Monday, October 14, 2013

{Tutorial} Making Cloth Menstrual Pads

This tutorial and pattern is for a thin reusable menstrual pad. There are three different sizes, a long pad for a heavy flow, a medium pad, and a light days pad. I love these pads – they are absorbent, thin, and stain resistant. They are relatively easy to sew; all you need is a regular sewing machine with a straight stitch. If you have any questions, leave a comment. Puchase the pattern on our Etsy Shop - Simplistically Modern. Good Luck!!

Note: There are a lot of links on this page. The links are not affiliate links and are not ads, and I do not make any money when you click on them. They are just there so you can see the materials/supplies options and understand what I'm talking about :)


Materials Needed

~ Pattern - The pattern can be purchased from our Etsy shop. The link to our shop is https://www.etsy.com/shop/SimplisticallyModern.
~ Absorbent inner material (see choosing your materials section)
~ Polyurethane Laminated Fabric aka PUL (see choosing your materials section)
~ Lining material (see choosing your materials section)
~ Wing Fabric (see choosing your materials section)
~ 2 snaps
~ Thread – (1) For the pad itself - One thread that matches your PUL (as the bobbin thread) and one thread that matches your lining material (as the top thread). (2) For the wing – a color that matches your cotton. Or you can use all the same color :)


Choosing Your Materials

Here are the materials that I used and have loved (and also some that I tried and didn’t love). But don’t be afraid to try something different then I used, maybe you will love it :)

For the absorbent inner material I choose to use Zorb 1 (which I purchased from Wazoodle.com – This link will take you straight to the product). I used this when I made cloth diapers and we have had really good luck with it in both the diapers and the pads. You could also try microfiber, microfleece, terry, or fleece. However when I tried microfiber and fleece, my cloth diapers they got a yucky odor (they smelled like old rags) and I couldn’t get the smell out even when I washed them on the sanitize cycle and used different types of detergent. Zorb has been odor free, easy to clean, very absorbent, and comfortable.

PUL is a laminated fabric that makes the pad leak resistant without adding extra bulk. These pads are extremely thin based on the materials I used. I have used pads that do not have a PUL layer, but they were a lot thicker (See my GladRags review). Think maxi pad thickness vs. regular pad thickness. You could leave the PUL off and maybe use a fleece layer or something similar in its place too attempt to make it leak resistant, but in my opinion, you would have to be a lot more conscience of whats going on down there, and have to change the pad a lot more frequently. I ordered my PUL from a cloth diaper Co-op, but it is also available on Wazoodle.com or from JoAnn Fabric.

For the lining material (the layer against your skin) I choose to use wicking jersey (which I purchased from Wazoodle.com or I have seen it at JoAnn’s in their cloth diaper materials, the brand is called BabyVille). I love wicking jersey material because it feels dry (it’s called a stay dry fabric) and it does not hold stains. My pads look like new and I haven’t had to do anything particularly special to keep them that way. I found this fabric when I was making cloth diapers and it has worked excellent as the lining of my diapers. There is very minimum, if any staining, and I usually can’t feel if my baby is wet by touching the inside of the diaper. Wazoodle carries wicking jersey in many different colors. You could also use cotton flannel if you would like a natural all cotton material. I like flannel because it is super soft and it comes in different prints so my pads are more fun. I would NOT use any kind of quilting batting! An employee at JoAnn’s recommended this to me, I tried it and it did NOT work!

For the wing material, I would use a cotton material that is not stretchy and that has been prewashed (and preshrunk). I bought the quilters cotton from JoAnns.

Snaps – I used KAM Snaps that I purchased from a cloth diaper sewing Co-op but I did see some BabyVille snaps at JoAnn.

Thread – You want a polyester thread (not a cotton thread and not a polyester coated thread). Polyester will not wick moisture and cause leaks like cotton thread will. I always buy the Maxilock Cone Serger Theard because it is cheaper per yard.

Making the Pads

1. Purchase the pattern from our Etsy Shop - Simplistically Modern. The pattern is an instant download - as soon as you pay for it (via PayPal with a credit card) you are able to download and print the pattern. 


2. Cut out the material - You will have one PUL piece, one wicking jersey piece, one Zorb piece (you can put two zorb layers in the heavy pad if desired), and two wing pieces for each pad. Each pad has a front and a back so you know which part of the pad goes to the front/back of your underwear. The back is more flat and the front is more rounded. Mark the back of the pad with a little B on the inside of the fabric.


3. Center the Zorb onto the wrong size of the wicking jersey (make sure to put the b you marked earlier on the Zorb is towards the back of the wicking jersey). You can measure it out if you want, but I just eyeball it. Pin in place. Sew as close to the outside edge of the Zorb as you can manage, completely sewing the Zorb to the wicking jersey. If you are sewing a second layer of Zorb onto the long pad, pin the second Zorb layer on top of the first and sew it on as you did the first layer.


4. Put the right sides of the wicking jersey and the PUL together (the Zorb should be showing on the outside). Pin together, but ONLY pin inside the ½ inch seam allowance! If you pin in the middle of the PUL you can put holes in the waterproof PUL thus making it no longer waterproof. Sew fabrics together using a ½ inch seam allowance and leaving 2-3 inches open to turn the fabric right side out.


5. Cut around the curves of the fabric, leaving about ¼ of an inch of fabric. This helps the finished product to lay flat. Make sure you do not cut thru the seam you just sewed.



6. Turn the fabric right side out through the hole that you left in step 4.

7. Top stitch around the pad about 1/8” from the edge. You  can choose to use matching thread for the bobbin/top thread, or you can use the same color, whatever your prefer :)


8. Put the wing pieces right sides together and pin. Sew around the edge using a ½” seam allowance and leaving a 1-2 inch hole for turning. Using scissors, trim around the edge leaving about ¼” fabric (do not cut thru the seam and do not cut where the hole for turning is!). Do this the same way you did with the body of the pad.

9. Turn the wing piece right side out. Top stitch around the outside edge about 1/8” from the edge.


10. Center the wing on the backside of the pad. The wing should be against the PUL. Pin in place (optional). Sew between the seam that held the Zorb to the wicking jersey and the pad’s top stitch seam.


11. Put snaps on. You can either do this one of two ways. The easy was is to just use a marker and mark where you want the snaps. Then apply snaps using snap pliers per the pliers directions. The second way you can do it is apply each snap one at a time. This is how I do it - not sure why I do it the hard way. Here is some picture instructions on how I do it. If you just want to mark where the snaps go, just look at the last picture.






And your finished! How did they turn out? Please let me know :)

Laundry Instructions


Immediately after using do one of the following: (1) Rinse the pad using cool to cold water until the water runs clear. If you are going to hang dry and use the pad again during the same cycle, use a liquid Castile soap (such as Dr. Bonner’s) to wash away most discoloration on the wicking jersey. If you are not going to use the pad again until after you machine wash it, you can skip the soap step. Hang to dry. (2) Soak the pad in a bowl of cool water until laundry time (you could use a plastic bowl with a lid and place it under the sink in the cabinet, out of sight). Make sure to change the water daily.

After the end of your cycle - machine wash with your normal laundry.

Laying flat or hanging to dry will result in the longest lifespan of your cloth pad.

Do not use fabric softeners, bleach, or other chemicals on your pads, not only are they bad for the material and shortens the life of your pad, but they also aren't good for your personal parts.

47 comments :

  1. Totally following your blog! Love the tutorial , clearly pictured and worded . Can't wait to print once I have some ink :). Thanks for sharing

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  2. Looks great! Thanks for the share. :)

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  3. This is awesome! I bought my first reusable pads from Lunapads, but I like the idea of making my own with the fabric patterns I like. I worry that even though the site I buy from is expensive, making my own might be more expensive. I bet I would feel pretty proud of myself though. That would probably make up for it! :)

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  4. I'm making a kit for people that includes all the fabric you need for 6 pads with everything cut out, and the snaps for $25 plus shipping. All you need is to follow the tutorial and sew together!

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  5. I love cloth pads. They really feel so much better and are a snap to clean.

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  6. That sounds like a great idea!

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  7. I was curious about how to keep this clean but after this tutorial I can see how it's done. I don't know that I am brave enough to try this but hopeful that someone will be able to use it.

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  8. I didnt know they made cloth for this. Ive only heard of diapers. I find that Im allergic tosome pads so maybe this would help.

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  9. This looks like it would be super comfy! Your instructions are incredibly detailed and your blog is really nice. Great efforts in helping the environment and leading a lifestyle you can be proud of!

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  10. You truly learn something new every day, I had no idea such a product even existed. Have a great week!

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  11. Thankfully this phase of my life is over! It will save woman a lot of money to make their own reusable pads.

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  12. Making your own is great if you can do it.

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  13. Thanks Kristen! We try our best to be nice to the earth and ourselves!

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  14. I don't know if I would say I'm allergic to disposable pads but they sure make me burn and itch :( a lady I know is allergic to every brand of disposables so she tried my cloth pads and now she is having me make a whole bunch for her some because she can actually wear the cloth ones :)

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  15. I was the same way. If someone would have told me a year ago that I would use cloth pads I would have told them that they were 100% crazy haha. Now I would never go back! The ones I make are so much more comfy, and they are so easy to keep clean. Plus I save tons of money and trash!

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  16. I'm sure that this is a great option for women who are trying to save money on disposable sanitary napkins. I had no idea that this could even be done and it is probably much better for the environment too.

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  17. This is a great option for women who are on a budget and trying to save money on purchasing disposable sanitary napkins. I'm sure that it is probably much better for the environment too.

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  18. WOW.. I've always wanted to make a set and your tutorial is AWESOME.. love the pattern fabric.. and you made it look so easy... Have you thought about selling the finished product? I sooo would buy it.. thanks for sharing...

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  19. The instructions are top! I have actually never heard of people making their own pads. It might take me a while to try it, but I definitely want to see the difference to store bought ones!

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  20. wow i honestly had no idea reusable pads existed. but i can see how this would work. :) Thanks for the insight!

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  21. Wow, this is really helpful! I've never tried cloth before!

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  22. The menstrual pad turns out perfect! But, I could not do it, too much work... I'd rather buy than make my own.

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  23. I praise you for taking charge the way you feel right. This step would definitely not be for me, but being resourceful is always a good thing!

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  24. i've used cloth before. i also have all the stuff, so i could make more if i need to- i have some bamboo topped ones as well as a few other variety. nothing with pul though

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  25. Wow, great tutorial! My daughter uses these but we don't make our own.

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  26. I am happy to say that I no longer worry about this. If I still cycled, I would consider these and make my own. I, too, had an issue with most pads on the market. I am always glad to see natural solutions.

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  27. I am a tampon kind of girl but these look super comfy I wouldn't mind having some around for emergencies. unfortunately I suck with the sewing machine but maybe I can give this a try. Thanks for the tutorial.

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  28. I am a tampon kind of girl but these look super comfy I wouldn’t mind having some around for emergencies. unfortunately I suck with the sewing machine but maybe I can give this a try. Thanks for the tutorial.

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  29. My sewing machine is not working, hope to start this project when it will be fixed. Thank you for detailed instructions, love them.

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  30. I honestly didn't know people made their own pads, but I can see where it would be a definite money saver.

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  31. Do you have a post on how you clean them? Do you just throw them in the washer??

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  32. I posted laundry instructions at the bottom of the tutorial :)

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  33. I've been interested in making some reusable pads for a while, but I try to stay away from synthetic fabrics in my sewing as much as possible. Do you know if anyone has had success with a wool backing, instead of PUL or synthetic fleece? I'm using wool diaper covers for baby with much success (as long as you don't wait too long between diaper changes).

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  34. I have pads that are just made of flannel and do not have PUL and they work fine as long as I don't wait too long to change them. I think wool would be a better option than just plain flannel especially for heavier flows. I also know people who use wool on their cloth diapers and they like it. If you decide to make mama cloth with wool, let me know how it goes :) good luck!

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  35. I'm curious why the wing piece is separate from the center piece. Also, why don't you make the wings out of PUL? I just bought some PUL and some absorbent lining material and was going to cobble something together but figured someone out there on the interwebs had probably already invented the wheel, so-to-speak. Glad to find your blog, and really appreciate some tips/techniques you mention - like using polyester thread! And now I'm considering heading back to Joanns for some wicking jersey instead of using the scraps of cotton sheet material that I have on hand. :)
    Thanks for the work you put into this tutorial!

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  36. The reason why I did the wings as a separate piece of fabric is because it helps prevent leaks. The pads are a lot faster to sew when everything is one piece but when I tested a one piece version, I had more leaks than I liked - the fluid would just follow the fabric around and go straight to the clothing on the other side. When I switched to having a separate wing fabric I didn't have any leaks :) And I don't make the wings out of PUL because cotton is way cheaper and easier to sew. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

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  37. I really have considered making my own, since I have taken up sewing! This is a great tutorial! Very thorough!

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  38. Hey, I loved this post! What an easy thing too do and its cheaper and better for the enviroment. Thanks for posting this!

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  39. Thank you so much for posting this on here! Just the other day I was looking into other period options and I came across this and for the cups. I'd prefer this. And it's better for the environment!

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  40. How heavy of a flow will this work on? There are times I have had pretty heavy flows (so much so that I had to have to blood transfusions last fall). I am wondering if making and using my own pads, using organic materials, would help with this as my body would not be absorbing the synthetic stuff but I have to have something that will absorb A LOT right now. Just a couple of tablespoons would not be enough as I would be changing CONSTANTLY which is what has kept me from using homemade cloth pads so far.

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    1. I have a super heavy flow and I use these all the time. I made some heavy flow pads using the heavy sized pattern with two layers of zorb and they work great for my heaviest days. Also I have noticed that my period isn't as heavy after using cloth pads for while. Have you tried using a reusable silicone cup? I sometimes use one in conjunction with my cloth pads (my period is so heavy that I have to use both at the same time, I can't use just the cup) and that really works well and makes it so I don't have to go through as many pads. I really like using the cup and the pads for night time use. Let me know how they work out for you!

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  41. Curious what you do for storage of used pads while you're on the go? Do you use a wet bag like with cloth diapers? I've not cloth diapered, is there a lot of smell with the wet bags?

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    1. If I have a wetbag with me for my baby's cloth diapers then I use that. I keep a plastic zip lock bag in the small pocket of my purse to use if I don't have a wetbag with me. I did just get a small wipes wet bag from Planet Wise that looks like it will work great for cloth pads. Wet bags don't smell bad. You just launder them with your regular laundry after use.

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    2. I use a wet bag that looks like a pencil case. I am in the military and have had to care them in my gear for few days and no issue. I wrince with water and mild soap after use.

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  42. Do you prewash the zorb before you see it? The manufacturer directions say not to, but I have heard of some people having issues with shrinkage.

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    1. Zorb 1 does not need to be prewashed. It looks similar to batting and if it is prewashed, it will probably fall apart and be ruined.

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  43. Really nice tutorial. I want to try to make these, I just have to find a store that sell the PUL cloth:/ ( I live in Sweden and it is difficult to find here)

    Btw, I absolutely LOVE your glasses in your photo! What brand is it? :)

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