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Please don't remind me that I'm poor; I'm having too much fun pretending I'm simply "living green" like everyone else these days.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Perfect circles and DIY feminine pads

A few days ago I was talking to a neighbor about the economy.  She and her husband are a young couple.    They've been struggling with finances because she's now unemployed and he's on disability.  I've taken her under my wing and teaching her some of the things I do to save money.  We've been talking about alternative cleaning supplies and cooking from scratch.  She wants to learn to sew and how to can foods.  I'm very happy to teach her what I am able to do and at the same time she's teaching me a few things that only young people seem to know these days.  Things that my senior mind doesn't understand.... like how to get digital cable channels on my tv.     

I was explaining my thoughts to her about saving money.  If it can be bought, it can be made from scratch.  She would ask about something and I would explain the alternative DIY item.  Well, the subject of feminine pads came up and how expensive buying them has become.  After explaining how when I was young we didn't buy pads, we made pads from scraps of fabric, she decided to give that a try.  How did it work? 

Well, things are much different today than when I was as young.  We used safety pins to hold our pads in our bloomers.  I came up with an alternative she's happy to learn about and try.  I thought someone else might be interested too.  This has become my neighbor's first sewing lesson. 

I went through my sewing stuff and came up with what we needed.  We needed something that liquid would not soak through.  I had this curtain liner fabric.  It has a plastic side and a flannel side.  Other types of  fabrics to use could be old shower curtains or maybe the fabric from an old umbrella.  I cut two 7 1/2" squares which is all that's needed. 

I also had these t-shirt fabric scraps we could use.   I cut two 7 1/2" squares of this.

Ok, time to teach her how to sew a perfect circle.  This technique will work great for someone who doesn't know how to sew.  I got the duct tape and a single flat thumb tack. 

Push the thumb tack through a piece of the tape from the sticky side.

Go to the sewing machine.  Remove the presser foot.  Put a ruler next to the needle, measure out from the needle 3 1/2", and put a pencil mark there.

Take the thumb tack and place it on the pencil mark.

Stick it down like this and put the presser foot back on.

Get the t-shirt fabric square, fold it into quarters, put a small dot at the center point. 

Now pair the t-shirt fabric with the curtain fabric, flannel side in. 

Push the fabric squares onto the thumb tack at where we made the center dot.  Put the fabric under the presser foot and sew.

This makes a perfect circle of sewing.... but stop sewing leaving about a two inch gap.

Trim off the extra fabric leaving about 1/4".

Turn inside out, fold in the unsewn part, and sew about 1/8" from the edge all the way around.  The thumb tack won't help with this because the size has changed.  We could have moved the thumb tack but we didn't. 

Now fold this circle in half and make a mark on the fold at both sides.  This is where you can either sew a piece of velcro or place a snap.  We chose velcro.

Put one piece of velcro on the top side at one mark and the other piece on the under side at the other mark and sewed these on.

Fold it matching the velcro or snaps if you use those.  It should look like this.  Those are the wings.

Now make 4 marks on this at the folded edges.  About 1/2" from the outside edge.

The four marks should look like this.

Now we needed some elastic.  Well, it need not necessarily be elastic.  It could be simply a piece of folded binding or even just a strip of fabric.   I just happen to have elastic handy so we used it.

We cut two pieces of elastic for each circle.  Just a smidgen larger than the distance of the marks.

She sewed these with a zig-zag stitch, going back and forth a couple of times.

Now it looks like this when the velcro is matched up.   This is the pad holder. 

The pad itself is whatever a person wants to use.  For her, we used some scrap cotton batting put through a wash and dry first to shrink it before cutting to size.  The pad can actually be any scrap fabrics.  Left over t-shirt fabric, ugly quilt fabrics, flannel, muslin, old sheets, old bath towels..... just give it some thought.  The fabric should be absorbant and soft. 

The pads we made from scrap batting were cut in different size pieces.  2" by 7" for light days.  Doubled to 4" by 7" for heavier days and 12" by 7" for the heaviest days.  This used up some of the smallest pieces of scrap batting that previously were hanging around doing nothing.  These can also be disposable if she doesn't want to wash them.  She plans to wash her pads even though I've assured her I always have an abudance of small strips of batting.  Everytime I trim a quilt to add binding I get more small strips.  Well, anyway, that's why I pre-washed the batting.  It needed to be pre-shrunk before cutting the pieces. 

If using other types of fabric you would need to think about the thickness and absorbancy for different types of flow.  Cut the fabric to the right sizes for folding.   Why folded instead of sewn into the shape?  For washing and drying convenience.  A thick folded and sewn fabric takes much longer to dry than one not folded.

 We made her two pad holders in case one should need to be washed during her cycle.  It can be hand washed or put into the next load of laundry.  It dries quickly. 

If anyone does emergency preparedness you might want to make some of these for your emergency kits.  I'm sure the women in disaster areas, like earthquakes or floods or hurricanes or wind storms, would love to have some of these when stores are no longer open.  Hmm... I wonder if anyone thinks of making these to send to disaster areas instead of just sending comfort quilts?  Do disaster teams take pads to hand out along with water and food?  Does anyone know?  Please tell me by leaving a comment.

As usual, this tutorial post is printable if you want to print it and share it with your friends.  Just click on the print button.


Joyful said...

Great tutorial.

Anonymous said...

When I read the title of this blog, I thought "Oh no she didn't!". But you did. Another great I would never have thought of. Thank you. N

Anita Estes said...


N, I was hesitant about doing that post but I figured if I showed my undies on the web.... why not show how pads are made? There are a lot of people struggling with finances even though the news people tell a different story.

If a person must choose between buying medications, utilities, food, etc and paying for pads; this may help with the decision. Any money not used for pads can be used for something else.

Also, during disasters pads may not be available because stores may not be open. Hmm.... and I wanted to show one more use for batting scraps.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't being critical, it was a good idea and one I would have never thought of. You're right about having to make choices and not enough money to take care of everything. Food, medicine, heat??
How do you chose? Especially when you have children to think of too. It was a great tutorial, keep them coming.

Anita Estes said...


I knew you weren't being critical. I had hesitated about posting because..... although you wouldn't know it from reading my blog..... I embarrass very easily. I wasn't sure I wanted to be blushing for several days.

When I read your comment I busted out laughing at the "oh no she didn't" part. It was just what I needed! You put me at ease over the post and I thank you for that.

Trish said...

This is something that most people don't think about. Good for you!! Glad to see you made it through the flooding. You ok?

Anita Estes said...

Thanks Trish,yes I'm fine. No flooding problems this time. I was a little worried about all the extra rain but it wasn't a problem.

Anonymous said...

I thought the same "Oh no she didn't". The things you think of. Good for you. I also LOVE the circle "tool". I had been thinking of buying one, but didn't want to put out the $'s. How "simple" this solution, duh. Thanks for sharing. Love your hints. By the way, I found the instruction book for the serger. I'll be mailing it to you. Till then. MJ

Anita Estes said...

MJ! Hi, thank you, I look forward to getting the book. Call or email me when you have a minute.

Anonymous said...

My Mom has been making something similar for herself for years as she has a leaky bladder. Wanted to post this so other women can find out this can also be a less expensive alternative to urinary pads...

Anita Estes said...

Hi K,

I hadn't thought about that. Thanks for posting about it. The women of the grey tusunami can stretch their limited budgets with these. A question for your mother. What fabric does she use for her version? Or does she use batting scraps?