Happy Spring! I don’t know how you all get swept up into the season, but I know when milder weather starts rolling in, my favorite ways to celebrate are nature walks with my son, planting and gardening, and massive Spring cleaning and organizing! It might be the pregnancy “nesting” hormones this year, but I’ve been going strong on the cleaning and organizing this year. I just love how all my linens smell after a day spent on the clothesline in the sunshine! But when warm weather hits I find my crafting time diminishes drastically. I was eating lunch with my toddler on our sunny back deck yesterday and eyeing the kitchen window, considering if I could run an extension cord out of it so I could set my sewing machine up outside…
But I was “blessed” last week with a bout of unseasonably cold weather and even a sprinkling of snow (?!), so I made the most of my banishment to the indoors by whipping up this project that I have been putting off for a while: postpartum cloth pads. I’ve been debating whether or not I should spend the time making postpartum pads this time around since I don’t know if I’ll ever be using them again or not. If you want to use cloth pads for your regular periods, this is a no-brainer, because these are great for heavy flow days and especially for overnights. But I’m a Diva cup convert and couldn’t think of using anything else, so all I need is some little cloth liners as backup that I sewed up about a year ago. But ultimately I opted to make these for a few reasons: I already had all the fabric on hand so they’d be practically free, cloth pads are tons more comfortable and stay in place better than disposables, no tons of waste going to the landfill, I already cloth diaper so I know how to launder them easily, I have some organic cotton flannel from an old bed sheet so there won’t be any harsh chemicals next to my inflamed skin, and lastly, if I bleed as long as I did last time around, I’m gonna save tons of money not buying a box of pads every day! Ok, so that’s a lot of reasons! So you can see why I decided to take the plunge and whip these up.
I made 12 because that used up all of the remaining organic flannel bedsheet I was repurposing, but I think this should be a sufficient amount if I wash every two days like I do the cloth diapers. I made these assembly-line style, and did one step every day for a few days, so even though there’s a bit of work involved in making so many, it went by fairly quickly.
To begin, here’s what you’ll need:
Absorbent fabric: repurposing old fabrics is great here! I used old t-shirts, flannel bedsheets, and/or some bits of fabric scraps saved from other projects. You’ll need a few layers of this per pad, so gather quite a bit.
Water barrier fabric: you won’t need as much of this because you only need one layer per pad. I haven’t tested my pads out yet since I’m still pregnant, but through my research I see that most people either use PUL (laminated) fabric or polyester fleece. While I prefer to only use natural fabrics for breathability purposes, I decided the benefits of not leaking would outweigh any negatives here. I made a few pads with both fabrics so I’ll be able to decide later which I prefer. Use whichever you have on hand or prefer working with if you haven’t tried them out yet.
Pretty fabric: totally optional here but I hid my waterproof outer fabric with one more layer of pretty print fabric. This was for two reasons: PUL fabric is kinda slippery and I didn’t want my pad sliding around (fleece isn’t so if you use fleece you won’t have to worry about this), and I can’t resist using a bit of pretty fabric, even on a pad! If you have pretty fleece, use that on the bottom because that grips really well and doesn’t slide, but I had boring fleece scraps so I hid that too.
Sewing machine with a heavy duty or jeans needle: totally necessary. If you already aren’t in the habit of changing out your needle regularly, you’ll need to change it before and after this project. Sewing through a ton of layers of fabric will wear your needle out quickly, and if your needle isn’t sharp enough or strong enough to make it through all those layers, it’s gonna snap and be super frustrating.
Thread in either a matching or contrasting color: I love contrasting thread these days. I picked a bright turquoise in 100% polyester because it’s strong and doesn’t wick moisture like cotton.
Rotary cutter and cutting mat or scissors: a rotary cutter (my new love) will save you tons of time in cutting, but good ol’ scissors will definitely cut it here. (Ha!)
Pattern: print out my free pattern here! Click on each of the four photos and save the image to your computer. Then open each file and print each without changing the proportions. The pads are longer than a standard sheet of paper, so you’ll be printing two pages per piece and taping them together. Make sure to print “actual size” on your computer and double check that the one inch test mark on the page is indeed one inch on your printout. I also recommend tracing these shapes onto cardboard or a cereal box so it holds up better for all the cutting you’ll be doing. There are two pieces to the pattern: the outer “sleeve” with wings and the inner “core” that makes up the thicker absorbent layer.
I researched other postpartum pads for ideas and cross-referenced that with some of my own smaller pad patterns. I have tried these on and like the fit, but like I said above I haven’t actually taken them for a real test run since I’m still pregnant. I actually edited my pattern and added a bit more flare to the top (front) portion after I finished making all of mine, because I thought it needed it. This pattern has a ton of flare in the back for tons of coverage, especially while lying down, which is important for postpartum! It also makes them great for overnights.
Sew-on snaps or snap press: the snap press will save you time here, but again, sew-on snaps will be just fine. You need a set per pad.
On to the process! Like I mentioned before, doing this one step at a time for all the pads was easiest for me and helped whip these things up in a few days. Feel free to construct each one from start to finish if that’s what you prefer, or if you just want to make one and test it out before tweaking. Always a good idea but not an option for preggo me right now! Start by printing out your pattern, found above.
Here’s my two pattern pieces cut out of a cereal box, laid on top of one another to show you that the core pieces will be 1/2″ smaller than the outer pieces. This is to allow for seam allowances since you’ll be turning and topstitching the sleeve pieces. Also remember I updated the pattern after I made all these to make the top part flare out more, which is why yours will be a slightly different shape.
Now, on to (lots of) cutting! Start with the outer winged pieces and cut one piece per pad of your top layer of whatever material you want to touch your skin. Most people prefer a darker patterned fabric for this to hide stains, but I wanted to use my organic fabric here and all I had was white. Not the best at hiding stains but oh well! Mine is a cotton flannel and I do recommend 100% cotton for this. Hemp doesn’t absorb as quickly as cotton, which could lead to some run-off (at least that’s what I’ve learned from cloth diapers). I also used some t-shirt fabric for this layer when I ran out of flannel, which worked well but was harder to sew because of the stretch. Here’s two cut outs of my inner fabric (you only need one per pad, remember):
Next cut out one winged piece per pad of your (optional) pretty fabric that will go on the bottom. Then cut out one winged piece per pad of your waterproof fabric (PUL or fleece). So now you have three winged pieces per pad: a top layer that will touch your skin, a waterproof middle layer, and the pretty back layer that will touch your undies. And don’t worry, you won’t need sticky tape to keep these in place like disposables! A sturdy cotton print will do just fine!
Next, cut out your absorbent core layers. How many layers you need per pad is totally up to you. You want enough to absorb a lot but not be too thick and uncomfortable. One way to solve this is to use a layer or two of a fabric with extra absorbancy. I used two layers of hemp terry that I repurposed from some Hemp Babies doublers from my son’s cloth diaper stash that have seen better days. (I hear cotton terry cloth works well from old towels, but it might be a but thick.) The good thing about hemp fabric is that is holds a lot more than cotton somehow. The same goes for bamboo fabrics, which is why I go for hemp or bamboo cloth diapers for my little ones. But if you have the option of buying some new fabric for this project, the one everyone seems to be using these days is called Zorb. It’s apparently super absorbent without the bulk, but I personally have never used it. If you do, let me know what you think! But really, whatever you have on hand will work just fine. I was all about keeping costs down as well as reusing, so here is my choice for my absorbent core layers:
One piece flannel (bedsheet)
Two layers hemp (old diaper doubler)
One more piece flannel
Those four pieces all sandwiched together makes one core for one pad.
On to sewing! Are you sick of cutting yet? 🙂
You can start with either piece but I began by sewing my core layers together into one thick piece. This is when you need that heavy duty sewing machine needle! I used a wide zig-zag stitch and simply sewed all the way around. Easy peasy. No one’s gonna see your work here so don’t worry about neatness. I tried to stay relatively close to the edges to help prevent fraying over time. If you have a serger, use it here instead and lucky you! Mmmm, I want a serger…
After you have your stack of cores, let’s whip up the outer sleeves. Pay attention to how you stack these up before sewing them, because we will be turning these right-side-out after sewing to hide the seams inside. If you’re only using a top cotton and a fleece bottom, just place them together with right sides (print sides) of your fabric facing each other. If you’re doing the three layers with the hidden waterproof layer like me, stack ’em up on your table like so:
•Waterproof fabric with right (printed or color) side facing UP
•On top of that, pretty print (bottom) fabric with right side facing UP
•On top of that, your inner fabric that you want to touch your skin, right side facing DOWN
Here’s a visual, although my inner fabric is hard to tell which side is which:
Once everything is lined up, sew with a straight stitch all the way around with about a 1/4″ seam allowance but leave a 3- to 4-inch gap at the bottom. This is important so you can flip it right-side-out and add your core! Next, flip it right-side-out, making sure you flip it so your stack is now aligned like so: top piece with pattern/right side on the outside, hidden waterproof piece with inner waterproof part against your top piece, then outer backing with pattern on the outside. Then you just have to stuff a core piece into your pocket! Again, just be sure to stuff in the right place. Now it should be top fabric, core, waterproof layer, then outer backing, like so:
Now all you have to do is topstitch around your pad (I don’t worry about pressing first, and definitely don’t if you’re using PUL; the iron will melt it!). Fold in your opening and pin it closed. Start at the pinned part and sew close to the edge, all the way around. I chose to follow the wing shape around to keep that laying flat. It’s not totally necessary to sew through the core layers here if your machine is struggling, but I like to at least catch it in a few places to make sure it won’t shift around in the wash.
And voila! It’s (nearly) done!
All you need now is snaps, either pressed on or sewn on. You might want to just place a pad in some underwear to determine snap placement; definitely make sure it’s in a good place for you. You want it snug to keep it from sliding around. Here’s how mine looks with snaps and also snapped together:
Please excuse the changing colors of pads in my pictures; I ran out of flannel and used an old gray t-shirt for this last one for the inner fabric. I must say t-shirt fabric is a little harder to work with because of the stretch! But it’s very comfortable.
And there you have it! Do any of you use mama cloth for periods or for postpartum? Let me know what you use and how you like it! Also, please let me know on here, on Pinterest, or on Twitter if you use this pattern and I’ll give you a shoutout! Thanks and happy sewing!