Sewing Cloth Pads 101 – Common Beginner Mistakes, Part 1

Sewing Cloth Pads 101 – Common Beginner Mistakes, Part 1

hey everybody I decided that since we have done a couple of sewing related videos now so there's you know a couple of tutorials about how to put a pad together how to do a patchwork topper and there's more I'm doing another one I started it this weekend but it's not finished yet and how to insert a pul layer which is a waterproof barrier into a cloth pad I thought that now would be a really good time to get into some common mistakes that beginners make and some of these mistakes are particular to menstrual pads you know if you were sewing something other than a cloth pad this wouldn't be something that you would consider but then there are other things that are just you know common to all kinds of sewing their mistakes that beginner sewers make when they're using a machine the first couple of times mm-hmm unless there's somebody to tell them that they shouldn't do this and I was fortunate I started sewing back in May of last year and that was really I bought my sewing machine like in 2012 and we had moved to Honduras and from my husband's career and we were in Honduras and I ordered a sewing machine online because I had a friend there who was a sower and and I really had always meant to do it so I ordered this machine and I got it and I sat there and I kind of looked at I was I was afraid of it I was afraid to touch it I opened the box and I took the machine out and I you know took the power cord out and I plugged it in and the light came on and it made this weird sound in the needle area because it didn't even have a needle in it the needle moved and it was just scary and I didn't want to break it I had no idea what I was doing I didn't know how to thread it or anything so I went back in the box and it stayed in the box until May of 2014 so and it had been read up for the move when we came back to the States and and so I pulled it out of the box for the first time and I gathered the courage to turn it on and you and spent hours in my manual because I needed to switch to cloth pads and at that time we were in a we were in a cash flow problem type situation after we had moved so I just didn't want to be spending money on cloth pads from stores at that time but I really wanted to switch and my friend and if you've watched my previous videos you'll know her name is Billie Joe hi Billie Jo she had encouraged me to try sewing my own and I was like oh you know and I have this machine but I'm scared of it so anyway trust me when I say for all of the beginners out there the first time I had ever turned on my machine well it was the second time I turned it on but the first time I ever put it on turned it on put thread in it and put a needle in it and actually sewed material was my very first cloth pad attempt and so I made all of these mistakes and there's one that I'm going to talk about that didn't ever happen to me and I'm coming to find that it's probably because of the the pattern that I chose to use the first time and the type of fabric that I was using but it is something that happens to lots of people so anyway trust me you're you're not stupid you're not an idiot it doesn't mean that you can't so these things happen to everyone when they start sewing for the first time so to maybe make you understand that you're not alone that these are very common things that happen to people and in addition to which just to tell you how to get past this and what you're doing wrong necessarily you know wrong is a bad word but it is it's what you're doing incorrectly with the machine that's causing you to have these problems with your pads so let's get into those some of these will just be me sitting here talking to you and others of them I'm gonna go down to the sewing machine to demonstrate because I think it'll be easier for you to understand all right I think that's enough babbling let's go ahead and get into them the number one mistake and the very best thing you can correct for yourself to make every part of sewing anything you're going to sew easier is that a lot of beginners so too fast you have to remember especially with cloth pads that you are sewing together something with many layers in it you know and we all who had this experience we all remember our mothers and our grandmothers or whoever it was in our family who was you know the person who made everybody dresses or nightgowns for Christmas or what have you most of us have somebody in our lives that when we were kids we watched them so and they would sit at that machine and they would just let it rip I know that when my mother sewed outfits for me or pajamas or when she was repairing rips and something she would sit down at that machine and it would just fly and the one thing that we have to remember is number one my mother sewed her entire life as far as I'm aware she definitely already knew what she was doing with that machine well before I was born so you know my mom was very comfortable with her sewing machine in addition to which she was sewing garments which is two pieces of fabric usually no matter what she was doing it was two layers maybe three tops that she was sewing together and they were all very thin you know garment type cloth you know cotton or polyester or something like that that she was sewing and that's very different than sewing together something that's very thick and has you know five layers in it and so a lot of us who don't have any experience with sewing machines we sit down and we think the machine's supposed to go very quickly and also there's this there's this false confidence that happens when you accidentally because when you're new with a sewing machine you will also have trouble figuring out the foot pedal and so on those moments when you accidentally press on the pedal too hard or too suddenly and it just goes home you know and it gets away from you you look down and you're like wow those were really even straight stitches I just need to sew faster and it's gonna fix all my problems but then you get to a curve or you start using a piece of material that's stretchy and there are quite a few stretchy fabrics that are used in the in the cloth pad minstrel you know you know cloth minstrel pad universe you know no no no no no no that's the biggest mistake that people who are new too slow at sewing cloth pads make is to go too fast slow down make sure that you've pinned your fabric together very well and go slowly number one you won't have to go slowly or that slowly anyway forever you you won't have to do that but when my pads finally started improving in appearance was when I started to slow down like you know stitch stitch stitch stitch and it and I really slowed down so that I could watch where the needle was landing on every stitch that was going on the pad and yes it takes a little bit longer but I was so frustrated because I had been sewing cloth pads for several months at that point two or three months maybe where I had been sitting down and practicing every day trying to make new ones and they weren't getting any better in appearance I still couldn't do even him you know top stitching seemed you know because ideally I wanted them to be 1/8 or 1/4 of an inch away from the edge of what I was working on and I couldn't maintain an even row going around curves was a bloody nightmare I mean they were never centered they were never even the curves looked bad on my pads and that's that's typical for most of us unless you know people who come into this have been doing that for a long time and I have seen a couple of really brilliant ladies come into the the sewing group on Facebook and their first pads are just glorious and gorgeous and everything and that's wonderful but clearly those people have had experience with machines before so if you're new to sewing in general you can't do that unless you just have some kind of strange talent and you and the Machine become one or something you know I'm sure that happens for some people but for most of us for the rest of us you need to slow down because you will get a feel for it you will get better practice with anything makes people better and that's definitely true for sewing machine I was gonna buy the special foot and it was the wisest thing that somebody said to me on the sewing group and and she wasn't addressing me in particular she was addressing this question somebody was talking about you know what kind of presser foot can I buy with a guide on it so that my top stitching will be perfect every time and oh when I wish I could remember who said it now because I would love to give her credit for this best advice she said you know you can buy one of those she said but the best way to get good at you know being able to make even top stitching is to practice making even top stitching she said through you know wrote muscle memory and repetition you will learn how to do it and then you won't need a foot that will only allow you to do one width you know you will know what you're doing and you will be able to do it perfectly every time no matter what the width you're looking for the fabric you're using is and she was absolutely right slowing down enabled me to do that and at first it felt really unnatural to be using machine going stitch stitch stitch stitch but you know what I got better and I don't go that slowly anymore so and my pads immediately started to look better the very first pad that I ever made that I kind of squealed because I thought it was so pretty and I gave it away so I can't show you where else I would brag on it I'll look for a picture and if there's a picture I'll put it up here if I still have a picture of it that here it is this was my very first pad that I thought was pretty enough to be called perfect I loved this one pad was the first one that I ever made that looked perfect to me and it was because I took probably five solid minutes which doesn't sound like a long time but it's a long time when you're going around a small object to sew it all the way around with the curves and everything and it looked even to me and all of the stitches landed where I wanted them to land just slow down if you're having trouble making even top stitching if you're having trouble keeping your course centered when you're sewing around it to get it attached to the topper or you know when you're going around curves like this if you're having trouble keeping the width even just slow down and I promise you'll see immediate results if you just slow down okay for this first one I went downstairs and got this pad to demonstrate I made this pad yesterday and you'll see more of this one isn't that gorgeous I just loved this tee print this is going to be one of the pets that I talk about how I make in the patchwork pad video that's coming up about how to feature a smaller piece of fabric anyway the first thing I wanted to talk about with mistakes people make is you'll see we call this part here the width here because this is the part that goes around the gusseted part of your underwear which is a sewing term that has to do with the elastic that makes the crotch area of your underwear conform to your body so we call this the gusset although that's really not a concern the part that steps are about the crotch of your underwear this width right here one of the number one mistakes that people make when making cloth pads is that they make this area too wide you know they'll they'll make a pattern for themselves and then they'll do something with you know they'll like with my half inch rule for example they'll make the core area you know a certain lit with away from the edge and then they end up with a three and a half or four inch wide gusset which is almost twice the width of this so it'll end up being as wide as this area up here and that's too wide for comfort in addition to being too wide to be comfortable it also ends up for most people being way too loose on the underwear because even when you snap it closed you know the gusset or the crotch area on most ladies underwear is going to be two to two-and-a-half inches wide even on the bigger underwear now I personally like to wear the the boy shorts style of a where I just really like that's comfortable for me but even with that kind of an underwear which has a little bit of a wider crotch on it then then typical a brief style underwear and especially like for a bikini style or thong style underwear you need to have two and a half inches is pretty typical a lot of people like it to be two inches and three inches is a pretty typical width for you know a very long very heavy overnight pad postpartum pad that kind of thing if you are making pads and this gusset area is four inches across that's going to be too wide for you and it's not going to be very comfortable and I think that that's a really good tip to start with so if the pattern you're using ends up with a four inch wide or even a three and a half inch wide or if you know you're uncomfortable with even three inches which quite a few of us are keep in mind that two and a half is pretty standard this one is two and a half inches wide and I find that that's kind of what you want to aim for and then if you find that that's inadequate because it's too wide or it's too thin then you can go up to three or you can go down to two but really anything more extremely thin than that or wider than that very very few people will find that comfortable so aim for two and a half inches another thing I can talk to you about using this pad as a demonstrator this is a make this one a moderate it has one piece of zorb inside at the the absorbent core and it also has two pieces of foam I got too far away from the camera sorry it also has two pieces of flannel in there so there's inside this with what you can see is very trim there is the cotton topper and then inside there's a layer of absorbent material called zorb and then there's two pieces of flannel also attached to that and those are sewn to this top and then on the back I have this anti-pill fleece which I've never understood why they call it anti-pill fleece because look at that it's been washed one time it's totally pili I don't know what I don't know where they get off calling it anti-pill fleas but anyway it's soft and it's nice so there are five layers of material in here and this is going to be more than adequate for most people to wear for a good solid four hours now there are people for whom that's not enough and there are people for whom it's way more than they will ever need but what we find with beginners and this is a really common mistake is that beginners are so worried about having leaks that they put way too many absorbent layers and they make their court very very thick and it's not even a comfort issue because again this is a personal preference thing a lot of people really like having a thicker pad because that's just what they used before and they feel comfortable with that and that's fine but the more layers you have inside one of these the harder it is to so and certainly the harder it is to so straight and pretty and if you're just learning how to sew you've just amped up the difficulty factor for yourself and you probably don't need all of that it comes from the impression that a lot of us have when we come into cloth that that they're going to leak or that they're not going to be sufficient or because they don't have that chemical gel crap in them that the disposables have that somehow it's just going to leak right through the middle of the pad and it's going to be messy that's not true for people with really heavy flow to pieces absorb and you know a piece of flannel on the top and the bottom to permit the compression leaking that's as much as it I've not met anybody for whom that is inadequate unless you're talking about people who have serious overnight bleeding issues or postpartum that's very very heavy you don't need all of that so if you're one of those people who's putting like two layers of terry and four layers of flannel you've made your life very difficult for learning how to sew one of these and you probably don't even all of that in fact I would go so far as to say that nobody needs all of that there are exceptions to every rule but it's a very common mistake that beginners make is to put too much absorbent too many absorbent layers and they stack it up very thick and it makes it very very difficult for people who are not very experienced with their sewing machine and even experienced you know full-on seamstress type people who can make very complicated beautiful garments they start making cloth pads and they've got you know eight layers of materials stacked up together and it's very very difficult for them to sew and keep clean straight lines or to keep every layer lined up together so just keep that in mind and just double check if you're having trouble keeping everything lined up or if your machine is struggling through the material that you've stacked up just look at it realistically and ask yourself do I really need all of these layers because you probably don't okay this next one is one of the very few things that actually affects the functionality of the pad itself and so it's really vitally important that you kind of know this I didn't know this when I first started and I was using a pattern that I had found online and it was adorable and the pads that I made with it like they were my very first pads and they were functional they worked and everything but I almost immediately found that I had some leaking on you know heavier days or if I wore them a little bit longer and okay I found this picture and you'll see those two channels down the middle this was that first style I was talking about and those channels went all the way through to the back but I was sewing all the way through all of the layers to put a channel down the middle also because it just in the in the photographs on the online tutorial I was using she had done that as well she had sewn down through all of them and she has since revised that on her website and I'll put that down below too I think because I want you to see where I started because oh they're so adorable and the ample pad that she has on that page is adorable and that's one of the reasons I picked it also because it has full instructions about how to make your own pattern and I didn't want to buy a pattern at first I wanted to do everything for free so anyway but the point is you should never sew all the way through and I no longer have any of the pads I bless it I give away everything and so I no longer have examples of these to show you which is a shame because I would like to show you one I found this photo to show you and these are some of the very first pads I've ever made and if I'm not mistaken that one on the far left there is the very first pad I ever made and what I want you to notice about these is that yes I have sewn through all the way which was a big no-no in addition to which you will see that they are much thicker than the pads I make now now some of that is because the cores were made from terry cloth which is thicker but I had four or five layers of terry in each of these but you see on this this is the back of this pad and you'll see that the only stitching that goes all the way through is the top stitching around the edge okay in the body of the pad where the absorption is going to be taking place and where any leaking off the side of the absorption would take place there is no stitching through the back of this pad and that's the way you should do it and the reason for that is because even if you've made a very sufficient absorbent core for your pad which would you know without the stitching through the middle it should fairly hold everything without giving you any problems but every time you sew through a piece of material it makes a hole the thread makes obviously the needle pushes the thread down and it makes a hole through it and you can solve this problem a little bit by using synthetic thread polyester thread as opposed to cotton thread but even polyester thread will do what we call wicking which means that it will the liquid will like a wick in a candle the wick in a candle or the wick and an oil lamp will do the vacuum caused by the heat you know the fire eating up all the oxygen it will pull the the melted wax or it will pull the oil from the lamp up through that wick and feed the flame so that's the function of a wick is to pull the liquid up well if you put a drop of water and you drop it onto any kind of a string you'll watch the drop of water will follow the string down and that's also called wicking and if you put thread all the way through your pad as soon as the menstrual flow hits the hole in the fabric it's going to follow a thread all the way down and if you have put this put the the holes in your pad by sewing a channel through all of your layers it's going to wick straight from the top without soaking into anything on the outside it's going to follow that thread all the way through to the bottom and you won't have a leak in a pad that otherwise if you didn't have that hole there the the fluid would distribute itself through your absorbent layers and so it's not about your pads needing to be thicker it's about the fact that you've made these holes all the way through and that thread is serving as a wick pulling that that fluid all the way down so you know it could be something that was just on the surface and with very little at all even on a light day you could end up having leaks through the pad so that's a big mistake that new people who've never considered that and I made it I made it for the first 10 or so pads that I made until someone was kind enough to point out to me hey you know you're causing leaks for yourself do not sew all the way through and that's why when you watch my how to sew a pad video you'll see that I sew all of the layers to the topper before I assemble it together with the backer that way the backer remains with no holes in it whatsoever and you'll also note that the way I sew my pads the center doesn't have anything sewn through it that would create a space for leaking to go all the way from the top to the back so don't sew through all of the layers on your pad the back of your pad should have no seams in it except for the top stitching that you do around the edge to secure everything together so as as usual with me this video started to get a little bit long and I like to stop my videos now before they hit the half hour mark but honestly have I ever made a short video but so I think that we'll leave this one here these are some common mistakes but I have more I wrote some of these things down on the back of a bill envelope that I wanted to talk about and I didn't get to everything tonight and like I said in the beginning intro when I was going to just do all of them I was a little overly ambitious there are some that I want to show you out the sewing machine so that I can illustrate what I'm talking about because that'll make it easier for you to to understand what I'm talking about but there will be another one of these common beginner mistakes videos probably in short order but I am working on multiple videos right now so I got really excited about all these different things that I'm working on some in the middle of my five but anyway there will be a volume two at some point but for now let's just sit with these and if you have any questions or if you're having any problems or things that you want to see me talk about in a video like this like maybe there's something that's happening on all of your pads and you're not sure why or what you're doing wrong that's making that happen leave your comments below and let me know and I'll see if I can include that in volume 2 or and if there's enough well we'll do this in a series and I'll just come out with these now and again to address whatever you guys are coming to me with okay so I hope that was helpful and I will see you again very soon but it's time for me to go to bed now

41 thoughts on “Sewing Cloth Pads 101 – Common Beginner Mistakes, Part 1

  1. Amy, thank you so much. Yesterday I tried to make my first pad. Good grief what a miserable time I had. I almost decided to give up. But then this morning I saw this video & now feel more confident and will try again today. Here's hoping I succeed after watching your video.

  2. Hi Amy thanks a lot for your amazing informative videos ; i have a question please regarding sewing the core layers together , if for example am going to use 4 layers of flannel (as cores only) can i serge them alltogether from the oustide ( to decrease fraying inside ) or is this going to create more holes and will increase the leaking possibilities . Tia .and keep going please

  3. h
    Hey there, I wanted to say how much I really appreciate all the videos you've posted, they have been very informative & helpful. I was wondering, did you ever continue videoing Sewing Cloth Pads 101 – Common Beginner Mistakes, Part 2? I was looking for that and I did not see it listed within your videos. Did I miss it somehow?

  4. I love your videos.The only thing is I can't figure out what side Is the private part and the side that is touching the underwear . I keep looking and I'm just not understanding that part. I'm a little slow lol. Can you be more specific basically simple terms lol the pansy side and the private part side. Thank you

  5. I'm just starting on the reuasable journey! your videos are wonderful and going to help me do better!!! Thank you so much for being personal and making periods a normal conversation!! be blessed my new found friend

  6. Does anyone know if cloth postpartum pads the same as cloth menstrual pads? I am 5 months pregnant with my first baby and wanting to sew my own pads but want to make sure I will make the right type of pad for postpartum. Thanks for any help!

  7. Hi Amy, how are you? Hope all is going well on your side. I was wondering… I am getting on the pad maker train, but I was wondering… what if I could sow the topper to the first layer of the core, like to guide lines within the length of the gusset part? Then the rest of the layers of the core sewed to first. I intend to use flannel as the core, since I am unable to get anything as fancy as zorb, here in India.

  8. Hey. You made a really pretty pink and green pad with a athletic wicking topper which was pink with the abosorbent core at the top. I wish I could find it but most importantly I wish you could show us how to make a pad with an absorbent foot on top.

  9. After a long time in a mental tug-of-war with myself, I made the switch to cloth several months ago, once I watched your videos. With your encouragement, I have made all of my own patterns and pads. You are a lifesaver! I am now halfway through a pregnancy and decided to actually pay for a pattern for the very first time, for the postpartum time after baby comes. Upon downloading, piecing together and muscling through this elephant sized pad, I discovered that all of the patterns in the packet I bought have a 4" gusset!! Argh! Hopefully I'll be able to at least use them as a starting point to create some new patterns of my own. Thanks for all that you put into your videos. They feel like I'm having a chat with my friend.

  10. Thank you so much for making this video! I just got my first sewing machine today, and made my first liner. It is SO pretty, largely because I saw your video beforehand and avoided some beginner mistakes :).

  11. I just found your channel and I love listening to you:))) And I'll be making my first pad tonight using your tutorial and other helpful vids like this one. You're such a beautiful woman inside out:))) Thanks for the vids :)) from Claire in Louisiana~

  12. Hi Amy! I'm getting ready to make my very first cloth pads, but I also need to make some postpartum cloth as I am allergic to disposables! Do you have a tutorial on making postpartum cloth or could you make one? I know that postpartum is usually quite bigger and I'm not even sure where to start on those! Thank you for these videos!

  13. I like your "babbling" makes me feel like we are just friends talking for real with side rabbit trails and all. 🙂
    I"ve been watching a lot of your videos, and really enjoy getting to know you.

  14. This might be a silly question, but what do you do about the edges of your fabric fraying when you wash them, before sewing? after washing I find I lose a bit of the fabric, & have to untangle the different fabrics apart, as they un-weave in washing.
    I do use the hand wash setting, & only wash all cottons together. Does it really make sense to sew a border line all the way around your fabric piece before washing, or do you just lose the little bit & that's fine?

  15. Hi Amy! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences. I was wondering if Part 2 would be coming soon? I'm interested to see what mistake-prevention tips you have during the actual sewing processes.

  16. I am loving your videos and have just liked your page.  I have an embroidery machine and found an in the hoop pattern, or well actually a friend did.  We were both complaining about all the junk in store bought pads causing issues with breakouts and that is an area you do NOT want irritated.  I am so excited to go get some PUL, my Kam Snap jit will be delivered this week!

  17. I love your videos! could you please do a more in-depth video on pad absorbencies and core fabrics? I would just like a better idea of how many layers of the main materials (flannel, zorb, terry and maybe microfibre) equal a light, regular and heavy flow pad? The thickness/ absorbency has been the biggest issue for me when sewing my own, also which materials are thinner for the same absorbency?  

    Thanks, Nic.

  18. Very insightful, thank you.  I'm not in the states right now and have picked up sewing again to pass some time.  The whole cloth pad hasn't hit really big in Europe "yet" but some pop up here and there.  So it's nice to be able to watch all your vids when learning to make these for ones self.

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