Homemade Cloth Pads Tutorial and Pattern

by Merissa on January 2, 2013

in Featured, Make Your Own, Natural Living

homemade-cloth-pads

Homemade Cloth Pads

Stop! I see you there trying to run away from this post! Before you go in terror at least hear me out.
About a year ago I first heard about cloth pads. My first reaction was, YUCK! Why would you want to have to deal with such a thing? But the idea still fascinated me so I still looked into it and was amazed at the info that I found. As I wrote about in the article, Naturalizing Your Feminine Hygiene Routine, here are some of the things I discovered about cloth pads:

  • Cloth pads(or at least the ones you should be buying!) are made with no chemicals and you can even get some with no dyes.
  • Cloth pads remove the risk of TSS(Toxic Shock Syndrome) since you aren’t putting any chemicals into your body.
  • Some women find reduction in length or heaviness of periods, or reduced cramps, clotting, ect while using cloth vs regular pads.
  • Since fabric is more breathable than plastic, using cloth reduces your risk of rashes or infections.

Those reasons were too good for me not to give it a try. So I started out by buying Glad Rags. They were expensive but my co-op carried them and they claimed to last 5 years when taken care of so that was worth the expense. The first wash I put them through they shrunk like crazy and got all twisted up. They are still usable but are not in very good shape. I then went to Lunapads. They were a little more expensive but if I had to pick a store boughten pad that I liked the best it would be these. They did not shrink and I liked the fabric they were made out of.

homemade cloth pads

But then I got really brave and decided it was time to make my own. And I’m here to show you how you can do it too! If you have some scrap flannel and some ok skills with a sewing machine (you could also sew these by hand) you can make a simple cloth pad.

Supplies you need:

  • Flannel (not very much, at least ¼ yard in 2 colors will make you a couple pads)
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Measuring Tape
  • Scissors
  • Cloth Pad Liner Pattern
homemade cloth pads

First you will need to trace around your pattern on the fabric. You can use a pen or a fabric pencil or whatever you have on hand.

homemade cloth pads

Cut out two of each of the patterns.

homemade cloth pads

Turn the fabric inside out and sew the liner around the edges. Go around the entire thing leaving no openings. Do the same for the wings of the pad.

homemade cloth pads

Snip a hole in one side of both the wings and the pad.

homemade cloth pads

Use this to turn the fabric right side out. Do this for both wings and pad then iron each of them.

homemade cloth pads

Make sure to put the sides with the holes together so you won’t be able to see them in the finished pad.

homemade cloth pads

Sew the pad onto the wings.

homemade cloth pads

Now for a closure…if you don’t want to invest much in the pads or you don’t plan on making many of them you can just use Velcro or a button. Otherwise invest in a snapper tool and put snaps on the pad to keep it attached. (I used plastic snaps like the ones they make for homemade cloth diapers)

homemade cloth pads

That’s all there is to it! It takes me only about 20 minutes from start to finish to make a pad so it’s hardly any time spent on something that will save you a lot of money!

A few tips on making cloth pads:

  • The cheaper flannel that you buy the shorter life of the pad. Sometimes it worth spending a little more on a quality fabric so you get more use out of it. I have found plenty of great flannels in the remnants bin at fabric stores! I would shy away from the Walmart flannel.
  • MAKE SURE your flannel is 100% cotton! Artificial fabrics will cause sweating. Gross.
  • Make sure to wash the fabric first to avoid shrinkage in the final product.
  • To care for your cloth pads, make sure to wash them right away after use. They can be rinsed off first and then washed right in with your regular load of clothes. Do not use scented laundry detergent on cloth pads or it will irritate your skin.

homemade cloth pads

Find more great sewing projects like this one on our Frugal DIY Projects page.

Don't want to make your own Cloth Pads? I've got some that I've made for sale in our Homestead Store!

Have you ever tried homemade cloth pads? Do you think you will try making them?

merissabio

 

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{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heather Ash January 2, 2013 at 9:42 am

I have been using Luna Pads for a few years now. I love using them and have been wanting to make my own for a while. The Luna Pads have some sort of waterproof liner inside them that prevents leak throughs. What type of material would you recommend for an inner liner? I have really heavy periods and wouldn’t trust just four layers of flannel to hold back the flood gates… so to speak :-)

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2 Merissa January 2, 2013 at 10:42 am

This pattern works best for just a liner type of pad, I’ve got one I’m working on for more of a day pad. You would want to put some kind of absorbent layer plus a layer of PUL, which is the waterproof fabric that you make cloth diapers with.

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3 Cynthia L. January 2, 2013 at 10:39 am

What a great tutorial. I am no longer in need of pads, but if I were, Iwould give this a try!

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4 Alison Bayne January 2, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Joining with you in this pioneering spirit, here’s my version: http://mumtopia.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/menstruation-for-meanies.html
Your pads look lovely – better results than mine – must have another try!

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5 Andrea H January 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm

A really inexpensive way to get the 100% cotton flannel (if you don’t already have an old shirt of hubby’s or a sheet that needs a new life) is to go to the thrift store and shop in their bedding section and pick a sheet that has a pattern you wouldn’t mind using for pads. They are super cheap. You might even have so much extra you would like to make some for your friends or daughter(s).
:)

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6 Merissa January 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm

GREAT tip! Love this!

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7 Angie January 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I appreciate you sharing this! My girls and I use cloth and believe in them so much that we’ve started selling them. I feel that no matter how someone gets started using them, it’s just important to make the change :)
http://www.etsy.com/shop/cozycloth?ref=si_shop
http://myworld.ebay.com/cozycloth

Thanks for showing how to make these and the reasons you should use them!

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8 Hilary January 2, 2013 at 6:13 pm

What a great tutorial and I just got a sewing machine for Christmas. I’ll have to give this a try :)

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9 Theresa-Lynne January 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I’ve ordered some on Etsy to try. I also ordered the sample pack from Telulah Bean. I loved those pads! I was skeptical about trying them. Awhile back my husband told me I should be using them. I thought gross! I have to say that I love my cloth pads!! It really isn’t gross. I have started making my own as well. I will be starting to make the post-partum ones; I’m due in June. I have recommended them to my friend and her daughter. They like them as well. So much more comfortable than plastic!!!

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10 Kelsye January 3, 2013 at 8:31 am

I have been using some off of esty for years :) I am extremely allergic to any type of commercial store-bought pads, tamponds, panty liner ,etc. I get a bad rash that spreads down my legs that is painful and itchy. I delt with it for 3 years before I found cloth pads. I was desperate because my skin literally looked liked it was peeling off in chunks. As soon as I switched I have never had any problem at all!!!!!!!:) thanks for the great tutorial . This looks like the easiest one i have so far . I have made some before but I use zorb between the flannel layers. It’s extremely absorbent and I never leak with it. You have to be careful with the lined pads because they are normally lined with pul and that can cause yeast infections because of decreases air flow:)

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11 Jane January 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Oh my gosh – this is so crazy! I was just yesterday putting my first effort into making my own pads, but I was having problems making my own pattern! I was using this tutorial — http://www.tinybirdsorganics.com/organiccotton/clothpads.html — that used terry (towels) as the pad layer, and as I was cutting them, they shedded over everything!! I am really going to try yours. Thanks so much!

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12 Merissa January 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Let me know how it turns out for you!

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13 Jen January 4, 2013 at 2:20 pm

I no longer have periods, but when I did, I loved using the flannel “Glad Rags” pads; it was so much more comfortable, even though I had ready access to free pads by using coupons. Things to remember are: you want to initially rinse the pads out in COLD water, not hot. Cold water gets out the blood, but hot water sets it in. Also, after rinsing, pour hydrogen peroxide on it and let sit for a while. After that, I’d usually rinse again before adding to my regular wash. And I usually use hot water to wash my clothes despite the usual advice of using only warm or cold; I like to try to kill some germs, too, while washing clothes.
Anyway, if I’d a pattern and directions, I would have liked to make my own pads, and I love Andrea’s idea of buying something flannel at a thrift store! Most new fabric has chemicals in it, such as formaldehyde, in it, so better to get a fabric that has been through the wash before, and then wash it again since you don’t know the history of that particular flannel.

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14 Merissa January 4, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Great tips, thanks for sharing!

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15 Mylinda September 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Thanks for the information. I wondered how you would properly clean the cloth pads.

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16 Kate January 5, 2013 at 4:54 pm

So glad you shared. What do women think their ancestors did before disposable anything? My mom learned how to make “rags” from her grandmother. I am only 48 folks so that is not too long ago. Not a bad idea to at least talk to younger women about these options as “disposable pads” might be scarce in an emergency.

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17 Dena January 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Just started sewing my own because I can’t affored to buy them and I can’t wait to try them out I use 4 layers of terry in the center because Zorb is to expensive and the water proof fabric is PUL and I also use quilters cotton for botton or top but I like the minkey top a little better but e/w urs look awsome thanx for sharing :)

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18 Sara - My Merry Messy Life February 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Great post, Merissa! I’ve been wanting to make my own pads for a while, but I use tampons, so I’d only use these at night.

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19 Tammy February 3, 2013 at 5:46 am

Where did you get your snap tool? That looks like it might be a good purchase.

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20 Merissa February 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I got mine from Hobby Lobby. I noticed you can also get the same one on Amazon for a little cheaper…. http://amzn.to/X7NZ8H

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21 Holly February 4, 2013 at 9:25 am

How about adding a layer (or 2) of microfleece inside for extra protection? Good idea or bad?

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22 Merissa February 4, 2013 at 9:28 am

That’s the same idea behind a color diaper so it might work. You would want to add in a layer or PUL (waterproof) fabric though as the microfiber would wick away the liquids and you wouldn’t want it to leak.

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23 Rachael February 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I’ve gotten mine off of Etsy, but it would be fun to make them. For the ladies that like their tampons, have you tried a menstrual cup as a non-disposable option? (no TSS worry). I saw that they’re mentioned on this site. LOVE mine (I use a Lady cup, which I like better than my Diva cup), and the thinner cloth pads work great as a backup. I wish I’d known about these alternatives sooner, so thanks for getting the info out!

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24 Carrie April 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm

I use homemade cloth pads in conjunction with a diva cup. I had TSS twice when I was younger and trying to use tampons. I have had no issues with the Diva cup or the cloth pads.

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25 Rhondac April 22, 2013 at 8:54 am

Anti pill fleece works good as a backer to keep it from leaking through. It is less “slippy” and more breathable than PUL, although it is a little bit thicker. It’s what I use, and it works great for me.

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26 Rachael April 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Hey Merissa,
How much fabric do you use per pad? I want to buy enough fabric for 92 girls to be able to make their own pad at an all girls sleep away camp this summer! Trying to figure out how much fabric to order (i.e. how many yards).
Any help with this would be appreciated! Thanks.

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27 Merissa April 28, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Good question….I’m not sure I guess, I would say that 1/2 yard of flannel should make around 4 pads. It could be more though. Sounds like a fun project!

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28 Rachael May 5, 2013 at 11:41 am

Thanks! I think the girls will love it :).

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29 Jha May 3, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for sharing your pattern! I’ve been using cloth pads made by a company local to me (back when I lived in Halifax) for the last several years and yesterday made my own out of some scrap, although, it didn’t occur to me to use flannel for the whole thing! That WOULD be comfy! I used a mix of flannel and terry cloth ^^

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30 Andrea August 2, 2013 at 11:51 am

Willow Pads. Ok product. TERRIBLE customer service. I do not recommend this company. I purchased my first, ever, supply of organic pads from Willow Pads. I wore them once and washed them once. One of the pads’ stitching had missed the material and it came loose in the wash. I called them and had to leave a voice mail. 4 days later, I emailed them. Next day, I emailed, again, with a picture of the faulty pad. That was a week ago; still not response.

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31 Merissa August 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I haven’t heard of this brand but thanks for letting us know! I will be staying away!

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32 Zene August 3, 2013 at 12:26 am

I would love to try cloth, but since having my youngest and having a tubal during the c-section, I have had horribly heavy periods. For the first two days I have to change a super tampon and liner every hour, or a pad AND tampon every two and a half hours when I teach. I cant even wear JUST a pad during those first two days otherwise a simple move, laugh, sneeze, cough causes a major gush…its bad.

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33 Jan Derksen October 4, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Zene, I had the exact same problem…talk to your ob/gyn about having an endometrial ablation done. NO woman should have to suffer like that, and since you’re finished having babies, an ablation is a good option. I had mine done 5 years ago, and I wish I’d known about it right after my tubal…I spent SOOO many years suffering!!! Best of luck to you!!!

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34 belinda September 4, 2013 at 9:47 pm

My mom was born in the 1920′s she use old sheets because the store bought type hadn’t been invented yet. When I was growing up we didn’t have much money so that is what she gave me to wear to school. She always said it’s better for the stuff to drain outside of our bodies. I think she was smart about that. Thanks for sharing this sewing tutorial about homemade pads.

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35 janet September 28, 2013 at 6:26 am

Anyone ever use Procare waterproof fabric?

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36 Merissa September 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I’m not sure if it’s the same but I’ve used PLU which is waterproof. It makes a great extra layer in the pads to make sure nothing gets through.

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37 Sherry October 1, 2013 at 2:03 am

I am also past that stage but now have a little urine problem when I cough. Would this pad hold up for that. Urine is more liquidy than blood. Would I need it thicker. What is pul? You amaze me on how frugal and down to earth you are. God is using you to teach many . He always leads me to people to show me how to make the best of resources which I have not done. Again I am thankful He lead my finger to pick your site. IN the winter I do a lot of sitting at the sewing machine so will the snap bother me. Older people’s muscle tone is more tender . Velcro sound good but would not last in machine unless maybe if left velcroed

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38 Merissa October 1, 2013 at 6:24 am

PUL is a special kind of waterproof fabric, if you ask for it at your local fabric store they should be able to point you in the right direction or it can be found near the cloth diaper making supplies.

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39 Jan Derksen October 4, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Merissa, yours is one of the easiest tutorials I’ve seen!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!! I’m up to my eyebrows in canning still, but these pads are going on the top of my “to-do” sewing list for winter!!!

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40 Natalia MacIntyre October 12, 2013 at 6:32 am

Loved this tutorial Marissa!! You made it so easy to follow!
I just recently started making and selling Modern Lady Cloth too.
Very excited about cloth.. i must say :)
Check out my Facebook Page @prettyecointimates.

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41 Holly October 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this information! I find that my pad always slips up my behind and barely catches anything in the front. I found this to be true with the GladRag brand and my homemade ones. Do other women have this problem or perhaps I just need to make them longer on one side? Also, what’s everyone’s secret to keeping your pads out of view from people while they are drying and waiting to be washed? It’s hard to hide them discreetly without putting them in a closed environment where they won’t dry or smell. Afterall, no one wants to see a 3 year old stained pad hanging from a shower curtain when visiting your home. I also want to mention that I use the Keeper which I have had great success with.

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42 Merissa October 15, 2013 at 7:12 pm

I recommend getting a little wet bag (like for cloth diapers) to hold them in until you wash. I just toss the whole bag in the washer too. I think you might want to make them long on one side if you are having that issue, it might work!

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43 Kristine October 23, 2013 at 7:19 am

Everywhere I read says you have to put a waterproof pul fabric backing or they will leak. I really want to use organic fabrics and that clearly is not, any suggestions?

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44 Merissa October 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

I haven’t had any issues with the cotton flannel I use but those pads are more for light days. I’m not sure what a good organic alternative would be for PUL besides maybe adding extra layers?

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45 Holly November 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

Kristine-

I have several different pad sizes for various flow levels. For really heavy flows I use 6-8 layers of flannel and many times use the keeper (like a diva cup) for extra protection at night or when I’m in public.

Holly

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46 Rebekah January 11, 2014 at 12:10 pm

@Kristine

I’m with you! I would prefer not to use PUL fabric and would also love to not feel like I have a log between my legs because of the layers. I was looking into using Zorb, and I feel more comfortable with that. Supposedly “Zorb contains only tangled cellulose fibers from bamboo/cotton/viscose and poly micro fiber”…not perfect, but it seems a little better? I think I will try it.

If anyone else figures anything else that might work as a filler that is super absorbent, please share!!

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47 Kendra March 23, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Hi, I’m fairly new here, but I wanted to comment. I get my pads from New Moon Pads in Canada. She uses Malden Mills Sherpa Fleece as her waterproof layer. I understand it is rather expensive and I don’t know if it is environmentally better than PUL. What I can tell you is that it is breathable and it works. Water just pills up and rolls off. When I’m rinsing out my pads water doesn’t go through it until I squeeze it out and it is dry to the touch immediately. I have a fairly heavy, gushy flow and I haven’t had a leakage problem yet. Hope this helps.

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48 Laura November 11, 2013 at 9:41 am

Thanks for posting. I’ve been using cloth for several years now, and I will never go back! Just the comfort of cloth is worth it if nothing else!

I make my own very simply; just a circle of 2-3 layers flannel (from old sheets), sometimes with some old towel in the middle. Zig zag stitch around the edge, and put a snap on either side. Easy peasy!

For those wondering about heavier days, I often just double up on the cloths. With mine I can roll one up and slide it between my undies and another cloth to create an insert layer. For night time, I use two; one a little to the front, and one a little to the back so they overlap in the middle for extra protection. I doubt this would be enough though for the lady with super heavy flow. Sorry to hear! Good luck!

They do leak through to my undies sometimes, which isn’t great, but it’s better than infections, so I leave out the waterproof layer. If you wanted a more eco friendly version, maybe the water-proof breathable shell layer from an old jacket would work?

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49 Terry Springer November 14, 2013 at 9:42 am

Store pads are no longer in our budget and since I realize I will have urine leakage (in small amts) the rest of my life, this looks like a realistic alternative! Thank you for the ideas and advice, they make this project so much easier. I am shopping for fabrics tomorrow!

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50 Gina January 23, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I’m new to all this, so my first question is – how well does the blood wash off? :/

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51 Merissa January 23, 2014 at 7:45 pm

It actually washes off really well. If you are worried about it you can always either use a stain spray (I use Bac Out by BioKleen) before washing or you can place in a small container with a bit of water and baking soda after use until you can wash.

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52 noel February 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for sharing this great pattern. I’ve used Gladrags which I like but too expensive for me. I’ve got some cloth pads from Momscrafts4u on Etsy. <which I wear when I'm away from home. They are leakproof and awesome!
But I was thinking of sewing my own to wear when I'm home and can change more often. Your pattern seems easy enough for a beginner like me! I made the switch to cloth about 15 years ago and haven't looked back. Less bleeding, less cramping, etc… Not to mention the savings. Thanks again. Love your blog!

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53 Daniele February 23, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Thanks for this pattern!! I am looking into making my own because I use disposable pads and they are absolutely horrible. It stinks and I get a rash from it so I will be switching to cloth in the very near future. I have never been a fan of tampons either. I will take a shot at making this because I want to save money, not produce as much waste, and be healthier because of it. I’m 17 years old and all of the res of my family thinks it is gross but I absolutely love the idea! I wish I would have heard of it sooner! Thanks again!

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54 Kay February 24, 2014 at 8:20 pm

I’ve been using WeMoon pads and love them! My cycles have reduced from 7 day agonies to 3 days without the need for any pain relief. The waterproof liner is a must though!
I soak the used pads overnight and use that to fertilise the garden – how’s that for organic and sustainable :o)

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55 Shannon February 25, 2014 at 1:54 am

What if you put a shammie fabric in the middle? You know the kind you use to dry your car? They are supper absorbent and they sell them at the dollar store.

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56 Merissa February 25, 2014 at 7:14 am

Yes, you can do that to make a heavier pad. :)

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57 Noel April 4, 2014 at 9:21 am

Just wanted to tell you I finally got around to making some pads. I made some with 4-6 layers for the middle part and found if I cut the slit in each one before sewing, it made it much easier than trying to cut through all layers after it was sewn down.

They work great!

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58 Laurie Giddings June 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm

This is a technical question. Is the line on the pattern the cutting line or the sewing line? Do I need to add seam allowance to the pattern or cut as shown.

Thanks! (I’m making these for my daughter)

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59 Merissa June 13, 2014 at 10:05 pm

It’s the cutting line. You can add a seam allowance if you want a little more space to sew.

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60 Monica Nicholson July 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

How do you know if fleece is anti-pill, or no- pill? I have some fleece and flannel sitting around that I’d like to try making pads with. I’m pretty sure the flannel came from Walmart though… it’s probably not cotton huh?

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61 Merissa July 28, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Hmmm, good question. I’ve bought quite a bit of cotton flannel from Walmart since we don’t have many other stores here and it’s worked well for these.

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62 Ashley July 30, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I think I will be trying these. This is great I can alter to my daughter and I’s needs. Thanks for sharing!

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63 Casey September 12, 2014 at 4:11 am

Hi! I know this is an older post, but I found it on Pinterest and wanted to comment. I made up a pattern myself last year (way not pretty lol) and made around 8 pads. I have a super heavy flow, so I use tampons on the heavy days with the pads for backup/leaks and these alone for lighter days. I made mine solely out of recycled fabric, old baby blankets and flannel shirts from the thrift store. It was very cheap and I love them to death, so much money saved!!! Thank you for an actual pattern I can follow! I’m down to 4 (from my very beginner sewing skills, some have since fallen apart!), and need to make some more. I’m also thinking of making some up for Christmas gifts for close friends! :)

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