For my One Small Change for February, I decided to make and wear women's cloth. That is--reusable, rewearable, recycled fabric maxi pads. I did indeed, but I've been terribly slow about finishing and reporting the project. If I had to sum up my experience in a few brief words, it would be these:
WOMEN! We have been had! Long live the rag!
So rebellious do I feel, so enraged and exhilarated, that should I ever launch a women's cloth business, I would call it Marianne and the logo would be based on this woman.
Anyway, I didn't exactly storm the Bastille. My sister came over in January with Goodwill bags in her car. I rooted through them and found a bunch of her old stretched out dainty jammies (ladies, HOW do they always get so WIDE!?) and the dregs of my brother-in-law's basketball t-shirts. He saw we had them when he came by once, and asked, "Why does Ellen have our old clothes?" Craig, I don't think you want to know. Fortunately my darling bro can't even recharge his cellphone minutes, so I doubt he will end up here and find out what really happened to his red 'Stangs shirt...
The clothes sat around until, hup! I got my period! Whoops. I dug through my purses for one last commercial pad and feverishly set to work in my studio. I made a few, went downtown, made a few more, and washed them that night. Made a few more in the morning. I started using my own pattern, taken from a pad I liked and tweaked, and the basic instructions given in The Handmade Home. Rather than cutting all the pieces out and then snipping the wing portion off the interior pieces, I made a second pattern for the core of the pad. They felt lumpy, and because I hadn't added a seam allowance, small. BUT, I could already tell there was potential. (pictured above left)
Since the core was only anchored at the ends, it tended to shift about, so I added more top stitching, hoping this would make it more comfortable and less lumpy. It did, but it also made more holes in the fabric, and more holes mean more leaks. I smote myself, thinking of all the times I've cursed the top-stitching on FuzziBunz. I should have thought of that! (pictured at bottom)
Also, these variations were time-consuming. As you can tell, I didn't do a super sewing job on these. For one thing, I needed them urgently. For another, there are other things I'd rather sew than maxi pads. Or so I thought. The last version was the most successful prototype, and the most enjoyable to sew. No turning, no top-stitching. I just zig-zagged all around several core pieces and one piece for the wings. I decided that one was the keeper, with just a few small tweaks. Well, my period came and went, and I used my lovely pads, which by the way tuck and roll and velcro in a very discreet and tidy bundle. I planned to make more, better pads during the month.
You're probably wondering, if you're a woman, how they feel, how they're cleaned, and what the gross-out factor is. All I can say is that they feel WONDERFUL. You know how it is. The plastic pads don't breathe. They're only comfortable for a minute, and then you just deal with it, like you just deal with pesky libido killing birth control pills, or spending a gajillion dollars for a bra that almost sort of fits, or the endless pairs of useless useless underwear that are neither thong, brief, or those sexy Brazillian things--wedgies is all they really are. Anyway, men, you have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to the daily details. The cloth pads are soft, clean, and fresh. You just feel....FRESH. And when it's time to change them, they are just damp, rather than sticky, hot and sweaty. Honestly, you should try them. They do a cold rinse and then wash hot and dry in the machine or on the rack. I do them just like diapers. Easy peasy. Amanda Soule says to soak them for less staining, which I'm going to try, but it really wasn't bad at all. Plus, I made more red pads.
Last weekend I finished tracing and cutting all my pieces--still 100% recycled cotton knits.
I sandwiched 4 t 6 core pieces between two wing pieces and piled them up.
Right away I noticed the zig-zag made the edges ruffly. I am sure there is a correct foot and knit setting on my machine but I was way to lazy and gung-ho to dig out my manual. So I tried the blanket stitch. It ain't a serger, but you can see how much better it is.
Also, because of the thickness, some of the stitches didn't catch all the way. See what I mean, with the straight stitches here and there? Does anybody know how to fix that?
I used almost a whole spool of thread. At one point, I had to decide how much I would wind on the bobbin to make the most use of the spool. I ran out of bobbin thread just as the spool unravelled. Somehow, it made me feel really good. Confident in my judgement. Oh! but it's the small things after all. There was just enough thread left to make a parachute for my nephew's mouse Ralph this week.
When they were all sewn up I put them aside for the evening. After dinner, when Jane was in bed, we watched Jacques and Julia in Concert and I trimmed the edges and the threads. Et voila! All ready for the coming month. I must say, as hard to bear as my period has been these past few months, it's nice to have some new comfort to look forward to.
You can buy them all over the place, and they're easy to make. Just for fun, calculate how much you will spend on pads and tampons over your 35 or so reproductive years. Or look up how many pads and tampons will end up in landfills in the US this year. Or better yet, consider how fresh, nurtured, and comfortable you will feel. I really hope you will give them a try.