Sunday, March 1, 2015

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!



    1. If I were to make these, can I use the pattern I already use for personal use or do you only want this specific size/shape? Also, I usually use more than just 2 layers flannel (sometimes using terry and/or zorb), but is that all you are wanting in the pads you would be donating? And final question, if I have size 20 snaps could I use them or should I just not put any snaps because you would prefer to add the size 16 ones?

      1. You are a no-reply blogger, so I hope you see my response here!! I am trying to keep the size and shape uniform, mostly because any variance in shape or size could cause conflict among the women. That said, I am very interested in seeing the pattern you use for your pads! I want the best for these women and am more than willing to alter the design we are using if it means they will receive a better product. Do you have a pattern you would be willing to share with us for this project? I probably won't be able to change anything before the first roll out, but could change the pattern for future pads. As for the flannel, we are only using the two layer (plus the outer layer) because the women there have lighter and shorter periods than the average woman in America. This is due to diet and exercise differences. I chose to go with a pad that would give protection for an average flow and, from my research, three layers of flannel was good. That said, I did the testing of these and didn't have any issues, but that doesn't mean three layers is the perfect amount. If you have insight to share, I would love to hear it. As for the Zorb and other materials, it came down to mass availability and price. As much as I want to give these women the very best, I also have to take into account the fact that we have no budget for this and are working off donations. I wanted to make the best product with the materials available locally (meaning, what we could buy from Jo-Anns!) After the initial delivery, the women will be interviewed to find out what could make the pads better and we will be altering the design to fit their needs. That may mean more layers of flannel or terry or longer or shorter pads... We aren't sure. For now, we are doing the two inner layers and the one outer flannel layer. And as for the snaps, my pliers work on size 16, but if you would like to make some to send and can add snaps yourself, I'm sure 20 would be fine!

        I hope I have adequately answered all your questions. Please email me if you have further concerns and if you have a template or pattern you have designed for your personal use that we could see for modifications!



    2. Thank you so much for sharing this. As someone who has used cloth pads I have a couple small concerns about your design: it seems like the wings are rather small causing some bunching if the snaps aren't close enough to the edge, this can make the pad uncomfortable. It's also worth noting your fabric should be pre-washed to prevent shrinkage when the recipient washes it, especially since PUL has a different shrink rate than the fleece.

      Despite these concerns I think you're doing a great job bringing this charitable work to light!

      1. I am definitely pre washing all my fabrics, but I don't think I mentioned that in the tutorial! Thank you for catching that. I will fix it right away!

        As for the wings, I based the pattern on ones a friend of mine who uses cloth pads had. Is there a particular pattern you use? Would you be interested in sharing it with us, if you do? I want these to work really well for these women and I am open to changes and adjustments! We may not be able to change it before the first roll out, but certainly for future deliveries. I made a few of these and tried them out myself and they worked fine, but I did notice some of the makers who have been helping me didn't push the points out all the way on the wings causing one wing to be shorter than the other (kind of like Nemo's fins!)

        Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!!

    3. This is really a good article of giving tips to make the hand made menstrual pad. These really help in reducing the extra monthly voyage of purchasing pads. These reusable pads also help in sustaining the environment. I have been also searching more eco- friendly menstrual protections from here,


    Comments make my day! Seriously. I love them.

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