Instructions for Cloth Menstrual Pads

information graciously provided by Jan Heirtzler, Sleeping Baby Productions

1. Get some material. I'd recommend 100% cotton for the top and bottom pieces, and an all-cotton batting (such as "Warm n' Natural," which goes on sale at JoAnn Fabrics/Cloth World for $4.49/yard) for the filler. (You could also use multiple layers of cotton fabric for the filler, but I don't know how many layers you'd need for it to be effective.) I used about a yard of 90" width batting and maybe two of fabric like unbleached muslin, and made about 15 pads.

2. Wash the fabric and/or batting before cutting the pieces out! I made the mistake of cutting and sewing before washing the pads, and they shrank in really weird ways -- still usable, but not as pretty as they could be, and not as big as I'd planned (which was fine for some of the recipients). Do follow the instructions for washing the batting, though -- the "Warm n' Natural" I used didn't seem to shrink as much as the cotton, and I'm not sure batting can be washed all by itself in a machine without disintegrating into a million pieces.

3. Lay out the pattern pieces. I tried to conserve material as best I could, but the pieces are a very odd shape; I pretty much just folded the fabric into as many layers as I could comfortably cut through, and cut multiple pieces at once.

4. Sew the pieces together. For pads with three layers of fabric and three of batting, I made a stack like this:

This way, once the pieces are pinned together, I never had to sew directly onto the batting (the sewing machine didn't like doing that).

As you sew, make sure that all the layers are caught in the thread. Leave a gap of about 1.5 inches (4cm) on one side of the larger half of the pad (just below the wing) to allow the pad to be turned right-side-out. Also, make sure that your stitches are secure by backstitching at each starting and stopping point; you may want to reinforce the stitching around the pivot points for the wings, as well. When turning, make sure that the two fabric pieces that were together ("top" and "bottom") become the outside pieces. (It's actually a lot simpler than I'm making it sound here.)

5. Topstitch the now-inside layers of batting to the fabric pieces (along the lines shown on the pattern pieces). Also be sure to sew up the hole used for turning. You may want to topstitch around the whole outer seam, about 1/4" from the edge -- I found that this stopped leakage around the edge of the pad. To keep the pad from slipping around when worn, I sewed a buttonhole on one of the wings, and used a pair of underpants to determine the placement of a button on the other wing; you might also use hook-and-loop tape as a fastener, or create a special pair of underpants: for this you could leave off the wings, sew buttons to both ends of the pad, and sew buttonholes onto the underpants themselves such that the pad was in the right place for you (or do the same thing with hook-and-loop tape). However, I've found that just using the wings for a button hole has worked out fine.

6. Care instructions: I just throw my pads in the wash whenever it's being done (every 2-3 weeks, as we don't have our own washer/dryer). With the button hole combination on the wings, you can fold the pad into thirds and button it closed, to prevent leakage while it's still damp -- just make sure you unbutton it before throwing it in the wash, or it won't get as clean. In the past, I hadn't bothered to presoak or anything like that; however, they haven't been getting as soft as I would like (they stay kind of crusty ? yuck!), so I will attempt to rinse them out or something in the future. If you wanted to get fancy, and had to cart them to and from work, you could make little envelopes for them by sewing rectangles of fabric together, or just fold them up as above. Enlarge these pieces by 200% (so they are twice the size they are now) for the pattern.