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Works for Me Wednesday: Make Your Own Cloth Sanitary Pads!

I'm cheating on this post. It's from Sunday, but I'm changing it to a Works for me Wednesday. So some of you may have read it already, but I thought it should have been Works for Me Wednesday!
Cloth menstrual pads. Okay. I know that sounds "Ick. You've got to be kidding me!". But hear me out.

Two years ago our family went to the Mulli Children's Home in Kenya, home to almost 1,000 abandoned and orphaned kids. One of the big problems they have there is periods. It seems that post-pubertal girls get them. And pads are horrendously expensive over there. They cost the same as they do here, but the income is so much less.

So what do you do when you have 500 girls menstruating? I thought about this for a while, and did some research, and found some patterns for cloth ones. I brought over a ton of fabric, and showed them how to make them.

And, being the good sport I was, I decided to test them first. Guess what? They are so much more comfortable than regular ones. So I stopped buying all the disposable things and went to pads, except for when I'm out of town. And they're cute to boot!

To wash them, you just rinse them under cold water, and stick them in a bucket beside your toilet filled with cold water, and maybe some baking soda or vinegar if you want to. You don't have to. Change the water everyday if you're not going to do laundry everyday. Then, when you do go to wash, just dump the water in the sink and the pads in the washer, and you're good to go. You don't actually have to touch them all that much, and as long as you get them in water pretty quickly, they don't stain. They're really cute!

So this weekend I finished making all the pads Katie will need when she starts her period. And then I experimented with some more. It was bliss! I love taking days and just sewing. So here's what I made (this doesn't include Katie's stash):

What you do is you put a layer of flannel on top, followed by several layers inside, or else some layers of old towels, and then fleece on the bottom. Aren't these cats cute?

These ones have wings on them so you can wrap them around your underwear. But as long as you have fleece on the bottom, you don't really need it, because fleece won't move. It rubs against fabric the wrong way and stays in place. So these long ones are actually my favourites, but people seem to like pads best. I made two of these, and you can see the "wrong" side with the fleece:

For materials, I've been experimenting to try to see what works best in Africa. For the inner core I've been sewing scraps of flannel together, and it works fine. I asked some sewers for their flannel scraps, and here's a pad made out of material my mother-in-law made pyjamas for Katie with years ago. Every sewer has scraps they can't get rid of:

If you don't have new scraps, you can also cut up old pyjamas. Here are some Winnie The Pooh ones I bought at Value Village made into a mini-pad:

I also read that if you don't have fleece, you can cut up old raincoats and use them for the waterproof layer (fleece is also water repellent). So I made this one out of flannel on top, flannel in the middle, a layer of an old raincoat with holes in it, and then cotton print on the bottom. How cute is that?

That's the flannel side. Here's the bottom:

And then this is my favourite. This is huge (you can't really see it from this picture), but it works great for those heavy nights. I have never leaked since I started using this. It's also great for post-partum. You can see it on the end with all the pads together:

I also made a few with a more angled shape that I'm going to try out soon. I want to go back to Africa with a few different patterns that I like best and that I find work best so we're more efficient.

They really don't leak. The only times they do is sometimes around the wings, which is why I like the wingless better. But that's just a preference. Most people like wings.

Anyway, I'm making a whole stash for a team that's going to Burkina Faso soon. They want to show the orphanage there how to do it, even if you only have scraps and not a lot to choose from. I'm not a very good seamstress, but I'm learning! And it is sort of fun.

My daughters, of course, think I'm the weirdest mother on the planet, but if you get Rebecca alone she will admit that the cloth are more comfortable.

If you want more detailed instructions on how to sew them, leave a comment, and maybe I'll post a picture tutorial soon. But it won't be for a while, because I don't know when I'll next get some time to myself!

And if you want to try one, or you like a pattern, let me know in the comments and I'll email you back. I can sell them for $5 for a regular pad or $2 for a mini-pad plus $2 shipping in total, and you can try them, too! If I make them for you, though, I'll put on snaps rather than velcro. They're prettier.

Got time to look around? I've got a book giveaway going on and lots more! Click here for my whole blog and keep scrolling!

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At 10:16 AM , Blogger Cherish said…

I don't make my own, but I switched to cloth pads a few years ago and LOVE them. Not only are they more comfortable, but I have noticed my periods are substantially lighter and my cramps are not as bad. On the occasions when I've had to go back to disposable pads or tampons for a day because I wasn't prepared and away from home, my flow is heavier and my cramps and backache are quite a bit worse.


At 3:41 PM , Blogger Steph said…

Ive been contemplating switching to cloth pads. We use cloth diapers and Ive heard the pads are more comfortable.


At 10:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I'd love to know more details on how to make them myself when you get the chance. I have only made two sewing projects in my life, and I am trying to expand my project list. I'm also totally up for a money saving, eco-friendly project!


At 4:14 AM , Blogger D-Ann said… has a great program for non crafty people! They are allowing people to donate pads through their company. But I may attempt to make some of these myself.


At 9:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I'm always awed by other's creativity! What a great idea! I may have to try it, however, I can't sew...

Great WFMW


At 10:27 AM , Blogger Tara said…

Two comments. One, those are super cute and I'd like to try one so email me at tara kluth at juno dot com and we can work out details.

Second, I've been making some baby quilts from flannel. A great source for super soft, many times washed flannel is old flannel sheets! We have a second hand store here where I can sometimes find them for just .99! I've also asked on freecycle for used flannel sheets. Works for me! :) I've


At 1:59 PM , Blogger Wani said…

Thanks for sharing what works for you! Ok, my initial thought was "EW"... but I'm a little interested. I might have to try it out sometime. Thanks! C'mon by Wani's World to check out free films!


At 6:05 PM , Blogger KrustyTheCat said…

I also thought "eww", but I have to say what a neat idea! I wouldn't be adverse to trying some myself, perhaps when I finally get a sewing machine. lol


At 7:02 PM , Blogger Molly said…

A friend of mine had this entry linked on her blog...Maybe I'm the party pooper here, but I've heard about these before from the "it's better for the environment" perspective - while I can see why the non-disposable pads are more cost-efficient, it would seem to me that using all that water to clean them (maybe TMI, but anyone who's ever had an accident and tried to get it out of their underwear knows it takes a LOT of cold water to get blood out of cloth!) may be hurting the environment more than it helps - water would seem to be a far less renewable resource than cotton. I'll stick with biodegradable tampons.


At 7:15 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

I know what you're saying about the water, but it really doesn't take much.

You just soak them in a container of cold water (I use ice cream tubs), and then change that water daily if you're not washing them. I usually do a load of wash anyway, so I just throw them in. They don't take EXTRA water because they piggyback on what I wash already. It's not like you ever do a whole load of just pads!

And as long as they soak in cold water the stains haven't set, so they come out easily.

For me, though, it's comfort rather than environment necessarly. And economy. Those are my big pluses!


At 7:19 PM , Blogger Storm said…

Good for you for being so creative. What a great service you are providing for those girls in Africa too.


At 8:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I use Glad Rags and love them. I don't rinse or soak them. I have a kitchen sized wastebasket that I use for cloth diapers, cloth wipes, cloth toilet paper, and the cloth pads and wash them all at once. (Yes, I use hot.) I have not had any problem with stains and I keep three on them in individual ziplock bags in the van for when I am out. That way if I start or need to change, I have some with me and a bag to put it in until I get home.

And the cloth wipes and cloth toilet paper is a "Big Box of Rags" that you find at home improvement stores or auto parts stores.


At 12:33 AM , Blogger jody said…

Hi! I have just started researching this, too and have found an organization called Goods4Girls that serves to provide these cloth pads to girls in Africa-check out their website if you are interested in sharing your talents with them. It breaks my heart what a life-halting occurence simply having their periods is for those sweet girls-not only are disposables hard to afford, there is no proper way for them to dispose of them and sometimes they even have to give certain "favors" to security officials just to get pads/tampon-yuck! it is so wrong. Thanks for your help already to the girls of Africa :)


At 2:11 PM , Blogger Cassie said…

hmmm - when i first read this on sunday, i thought "hmmm, maybe" but then i woke up this morning to my cycle and now I'm not so sure. but there are lots of good reviews here in the comments - so maybe i'll be back to my more positive mindset next week!


At 8:06 PM , Blogger sara l said…

This is something I've been thinking about for a few months but have yet to make the switch.


At 11:09 PM , Blogger Kathryn said…

I would be interested in the pattern so I can make them myself.


At 7:40 PM , Blogger Tracey said…

I have NEVER even heard of using cloth pads. I use ALWAYS. I have never used a tampon. This is very interesting. It never occurred to me....


At 9:11 PM , Blogger Tristan said…

While I have never tried cloth pads, I have heard of them adn we use cloth diapers on the kiddos, which I highly recommend! (Esp. with sensitive skin!)

What I use instead is called a Diva Cup. It is made from soft silicone which makes it latex-free and hypoallergenic. It is a cup you insert like a tampon that catches your menstrual flow and simply needs rinsed every 6 hours or so. It is really comfortable as it warms to your body temp so you don't notice it, and you don't get all dry and itchy like you can with tampons(sorry for TMI!). It lasts years and comes in 2 sizes. One for those who've never had a baby or are under age 30(I think...), and a slightly larger size for those not in that category.

Check it out at

I found mine at a local natural food store for $30.00. It seems expensive but I have heavy periods and spent at least $15.00 a month in tampons and pads. It paid for itself in 2 months and I've been using it for much longer around pregnancies.


At 1:21 PM , Anonymous danielle said…

i too just started using the Diva Cup....i bought mine on Ebay for 23.00 and i have used it only once so far....i don't like it quite as much as tampons but it's not bad at all, once you get used to the insertion, leaves no waste to end up in a landfill and now i no longer have to spend any money on sanitary products. i saved $$ and helped the environment! And it's healthier than tampons, with all the dangerous ingredients that lurk in them.


At 1:07 PM , Blogger Valerie aka Mamalovelock said…

I clicked on the tweet about this. I am cloth diapering our youngest (first one to do this with) and in researching cloth diapering I ran across cloth sanitary pads. I was at first like you said "ick", but after reading this post and others, I have to say I am intrigued. I think I might try them. I don't currently have a sewing machine, so I would have to buy them from. Are you still making them to sell?


At 9:10 AM , Blogger Carrie said…

Yes these are cute! I would like some of these.


At 4:56 PM , Blogger Chris said…

I would love to put together a sewing party for my daughter and some of her friends as a service project. Do you know any organizations that are accepting donations to be distributed in Africa? Goods4Girls has shut down.


At 9:16 PM , Anonymous Dottie said…

I would love to learn how to make my own! A tutorial or pattern would be great. The only place I can find cloth pads (and they are so much more comfortable than the sposies!) is at a Whole Foods type store and the price for 3 pads is a bit much for me. My email address is dottiestoys39 @ yahoo dot com.


At 2:36 PM , Blogger Jeanne said…

I'm wondering if the old time "rags" were ever made this nice?Guess I should ask my 82 yr old mother...

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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