad holders.
The tutorial calls for using one layer of PUL. I didn’t have PUL on hand and if I remember correctly, it’s a little pricey. A water-proof material I did have on hand was an old shower curtain. So, I cut out seven circles, also using the template in the tutorial. One of these is used in each pad holder.
This step is where I differed from the tutorial. The tutorial suggested pinning the three layers (two cotton, one PUL) together, stitching and leaving a gap, then turning right side out and top-stitching. For an item that is mostly functional and doesn’t need to be so finished-looking this seemed like a lot of extra work to me, so I just sandwiched the water-proof layer between the cotton layers and sewed completely around the circumference of the circle, using a 1/4″ seam allowance.
The final step for the pad holder is hand-sewing metal snaps onto the spots that were marked on the template. Unless you like hand-sewing a lot, make sure you place the snaps correctly. One snap goes onto the side with the straps and one goes on the direct opposite edge, but on the side that doesn’t have the straps. Make sure to have one female snap and one male snap. I didn’t take these steps seriously and had to sew one snap on three times to get it right. I don’t particularly like hand-sewing, so I got it right each time after that!
To assemble the pads, take one fleece rectangle and fold a flannel strip around it like this:
You will end up with a flannel rectangle that is a little more than 3″ wide, 7.5″ long and the thickness will vary depending on how long the flannel strip was. Insert this flannel rectangle under the felt straps on the pad.
Washing is easy. I add them to our family cloth bucket, but if you have a child that is in cloth diapers, you can also add to the diaper pail, or you can have a bucket to put them in and at the end of your cycle wash them on their own. I use hot water, a mild detergent (Bio-Kleen laundry powder) and white vinegar in the rinse cycle.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to sew your own, I encourage you to check out Etsy. There are hundreds of listings for quality handmade sets, though they are pricey when you purchase them.
If you don’t like using pads, but are looking for a more environmentally friend alternative to tampons, there are reusable cups. The Diva Cup and the Keeper are two popular options. Natural sea sponges are another option. Cut to size, insert as you would a tampon and remove, rinse and dry as necessary.