Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kenya Pad Initiative - The Story

If you are looking for the menstrual pad tutorial, click here.

For those of you who do not already know, here is the story of how I got involved in making washable, reusable pads for the women and girls in Lodwar, Kenya.

A few years ago, my church, Crossroads Nazarene in Chandler, AZ, began a new partnership with Lodwar, Turkana County, Kenya. Together with a few other groups, including UNICEF, our goal is to help eradicate Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in this patriarchal society.

I have always been mission-minded.
I'm a helper.
One of my top love languages is Acts of Service. I show love by doing things for people. By being there. By being present. Available in times of need.

I wanted to get involved with the mission, but being a new mom, GOING to Kenya was out of the question. I couldn't BE there. I couldn't help in the traditional ways I always envisioned for myself. I began to pray and ask God how I could get involved, knowing that I was more-or-less stuck state-side. I have few tangible skills and I didn't really see how quilting was going to specifically help this group of women.

Then, about a year, year-and-a-half ago, Heidi (one of the leaders at our church who works with our Mercy department {outreach}) began asking for disposable pads to take to the women and girls on their upcoming trip to Lodwar. I thought, "Hey! I can do that!" and bought up some bags of pads as my budget allowed, but it got me thinking: how are the disposable pads going to help in the long-run? Once they're used, they will be burned and the women and girls will be right back where they started. Why don't we MAKE some that can be washed and reused?

I approached our Mercy team with the idea and they loved it! After discussing with the leadership planted in Kenya, we got the approval to move forward with the project. For the past year or so, I have been researching, interviewing, YouTubing, and testing different products and designs to find which would be the best for the women in Lodwar. We settled on the design we're using and now, we are trying to get the pad kits together before the next trip in May. Our plan is to give kits to 200 women, each kit consisting of three pair of underwear, three washable, reusable pads, and one bar of soap. The women and girls who receive a kit will have to go to the Wings of Hope counseling center, which is connected to the hospital there in Lodwar, to learn about how to care for their pads and how to use them. This means we need 600 pads made, 600 pairs of underwear donated, and 200 bars of soap donated.

We have two goals with this project:

1. To keep the young girls in school. The week of their period is considered their "week of shame", and without the proper protection, they are forced to stay home from school, and after a few months, they struggle to catch up and many end up dropping out. (More on that in Heidi's letter below.)

2. To build up educated, confident women who will open a small business making these pads in their own region, creating jobs and opportunity in an area where women are not often afforded those possibilities. Heidi told me about this clay working company there in Kenya: A few women came together to open a small business making clay beaded jewelry to sell. They now sell mugs along with their jewelry and employ 200 women, who have their jobs for life. I'd love to see something like that come of this project.

This is not toxic charity. We are not throwing money at a problem, but actively trying to help the women and girls succeed in school so that one day they can contribute to their society.

There are countless stories of what's going on there, but here is an email Heidi wrote to our group of volunteers as we were beginning this handmade journey:


There is some discussion going on about the possibility of making reusable/washable menstrual pads for the women & girls of Lodwar, Kenya. Many of the girls there do not finish school, and their menstrual cycle is one of the main reasons. The region is a very poor one, so many (I would venture to say MOST) girls do not have the resources to procure feminine hygiene products. I want to share with you the context behind the discussion.

One of the meetings we sat in on my first visit there (Sept ’13), the teachers and school headmasters shared that once a girl started her cycle she would begin to miss one week of school a month. Month after month the amount she misses compounds until she is far behind, has missed foundational concepts and can no longer keep up with the class. And so she drops out of school.

For those who stay in school, many are using pieces of their mattresses for absorbency. The mattresses used there are more like a tempurpedic type of mattress, made with a foamy or spongey material. They are usually 2-4" thick (depending on the quality/ how much is paid) and the width of a twin mattress here. Girls will tear off pieces of their mattresses to use as feminine hygiene products, while their mattress shrinks in size each month, until there is no mattress. And then she finds herself in the same position as the first girl.

This last trip (March ’14) we took over a bunch of disposable pads (collected whatever people were willing to give), and I purchased a few reusable/washable types to take over as kits. We gave them to the Field Coordinator and the Public Health Rep there and asked them to get back with us on whether they thought the washable ones were something they could use, that would be helpful in that region. Lodwar is located on top of two large aquifers, so water is available. Though most cannot afford to have it piped to their homes, a pump or well or river is within walking distance. (Their walking distance is a lot farther than ours. They walk everywhere. We walk to the parking lot.) So the reusable/washable pads are usable there. Both Sam and Whitney {Danny note: Sam and Whitney are our liaisons to the area and part of that leadership I talked about earlier. Sam is a local pastor.} agreed that they would like to do kind of a pilot program, train how to use them, distribute some, and then evaluate before moving forward. This is where you come in. :0)


Another story Heidi shared with me really hurt my heart: The government in Kenya, at one point, gave school-aged girls each a pair of underwear and a few disposable pads to help keep them in school. The men and boys were so outraged the girls were given preferential treatment that they retaliated. The government then gave the men and boys bags with seven pairs of underwear and pants and other things just to make them happy, and no more packages went to those girls who NEED the feminine hygiene products. Women are treated as second-class citizens, if not property. They are often raped (and when asked about it during the very first trip, the women didn't even consider rape as something they feared, just as a part of life). The mothers try to mutate their daughter's bodies to make them less desirable. It's a terrible world they live in, one we are trying to make better with this small project.

As the letter said, this is a pilot program. We want to roll out these kits to 200 women then evaluate how they help. Whitney may come back and tell us the pads aren't helping. She may come back and say they are wonderful and to send more. We may need to make them longer or shorter or more absorbent, but for now, we are sending these in hopes they will make a radical change in the lives of these women.

And, who knows? Maybe it will be great and we can expand to help women in regions other than Lodwar. Maybe we can help women in other countries. I'm not sure where we will end up, but I'm confident we are beginning on the right foot.

There are lots of other organizations out there doing the same thing but we wanted to help the community we're working in, so we chose to do our own grassroots program. If you have any questions about what we are doing or how to get involved, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you are a no-reply blogger, please leave your email address in the comments if you want me to get back to you.

I am looking for help in making these pads. I am also looking for donations of flannel, fleece, PUL (waterproofing layer found in the cloth diapering section of craft stores), snaps (size 16), and thread (cotton or polyester). If you are interested in donating in any way, please contact me so I can get you the information you need.


And if you don't have donations and you can't make the pads, I would love your prayers, good thoughts, and positive vibes. We are changing lives with this little project and I am so grateful for your support!

Menstrual Pad Tutorial Here


Kenya Pad Initiative - Menstrual Pad Tutorial

If you are looking for the story of how I got involved, click here.

The Kenya Pad Initiative has begun and I couldn't be more excited. This weekend I had a group of people come together at Crossroads Nazarene Church in Chandler, AZ to help make menstrual pads for the women in Lodwar, Kenya. I wanted to wait to post this tutorial until I had a chance to have people test it. Changes have been made and now I think it is ready for all of you to see!

We need 600 menstrual pads for our first distribution to the Lodwar women. We are hoping to have three washable, reusable pads, three pair of underwear, and a bar of soap in each kit to give out to 200 women. They will be required to get their kits from the local counseling center (Wings of Hope) where they will learn to take care of their pad kits, how to use them and how to clean them. Our hope is to equip 200 women, including school-aged girls, with these kits and get their feedback for how we can adapt the pattern to better suit their needs. Once we have feedback from these women, we will be making many more to hopefully reach all the girls and women in need in this area of the world.

If you are interested in making pads for this cause, please contact me to let me! I can let you know where to send them when you are finished. If you can't make pads but have some extra flannel or fleece or thread lying around that you would like to donate, please let me know! We are taking donations! If you don't want to make these for others, but want to make them for yourself, feel free to use this pattern.

  • Menstrual Pad Tutorial [this blog post in Word .DOCX file format]

  • Inside Pad Template [pdf]

  • Outside Pad Template [pdf]

  • Menstrual Pad Tutorial


    (1) Fleece outer piece for the bottom
    (1) Flannel outer piece for the top
    (1) PUL liner
    (2) Flannel liners


    Sewing machine
    Marking pen
    Rotary cutter/Cutting mat (optional)

    1. Prepare your templates

    Print and assemble your templates. The outer pad template spans four printed pages. Cut out each piece and tape them together to create one outer pad template. Cut out your templates and trace onto cardboard, then cut out the cardboard templates. This is especially helpful if you will be using the rotary cutter to cut the fabrics.

    2. Cut the fabric


    Using your cardboard template, trace the pad shape onto the appropriate fabric and cut it out using scissors.

    If you own a rotary cutter and cutting mat, you can rotary cut through multiple layers of fabric at a time, using the cardboard cutout as your straight edge. Be sure to use a sharp rotary blade so you can cleanly cut through the multiple layers.

    3. Assemble the liner

    The liner of the basic menstrual pad is made with two (2) flannel liner pieces and one (1) PUL liner piece. You will need to lay the PUL on top of the two flannel pieces, waterproofing side down toward the flannel. (The waterproofing side is the shiny, smooth side.)

    Pin the stacked liners to the wrong side of the flannel or quilting cotton outer piece. To reiterate, place the outer flannel pieces right side down, place the two flannel liners on top (right side or wrong side is fine), and place the PUL liner piece with the smooth, shiny, waterproofing side down. I like to use four pins to hold my layers in place. The PUL is super slippery and will move around if you don’t secure it in some way.

    4. Stitch the liner to the outer piece

    Using about a 2.5 stitch length, topstitch around the liner (about 1/8” from the edge). Backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitch path.

    Clip the thread tails.

    5. Assemble the menstrual pad

    Place the fleece outer piece pilled (or rough) side up. If your fleece is anti-pill, you will not need to worry about the direction of the fabric. It may be nice to place the side with the clearer image (right side) up so the design will show on the final product. Place the quilted, top outer piece on top of the fleece bottom outer piece, right sides together.

    Pin around the edges of the pad. On one end (shown on the right side in the photograph above), place two pins about 3/4” from each of the corners. This will mark your starting point and ending point when stitching around the perimeter of the pad. Between the two pins will be left open (unsewn) so the pad can be turned right side out. It is important that you stitch around the corners here. It makes the opening easier to close after you have turned the pad right side out.

    Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitch path to lock the threads in place. Stitch around the perimeter of the pad, turning at the corners. Use between ¼” and 5/8” seam allowance.

    Clip the thread tails.

    6. Turning the pad

    You will need to clip notches at the corners of the pad, both inward and outward. This will help give the pad crisp points when completed. In the photograph above, the lower portion of the pad has been clipped while the top portion has not. The top portion has been marked where notches should be cut. You will need to clip close to the stitches. Be careful not to clip through any stitches.

    Turn the pad right side out through the opening you left on the end.

    Use a chopstick to press corners outward. Press carefully so you do no rip through the stitches in the corners.

    7. Closing holes: intentional and not

    To close the opening you used for turning, fold the seam allowance for each fabric into the hole and pin shut.

    Sometimes you will end up with a hole in the seam after turning the pad right side out. To remedy this, fold the seam allowance for each fabric into the hole and pin shut.

    Once all the holes are pinned closed, topstitch around the edges of the pad, closing the holes and giving the pad shape. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitch trail.

    Clip the thread tails.

    Here, you can see the hole from the aforementioned photograph is closed.

    A note about accuracy: You do not have to worry about unstitching if you overstitch your mark. Due to the nature of these menstrual pads, there will be slight discrepancies in the construction and that is okay. They are utilitarian and will not be rendered unusable by slight variations in stitching.

    Completed product:

    The above picture shows the completed sewing project. If you would like to stop here, please feel free to do so. The last step is applying a snap closure to the wings, which can be completed by people who already own the tools and supplies at the collection site.

    If you would like to add snaps, here are some images to show how to install. Directions for installing snaps can be found on the package for snap installation pliers. We are using size16 (11 mm/.43 inch) snaps. These can be found in the cloth diapering section of Jo-Ann.

    How can you help?

    Even if you are unable to help cut or sew, you can help by donating the supplies or tools we need to make more menstrual pads.

    We need fleece, flannel (including receiving blankets), and PUL, which can be found in the cloth diapering section of Jo-Ann. We are looking for these specific materials, so please do not donate items like curtains or tablecloths. We will need yardage of the above fabrics for these pads. If you are purchasing to donate, try to get a flannel that does not have a painted design on it, as these designs affect the absorbency of the fabric.

    If you would rather donate notions or tools, we can use any cotton or polyester thread (this is a great thread stash buster project!), snap pliers, and coordinating snaps. Snaps and pliers are found in the cloth diapering section of Jo-Ann.

    Please feel free to share about this on your blog or other social media. I would love to get as many people involved as possible!


    Monday, October 6, 2014

    Liberty Lawn Fabric Tests

    I was asked by a couple friends to run some tests on Liberty of London Tana Lawn fabric to see how it reacts to washing and sewing. Watch this video to see how it went!


    Friday, April 11, 2014

    Angela Walters Classes: A Review

    This past weekend, I had the rare opportunity to attend three classes on long arm quilting lead by the absolutely fantastic Angela Walters. Now I know you're thinking, “But Danny, you aren't a long arm quilter” and you would be correct. I don't have a long arm nor have I spent much time playing on long arm machines, but it is a skill I have been dying to learn and I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity like this one. (I'll leave my first experience with long arm quilting for another post.)

    Also, these pictures were all taken on my IPhone. I wasn't about to lug a big camera with me to the classes! They were taken just to be a reference for me so I didn't worry about lighting or composition. This blog post wasn't planned until after the classes. If you dislike dark images, just pretend they aren't there! And I don't know which of the long arm samples are mine or Angela's. If you think it's absolutely amazing, it was probably hers!

    I'll admit I was nervous for the first class. I had almost no experience with long arm quilting but somehow mustered the courage to throw myself into a room full of women who make quilting their career. I was pretty certain everyone was going to hate me since I would have a bunch of lame questions they surely already knew the answers to (“How do you quilt a feather?” Yup. I went there.) Obviously, as revealed by my presence, I was “ready” for the onslaught of hatred and murderous sideways glares because this was a class I was NOT going to miss. It's ANGELA-FREAKING-WALTERS! I knew I was going to waste precious class time because of my naivety. I knew I was throwing live bait into a shark tank. But I was strong! I was confident! (And I drug Alyssa {Pile O' Fabric} along with me as a shield, I mean, for moral support!)

    Much to my chagrin, the class participants were kind, welcoming. They were excited to have someone as green as I am join their ranks, and shared an overwhelming amount of advice and information on the ins-and-outs of long arm quilting with me. I think the largest class of the three days contained 12 students so I had an ample opportunity to stroll around and chat with each and every one of them. (Go ahead. Pretend you're shocked that I spoke to EVERYONE.) I won't go into too much detail regarding who I met or what we discussed. The point I'm trying to make is everyone was super friendly, more so than I ever could have hoped for. The positive energy and creativity flowing from the group was permeating and I left each day 100% exhausted, yet riddled with the uncontrollable urge to speed home so I could quilt!

    Angela was awesome, and I say that in the sense that she was truly awe-worthy and not in the way a teenager haphazardly throws around this adjective, diminishing its power. It was obvious quilting is her passion and her energy (albeit fueled by a couple Redbulls and a Starbucks latte) was invigorating, helping to keep us all on point even after our post-lunch sugar crash! She told jokes often and altered the pace of the class to be sure none of us had missed a thing. She was very cognizant of our needs as students, and made sure to check our understanding of a topic before moving on to the next. She even took time to discuss how certain motifs and designs would be quilted using a domestic sewing machine (DSM) because SOMEONE in the class didn't own a long arm. :) The class structure was conducive to learning, running in a series of segments including lecture and visual, when she would draw the design and its variants on the white board, application, when Angela would stitch the design on the long arm, and practice, which gave us the opportunity to attempt the design she taught. Even though there was only one machine set up in the classroom (it had two heads), we all got the chance to stitch and ask questions. I was unsure leading up to this class how it would be managed, but I was excited to see how flawlessly it ran.

    When I walked in to the Creative Space (where the event took place), Angela was standing around talking to some of the other ladies in the class. I recognized her from her Handi Quilter ads and other little quilting-themed haunts online, but had never met her in person. And even though we had never met, Angela greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. It completely set me at ease and tore away some of the barrier I had imagined between us, her being a quilting superstar and me being a lowly peon who doesn't even own a long arm quilting machine. During the class, she kept reiterating that no quilting is perfect and discouraged us from trying to attain that impossible standard. I really wish I had recorded some of her Angela-isms so I could perfectly recall the words. I remember something like, “Deciding to become a perfect quilter is like deciding you don't want to breathe any more. All the practice in the world isn't going to make you stop breathing, and all the practice in the world quilting isn't going to make you perfect.” It was something like that, though probably much more eloquent and lined with humor. Regardless, she made quilting attainable. She made it personal. She made it fun. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from her, I highly recommend you do so. She has three (going to be four in the next couple weeks) classes available on Craftsy, which I think you should all take full advantage of if you were unable to attend her classes.

    So, I suppose you want to know about the classes themselves?

    The first day of classes was dedicated to Dot-to-Dot Quilting. We learned about how to find points on the quilt to use as guidelines while quilting. These designs were predominantly angular, great for use in borders, squares, rectangles, and triangles; basically any defined, modular space. I hear all the time about quilters who struggle with quilt top designs and fabric selections specifically for men, but because I've never made a quilt specifically for a man, I've not run into the struggles associated with creating less flowery, more manly designs. These quilting designs, made using a variety of straight lines, would be PERFECT to add a masculine touch to a quilt. Brent is always talking about how he wants me to make him a quilt, but that I need to leave my “swirly whirly junk” out of it. Now I know how!

    Swirly whirly junk

    For this class in particular, Angela mentioned that we should consider using rulers to keep our lines nice and straight. I was struggling to make straight, diagonal lines using the Gammill Vision. I'm not going to lie: I felt a little more proud of my lines after seeing a dozen other women struggle with the diagonal lines too! I'm not usually one to compare myself to others, comparison is the thief of joy and all that, but when I'm learning a new technique, I want to make sure I am doing it correctly.

    The second day of classes was dedicated to Negative Space, the class I was most amped about after registration. The designs were meant to add texture and depth and interest to a quilt, filling in the negative space. Something I love about Angela's quilting designs is how they vary in every quilt. She doesn't typically do an all-over design. She does a little bit of this over here, then a little bit of that over there, and she'll add in a little twist of another in between, just for good measure. Her quilts are dynamic. They have great movement and it is the negative space quilting that gives that aesthetic, or so I think.

    We started with basics, learning the value of the back and forth line (which she will sometimes use a ruler for) and moved into a diverse mix of modular and curvy designs. We learned to create offset squares and merged lines, then how to create ogee and pea pod/pebble patterns across the quilt. She brought small samples of each for us to see and feel. Tangent: I have a new found love for Art Gallery Fabrics. She brought a few completed quilts made entirely of Art Gallery Fabrics, which is the manufacturer she designs fabric for (I know. Jack-of-all-trades!) I am a tactile person. I love touching things, especially when I'm not supposed to! I'm the girl the white-gloved ladies watch out of the corner of their eye while at a quilt show. Many times I hold my hands behind my back just so I don't accidentally jump out and rip the quilt off the wall, snuggle into it, and rub my cheeks across it. Yeah. I'm that girl. Angela's quilts were so smooth and cool. They had a nice loft, which I know is batting, but the surface itself was just magnificent. I really want to go buy some yardage of Art Gallery just to play with because it feels so amazing! End Tangent. If you want to see some of the designs we learned in this class, Google her Quilt Market wall quilt for Legacy. It was full of the designs we learned in this class, in particular.

    The last day of classes was dedicated to moving beyond feathers, although we spent the first half of class talking about feathers in general! In this class, I learned about scrolls, swirls, and a ridiculously confusing rope design that I couldn't master to save my life! In every class, Angela talked about turning corners with the designs since we all quilt borders at one time or another. Again, could not do the rope border or motif for the life of me, but I was able to manage the others.

    Over the whole series of classes, Angela showed not just the designs, but also their variations, demonstrating how each design is versatile and how they can be used in different areas of the quilt. Her expansive knowledge of long-arm quilting was mind blowing. She knows how to quilt anything! (Well, except for hearts. It's nice to know she struggles with SOMETHING in the quilting realm! She's so super amazing!)

    Here are some general tips Angela shared during the classes regarding quilting:

    - Practice, practice, practice!
    - Work in different directions. You can't reposition a quilt on a long-arm for directional quilting. Practice your designs in every direction so you can be confident when quilting them.
    - Use a thread color that matches the quilt top. That way, your quilting gives texture but doesn't detract from quilt, especially if you make a mistake.
    - If you make a mistake, do it a few more times on the quilt so it doesn't look out of place!
    - Echo your quilting. Echoing can set quilting apart so it doesn't all blend together and it can help you get to where you want to go on your top. End in the wrong place? Echo back to where you need to be to start your next design.
    - Quilt where you are. Don't leave a section of your quilt until it is all quilted.
    - When you are practicing your designs with pen and paper, always draw a square first and doodle inside. This will help you learn what to do when you get to edges and corners.
    - Use elements of the quilt, like quilt blocks, to help keep you on track. No need to mark on your quilt.
    - Search Google and Pinterest for straight line drawing and rod iron work for quilting inspiration.

    I know it is going to be years before I can afford a long arm but I feel the skills I learned from this class are invaluable. I'm going to practice constantly on my DSM and hopefully, when that illustrious day comes and I am the proud, new owner of a long arm machine, I won't have to take a year to learn how to use it. It was a pleasure to meet Angela. I love her personality and teaching style! There was a rumor swimming about that she may be back later this year to teach more, and if she comes, I will SO be there!

    You can find Angela Walters online at:

    Business of Machine Quilting Blog
    Amazon (She has a new book coming out soon!)


    Friday, February 14, 2014

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    I realize I haven't updated you on the status of my family. On 9 January, we welcomed our new little girl into the world! Meet Lily Noelle.

    This is our little Valentine picture for you!

    She is now a month old and I can't believe how fast the time has gone!

    My labor and delivery was horrendous. I won't get into too many details, but for my safety (and the baby's) we won't be having any more children, making Lily even more special to us (as if she wasn't already the most precious gift ever imagined!)

    There is a lot of good news though. I have a healthy little lady. I healed very quickly. SHE SLEEPS 6-8 HOURS EVERY NIGHT!!!

    Yes. You read that correctly. We use a method called Baby Wise and it is phenomenal. I highly recommend everyone who will be having a child to look up the book and read it.

    For now, we are just making it through our days. Learning how to live with each other. We are finding a schedule that works for us all, which is so helpful, especially when there is another little child in the mix.

    Maze has been amazing during our transition time. She loves Lily tremendously and I couldn't be happier! She gives her kisses and "soft hugs" and likes to rub her head. We have to watch Maze because she doesn't quite know her own strength, but thankfully all her feelings toward HER Lily have been affectionate.

    So, I'll still be around. I'll still be sewing and doing fun things with my kiddos, and I'll still be sharing with you all here.

    Thank you all for your well wishes and positive thoughts. I appreciate you all more than you know!

    Related Posts Plugin