I don’t really get it, but apparently menstruation is taboo in our society. A little shed uterine tissue and blood is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Nor is the fact that your vagina bleeds once a month something to be quiet and “ladylike” about. I’m not saying shout from the roof tops when it’s “that time of the month” (a phrase almost as pathetic as he-who-shall-not-be-named), but own up to your menstruation, and in this ownership, recognize the responsibility that comes with it—the responsibility for your health and the earth. “What the hell is she talking about?” you may ask.
After much contemplation about whether this topic is “appropriate”, I have decided post this craft because 1) uterine blood ain’t nothing to be afraid of, 2) our unfounded prejudices, fears and visceral “yuck” reactions are antiquated and illogical, and 3) sustainability and health are important.
So, I’ll be blunt. Rather than using tampons and store-bought pads and pantyliners, I use a diva cup and homemade reusable cloth pads and pantyliners. There are a million websites that can explain to you why you too should make this choice, but I’ll give you an annotated list of my personal reasons:
- It is healthier: Diva cups have no risk of TSS because they are non-absorbent. (High-absorbency tampons enhance the bacterial growth of Staphylococcus aureus, which cause TSS) Furthermore, pantyliners can also promote bacterial growth and chafing with the paper-like material, sometimes causing Bacterial Vaginosis.
- It is cheaper: 1 diva cup ($32.49) + 5 pantyliners + 3 pads ($6.90) = $39.39… this is the total cost I have spent on my period since last September.
- It is more convenient: Diva cups can stay in for up to 12 hours easily in contrast to tampons which can last only up to 5 hours. Cloth pads and pantyliners can last much longer than the disposal ones as well since they are non-irritating. I change my Diva cup twice a day… when I wake up, and when I go to sleep.
- It is more comfortable: Tampons are uncomfortable and you feel that it’s up there. Diva cups sorta get sucked up with suction and you don’t even feel it after the first 15 minutes.
- It is less prone to accidents: The suction of the Diva cup prevents leaks and bleed throughs.
- It is more sustainable: Disposable pads, pantyliners and tampons waste paper. Diva cups and reusable pads and pantyliners do not. It’s that simple.
And so, I am hoping that this tutorial post inspires you to look into diva cups, and either make your own or purchase some reusable cloth pads and pantyliners.
Materials and tools: black thread, fabric markers, fabric scissors, pins, snaps (only for pads) black nylon, black flannel, and another flannel color of your choice (I used rainbow). The nylon acts as a fluid-proof barrier and the flannel serves two purposes: to be soft and comfy, and to get frictionally stuck to your underwear. Organic flannel is also a plus. Just to note, these pads and pantyliners contain no batting or terry—they are not intended to be super-absorbent, but rather to be used on light days or over night when you don’t feel like using your diva cup. If you have a heavier flow, put between the nylon and flannel layers a layer of quilting batting or a layer of terry towel, either purchased from a fabric store or cut up from an old quilt or bath towel.
Pantyliner materials (below)
Pad materials (below)
- Print out these templates from She Who Runs in the Forest, and cut them out. Just to note, She Who Runs in the Forest has many tutorials for a variety of pads and pantyliners. These two that I am posting are inspired by and adapted from her tutorials, but with slightly different construction and layers to match my own needs. I credit her completely with the template, and highly suggest you look at her website for more ideas.
- Trace the central long piece template onto one piece of black nylon, one piece of black flannel and one piece of rainbow flannel leaving an extra 1/4” around the entire thing for the seam allowance. Cut them out.
- Pin the 3 layers together in the following sandwich: black nylon, black flannel, inward facing rainbow flannel (right side in).
4. Sew around the edges leaving about a 1” gap. Trace the curves very carefully, you don’t want jagged angles here.
5. Turn it inside out. Make sure to smooth out all the curves.
6. Hand sew the small gap with black thread.
7. Iron to flatten it out.
8. Sew around the entire pantyliner.
9. Double-sew (stitch twice over the same line) three lines down the center of the pantyliner to reinforce the structure.
10. To use them, place them black side up (color side down) on your underwear. They will stick on their own without moving around.
- Follow the same procedure as for the pantyliner outlined above, but instead use a sandwich of two pieces of black flannel and do not sew around the entire thing after ironing it.
- Trace the winged piece onto one piece of black nylon and two pieces of rainbow flannel leaving an extra 1/4” around the entire thing for the seam allowance. Cut them out.
- Pin the 3 layers together in the following sandwich: black nylon + two pieces of inward facing rainbow flannel (so that the right sides are touching).
- Sew around the edges leaving about a 1” gap. Trace the curves very carefully, you don’t want jagged angles here.
- Turn it inside out. Make sure to smooth out all the curves.
- Hand sew the small gap with black thread.
- Iron to flatten it out.
- Sew around the entire pad.
- Place and pin the black pantyliner onto the pad. Sew it around the edges.
- Sew on two snaps onto the wings. First sew the two bottom snaps, then line them up with the second wing and use a fabric marker to dot where they should go, then sew the two top snaps. See the pictures below for placement.
- To use it, put the black side up in your underwear (color side down) and use the snaps to fasten the wings underneath your underwear.
Washing instructions: Wash them once before you wear them. Once you’ve used it, rinse it in cold water to get anything crazy/particulate/solid/super-liquidy off, hang it to dry, then throw it in your normal laundry with your clothes.
Total time: 30 minutes per pad or pantyliner
Total cost: $2.40 for 0.5 yards of black nylon + $3.00 for 0.5 yards of black flannel + $1.50 for 0.5 yards of rainbow flannel = $6.90
I hope this has inspired you, but if you lack a sewing machine or the motivation to make your own, you can also look online at some stores which sell reusable pads and pantyliners, like Party Pants Pads and Luna Pads. And if I haven’t cracked your nut at all and you still are a bit grossed out by the concept, check out Luna Pads’ “ewwww” manifesto to hear a lengthier explanation of why it’s not gross. Like always, comment if you have questions!