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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sew Your Own Cloth Maxi Pads

I have to apologize for anyone coming to this post for the lack of images.  Somehow, all my blog images from June of 2014 onward were deleted, despite multiple backups and cloud storage through Google and Picasa.  I am still researching this and hoping to find them, but I will likely have to take new photos and re-upload them to this blog post.  Please be patient with me until I do so.  Again, I am very sorry. -Ashley

I've made the full switch to reusable menstrual products, and I could not be happier.  Mainly because now I know exactly what is being exposed to my body and I am glad to say that it is not much, if anything.

I'm not going to go much into trying to convince you to switch to reusable pads yourself, because if you are reading this, you have either already decided to do so, or you are considering it.  I do want to provide some great information that you can read to make an informed decision about your health.  The links I have here are sites that cite actual studies and real information, not pseudoscience.

Okay, hopefully you've read enough and want to get down to business:  making your own pads.  This is my own pattern, and I've decided to offer it for free.

Download the pattern HERE. 

You will want to print this out without scaling and without margins. Therefore, some of the pattern may be cut off regarding the wings of the front of the pad, but if you either just follow the lines out to the edge of the page with a marker, or you can use the back of pad pattern to make sure they match up well.  If you have difficulty printing using these settings, go here to see about changing your print settings so you can properly print this pattern.

Here are the 3 parts of the pattern:
(Note:  Do not use these images to print for the pattern, be sure to download the PDF file via the link above so that they print out in the correct size.)


Cotton fabric (quilting fabric is fine)
Cloth Diapers (1 full diaper per pad)
Snaps and Snap Tool
Thread to match 
Flannel fabric for inserts

First, cut out all your fabric.  It is easier to cut out everything and sew it together like an assembly line than to go back and keep cutting.  For the front and back of the pad, use your decorative cotton fabric.  Use flannel fabric for the insert, and the cloth diaper for the insert liner. 

Take your cloth diaper and fold it lengthwise so that it is in three layers.  The seams already match up, so this should be quite easy:  Fold the left side over the middle, then fold the right side over the middle.  Once this is done, put your template over it and cut through all three layers. You should be able to do this twice with each folded diaper, enough for 2 pad inserts

To sew this, put a piece of flannel (the 2 pieces you cut for the insert) on each side of the insert liner (the diaper).  Sew a zig zag stitch that is close together around the edge, making sure to go through all layers.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  Once they are washed, they will get wrinkly anyway, and the flannel will fray a bit, so any stitching imperfections will not matter.

If you have any spots that are further in from the edge than preferred, you may want to trim them a little closer.  this is optional, but it minimized fraying once they are washed.

Next, you will have 3 pieces for the outer pad.  Set aside the larger front piece and work on the smaller back pieces first.  Fold over the straight edges 1/4 inch and sew that seam in place.

Next, put the front and back pieces right-sides together.  The 2 back pieces will overlap, this is how it is supposed to go together. Pin it in place and sew around the edge with as small seam allowance as possible.  I was able to get about 1/8" edge without any special presser feet.  

Once you sew around the edge, trim any spots that have a lot of fabric left on the edge, then turn the pad right side out.

You may want to iron the pad at this point.  

Next, sew around the full perimeter of the pad with another very small seam allowance. You actually can use a regular 1/4" seam allowance, as I cut the pattern to allow for that, but I wanted to make my pads a little larger than the standard size.

Here's how the back of the pad should look at this point.  The back flaps overlap so that you don't need any velcro or snaps to hold in the inserts when used.  This system works very well and is quite comfortable.  I always put this overlapping part toward my underwear when wearing the pads.

Here's the front of the pad after I added snaps.

You can fold up the pads and snap them together for travel.

How to use:

One pad with an insert is good for about 2 hours or so with a heavy flow, or longer with a lighter flow.  I would try it out at home first to see how well it works for you, since everyone is different.  I always carry extras in my purse, and this system allows for that pretty easily.

If necessary, you can use 2 or more inserts in one pad (which is why the pads are a little bigger than the inserts themselves).  I was very pleasantly surprised at how absorbent these pads are!  The cloth diapers as inserts work beautifully.

Be sure to machine wash and dry your pads and inserts prior to the first use, so that the starch and things from the fabric manufacturer get washed out. This will ensure the best absorbency.

During regular use, I usually carry a ziplock baggie in my purse and will put the used pad in the baggie until I get home.  Once I am home, I take the insert out of the pad and put both parts into the sink.  I dump a little bit of peroxide onto them and let it sit for about 30 seconds.  Then, I run cold water on them and wring out the liner a few times until the water runs mostly clear.  Finally, I take a little of my homemade liquid hand soap and pump it onto the outer pad.  I fold up the pad with the soap inside, give it a final squeeze to wring it out, and I put it into a tin in my closet that I have lined with  ziplock baggie, so they are all pre-treated and ready to wash by the time laundry day rolls around.

As for staining, every pad has come out completely clean using the above method for pre-treating, except the yellow fabric did have a very minor stain.  I honestly thought it was going to be much worse, but these babies come very clean!  I know there is at least one person out there wondering about that, since I was curious about it too!

Pictured, you can see where I have stored my extra pads, and next to that is a tea tin with a ziplock baggie lining it, and that is where I put my pads that are waiting to be washed.  (My clothes closet is actually in my bathroom, so I just put all my stuff right in there, in case you thought I had this sitting out in the open.)  :-)

To launder the pads, I wash them in hot water and detergent, and I don't use fabric softener.  The fabric softener can affect absorbency, so if you want to get the most absorbency possible, be sure not to use fabric softener at all.  If you find that they are getting rough, you can add vinegar to the wash, or you can use fabric softener occasionally; just not every time you wash the pads.  You can also put these in the dryer like a normal load of laundry, and I actually recommend it.  The liners are so thick, they won't dry for a few days if you air dry them.

Here is how a liner looks after several washes. It may not look so pretty, but it certainly works great!

Tips for Wearing:

These pads are great, because they are extremely versatile.  They are longer than a standard pad, but shorter than overnight pads.  You can adjust it depending on whether you are sitting or standing a long time, and I love that there isn't any annoying adhesive to mess with!  I did want to provide a tip for wearing these at night, however.  These pads are not as lightweight as commercial pads, so at night time, they may slightly fall away from your body.  The best remedy for this is to wear a second pair of underwear over the first pair.  It may sound strange, but it doesn't feel uncomfortable (and I have sensory issues, TRUST ME: I would tell you if this were uncomfortable!).  It holds the pad to your body better than just one pair of underwear.  My husband actually is the one who suggested this and it works like a charm.

For those of you who have a heavy flow in general, I always like to share my tips. I suffer from Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  This means that when I do have periods, they are painful and heavy.  If you have similar issues, then you know what wearing pads at night can do sometimes to your sheets.  Putting a towel down doesn't always cut it.  The best thing in the world to use is  CRIB LINER!  They are soft like fabric, yet they are completely waterproof.  I slap one of these babies on the bed on day 1 just to be safe.  They also work great for kids who have bedwetting problems, because they are reusable/washable and they don't make any sound at all. Hopefully someone who reads this finds this information helpful!

I hope you find this pattern useful, and please don't hesitate to comment or message me directly if you have any questions or concerns!  I have made the switch for a few months now, and I am loving my new pads that are chemical-free!  

Please share this pattern with your friends, and don't forget to Pin this on Pinterest by hovering over a photo and clicking the "pin it" button.