More info...

How to make your own
Washable Sanitary Towels
menstrual pads / menstrual towels

These towels are pretty straight forward to make if you have sewn before and should last several years. The use of a decent sewing machine would help, especially one that will 'serge' but it is not essential.

They are a two part winged design - a pocket and the inner liner - this helps increase absorbency and provides for easy washing and fast drying. The wing part fastens around your underwear. The flannel backing keeps it in place against your underwear.

Links to the patterns are at the end of these instructions. Print them, cut them out and play with them to see how they fit together. Doing a trial with some scrap material is highly recommended as you may want to modify for size and shape to suit your own needs. The sizes provided here are regular and mini. The exact location of the pocket opening makes a real difference in the functionality.

What you need...

  • Cotton - Cotton flannel is probably the best choice for the pad and liner as it is very absorbent without being too thick. People have used terry cloth as well but you may find it too thick with all the layers. A six ounce cotton is a good choice - this is slightly heavier than flannel bedding sheet cotton, it is similar in weight to a cotton shirt. A set of 8 pads will require about 3 yards of materials. Organic cotton would be a good move as cotton is a very intensive crop and normally uses a vast array of unpleasent petrochemical products.
  • Nylon - Nylon is used as a moisture barrier on the outer side of the pad. It is optional - pads can be made without nylon, (for example all the organic pads sold by Many Moons are made without the liner) you just have to be sure to check and change them more often to avoid any leakage. Only a small amount of nylon is needed for each pad - about 4 inches wide by the length of the pad. Use good quality nylon otherwise it will not provide a moisture barrier for more then a few washings - cheap nylon loses this ability after a few washings. Some women have tried GoreTex but this is probably overkill, especially given the extra cost.

  • Fastening - You will also need snaps to use to keep the pads fastened around your underwear. A button may also work. Do not use Velcro as a fastener, as this can cause chaffing.

What you do...

  1. Cut out the patterns. There are three parts to the pad pockets - the big winged form is the pad back and will be the template that you sew to. The two smaller half winged forms are the pad top and provide the opening through which the liner is inserted.
  2. Cut a piece of nylon four inches wide and as long as the pad.
  3. Serge both inner edges of the pad top (the orange dotted lines on the illustration).
  4. Fold the inner edges over about 1/2 inch and press with an iron so they will hold their form.
  5. Lay the materials down in this order; nylon liner , large single pad back , two top pad pieces with the inside edges overlapping about 3/4 inch (this provides the access to insert the liner).
  6. Sew around the pad about 1/8th inch in from the edge.
  7. The pad is now sewn inside out, you will need to flip the pad (just as if you were sewing a pillow and flipping it inside out). To get nice sharp corners on the pad you should poke the corners out (a chop stick is excellent for this job). If you don't do this, the pads end up with little bunches of material at each corner.
  8. Press the pad with a hot iron (not too hot or you'll burn the nylon)
  9. Sew around the top of the pad opening to close off the winged part of the pad from the pocket (red dotted lines). This is necessary as it helps the pad keep its shape. Also note the black dots are about where the snaps should go.
  10. Press snaps on the pad pocket.
  11. Cut the liner size required. Regular are about 17 inches by 7 inches, mini are about 9 by 7. Serge around it. Fold it up and insert in the pocket.
  12. That's it. Wash your pads before their first use - this increases absorbency.

Care and Washing

After use, separate the two parts, soak them in cool water and rinse, then throw in the wash. If you soak them in cool water you will find staining to be minimal or nil. Machine dry or hang to dry, iron if you want, then they are ready to go again. If you soak them in cool water you will find staining to be minimal or nil.

The Patterns - Bottom Pattern , Small top part , Large top part

The links above are for images of the patterns. Click on each (there are three separate files) and then print them or redraw them yourself if you have no printer.

Note: We found this information on the Many Moons website and have edited slightly. The design comes from Janet Trenaman who has been manufacturing and selling similar pads since 1989. She is keen to have the information freely distriubuted as the more cloth pads out there, the better for the health of women and our planet.

"My period seems to be lighter and I haven't had a yeast infection since I switched to cloth pads - they let your skin breathe." - Anne, North Carolina

"I have cut down on my garbage & saved money! . . . like using cloth diapers for my babies, it's my own small contribution to the environment." - Jayne, British Columbia

"My skin was so sensitive to disposable menstrual pads...with Many Moons I know exactly what is next to me, thanks for such a beautiful alternative!" - Suzanne, California

"I really swear by these pads. I am rarely troubled by PMS, heavy flow, yeast infections or any other problems. I could not believe the difference. Now, if I have to use a store bought product, I can feel it, immediately. The few extra moments it takes to care for the pads is nothing compared to the benefits." - Alicia, Ontario


Why not use dispossables? Contact the Womens Environmental Network to find out about the true cost of dissposible sanitary protection, nappies and the like.

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