Knit Your Own Reusable Menstrual Pads : A Pattern

It’s been many years since I last picked up knitting needles, but after Aviya’s birth I used reusable pads for the first time ever, and I am sold on them. I’m in no hurry for that part of my life to return, but when the day does come, I will be a full on reusable pad girl. It’s so much nicer than disposables!

My fellow  NPN volunteer Destany, who blogs at  They Are All Of Me recently offered to share her instructions for DIY knitted pads, and I jumped at the opportunity. Maybe someone will enjoy making them so much, they’ll gift me a few. A girl can dream, right?

I once asked my mother growing up, “What did women use for their periods before we had disposable pads and tampons?” She said that they used old rags or anything they could find around the house that could be thrown away. I immediately looked at the dirty grey dust cloth I had just used and held it up to ask her if that’s what she meant.

liners one photo liners1_zpsf4fdb3c7.jpg

She nodded. “Yup!”

Compared to the starkly white bleached cotton pads sitting upstairs behind the toilet, the idea of using old rags seemed a horror – poor Grandma!

Oh mother… If only we’d had internet! I always found her answer woefully inadequate. However, it wasn’t her fault. Women of the pre-Kotex era simply did not speak of menstruation or share their habits.

Fortunately these days we have the Museum of Menstruation to gain a little insight. Information is still sketchy, but it would appear that some women indeed used cloth “rags” and I can see that they may have used old fabric for this, but it wouldn’t have been a dirty dust rag. It would have been clean, you know. And there’s no telling what women of upper class may have used, but I can imagine it would have been better than what the lower class had to get by with.

The reason I asked my mother, apart from curiosity, is that there simply had to be a better way. Those disposable pads were (and still are) very uncomfortable to me. They give me rashes, dry me out, they bulk up in places, and when you have one flip over while pulling up your breeches and the sticky side gets stuck to you instead of your panties? Nightmare. Total nightmare!

And then there’s the disposal. Wadded up period packages filling up the wastebasket, the time spent on carefully unwrapping, changing, rolling up the old pad and winding the wax paper strip around the outside of it so that it could be put inside the plastic wrapper without sticking to the sides of it. It’s a huge hassle.

Fortunately, women these days have many options. I don’t have to choose between a wad of chemical laced paper or a dingy old rag!1 Many companies make reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups are becoming increasingly popular. As a seamstress, I have been making my own cloth pads. However, one day when I was knitting up a new kitchen towel that felt super soft and thick, I was struck with inspiration to knit some new cloth pads!

Before you get wigged out at how complicated or off putting it would be to reuse cloth sanitary napkins, let me break this down for you.

This is me on disposable pads:

Get my period. Look in the cupboard. Count how many pads I have before I need to hightail it to the store to buy more (or argue with the husband about going up and getting me some if I’m laid up with cramps). Spend the week changing out pad after pad, leaving the used ones in the can beside the toilet.2 Run out and buy more pads when I’m wearing my last one. At the end of the week, take out the bathroom trash. *When using disposable pads, my periods lasted anywhere from 4 to 6 days.

This is me on reusable pads and a menstrual cup:

Get my period. Insert my cup and grab a clean cloth pad from my dresser drawer. Count the pads. I have six, just like always. Twice a day I change the pad and put the old one in a ceramic lidded pot that I keep beneath the bathroom sink. At the end of my period, dump the ceramic pot into the washing machine with a load of towels. Launder. Place fresh clean pads back into my dresser drawer for next month and clean/sanitize the cup. *Using a menstrual cup and reusable pads, my period lasts 2 to 3 days.3

I find reusable products are much easier, more convenient, and frankly, a lot more sanitary not having a pile of gross pads filling up the trash. Mold on unused tampons is far more common than you’d guess. And you won’t know if the tampon you’re using has any mold on it because you’re not allowed to see it before inserting it.

liners two photo liners2_zps1efe90cc.jpgNow onto the pattern!

This pattern is highly versatile. Use it to make plain panty liners for very light days or back up to a cup; use it to make slightly more absorbent pads with wings; add a sturdy backing to it to handle your heavy days.

If you have very heavy periods, you can even knit an extra top piece to place on top of your finished pad, for extra absorbency.

Knitted Basic Panty Liner:

Use WW cotton yarn, size 2 needles.

CO 8 stitches
k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p
p, m1, k, p, k, p, k, p, m1, k
k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, p
p, m1, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, m1, k
k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p
p, m1, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, m1, k
k, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, p
p, m1, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, m1, k
*k, p, *all the way across
*p, k, *all the way across

Repeat the last two rows until you have the length of liner you wish. 60 rows or six inches for medium, 80 rows or eight inches for large.
**Your last row before beginning to decrease should end with a knit stitch.

K2tog, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2tog
*p, k, *all the way across
p2tog, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k2tog
*k, p, *all the way across
k2tog, p, k, p, k, p, k, p, k, p2tog
*p, k, *all the way across
p2tog, k, p, k, p, k, p, k2tog
*k, p, *all the way across
Bind off and weave in ends.

You can use the basic liners for light spotting, or as a double up for heavy days.

I decided to give them wings and it was really easy.

liners three photo liners3_zps0550746d.jpg

Find the horizontal stitches on the very edge of the liner. These are the purls. Noting the center, slide your needle beneath ten of these stitches on either side of the center, so that you have 20 stitches on your needle. Beginning from the right side, knit across to form a base of your wing. Knit as follows:
*k, *all the way across
k, k, p16, k, k
k2tog, k16, k2tog
k, k, p14, k, k,
k2tog, k14, k2tog
k, k, p12, k, k
k2tog, k12, k2tog
k, k, p10, k, k
k2tog, k10, k2tog
k, k, p8, k, k
k2tog, k8, k2tog
k, k, p6, k, k
k2tog, k6, k2tog
k, k, p4, k, k
k2tog, k4, k2tog
k, k, p2, k, k
k2tog, k2, k2tog
k, k, k, k
k2tog, k2tog
p2tog
bind off

Do this on the other side as well. Weave in all of your ends, and apply the snaps according to the package directions. liners five photo liners5_zps2cd14d37.jpg

I know many women prefer a more protective backing on their liners, and that is easy enough to add to these. I chose denim, but other sturdy fabrics such as corduroy will also work. You may choose to use PUL, or polyurethane lined (waterproof) fabric.
Place your liner facing down onto a piece of paper and trace around it. Use this template as guide, and cut your backing fabric about a quarter of an inche larger all the way around. Snip the rounded edges of your backing fabric to minimize puckering or bunching.

liners six photo liners6_zps9a5bbad2.jpg Line up your backing and your top pieces, and place a strip of terrycloth between the two layers.

Pin it and stitch it down, an eighth of an inch from the edge.

liners seven photo liners7_zps68a58fdb.jpg
Use a nice thickly woven terrycloth for your liners.
liners eight photo liners8_zps9d450089.jpg
When pinning, try to eliminate any bulky areas.
liners nine photo liners9_zps994b72f7.jpg 
I handstitched my backing on, if you machine stitch, you a long stitch setting.

That is it, your liners are complete! Here are some links that explain proper care of cloth menstrual products:

Menstruation Dot ComLuna PadsMama Cloth Green Feminine Care

 

__________________________________________

1. Despite the fact that women are known to absorb chemicals into their bodies by means of vaginal exposure (through tampons and even sanitary napkins), menstrual product companies are not expected to disclose the ingredients they use on their packaging. Tampons and napkins are known to contain many harmful substances including dioxins (according to the FDA).

Exposure to dioxins, which are highly-toxic chemicals, can lead to skin problems, liver dysfunction, immune system issues, endocrine system problems, and issues with reproduction and fertility.http://teenhealth.about.com/od/physicalhealth/a/toxictampons.htm

2. Personally, I find the use of over the counter sanitary pads incredibly messy I require a bit of extra upkeep throughout my menstrual week, including diligent cleaning. This is not true with a menstrual cup. The menses is contained within the vagina until I choose to conveniently dispose of it and normal bathing is more than sufficient. I get to feel clean and fresh as always, and have numerous times even forgotten that I’m having a period.
Becoming Cruncy
3. No one knows for certain why foregoing disposable mass produced period protection leads to shorter, lighter periods but the stories are far too common to dismiss. Personally, I didn’t believe it and was completely shocked when my periods began lasting only half as long as they did before within only 3 months. This phenomenon has led some to conclude that the chemicals in these products are causing the prolonged/heavier bleeding and some have even accused the companies of adding asbestos to them in order to prompt the excess bleeding. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty amazed and grateful!
Natural Parents Network – Reusasable Menstural Products

Common Myths About Real Nappies

I’ve been using real nappies on my daughter since she was around 4 weeks old, and I love them, so much so that I’m a now real nappy advisor in my local area!  I often end up chatting to other mums about nappies when they hear what I do, and there are some common misconceptions that seem to crop up again and again.Read more: Common Myths About Real Nappies

Must Haves And Baby Essentials

Alternatively titled: What’s My Wishlist? 

I love seeing pictures of my baby and how he or she is growing in there, deep beyond my line of sight. When I found out I was pregnant, I signed up for a whole bunch of those ’your baby is x weeks along’ emails, so that I could get a general idea, more or less, of what’s going on in there.  Slowly but surely, with just over a month to go, if that, the ‘must have’ lists and ‘essentials for your new baby’ emails have been filtering steadily in.

I wrote a while back on PlayPennies about how new parents are spending on average £10,500 on their first child, and that mothers are wasting £158m each year, and I can tell you that we spent less than 10% of the average on Ameli before she was born, yet she came into this world lacking for nothing.Read more: Must Haves And Baby Essentials

Money On My Mind

I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing in my head on the subject of money lately. It’s just such a hard topic to discuss really, without people becoming uncomfortable, or the subject actually causing rifts in friendships. But a few things have happened in my life recently that I thought I could share with you and while in effect there are three different thought processes, they’re what’s been milling about my mind, so here goes.

1) Soon after Ameli was born, I started thinking about money and about how having it or not having it affects my parenting – or at least the things around my parenting. If I had limitless means, or even enough means to justify it, my daughter would have only wooden toys. She’d eat only organic food, and wear only organic clothing. She’d probably go to the best school just so that contacts with the “right people” could set her up for life.
Read more: Money On My Mind

All You Need To Know About Real Cloth Nappies

Mothers are an incredibly powerful force, because not only do we do what we do, say what we say, and choose what we choose with the best interest of our babies in mind, but we also take all that passion and protectiveness with us wherever we go. We also arrive at parenthood with an incredible wealth of experience behind us. Whether straight from school, or as a professional turned stay at home mother, we each bring our history, our know-how, and our knowledge to the table.

Of course, in ‘the old days’ when we sat around village fires and shared our folklore and passed on the wisdom of our mothers and their mothers and their mother’s mothers, there was a lot more information on hand albeit not necessarily the best advice, it acted as guidance. While every second person on the bus and every friend that’s had a baby or knows someone who has and has endless anecdotes of advice for us, when it comes down to the real thing – when you’re left literally holding the baby – we often find ourselves alone.

Read more: All You Need To Know About Real Cloth Nappies

Getting Started With Reusable Cloth Nappies

Starting out with reusable nappies can be a real minefield. There are so many choices, and options that it can be a bit overwhelming.

Below is a summary of previous posts I’ve written on the subject – just click on the links for more detailed posts on the different subjects.

Read more: Getting Started With Reusable Cloth Nappies

Why Do We Need Real Cloth Nappy Week?

Well, it’s Real Nappy Week. I’ve heard people ask questions during other awareness weeks about why we have them. What’s the point? I’ve heard accusations about it being a good excuse to make other people feel guilty.  Which is a little sad, really.  I read a blog post the other day about why we need these awareness raising weeks. The topic was for children’s mental health, so rather more ‘serious’ than cloth nappies, but the message remains the same:
Read more: Why Do We Need Real Cloth Nappy Week?

Potty Training: Step One

To start off with, I’ve used the term Potty Training, since it’s really the most commonly used name. In our home, it’s more often referred to as toilet learning – a personal choice, as I don’t particularly like the visual of potty training. It makes circus music play in my head while animals jump through hoops. This is not what I am trying to teach my fifteen month old daughter.

So, I wrote a while back about our success and then disaster in the field of toiletry. I also said that we would be trying to follow Dr. Sears’ Toilet Training Tips.

According to Step One, you need to be sure the baby is ready to learn. Signs of readiness include:

  • Imitates your toileting
  • Verbally communicates other sensations, such as hunger
  • Understands simple requests, such as “go get ball”
  • Begins to pull diapers off when wet or soiled, or comes to tell you he’s dirty
  • Follows you to the bathroom
  • Able to pull clothes off
  • Climbs onto the potty-chair or toilet
  • Has dry spells: stays dry at least three hours
  • Investigates his or her body equipment

So on these, we’re doing really well. Ameli follows me into the bathroom, laughs about my being on the toilet, and tries to get on my lap. She definitely understands simple instructions, is great at helping to dress and undress herself, and will happily sit on the potty – but won’t do anything once she’s there.

So the ‘external’ signs that your baby is getting ready to ‘go’, are:

About to go: retreats to quiet place, stops play quiets, squats.

Going: grabs diaper, grunts, crosses legs.

Gone: peers at diaper bulge, senses different feel, resumes play or verbalizes production. These signs tell you that baby is developmentally mature enough to be aware of what’s going on inside his body.

BecoPotty - the environmentally friendly option

And this is where we realised that it all falls apart. See, she doesn’t display any of these signs, and our first clue is normally when things get whiffy.

Honestly, I don’t believe that she’s aware that there’s anything there. So, we decided to teach her the word “poo” – and by teach, I mean in baby signing. It’s something that we’ve loosely done with a few words, and she’d probably not be able to communicate with anyone else who does it, because we’ve not followed the signs properly. Nonetheless, I taught her to grab her nose and say “poo”. Within a day she was walking around grabbing her nose and saying “poo”, but still not really getting what it means.

In fact, as I came up out of the pool one day and cleaned my face, she, standing on the side, grabbed her nose and said “poo”, which rather made me laugh!

Anyway, I have subsequently been trying to show her what poo is, by signing it while changing her nappy, then pointing it out to her – oh, the glamour of motherhood.

So, so far, we’re not overly successful. Since trying our new method, we’ve had plenty of sitting down on the potty, but not much else. Rather than force it, we’ve shelved the potty for a few weeks, while we try to introduce awareness of it’s purpose.

Tips on Potty Training

Ahhh! The treacherous toilet training. We were doing so well!

Ameli used to wake up in the morning, sit on the potty, do her thing, and that would be the end of that. We’d have only wet nappies for the rest of the day. That was at 7 months old. Then June came and we went camping and travelling for eight weeks, on and off and potty training went, well, down the drain.

Now we’re at fourteen months, and the potty serves more as a step ladder to the forbidden treasures on the toiletries shelf than anything else.

Read more: Tips on Potty Training

Refuting the Cons of Elimination Communication (Part 2)

In part 1, Rebekah from Thoughtful Momma talks about how few cons there are to Elimination Communication. Today she carries on refuting the negatives:

Let’s move on to the second “con” that is often brought to my attention: The idea that it might be messy or perhaps just plain unsanitary. It absolutely amazes me how many people think EC is actually just parents allowing their kids to poop all over the place without doing anything about it (um, ew?).
Read more: Refuting the Cons of Elimination Communication (Part 2)