Things to Consider
Types of pad
Pad Making Instructions - AIO Pads
An "AIO" or "All-in-One" pad is a cloth pad that has all the absorbency and waterproofing pad sewn together. This makes a pad that is used the same way a disposable pad is. Just placed into the underpants. The advantage is that it is easy to use. The disadvantage is that they can take longer to dry, and each woman needs several of them (about 5-6 per woman, minimum)
You will find basic instructions for sewing up these pads, as well as patterns you can print off and use below. We have created a system to show absorbency of AIO pads, using iron-on labels (I purchase mine as a special order). Using 1 drop to represent light flow, 2 drops to represent medium flow and 3 drops to represent heavy flow. This way the recipient can work out what absorbencies the pads have, as well as knowing that the label side goes against the underpants.
We also created an instruction sheet, giving information in picture form of how to wear and wash AIO pads, with our drop system of absorbency. This is useful for areas where instructions given in English may not be understood. The instruction sheet can be downloaded below, in both a single .gif format, and also as .doc file, with 6 to an A4 page. You could easily edit the image in a graphics program to remove the label if your AIO pads will not include this.
You can download basic pad pattern templates below. 2 sizes and 2 styles are provided. A set might include 2 longer and 3 shorter pads, to give the recipient different length pads should they find they need longer pads (while sitting in class or overnight etc.). These are provided as an image (.gif) with a size indication guide so you can check they print at the right scale. You can insert the image into a word processing document file and drag the image to resize it if you would like to make any alterations to the size or shape. These patterns do not include seam allowance.
To make an AIO pad, you will need:
Core layers cut approx same size as the grey broken line in the pattern (Terry etc.)
Waterproofing (PUL etc)
Backing fabric (optional)
Sewing the Core
I find the best way to do the core is to cut the core fabric into a rectangle as the pattern shows, then sew that to a layer (using the winged pad shape) of flannelette with a large zigzag stitch. You can cut the corners off to make a sort of rounded end (I find this stops the corners poking up). This picture shows sewing a 2 layer hemp fleece core to a layer of blue flannel/flannelette. This blue layer will be hidden in the pad, but provides extra stability and absorbency through the pad, and also means the hemp core can be sewn on and you won't see the stitching, so it won't matter if it's not exactly even or neat looking.
You might want to sew your top layer to the core layer with a line of stitching down the centre, This can help show that the stitched layer is the top layer. It's a bit easier to centre a straight line of stitching down the pad, than it is to neatly arrange the core. (This picture shows a purple flannelette top being sewn to the blue core piece)
Of course you can just sew the core to the top layer of fabric, but this hidden core method is one way to do it quickly, and if you are not confident you could neatly sew the core on keeping it in the centre, then this way is definitely neater.
Then the way you make the pad depends on the method you are using.
This is where the pad is made, then "turned" out the right way and a line of stiching done around the outside edge. To make one of these, lay the backing fabric down first (good side up) and the toping fabric down (good side down), with your flannelette layer with the core sewn to it on top. Then sew around the edges, leaving a gap that you can turn the pad through. Make sure it's all turned out properly, then do a line of stitching around the top to finish it off, sewing the opening closed.
"Overlocked" or "Serged"
This is where the pad is made by simply placing all the layers down in the order they need to be (backing, core, top), then using an overlocker/serger machine or the zigzag setting of your sewing machine to sew around the edges of the pad, sewing it all together. If you are able to make pads this way it is a lot quicker.