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Pad Makin' Tutorial (by popular request)

For all of you hankerin' to make you some pads, here's my little tutorial:

Here is my pattern:

It isn't the best pattern in the world, especially since I drafted it by hand, but it gets the job done. It should be true to size, but, before you print it out, check it - it should be just under 10" long. Also, I'm drinking sake as I write this, so forgive me if I'm not always perfectly clear.

On to the instructions!!!

good scissors (small ones for the curves)
terrycloth (old towels are great for this, just wash the living hell out of them first)
long pins
sewing machine (you can do it by hand, but you had better get a good thimble and a ton of thread)
snaps (I like the kind that you hammer in, but you can do the sew-on type. They're not as secure, though.)

1. Put a mark on one side of the pattern. It isn't perfect, so you should flip it over when you do opposite sides of a pad just to make sure that things line up properly.

2. Trace the pattern onto the flannel. Flip it over and trace it again. Cut these two pieces out.

3. Cut out a rectangular piece of terry that will fit nicely in the pad. I do strips that are about 8.5" long and narrow enough to just give me an adequate seam allowance on the sides. You don't want to stuff the flaps with terry, or they won't fold down properly, and I've found that widening the ends just adds bulk without making a better pad. Just stick with simple rectangles, but curve the ends of your strips so that you don't have sharp corners mucking up the curves when you're sewing.

4. Place the strip of terry between the two flannel pieces. PIN LIKE CRAZY, like anti-pin laws are going into effect tomorrow and you gotta fit a lifetime of pinning into one night. Seriously. These things tend to shift when you sew them, and that screws everything up. Do a line of pins right down the center, and then a line on either side to really hold down the terry and to provide a guide for the channels.


See those thick lines of stitching that run down the length of the pad? Those are channels. They do several important things: they hold together the layers of terry and flannel, they help the pad to assume a curved shape when you're wearing it, and, best of all, they guide the flow of *cough* liquids so that they stay in the center of the pad and don't merrily traverse the wings and go wherever else they please.

You can do anything you want for the channels - zig zag, crazy freehand stuff, or any cool decorative stitching that your machine supports. I'm particularly fond of a decorative vine pattern that my machine does. Just make sure that whatever stitch you use is wide and very secure. A simple straight stitch will not be enough.

Once you've picked your stitch, make your channels using the aforementioned lines of pins as a guide. They won't be perfect unless you're a god with the sewing machine, in which case I bow to your greatness. Don't sweat it if yours come out all cruddy - what kind of woman frets over the stitching on her pads, anyway?

6. Now that you have your channels, zigzag or serge the edges and install your snaps. Snip the loose threads and you're done! How awesome is that?

Note: Yeah, yeah, the edges are all raggedy. Why not turn them inward? Every seam in your most delicate area is an opportunity for chafing, especially when there's moisture involved. Simply zigzaging the edges may not be pretty, but it's MUCH more comfortable, believe me. If you do it this way, you'll barely notice that it's there. It feels like soft (but thick) undies.

Pad care:
Cloth pads will stain. They just will, and there's nothing you can do about it short of dyeing them every few months or bleaching the living hell out of them, which is really not good for you or for the Earth. However, you can minimize staining by rinsing them thoroughly and then soaking them in cold water until you can get around to washing them. Just make sure that you change the soaking water at least once a day. You can wash them on any setting - if you're anal about cleanliness (as I am), you can even put them on a super hot setting with a ton of borax, use vinegar as softener, and they won't suffer. I still use the first pads I ever made, and that was 3 or 4 years ago, back when I had no idea how to sew!

I hope this tutorial helped you. Please comment with any questions, and I will alter it to make things clearer.


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2006 04:45 am (UTC)
i don't know if you remember my post from way back when where i posted my pads? i have since started to use this shape and not using the inner and outter method - but rather one piece

i soak mine in a vinegar/water mixture and during the period, i wash them in a normal cold cycle with the rest of my clothes so that i don't mind the upkeep - and when my period is done.. i wash them all in "freakin' hot" water to sanitize - it has turned out to be a PERFECT thing!

i am so glad you made this tut, i hope more people go the way of homemade pads!

(oh, and also... camo red flannel is by far the best thing ever for these if you are worried about stains)
Feb. 23rd, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)
I love the idea of camo red flannel, and also the flame print someone else posted yesterday.

Homemade pads really are the best. I had some Gladrags and I hated them - they weren't absorbent enough and they were way too bulky. After I started making my own, I never looked back.
Feb. 23rd, 2006 05:45 am (UTC)
Feb. 26th, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
We need to have a silly pad swap, because I cannot find flaming flannel or red camo print anywhere. I did, however, find adorable pink Hello Kitty to bleed all over. Yay!
Feb. 26th, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC)
Thunderstorms- is there any reason why you stopped using the insert method? Just curious before I skip out and start makeing them.
Feb. 26th, 2006 08:04 pm (UTC)
it was easier to use the insert method when it came to drying - especially for heavy flows days.. the thicker and more layers of fabric you have in a single pad, the harder it is to try all the way through... so it was nice that i had mutliple pieces instead of just one big one... but it was bulky and i just found myself switching out the outter pad every time i used a new inner pad anyway..

i don't mind the bulk when i am sleeping - but when i go out in the day.. i felt self-conscious that it was noticable
Feb. 26th, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC)
Those were exactly my reasons for abandoning the insert method almost immediately. If the pad got full enough that I had to change the insert, then I just wanted to change the entire pad. Lunapads has a better design with inserts, and I thought about copying it, but then I thought: "How much purse space is that really going to save me when I'm carrying them around?" Probably not that much. Anyways, the one-piece design is so simple, cheap, and quick to make, and I'm not the kind of lady who is willing to stress over the details.

If I'm making my own pads and making quite a few of them, I figure that I can make certain pads for certain days. You can also make them in different flannel prints or colors so that you can easily tell the extra-thick ones apart from those for light days. That would be really helpful if you're throwing a few in your purse when you're half awake and getting ready for work/school.
Feb. 23rd, 2006 05:10 am (UTC)
Awesome! Thank you for posting this.
Feb. 23rd, 2006 05:17 am (UTC)
I really like this pattern. Do you use just one layer of terry cloth? Is that enough?
Feb. 23rd, 2006 05:22 am (UTC)
It depends on the terry cloth - some are thicker than others. I use 2 layers for overnight pads.
Feb. 23rd, 2006 05:27 am (UTC)
You are a goddess :) Thank you so much for making this tutorial :)
Feb. 23rd, 2006 05:43 am (UTC)
Genius. Seems like it would probably be a shitload comfier than kotex, too. I just may have to try this.
Feb. 23rd, 2006 06:13 am (UTC)
Take it from an ex-Kotex user... WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY COMFIER.
Feb. 23rd, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
Love your icon!
Feb. 23rd, 2006 06:10 am (UTC)
thank youuuu.

Feb. 23rd, 2006 07:55 am (UTC)
i add a layer of nylon too, though i make two piece pads. i don't see why you couldn't just put a piece of nylon in with the terry cloth in this pattern though, if people are worried about leakage/bleeding through the pads.

i also find dollar stores to be good sources for cheap but decent quality handtowels to cut up for pads. i can never find terrycloth at the fabric store that isn't paper thin.
Feb. 23rd, 2006 01:54 pm (UTC)
yeah - i use rip stop nylon for the bottoms of mine - "just in case"
Feb. 23rd, 2006 01:53 pm (UTC)
never in my life have i heard of making one's own pads.
i love you.
Feb. 23rd, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
For the mods:
Could this go into memories? There have been several threads with folks making home-made pads, and it would be nice to be able to compare designs.
Feb. 24th, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)
how do you all stop the pads from leaking through? i would assume that the "liquids" go through the first layer of cloth, then the terrycloth, and then through the bottom cloth again.

or are these the ones that you use for everyday?
Feb. 24th, 2006 07:35 am (UTC)
(Hee hee, Domo-kun looks so pissed!)

I have found that by the time they leak through, they would be spilling outward in other directions, kinda like a disposable pad when it gets really full. You'd be surprised by how long it takes for "liquids" to soak through those three layers of cloth. Some people add a layer of waterproof cloth in the bottom to keep that from happening, but I haven't needed to. In my experience, their "holding capacity" is roughly equivalent to that of a normal maxi pad, but not one of the extra thick ones. It all depends on the amount of terry cloth you put in the middle. I go through maybe three pads on a light/normal day, and I have some double-thick ones for overnight, and they never leak. However, for the heaviest days of my period (which are really heavy), I use them as backup while I wear my DivaCup (http://www.divacup.com/). There's another cup out there called The Keeper, but it's made out of natural rubber, which is a rather potent allergen to some people. I developed an allergy to it after a year or so, so I switched to the DivaCup, which is made out of medical-grade silicone. If you ever want to try the cup, they offer a one-year guarantee, so you can get a refund if you hate it. I personally think that it's the Best Thing Ever.
Feb. 25th, 2006 04:11 pm (UTC)
mmmhh... ok. i don't know why, but i am still skeptical. i guess i should try it once, maybe when i know that i will spend time with my period at home, so that i feel safe that if something does happen i can change and get clean.

thanks for the info!
Mar. 4th, 2006 06:05 pm (UTC)
amazing and thank you. cant wait to pair this with my diva;)
May. 17th, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)
There is a whole community for diy cloth pads, diy_pads:
Check it out!
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 17th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
Yes! Women who make their own are freed from the jerks who sell unhealthy femme products using campaigns that prey upon their fears and shame. The more that women hear about this, the better. I was actually selling my cloth pads for awhile at a ridiculously low price just to get the idea out there. Even if it's just your classmates hearing about it, that's awesome.
Apr. 10th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
Hihi! I just found this looking around and thanks a bunch for this tut!
Aug. 18th, 2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
better than i thought it would be
I made one of these pads, thinking it was huge and would be uncomfortable...was I wrong! I just started making my own pads and have made a few of several different styles. I made this one out of an old cloth diaper backed with 100% poly microfleece (cut out from one of my son's old pjs). On me, the pad was the perfect size and felt very secure. I just ordered some PUL and will be making a bunch more of these! Thanks for the great post!
Jul. 27th, 2014 08:31 am (UTC)
I just came across your tutorial and am interest! I rejoined the site just to comment haha. I just bought some mama pads the other day but I'm interested in making my own. Is there any way that you could send me the pattern you used? It's not working for me when I click the link.

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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