Cloth Sanitary Pads 58

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Sewing Bee Fabrics Tutorial
Make Your Own Cloth Sanitary Protection

how to sew your own reusable cloth sanitary pads free tutorial

Now I'm in my third trimester of pregnancy, that worry of waters breaking so it looks like I've wet myself in public is starting to set in. I don't fancy the irritation of disposable sanitary towels against my skin for weeks before and weeks after so it's time to make some just in case cloth sanitary protection, or muff fluff as it is also known as! Depending on how you feel about it, these work equally well as menstrual sanitary towels, or incontinence pads. Either way, this is how I've made my panty liners / just in case pads!

What you will need:

A base layer for the main body - I used cotton
An absorbent layer - I used a thin but absorbent old towel (if you are wanting to make this even more absorbent then you can always add an extra towel. However I recommend trying with one as its surprisingly absorbent compared to disposables and you don't want to make it unnecessarily bulky).
A layer to go next to your skin - I used fleece as it is good at wicking moisture away from the body so keeps you feeling fresher and dryer longer, and it doesn't tend to stain
A waterproof layer - I used PUL as its thin, flexible, washable and breathable.

Something to fasten it with - I used KAM snaps

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How To Make It:

First you need to draft your pattern. I like the shape of disposables so wanted to replicate that. I also wanted my cloth pads to be able to fold up on themselves to keep them cleaner of they were knocking around a handbag and less obvious as to what it was. This is how I made my pattern:

I made it completely symmetrical and cut it out with the paper into 4 so it would be nice and easy to line up my layers.

I used 24cm length, by 10cm width for the pad with 6 1/2cm wings (4cm wide). I would recommend that you make your pattern out of thin paper then with a pair of knickers around your thighs, see if you feel it is right for your knicker coverage. Easier to adjust it now before you start cutting!

Fold the pattern so the wings can tuck behind, then put another fold in at 2 1/2cm into the wings.

draft your own reusable sanitary pads tutorial

Now, cut:
2 x cotton with your whole pattern
1 x towel and fleece in just the pad shape (no wings)
1 x PUL in the pad plus 2 1/2cm wings (this reduces how much PUL you need as opposed to using the whole pattern, but is enough to catch any moisture wicking out from the centre.

selecting fabric to sew cloth sanitary pads

Arrange the top half first with the fleece on top, 1 layer of cotton then the towel underneath (all facing up). Pin in place then sew 3 lines down the centre. I like used a feather stitch but a zigzag would do.

reusable sanitary towel tutorial layering the fabrics
how to sew your own diy CSP
sewing fabric layers together for eco friendly sanitary towels

Now zigzag down the edge of the fleece where it joins the wings.

fleece topped diy csp free sewing tutorial

Put your PUL underneath (doesn't really matter which way up but I prefer shiny side up) then your last piece of cotton face down at the bottom.

arranging fabric layers for reusable cloth sanitary protection

Now go ahead and zigzag or use an overlock stitch right around the edge. (I use an over edge foot on my sewing machine, but you can just sew a zigzag stitch very close to the edge and trim off any excess if you prefer). I then like to sew a straight stitch just along the line where the fleece meets the wing. This makes it much easier to fold the wings back on themselves. Choose a wide stitch width then you have less tiny holes in the edge of your waterproof PUL layer.

overcast foot sewing cloth sanitary protection free tutorial

I like to sew a running stitch with a long stitch length (to make less tiny holes) down the wing edges over the zigzag that holds the fleece to make it easier to fold the wings around the pants.

roller foot sewing cloth sanitary towels

Lastly, I pop in KAM snaps to fasten. I put 2 settings on them - 1 loose so it holds the pad under the wings to be able to fold it up discretely to put in a handbag etc, then another to firmly hold around the knickers. (Find out more on KAM snaps HERE>>> )

KAM snap pliers free sewing tutorial
adding KAM snap poppers to cloth sanitary pads

Then it's finished!

how to sew your own panty liners free tutorial
diy cloth sanitary pad free sewing tutorial
make your own folding cloth sanitary protection

If you want to make a night time sanitary towel version (my waters went with a whoosh in bed last time!) then this is how I have expanded my dimensions. I kept the pad exactly the same on the centre horizontal fold, but lengthened the front half to 14cm then curled the edge out an extra centimetre on each side. The back half I extended further so it was 17cm and curved out to widen to 15cm at the bottom. The wings stayed exactly the same as did the KAM snaps.

how to make your own cloth sanitary protection

Everything else I did exactly the same - there was just a much bigger pad to cut out!

draft your own pattern eco friendly cloth sanitary towels

And finished, your mega pad should look like this:

sew your own cloth sanitary night towel
foldable cloth sanitary protection diy tutorial

We hope you enjoy our tutorials and love hearing what you think so please leave us a comment.

Happy Sewing!

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58 thoughts on “Cloth Sanitary Pads

  • louise sinclair

    not having a lot of money and loads of different fabrics around the house all i needed was the pul. I know in the long run it works out cheap but i just couldn’t afford it , so i bought a terry waterproof mattress protector. I got a super king size from amazon for just under £12. So i have the waterproof part plus technically i also have another absorbent layer too.

  • Dawn Mason

    How many would you recommend to have in stock for a typical menstruation usage? Would 4 normal & 2night pads be sufficient? We want to make a “monthly” set to give away under Period Poverty, only change I’d make is to make a small bag to keep them clean & discreet in the handbag & with a PUL lining can be used to store soiled ones until you get home, much nicer than a nappy sack or a ziplock bag that everything can be seen in.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Thanks for all the helpful tips and experiences you shared in the other comments. For me personally, I have about 4 night and 8-10 day pads to last the whole period, so although I like to wash halfway in, I don’t have to bother to get any dry in time to use again. I’m guessing it’ll differ a lot for different menstruation heaviness, how often people like to freshen up and what their access to washing is like. I would say any is a considerable improvement over none! A discrete handbag bag sounds like a lovely addition too.

  • Chris

    Could you tell me what you use for ‘fleece’? I’m not sure if you mean the poly whatever fleece that zip jackets used to be made from, or something else. And is there anything else I can use instead of towelling? I have some old towels but they are thin and rough and not very appealing!
    Thanks for all the information on your site.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Yep, that is the kind of fleece. Just look for anti-pill fleece so it doesn’t go all bobbly after a few washes. Thin towels might be comfier having the reduced bulk, and you aren’t going to see them or feel them with fabric layers on either side of them so I’d probably just make one out of it to try anyway. Otherwise, you can buy absorbent fabrics like terry cotton, bamboo/cotton blend fleece, or microfibre towelling that would all work well. Microfibre is super quick to dry, bamboo is super absorbent but takes longer to dry if you haven’t got a tumble drier and cotton terry is somewhere in the middle. Good luck having a go!

    • Dawn Mason

      I used baby fleece blankets from the charity shop just make sure you wash them. Also sweatshirt fabric with the fleecy side up when sewing but up to you which way round.

  • Rowena Muldal

    Would having cotton not make the pad rather hard? I have been using disposables, but have developed an allergy to the glue, and so have decided to try and make my own. I did one, out of brushed cotton, but it seems to stretch. How do I stop the stretch?

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      I would recommend just using light to quilting weight non-stretch cotton and it should work well. Normally iron-on interfacing could be used to limit stretch if you really wanted to use a stretch fabric in a situation where you want to limit that stretch, but I don’t know how the interfacing might affect absorbency and comfort (as it stiffens the fabric a little to a lot depending on the weight of the interfacing used) so I wouldn’t use it myself for this kind of project. Hope that helps!

      • Henrietta

        I am worried that the fleece will not hold very much liquid. Where as an adult that is a heavy wetter may have to use something more absorbant. Any suggestions?

        PS Does fabric softener affect PUL?

        • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

          Hi. The fleece layer isn’t for holding moisture. It is a fabric that draws liquid away from the skin into whatever absorbent material you put underneath it. In my opinion it makes it more comfortable to wear than sitting on something that feels damp. Between the fleece and the PUL you can put your absorbent fabric. An old towel works well as a single layer, or could be doubled up if you don’t mind the extra bulk. Bamboo terry is highly absorbent so that could be another option you might want to consider using. As for the fabric conditioner, I’ve been popping my PUL in for weekly washes with all my general washing for about 8 years and haven’t noticed any decline in the fabric. However, towelling often warns that it can become less absorbent with fabric conditioner so that might be more of an issue for you. Hope that helps! Best wishes, Linda.

    • Dawn Mason

      Like any fabric that may stretch you could sew around the outside of the shapes to stop stretch or overlock the edges. Plus when you sew the lines down the centre of the pad it stops stretch & bunching up in the middle.

  • Elizabeth Murray

    Thank you for this tutorial. I have been looking for panty liners for slight incontenience and also sanitary pads for heavier periods for a friend. I have purchased some pul, some organic cotton for the back of the pads and some fleece and microfibre, terry towelling for the middle, for the front of the pads. Looking forward to trying your pattern and techniques. Thank you.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Thank you! I hope you are happy with how they turned out. I’ve been using mine for around 8 years now and it feels so much more uncomfy to go back even to a day of disposables. I hope your friend will find them better too!

  • Lynda Kagai

    I would like to know if you sell polyurethane and flannels for sewing pads.if so I would like to visit your shop .I will appreciate for your feed back since I need the fabrics too. Am known as Lynda Kagai from Vihiga county.Thanks.

    • Rebecca

      Can you describe the layers in terms of a sandwich- eg- cotton/pul/towelling/fleece/cotton. I’m a bit confused in the order they should be! Thank you

      • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

        You want a PUL at the bottom. It is up to you if you want just a patterned/pretty PUL or whether you want to cover the PUL with cotton. If you are covering it, then cotton at the very bottom then PUL. This is the part that protects the pants. The middle is the absorbent layer – towelling. Then I covered this with cotton. Some people stop here as they prefer natural fibres against the skin, but you can put fleece on top if you want as this helps to move moisture away from the skin and down towards the cotton and towelling.

  • Maddie

    I loved the suggestions. Am all for less waste and have used pant liners more than once which sounds gross. But this is how. I saved and boiled in an old saucepan, antibacterial wipes. And they boil and boil showing how long to disintegrate. I cut up strips of an old cotton pillow case. I laid wipe on pant liner, then cotton strip and wrapped under pants and pinned with safety pin. Nothing goes through to pant liner and process can be repeated next day with clean nics. Sounds crazy and would only do this while home alone shielding but was pleased with my efforts to cut down waste. Also use boiled anti bac wipes to remove makeup and as tissues. Always love the old fashioned smell of boiling. Reminds me of my babies’ nappy days. I then pour the boiling water down sink to keep pipes clean. Don’t be horrified by this. It has worked very well and I am a very fussy person .
    I also cut yog pots into strips and fill empty water bottle with them. Cuts down on amount in recycling bin.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      I’m glad you found it helpful. I’m so grateful fabrics and detergents have come such a long way. Cloth nappying my babies sounds like it was so much easier for me than it was for you!

  • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

    I just use a polar fleece – the kind that doesn’t bobble up after a couple of washes. Why not try roughly tacking a piece of flannel on top of your normal pad and see what you think before sewing up a big batch? Some people prefer natural fabrics like cotton even if they don’t wick moisture the same and just change more frequently.

  • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

    I wouldn’t recommend velcro as it has a habit of lifting up at the edges which can easily scratch between legs or ruin tights. If poppers bother you, I think any other closure will likely annoy you just as much, so maybe you would be better off sewing pads into pants instead. I know a few companies are making that style so you could always have a look at how they do it for inspiration!

  • Emma McP

    I am so glad I came across this post! I have been meaning to swap to reusable pads for a while now, but they’re so expensive to buy – now I can make my own! I’ve recently pulled out a lot of old knickers from my underwear drawer but kept them, thinking I could reuse them for something, but wasn’t sure what – but now I know! They’re size 20, and high waisted, so there should be plenty of material for the cotton part! Hahahaha! Proper recycling too!

  • Rosemary

    I need these for light incontinence. I have made a couple using cotton next to me, then 3 layers of thin cotton fleece (cut from a baby blanket), then PUL, then cotton again touching pants. Does this sound about right as I’d rather use materials that I have in my house than buy. It seems to work reasonably well except that it has a tendency to work itself towards the back. Is there any way to avoid this? Also do I need to use the PUL into the wings or just for the core? Thanks

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      I use PUL for the core and 1/2 inch/ 1cm approx into the wing. After that, they are under your pants and any seeping would go on outer clothes just as much as pants so if that is a concern then just increase the absorptive layer so that can’t happen. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do it. I would say try it, and if that is enough absorption, then fab. If not, just cut up an old towel/flannel to add instead of the inner cotton. As for the pad sliding back – you probably just need to make your snaps a bit tighter so it holds your pants more snuggly.

  • christina chapman

    could i use bamboo as the skin layer, then absorbent lint for the inner layers. and can the cover off an umbrella be used instead of pul.

    Yours thankfully chris

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      That would depend on what bamboo-based fabric you were planning on using. A lot of the bamboo fabrics I have come across are absorbent. not wicking. These would keep the moisture against the skin which over the week could cause irritation.
      As for the umbrella cover, I wouldn’t recommend it – it might not be waterproof – many are water resistant but allow moisture to pass through on pressure – ie sitting on it. It is also not designed for repeated washing or with hygene in mind. Whereas PUL was invented for hosital use for its ability to be used and washed repeatedly and be both durable and hygenic on close contact with bodily fluids. The umbrella fabric could be used to make a wet bag to put used pads in instead though. Linda 🙂

  • sally

    hi im looking for a pad to use that will cover incontinence too. have you got a good pattern please or what material to use, would love to make my own, it costs me an absolute fortune.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Hi, these work well for incontinence too. Just vary your fabrics according to what the needs are – for example, if it is more of a stress incontinence problem (such as slight leak with cough/sneeze) then a cotton top may feel more comfortable and breathable as opposed to synthetic fabrics like fleece. You may only want a couple of layers of cotton instead of towelling in the centre to make it thinner. However, if it is heavier leaking, the constantly damp cotton may cause irritation so fleece may be preferable to wick away moisture from the skin. I would say it is defintely worth experimenting to see what suits you best. I’ve been using these for cloth sanitary for a few years now and would never choose to go back to disposable.

      • Huma

        Hi, I am learning to make reusable pads and transfer the skill to deprive areas or camps. Where women still struggling to find any for their periods.
        My concern is extreme heat. I guess the fleece and towels are not suitable materials for hot climates.
        I need to train school and college girls to transfer this skill further. So no girl/ ladies struggle in their private days.
        Please can you guide me about materials which are suitable to hold maximum liquid and not very hot.

        • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

          Natural fibres are the most breathable, so if it was me wanting to make summer pads, I would be looking to use a cotton or bamboo-cotton blend of towelling or absorbent fleece as the central core with a woven cotton top. You may want to ask some of the charities who are already doing this such as The Pachamama Project who supply thousands of pads to refugees all over the world. I’m sure they would be far more knowledgeable than me.

  • Mrs P

    been making my own post curse keep knickers dry all day thin pads for years having learnt about this idea on etsy originally. This way I stay fresh.and also avoid getting sore with skin really raw until doctor said you need some HRT cream, but until then thinking i must have some sort of infection and nothing being found in desperation found that waterproofing myself with some petroleum jelly served well as it allowed the skin to heal and stop the dampness making it red raw. Not ideal but it served the purpose.
    Have used popper 3 size like on baby grows and got mine off ebay. Did try velco but bit mistake, if it twisted round a bit then i knew about it with sharp edges. My first few pads I still have 2 in regular use but poppers wearing now, so they will be about 10 years old which is not bad going seeing they will be used once weekly each. Never tell anyone i make my own in case they think i am tight fisted, but they must have saved me £s over the years. I need to make some more and as they do not get too damp i just use about 3 layers of a sort of fleece material too i had in my stash and i make them flat with rows of stitching. Hope that may of use to others who just need light protection. A cosmetic purse is useful to stash the used ones until you get home. I can remember the time when there was little choice and Dr Whites were the only ones available and they were about a mile long with loops to hook on a belt. They were issued in the army if needed and we used them to put around our dress hats as the rim cut in and gave us headaches, dreaded in case it fell out and also for buffing the floors to a shine on the heavy hand bumper we called it. When Libera i think it was spelt came in it was lovely to have a short pad and no loops.

    • Dawn Mason

      I was in the Navy as a Naval Nurse. The marines used to come into hospital and they would tell us that they used cut in half Sanitary towels under the straps of their Bergman, carrying 50kg+ in a backpack cut into their shoulders. A few of us made these pads & gave them to the Marines we nursed. Word got out & the Hospital sewing room( usually sewing uniforms & sheets etc) they took over making them, no wings & wider pad? They worked great, not sure if Marines still use them!

  • Sarah

    Sorry I’m having a dense one on me. I want my wings to be the same colour as the main bit of my pad and I’ve got myself in a muddle. Can you just confirm the order for me.
    Base layer (touching pants)
    PUL (waterproof layer)
    Towel (absorbent layer)
    Layer touching skin.

    Can 100% cotton be used for the layer touching skin? I don’t like fleece.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Not daft at all. You have it perfectly. You can absolutely use cotton on top. The only downsides are that it holds the moisture against your skin more and has a tendency to stain so don’t pick a pattern where it would be obvious! I would also make your PUL go further down the length of the wings if you aren’t using fleece. Hope that helps and makes more sense now! If you have any more questions, just ask. Linda x

  • Caroline Penney

    I am visiting a school in Nigeria where many of the girls do not go to school when they have their periods and so I am very interested in taking this pattern with me so that the girls are able to go to school the whole month
    I would love to do a tutorial because I am not much good at sewing

  • Ellie

    For years I’ve had the worst luck finding the right fit. Every time I find a brand I like, they either change how they make them or increase price. I had never thought to make my own. I only wish I’d found this post sooner. Thanks!

  • Ernestine

    I think they would be excellent for little girls just coming into that time of their lives. Something to always carry and it not be obvious.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      Thank you. It could even be a good way to start that conversation too… while your picking out the fabrics together!

  • Judith Carter

    Interesting idea. I remember my mother(b. 1920) telling me about using cloth that was washed and used over and over. Personally I ceased to need this protection 40years ago. What goes around comes around. My question is: are these washable? And how? By hand or?

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      I just have a wet bag for them that can be turned inside out to empty the contents straight into the washing machine and throw that in with them. I run them through a cold rinse first in the washing machine then I bung in some other bits to make up a full load and put it all on a standard 40 degree wash. I tend to put about 10 drops of tea tree oil in with the detergent as it is a natural antibacterial, and I don’t leave them for more than a couple of days before washing.

  • mary

    Why not, if you’re running out of pads and money, look around and use left over materials. Must have been a similar idea that pioneer women used

  • monica mullins

    I love this. Never thought of it. Thank you. I am in continent and the pads irritate me so bad I have to use hydrocortisone a lot.

    • Sewing Bee Fabrics Post author

      You should definitely give it a try. I’ve heard of a lot of ladies who have had irritation from the chemicals in disposable pads who have found relief by using washables. You could experiment with fabrics to find the best combination for you – for example I’ve heard some ladies use cotton flannel on top instead of fleece to avoid man made fibres. I’d love to hear how you get on.