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Thursday, July 3, 2014

picture tutorial for sewing cloth pads

I decided to just do it. There are a lot of tutorials out there for sewing cloth pads, but some of them are frankly a little confusing to the amateur or beginning seamstress, and most of them didn't show enough photos as I thought would have been helpful when I was figuring out the process. Hopefully, this provides you with enough info to get sewing your own supply of healthy, natural, TSS-free, truly sanitary and safe pads!

First, you need to figure out your templates. Every piece is equal to itself, no front or back to the pads, so that if you cut out the shape on paper and then folded it into half and half again, the edges would all match up.

This rounded parallelogram is the basic cutout for regular sized pads, and can be sewn thickness for light, medium or heavy flow. Approximately 7 inches wide and a little over 9 inches long.

This small rectangle is the extra core for medium and heavy flow lining in regular pads, and is 3 inches wide by almost 7 inches long. 

This peanut shape is about the same size as the core piece above, and is for all pieces for sewing mini pads, or liners.

Okay. So here you see everything together.

Use your cardboard templates to draw out pieces on your fabric. I use THIN cotton or bamboo quilter's batting (never fluffy anything, and never polyester or synthetics) for all the inner absorbent pieces. I use 100% cotton flannel for the outer pieces, or you can use 1 PUL (polyurethane lining) fabric piece and 1 cotton flannel piece if you would like a waterproof bottomed pad.

After prewashing all your fabric on hot and drying it, you will need to cut out the following:

Regular sized pad, light to medium flow, needs 1 parallelogram piece, 1 rectangle piece, 2 outer pieces of flannel (or 1 flannel and 1 PUL fabric).

Regular sized pad, heavy flow, needs 2 parallelogram pieces, 1 rectangle piece, 2 outer pieces of flannel (or 1 flannel and 1 PUL fabric).

Mini/underpant liner pad needs 1 peanut shape piece in batting/inner absorbent fabric, and 4 pieces of outer flannel.

Cut the parallelogram and peanut pieces with sewing room, about 1/3rd inch. Very important! You will be sewing along the drawn line. The only piece you cut actually on the drawn line is the rectangular piece for the large pads. Cutting always seems about half the work, to me. Once you get all the pieces cut, the sewing doesn't take long.

Now you start sewing. 

Figure out what lining pieces you need, and layer them together. Sew the smaller piece onto the larger piece(s).

Then, layer on the outer pieces in this order: bottom = lining, middle = bottom fabric face up, top = top fabric wrong side up. This way, the two outer fabric pieces are right side facing each other. Here, you see the pink fabric is the PUL waterproof bottom, and the purple tweed flannel is the top of the pad.

Pin everything in place. Use more pins than this if you think it's going to shift around.

Now sew along the line, but be sure to leave an opening. You see where my hand is? the threads either side of my fingers? I started on the left, sewed around the pad and stopped on the right, leaving an opening wider than my four fingers. 

Carefully trim off excess fabric. Don't cut too close to the seam, just trim off anything that might prove bulky once you've turned the pad right side out.

Now, you turn the pad right side out through the hole you left. My finger is lifting the two outside pieces apart. This is the way you want to turn it.

Just keep pushing and pulling, gently. Work it until it's right side out.

Almost done. Your pad is pretty sturdy at this point, but you need to sew that hole closed.

Turn the edges under and in, and sew a top stitch on the pad to close the hole. I hope you were doing this the whole time but I especially want to note now that you must be sure to anchor the seams by going forward and backward a bit at the start and end of each seam.

Sew all the way around the pad edge with that topstitch. This keeps the pad lying flat and smooth, as well as ensuring that the pieces are thoroughly sewn together for many years of use.

All you have left to do is figure out where you want your snaps, and sew them in place.

I hope to get pics for the mini pads / liners for you in another post soon! and I will link it here for your easy finding.

Washing and care
Cloth pads are really easy to care for. You will notice when you switch to using cloth that the "normal" odor you expect to smell during your period is not really there anymore. Menstrual blood does have a strong metallic scent, sure, but the real problem comes from the chemicals and the absorbent synthetic gels in disposable pads. You will no longer have this problem when you use cloth.

Save soiled pads in a container, such as a bucket under the sink, or a mesh washing bag. Let them dry out for a few days while you use your stash. They won't smell much at all when wet, and any minor smell will dissipate as they dry. Menstrual blood is sterile and not at all hazardous, and so long as you keep the pads from coming into contact with any other soiling they are perfectly fine for a few days.

When ready to wash, soak pads for 30-60 minutes in a bucket or sink full of cold water. There is no need to add anything special, but if you want to remove stains (which have never found necessary) you can add an all natural product, such as Bac-Out by Biokleen.

Either dump the pink water onto the roses or tomatoes, as the plants love the iron rich water, or you can pour the whole thing into the washing machine. Wash pads alone or with a dark load, on cold, and without fabric additives -- no brighteners or whiteners, and no fabric softeners as these create a film on the fabric over time that inhibits absorption.

Dry flat, or tumble gently on low if made without PUL. Reuse again and again.

Comfy extras

After delivering a baby, your personal Australia is probably a bit raw. Cloth pads a fabulous way to not only protect your body while saving some cash (as washing and reusing for 3-6 weeks will easily prove cheaper than using disposable pads), but also to provide yourself with greater comfort. And not just because they're cloth.

In those early days postpartum, I remember loving the ice-filled diaper that the nurses brought me at the hospital. I wish now I'd known about this idea! You can dampen and chill your own cloth pads for comfort following the instructions here, at Just Making Noise. If you are uncertain about essential oils right after delivering, when the body is most vulnerable and open, just use aloe juice and pop the pads in the fridge overnight. I also find that painful periods now, when I'm not postpartum, are soothed with these herbal pads:
What you will need:
Overnight maxi pads (cloth or disposable)
2 cups Witch Hazel (distilled extract, available at any drug store)
½ cup pure, edible Aloe Vera gel/juice (fresh or store bought)
15-20 drops Lavender essential oil
15-20 drops Rosemary essential oil
15-20 drops German Chamomile essential oil
Aluminum foil
In bowl, thoroughly combine everything. Pour into a small spray bottle or simply use a Tablespoon. Unfold the pads and spray each pad until damp or pour 1 Tbsp. (make a vertical line down the center area) on each pad. Wrap each pad in aluminum foil and store in the freezer. When ready to use, take one out and unwrap it. Let it thaw for about 2 minutes before put it on. If you put it on right away, it will be COLD… but it feels great!!

Note: If you are using fresh aloe vera leaves. Simply peel the skin off and lightly rinse it. Then put the clear gel in your blender and blend until smooth.

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