Free postpartum/heavy flow cloth pad pattern and tutorial

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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.

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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.

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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):

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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…

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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:

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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!

DIY longies from recycled wool sweater sleeves

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I talked about my love of cloth diapering and my conversion to wool covers as a waterproof layer in one of my latest posts, and now I’d like to share how to save a fortune by making your own wool pants, or longies as they are often called. Store-bought longies can easily run you from $50 to $75 or even more for one pair (!!!), and while these are very cute and stylish, I personally went straight to researching how to make my own. I wanted to have a few pairs each of pants, shorts, and trim covers for my little guy, and that would add up pretty quickly at retail price. So instead I learned from a multitude of tutorials over a course of a few months, and started sewing up my own woollies in all sorts of styles. I’ve now had two years of practice or so, and have made more woollies than I can count or remember, so I’d like to share some of my own designs with you all. Thanks to all the other moms who inspired me over the years, and I hope this tutorial and my future tutorials can inspire some more moms to make some adorable woollies for their little ones! It’s a great feeling to whip up one of these in an afternoon (it really takes under an hour for these pants even with toddler distraction!) and have an item that is adorable, useful, practical, and full of handmade charm and love. And it’s endlessly embellish-able and adaptable to suit your needs and creativity!

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It also helps to have a little helper threading the bobbin for you! “Vrmmmm!”

The first part is selecting your sweater. I like to hunt around at Goodwill or any thrift store and I look for 100% wool or cashmere sweaters. These are the best for lanolizing and using as a waterproof diaper cover, although some people say up to 80% wool works as well. Tags that say merino wool are usually softer than ones that just say wool, but just go by feel. I look a little funny rubbing thirty different sweaters on my neck at the thrift store, but that’s my softness testing method since my hands aren’t as sensitive to scratchiness as my neck is. I usually can score a few great quality sweaters for just $3 each, which is an amazing price for such great fabric. A few holes or a shrunken sweater is no problem at all, as it’s best to shrink it anyway!

Next I like to felt my sweaters, which is a fancy word for shrinking in hot water (we all know how to do this, right? I know I’ve done this before by accident). I highly recommend putting each sweater in a separate pillowcase (an old one just in case the colors run- beware of red wools!) and either tying the top shut or securing it with a rubberband or hairband. This keeps a ton of fuzz from clogging up your washer, and this can really mess up your washing machine, so please don’t skip this step! Then you can throw all your bagged-up sweaters in the washing machine, and I usually add an old pair of jeans or some dryer balls if I happen to need to felt those too in order to create more friction in the machine. Then wash with a bit of detergent on a heavy duty cycle on hot, and the heat, soap and agitation will felt your sweaters down into a nice thick fabric. I also recommend being a little selective with your sweaters and not buying ones that are super thick before they’ve been felted, as felting makes them shrink but also get thicker, and you can end up with some unworkable fabric if you’re not careful. But you’ll figure out which wools work best for you, and don’t throw away any scraps or fabrics that don’t come out of the wash looking very usable! I’ll have more posts later on how to use every bit of wool scrap to make dryer balls and other goodies! Oh, and go ahead and dry these in the dryer. They can only shrink so far so they won’t shrink down to nothingness. I like to take them out of the pillowcases to dry them so all the fuzz balls get sucked up in the lint trap, but I don’t know how your dryer will handle all the fuzz. Use your best judgement here but otherwise you’ll be picking a lot of wool fuzzies off your sweaters before you can start.

On to the creations! For this first post I’ll show you how to make super easy pants out of the sleeves of a sweater. Use a sweater that has sleeves long enough after felting to go from your child’s waist to the floor, with an added inch or so at the top for a waistband. I like to make mine extra long and cuff them so they won’t get too short too quick. You can also use the part of the sleeve that goes into the body past the underarm seam, like I did in the pants below. It’ll just make a little V design at the top of the pants. To know where to cut, simply take a pair of pants that fit your child well in the seat area (length not important) and fold them in half along the seam length-wise and lay these on top of your sweater sleeve, like this:

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As you can see, I made these a lot longer than the pants I was using as a pattern, to allow for some growing room and because I wanted these pants to be cuffed at the bottom. Be sure to keep the finished edge at the bottom so you don’t have to hem the pants, if the finished edge looks nice to you. Just place the folded pants on the sleeve wherever you’d like according to the inseam measurement you want, then cut the sleeve starting about 1/2 inch above where the crotch is on the pants (always give yourself this 1/2 inch extra for a seam allowance) and follow the curve up to the waistband, making sure you stretch the waistband out on your pattern pants all the way if they have elastic in them so that your waistband isn’t too small. I couldn’t stretch these out and take the picture at the same time, but you’ll see how my cut line has some extra room at the top to account for this. Then, if you want to do an easy elastic waist, give yourself at least an inch on the top to fold over and create the elastic waistband casing later.

Then, cut your other sleeve to match. I usually take my first cut-out sleeve and lay it on top of the other sleeve and use this as a pattern so that they match. Here’s my two legs cut out:

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Next we are going to sew the crotch seam- that J-shaped cut we made. Take one pant leg and turn it inside out. Then take the other one that is still right-side-out and tuck it inside the inside-out leg, lining up the raw edges of the crotch seam. Here’s a visual:

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So to be clear, you have a right-side-out leg inside an inside-out leg. Then you simply sew that entire curved seam, the one making a U-shape. I have done it from one side to the other in one seam, but I have found that the crotch lines up much nicer if you start in the middle at the crotch and sew one side up to the waist, then turn it and do the other side the same way. Here I am starting in the middle, sewing with a straight stitch first:

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And then the other side and here it is, all sewn together:

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After sewing both sides of the seam with a straight stitch, I like to go back and seal the raw edges with a wide zig-zag stitch close to the edge. Use a serger if you have one, and send me yours if you don’t use it! 😉 This will add some strength to your seam as well as preventing anything from unravelling. If your pants are super felted and you don’t think there’s any chance of unravelling, it’s up to you if you do this step. I sometimes just do two rows of straight stitch right next to each other, just for the added strength so no seams split. These pants are cashmere so they didn’t felt as tightly as wool does. Here I am zig-zagging the edges:

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And here are the pants with the zig-zag finished:

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Turn them right-side out and you have something that looks like pants already! Super fast, no?

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The waist line probably won’t be super even at this point, so cut them straight across the top to even it out. Cut off as little as possible. I love my ruler and my handy rotary cutter, but scissors work just fine.

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Feel free to dip the front down a little lower than the back, like most pants do, although I tend to make mine very high-waisted to protect against wetness wicking up onto my son’s shirt, so I either don’t worry about it or just dip the front down a tiny bit. Either way you want to make sure there’s plenty of room to fit a fluffy cloth-diapered bum in the back!

You now have a few choices for waistbands. You can take a ribbed band from the collar or bottom of a sweater (the same one or a contrasting color) and simply sew it onto the top like so:

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I love this way! Just make sure your ribbed waist piece is about 2 inches or so smaller around than your pants waist, depending on the amount of stretch in the fabric. You’ll want a good stretchy ribbed piece, so it’ll almost be like elastic, but it’s trimmer and I think more comfortable, but it won’t hold up as strongly as elastic. I typically use these waistbands for my 2-year-old and have no problem with them slipping down! If you do this waistband, sew the band together first, right sides together, then pin it right-side touching the right side of the pants, with the raw edges aligned, and sew around the raw edges. Sorry I didn’t take pics of that, but if anyone requests I can definitely do it again soon and document it! Let me know.

The other waistband method is to simply turn the pants inside-out, fold down the top about an inch or so (as much as you need to comfortably fit your elastic in – I use 3/4 inch elastic usually), and sew around, leaving about an inch or so gap to thread your elastic through. I used a zig-zag stitch here since my pants are super stretchy, then threaded my elastic through the casing by putting a large pin on one side and pushing it through:

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Sew your elastic together, making sure it isn’t twisted anywhere in the casing. I like to make mine about an inch smaller than my son’s waist, but you can measure it onto your child and mark exactly where it feels good to them, too. You won’t see this seam so don’t worry if yours looks as messy as mine, whoopsie! My machine got a little stuck there at the beginning:

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After your elastic is sewn together, finish up that hole you left in the waistband seam and there you have it! Super cute pants in two steps!

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These I made for my next baby, so they’re much too small for my 2-year-old, but of course he insisted on modeling them:

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They actually don’t look too small on him, but he’s pretty slim and only wearing undies under here. They definitely wouldn’t fit with a diaper! But I can’t wait to try them on the new baby, and they are so soft and snuggly!

Send me pics of your wooly creations; I’d love to see them! And remember to lanolize before use and these will be a great waterproof cover to your cloth diapers. See my post about my wool conversion for lanolizing instructions.

Enjoy crafting!;