Sewing Your Own Cloth Pads: Part 2

This is part two of a series on sewing your own cloth menstrual/bladder control products. Like cloth diapers, many folks find cloth pads to be more comfortable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective. Creating your own from unused items around the home or from the thrift store adds to the cost savings even further. My first post went over materials that can be used to make your own pads, and where you might find them outside of the fabric store. Now we’ll begin cutting and assembling our pattern.

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For this post, I’m using the 10” straight flare pattern from The Happy Hippos. Becky was generous enough to allow me to show her pattern pieces in the photos below. She has a wonderful collection of patterns for reusable pads and diapers with detailed instructions. I chose this one for the flat edges, as they’re easier for a beginner sewist than a curvier style. 10” is a moderate size, but there are many sizes available tailored for liners, postpartum, overnight, bladder leakage, etc. If you’re really in a pinch, you can even trace a disposable pad shape that you like, add ½” around each edge so you’ll have room to assemble and turn it right side out (seam allowance) and work from there. Using a pattern like Becky’s is much easier though with the shape and instructions laid out so nicely.

To create your own pattern, grab a disposable pad and stick it onto paper, cardstock or cardboard. Trace all the way around the outer edge of the pad. Using a ruler, create marks ½” around the entire pad for the seam allowance. Connect the dots - I chose to simplify a bit to make it easier to cut and sew, without affecting the functionality. Cut it out and you’re ready to proceed as with any other pattern.

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Other resources if you’re interested in sewing cloth pads are the facebook groups Sewing Cloth Menstrual Pads (for menstruating folks only) and Sewing Incontinence Bladder Pads. Their files and discussion go further in depth on materials you can use, available patterns, layering your pad and more advanced techniques.

Gather a few materials and let’s get started!

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Cutting and Arranging

First we’ll assemble our pad pattern. The main pattern piece prints on two pages, so they need to be put together to create one pattern piece. Trim the overlap on one side. Cut or glue along the center and then cut around the entire outside edge. The core printed on one page, so it just needs to be cut out. For durability, you can trace onto a cereal box if you’re hoping to make several.

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For this cloth pad, I’m using an old t-shirt as the topper and fleece for my backer. I’ll cut both of those first since they’ll both be the main pad shape. Lay the fleece down, assuring it’s smooth, and place the t-shirt on top - feel for any wrinkles that might have popped up underneath. Place plenty of pins around the pattern, especially if you’re using scissors, to make sure nothing shifts and changes the shape of the pad. I’ll need one of each, topper and backer, and the core layers will be sandwiched in the middle once it’s finished. If you’re making more than one, I recommend repeating each step for as many pads as you’d like, before moving on to the next step.

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You have options when it comes to cutting the core for this pattern. There are two shapes you’ll want to decide between and you’ll want to decide on how many layers you’d like. This is a simplified chart I created based on Becky Dunlap’s recommendation chart for number of core layers. I’m going to make a moderate pad with flannel, so I’ll use 4 layers in my core. I’m using an old pair of flannel pants (notice the bleach spots and holes) - imperfections are totally fine. I just laid the two pant legs on top of one another to create four layers, carefully smoothed each layer, and checked that no old seams were within the core pattern. Use plenty of pins if you’re cutting with scissors and carefully cut around the edge of either core shape.

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Now your pattern is all cut and you’re ready to sew. Check out our next post for the next steps!

Kaity Japikse is a former TCO cloth diaper advocate who lives in Ohio.