What do you do with your leftover fabric? Those scraps that are too small to be really useful, but too large to simply discard?
Warning: This refashion craft concerns a topic you’re not something you’re supposed to talk about in polite company.
You can make patches or appliques, use sturdy fabrics as facings or even in place of interfacing. Soft fabrics can become rags.
I do all of these things, plus one more.
Feminine hygiene items.
Yep, I make pads.
I hate buying store bought pads anymore; it’s always felt really wasteful to me, kind of gross (plastic and low-quality polyester batting, anyone?) and like a money drain. I actually started making them when I was unemployed in 2011 and literally didn’t have the money to pay for them in stores, but did have leftover fabric lying around. (Seriously, in those days the $10-$15 for a pack would feed me for almost a week.)
- They don’t take a lot of fabric
- They’re easy to make, customizable if you’re into that (mine are just made out of whatever I have lying around cluttering up the place)
- Eco friendly. Normal pads add up fast to literally tons of garbage in a landfill
- If you have concerns about plastic on your skin, you won’t anymore.
- The cost of making them is whatever thread you use, plus a 1/2 inch square of velcro or a button if you decide to make fastenings. (Store-bought pads are $.12 -$.30 a piece, and you can only use them once!)
- They’re not unsanitary! We have washing machines. You don’t throw away a shirt because you got food on it, or cut yourself and bleed on it. You might get rid of it (or better, refashion it!) because the stain is ugly, but not because the shirt itself is unsanitary.
- Some people might think it’s weird. (To which I say, screw them! Or, you know, just don’t tell them.)
- Storage can be a little strange/bulky. I keep mine in a dedicated clean bin and a dedicated dirty bin in the top of my closet, away from the rest of the laundry.
- It may seem wasteful to wash them in their own load of laundry. I’ve heard of people keeping a tub of water in the laundry room to soak theirs with soap, and then just washing them with everything else on laundry day. I live with 4-7 other people at all times, so… that’s a no go for me. I never use hot water for anything
- Laundry can get weird. See above: there’s tons of people living in a 4-bedroom house. Definitely have to be right ON that laundry as soon as the machine beeps, or I risk forcing an uncomfortable intimacy on my unsuspecting room mates! Same with children.
So, you sold yet? Here’s how you do it.
First off, you have to measure your underwear. Measure the width of the crotch piece and however long you want yours to be, as well as the width at both ends. I make mine different lengths and thicknesses for different days.
Then, on a piece of paper or directly on your fabric, mark the length and the width, and draw a shape like this. (Don’t forget to add seam allowance!) You can also curve off the edges if you want, I usually do. It doesn’t really matter that much.
Add wings (the black lines, obviously) if you want. There’s no real process for this, just wing it. Har har.
Tracing the full shape, including wings, onto a piece of paper or your fabric and cutting two.
Then, take other scraps of fabric, lots of them. If you have a particularly heavy period, you may want to include a waterproof fabric. Cut multiple pieces that are shorter than your shell pieces, but the same width. The length is up to you.
I tend to use multiple thin pieces of fabric, since many thin layers will be more absorbent than a couple of thick layers. I also tend to make mine consecutively shorter, so that I have less bulk at the edges, and more in the center.
Then sew around the shell pieces, leaving a hole, and turn inside-out.
For your inner pieces, sew across all layers with one or two lines of stitching. If using different weights of fabric, but the heavier ones on the bottom. Slide the pieces inside the shell, and pin where you want them. Then, quilt as much or as little as you want. I tend to secure the inner pieces with just a line or two of stitching.
After that, I topstitch around the entire piece, catching the wide edges of the inner pieces and helping the whole thing to lay flat. This also closes up the hole.
Customizing for different days:
Obviously, some days are going to be heavier than others. Some days you’ll want to wear a dress, or nice pants, and some days are fine to slump around in jeans.
The way I customize mine is as follows:
For heavier days, I will use layers of denim as well as layers of flannel, and maybe a waterproof layer.
For lighter days, obviously fewer layers will work, and I tend to be ok with using t-shirt material, which is both thinner and will conform to the shape of underwear better, making the whole deal much less noticeable.
For days when I know I will be playing sports or hiking or dancing, it’s all about mesh fabric. The shell is made from mesh fabric whenever I have some handy. The inside pieces are still the same random hodgepodge of scraps, but I do try and put some extra effort into finding good fabrics that don’t catch sweat (ewww) or using scraps of sport performance fabric. I also go to the extra effort of attaching velcro squares to the wings so everything stays put.
Finally, I like to work in silk. A lot. So I have a lot of silk scraps lying around. Wasteful? Not at all. Extravagant? Yes indeedy. Lovely.
Phew! That may have been an uncomfortable post for some people. Totally understandable; women aren’t suppose to acknowledge the less pleasant aspects of our bodies, something that I dislike about society. But it’s a reality. And why stop caring for the environment during the very time that reminds us of our connection to the earth and the moon and the world around us?
Have you ever made your own pads? How do you deal with potentially awkward encounters with others?
P.S. I know the lack of pictures in this post makes me a bit of a hypocrite. But honestly, I’m not quite liberated and open enough to take a picture of my sanitary napkin, even a freshly-sewn one, and post it on the internet. Some women are more liberated than I in this aspect, and I have a lot of respect for that. But not me, not today. Apologies!