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Sewing Pads
General info/Advice
Things to Consider
Types of pad
   - Base+insert
   - Pocket
   - Foldup
   - AIO
   - Belted

Spread Awareness
Pad Making Instructions - Base + insert pads
A "Base and Insert" pad is a 2 part pad system where there is a "base" (usually a winged shape), that you place the absorbent part, an "insert" ontop of. Which allows the absorbent part to be changed while leaving the base on. The "insert" part can be a contoured/oblong shaped insert or a rectangle of fabric that folds up.
The inserts can be held in by "pocket" ends, where the insert is kept in place because the ends are tucked into little flap/pockets at the ends of the pad, or bands/straps of ribbon or other such thing (see below example), where the insert is placed under the bands to keep it in place.
Personally I feel the most practical way of making these is to have a waterproofed base of PUL or ripstop nylon, topped with microfleece, with strap ends, and absorbent rectangle "trifold" (fold into 3) inserts.
The base is then leakproof, and won't absorb any blood that flows through the inserts, so it can be reused when the insert is changed. The strap ends allow for greater adjustability and can more easily handle 2 inserts than the pocket ends. Longer inserts can also be worn if needed.

Where an "All-in-one" pad set would need to be at least 5 pads per girl/woman to be useful, a waterproofed base + insert style pad can allow the inserts to be changed frequently while the same base is worn, meaning less bases are required (2-3), which reduces the amount of waterproofing fabric (which is often expensive) needed. Which is why I believe waterproofed versions would be more practical, as they can be worn longer.
Benefits of this style are:
  • A girl/woman could have 2 or 3 bases and about 6 inserts. So less of the more expensive waterproofing fabric is needed than in making a set of AIO pads.
  • If the bases are made from non-absorbent fabrics they dry quickly. The inserts can be washed separately so they are faster drying, particularly if they are the fold-up kind.
  • If extra absorbency is needed, 2 inserts can be worn at the same time, allowing a women to adjust the pad to her needs.
  • A version with straps allows the woman to position the insert further forward or back if she needs extra coverage, and longer inserts can be used in them, as they are free to overhang the pad base (the pocket ends need inserts exactly the right length)
  • If additional inserts are needed, other fabric sources may be available, such as old clothing, which would not make absorbent pads on their own without the waterproofed base.

Instruction sheet
We also created an instruction sheet, giving information in picture form of how to wear and wash Insert pads. 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.

Single .gif

6up .doc

Making Base + insert pads
You can download basic pad pattern templates below. 2 sizes are provided and 2 different shapes. 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.

26cm (10.25") pad

21cm (8.25") pad

20cm (8") pad

24.5cm (9.5") pad

Suggested Fabrics:
Waterproofing - PUL, ripstop nylon or other waterproof or semi-waterproof fabric
Topping - Microfleece, polarfleece, suedecloth or other synthetic fabric
Inserts - anything absorbent, such as terry, natural fleece or flannel/flannelette
Straps - Ribbon, cotton "twill" tape, strips of fabric, bias binding etc. (Some people use rickrack, while others complain that this can curl and be uncomfortable)

This shows a white PUL backing, Orange fleece top, with 2 pocket ends

Sewing them up:
Cut out a layer of the backing fabric (eg PUL/ripstop nylon) and a layer of the topping fabric (eg microfleece) and measure and cut 2 straps or 2 pocket ends. If making the pocket ends, duplicate the end of your pad pattern, to the line marking where the straps go. Pin the backing and top layers together and prepare the ends you plan to use
Strap version
Place the straps towards the ends of the pad, as marked on the pattern. You might find it's helpful to pin or stickytape the straps into place.
Then overlock/serge/zigzag or sew bias binding or FOE all around the pad base to sew all the layers together and finish off the edges nicely.

Pocket-end version
Cut out the pocket ends. You can overlock/serge, or otherwise bind (such as using bias binding or a zigzag stitch) the straight edges of the pocket ends if they will fray, but if using microfleece it won't fray so you can just leave them. Microfleece also has the advantage of being stretchy, so it is easier to fit the inserts in. Position the pocket ends in place on the ends of the pad (You may like to pin or stickytape them in place).
Overlock/serge all around the pad base to sew all the layers together.

To make the Inserts
The fastest drying insert to make is a 3 fold insert. This is folded into 3, to provide several layers of absorbency, but can be unfolded to dry quickly. To work out what size you need to make, measure the length of the pads once completed (eg 26cm) and make rectangles that are as long as the pad is, by 21cm wide (which makes a 7cm wide when folded in 3). Of if making terry inserts you could make them 14cm wide and have them fold in half for use, instead of in thirds (as the terry is more absorbent).
The user can combine several inserts to make up the absorbency they need, but as a guide 2 layers of flannel(flannelette) becomes 6 layers when folded and would be suitable for light to medium flow. One layer of terry becomes 3 layers which is suitable for heavy flow. So a combination of flannel and terry inserts would be good.
If you want to make pocket ended bases, you will want to make the inserts so that they can easily fit into the pockets. To do this, you need to cut 2 pieces of flannel in different sizes. Make one about an inch shorter than the other one. Overlock/serge or edge the shorter piece, then sew this onto the bottom piece.

Then you can overlock/serge all around the insert to edge it

This means that when the insert is folded, it's only single layer in the section that will be slipped into the pocket ends, yet double layer where it is needed


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