This is a continuation from part one, which can be found here.
As I was gearing up to write a posting on handmade cloth pads, I realized I was basically going to restate just about verbatim everything I learned on this topic from my sister. Even some of the first cloth pads I had were made by her and not me. So why not appeal to the expert herself? That’s what I did. Please welcome my first guest blogger and domestic engineer extraordinaire, my sister!
Dear Path to Green Readers:
Karyn has asked me to be a guest on her blog for this entry. She keeps telling me that I am her reference on this topic, so why not write the post for her? 🙂 I’m her sister Loree. A few years ago, in the midst of cloth diapering my little ones, I decided to see if it was practical for me to switch to cloth for my monthly needs. I was exposed to the idea of cloth menstrual pads through a conversation with one of my husband’s aunts. We chatted about how she began her journey to cloth, and I got some basic ideas of how to begin. Being pregnant at the time, I didn’t have an immediate need for switching to cloth for myself. I did, however, research this topic online to come up with what I wanted to do when my cycle presented itself again. I found that there are some really great cloth pads to buy, but all of them were out of my budget. So, I had to turn to my ever-trusty sewing machine and fabric stash for the answers. Armed with my new knowledge, I formed my plan, spent a few evenings sewing, and had a nearly free set of washable pads at the end.
Here is what I did.
When sewing a pad, the first thing to consider is how to keep your clothing dry. In my opinion, there are two good options for a water-proof barrier: PUL (polyurethane laminated fabric) or fleece. PUL is commonly used as a cover for cloth diapers and can withstand repeated washing at high temperatures. This stuff holds up really well. I had diaper covers made of this that lasted through 3 kids with not too much wear. The down side is that this fabric does not breathe well. My favorite choice is fleece. It allows for air to circulate around my body, but provides plenty of protection for my clothing. On the other hand, it is substantially bulkier than the PUL. Fleece is readily available at local fabric stores. PUL is available at various online locations.
The next thing to think about is what will absorb that excess liquid. This is where one can get creative and thrifty. Think about things you have on hand: old bath towels, flannel from shirts, sheets, or baby blankets, hemp fabric, organic cotton fabric…anything that would be a good absorbent fabric for a cloth diaper will be a good absorbent fabric for this purpose, too. I decided to purchase a few microfiber dishtowels for this layer. They hold quite a bit for their thin size, and they were a good quality for their inexpensive price. I used only one layer of it because it is by nature very thirsty. Thinner fabrics, like flannel, will require more layers to work effectively. A heavier flow will require more absorbency. Use your judgment and make something that meets your needs.
The last layer is the one that will sit against your skin. Depending on the choice of absorbent fabric, this layer might not be necessary. Fabrics like flannel, hemp, and cotton might not need a top layer. I wanted something that was cheap, but really comfortable, to cover the bumpiness of the microfiber toweling. What fits that description better than one of my old t-shirts? Tie-dyed in fact! For me, a broken-in jersey knit works beautifully, and even looks pretty. Other women prefer a fabric that pulls the wetness away from the skin, like microfleece. Microfleece is a very thin version of fleece that lets liquids through to the absorbent layer but stays nearly dry to the touch. A good thing about microfleece is that it resists staining.
As to the shape of the pad, there are a few ways to approach it. I spent a little time googling cloth menstrual pad patterns and came up with lots of free results. My method was to trace a disposable pad that fit my body well. Then I created a cardboard template that I could trace onto the various fabrics I used. Another shape I like is the circle pad. Instructions and ideas are at this site. The only thing I would add is that one single layer of fleece does just as good as the PUL encased in other fabrics.
For those who prefer tampons, here is an interesting idea from the Fern and Faerie website. These are instructions to knit/crochet your own OB-like tampon. It costs less than a dollar for the pdf download. Fern and Faerie also has patterns for cloth pads for sale, as well as free cloth diaper patterns.
Hope this post helps you on your own path to green.
And now for some pictures:
These ones have a fleece layer on the bottom, microfiber inner layers and jersey knit on top. They’re top-stitched together with the basic zigzag stitch. I’ve had these for ages, so they look a little frayed around the edges. I just use a little safety pin in the front to hold it in place.
This one is my own version of the circle pad. I started with the circle, but cut the fleece down after putting the snaps on, because it seemed too bulky. The inserts are double layered microfiber topped with a fun color of jersey knit (In hindsight, I would have triple-layered). The inserts don’t slide around at all when they’re in the fleece casing, so no safety pin needed.
So the last thought….how to wash them? Here’s what I do (or did..now I use my divacup). When you switch pads, toss the old one in the sink an immediately rinse as much as you can out of it with water and maybe some basic handsoap. Then, I toss it in a small bucket with some vinegar in it that I keep by the toilet. This will collect all of my pads for the week, and they can soak so they don’t smell bad. If you’re really concerned about stains, my homemade shampoo actually works really well at reducing stains. When it comes time for laundry day, I put them in a zippered mesh bag so they would all stay together in the washer/dryer. They will stain a little, but they still work just fine!