There are a few pages on Facebook where users of alternative menstrual products (AMPs) can find information, encouragement and support. I’ve come across many new makers and friendly, welcoming people online this way. I posted on one of the boards asking for suggestions for this blog. What would people like to read about as far as AMPs are concerned?
A lovely lady called Kate stepped forward and offered to write a guest post for me. She is one of many who like to make their own cloth pads and she said she could put together a tutorial for me (and for all of you) to show you how easy it is to make your own pad from an old baby vest. Reusing old clothes AND using cloth pads is a double win in my book!
The only requirement is that you have a sewing machine. Even if you don’t have any children, you can buy a pack of vests in Primark for about a fiver (or even less for a second-hand bundle on eBay!). And you can find cheap fleece blankets (for the backing fabric) and terry towelling facecloths (for the absorbent core) in most pound shops. You don’t even need the gizmo for applying press studs coz on a baby vest they are in place and ready to use. So give it a try! Over to Kate to show you how:
A few months ago I found out that having sore, irritated, rash-covered lady parts with every period was not normal. I’d suffered like this every month since I was 13 using disposable sanitary pads… and then I discovered CSP – cloth sanitary pads. I can’t remember how I found out about CSP – I think I stumbled across them on a cloth nappy blog, and then started researching them myself.
I was so excited to have found what seemed to be my solution, until I saw how much they cost! I knew I would save money in the long term but spending upwards of £5 per pad would mean a huge outlay for me to switch from disposables.
And then I had the bright idea of making some pads myself. After all, I thought to myself, how hard can it possibly be? Now, I’m a Mum with two young kids, I work and run an allergy testing business in London and I’m also studying for a degree one day-a-week, so I wouldn’t describe myself as someone with a lot of spare time. Or as someone who knows much about sewing.
So, I dusted off the sewing machine my Nan gave me a few years ago – here she is:
Notice the lack of zig-zag or other fancy stitches… it basically goes forward and backward, and weighs about a ton. But I love it – the mechanism is smooth, and it has a lovely hum when it is running.
I love upcycling things from around the house, so I wanted to see if I could upcycle anything into CSP… then I thought about baby vests. They have ready made wings with poppers, and are normally 100% cotton so I thought I’d give it a go… this is what I made:
If you want to know how I made it then read on… I promise it wasn’t too difficult!
STEP ONE: CHOOSING YOUR MATERIALS
OK, so dig out all those old, stained vests that are too bad to be donated or passed on to another family but too good to get rid of (come on, I’m not the only Mum with a bag of the kids’ clothes like this, am I?!). I should mention here that it’s probably better to use bigger sized vests – these were all 12-18 months from Primark that had been thoroughly worn by both my boys when they were younger. Smaller sized vests might not have enough fabric for making both the wings and the pad.
You will also need something to use on the back of the pad as a waterproof layer to stop the blood leaking onto your clothes, and also some absorbent fabric inside the pad. In the interests of upcycling, for the waterproof layer you could use the fabric from an old umbrella, old washable nappy wraps (PUL), old waterproof coats, or as I have here, an old fleece blanket. If you want to try fleece then run it under a tap first and make sure the water doesn’t just run straight through it! For the absorbent core layer, I’ve tried old towels and old flat washable nappies or prefolds which are just layer upon layer of absorbent cotton. Below you can see (from left to right) a prefold, a bamboo towelling nappy booster, a hemp nappy booster and a cotton towelling nappy booster. Any of these would work perfectly well.
STEP TWO: WINGS
Cut the “wings” from your chosen vest:
Separate the layers by cutting the side seams and then popper them together.
Now measure and mark 4.5cm either side of the poppers (so 9cm in total from one side to the other).
Cut along these lines and you have your wings. Keep them poppered together for now.
STEP 3: OUTER LAYERS
Cut a rectangle out of the remaining vest fabric, and your waterproof backing fabric. The rectangle needs to be 9cm wide and whatever length you require – these ones were 25cm long.
STEP 4: CUTTING THE CORE
Cut your absorbent layer(s) – these should be a rectangle too but only 6cm wide, and at least 3cm shorter than your base and top layers were – I cut mine 21cm long. And so you should now have a set of “wings”, a top layer, a base layer, and an absorbent layer:
STEP 5: SECURING THE CORE
If you have more than one layer of fabric for your absorbent layer, top stitch around the edge of all these absorbent layers.
This will stop the layers separating when you wash your pad.
STEP 6: TOP LAYER
Arrange the absorbent pad on the wrong side of your top layer, somewhere near the centre (no need to be 100% accurate!) and either topstitch around the edges again, or do some wavy lines like these (they show up wonky stitching far less!):
STEP 7: ASSEMBLY
Arrange your wings and top layer so that the right sides (printed sides) are facing each other.
Place your waterproof backing layer, again right side facing (if it has a right/wrong side!) on top of this.
STEP 8: SEWING TOGETHER
Sew around the edges of all layers together, allowing around 1cm seam allowance. Don’t forget to leave a gap for turning everything the right way round – here I have left the gap on the long side, but it would have been easier to leave the gap on one of the shorter ends. The gap should be around 5-8cm long. Trim all the edges to about 0.5cm.
STEP 9: FINISHING OFF
Turn the pad inside out, unpopper the wings and allow them to open out, then topstitch around the edges of the pad to hold everything in place and make a neat finish.
Wear your upcycled CSP with pride!