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Here’s why embroidery is so awesome

mishmash_embroidery_article01(Post by Daisy from MishMash)

Did you ever get the chance to add the the Tula Pink Acacia Racoon print to your life in some shape or form? No? Same here. I completely missed the boat.

What’s more, a recent search for this elusive, rare and out of print fabric brought up a listing on etsy where it was up for grabs here in Australia at $100 per yard so yip, I’d say that boat has sailed far into the horizon.

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So for those of you who have appreciation for Tula Pinks epic creative skills this emby design is from Urban Threads and I’ve only been meaning to stitch it out for just over a year now.

mishmash_embroidery_article03A lot of thought and consideration went into the colour scheme, it looked pretty complicated with the 17 colour changes and I really wanted to avoid browns especially when using the tie dye minky as the base. The finished result is a pretty close match to the original colour palette of the fabric and overall it turned out great.

mishmash_embroidery_article04After the 1 hour and 40 minutes stitch out time I’d say the colours came together pretty well. So far I have made only two of these minky cosmetic bags in pink and I think I will make another two in blue. So there it is, being able to use embroidery on projects this way with materials that I ACTUALLY have on hand is why I think machine embroidery is just so…..well….awesome!!! The list of restrictions becomes a little less lengthy and it’s actually a lot of fun working these ideas out.

mishmash_embroidery_article05 mishmash_embroidery_article06 mishmash_embroidery_article07

If you ever have time, take a look at the UT online magazine. If you find a favourite that you’d like to see used in projects let me know!

Daisy

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Which pads Should I buy?

As every body is different, different pads suit different people.  So there is no hard and fast rule about which pads are the “best” or will work for everyone.

We generally don’t advise anyone runs out and buys a full stash of pads from the one seller straight away, because its hard to know what is going to suit you looking at pictures and descriptions of pads. We recommend buying 1 or 2 of a style or size to try out and if you like them go back for more. You may find you need or want different pads for different stages in your period.

Some people need longer pads to catch the “channelling effect” (where you leak out the front and/or back), some prefer just a wider back, some just need a small pad. So try to think of what you disliked about disposables (if you are switching to cloth from disposables), what would be nice to have in cloth, and what needs you may have for your body shape/size.

Also think about how your menstrual flow goes.  If you have a lighter flow that spreads out over the top of the pad more, then you may find light to regular pads work for you, and you may not need any waterproofing or leak resistant fabrics.  If you find your flow is heavier or “gushes” then you may find a pad would soak through quickly, and a pad with waterproofing may offer more protection.  If you bleed towards the front of the pad, then you may need a pad with a longer front section or a longer pad overall.  If you bleed towards the back then you may need a pad with a wider flared section at the back.

If you want something for discharge, after intercourse/pelvic exams, light spotting or “just in case”, then a pantyliner might be appropriate. These are smaller pads with a lighter absorbency, so shouldn’t feel too bulky when you don’t need a lot of absorbency. If your flow is “light”, you may be able to wear pantyliners, or you may want to go for light to regular absorbency pad.

For a heavier flow, you’ll need to either change regularly, or look for pads with a higher absorbency and/or waterproofing. Night pads are designed for longer length to help catch “Channelling” as well as providing more absorbency for the longer time they are worn for.  Many people use night pads during the day as well, for that extra coverage and absorbency.  Night pads can also be useful for Post Partum bleeding and urinary incontinence.

To find the right length of pad for you, check the measurements with a ruler or tape measure to see exactly how that size looks. Perhaps even measuring it against pads you already have. Don’t forget to measure the crotch of your underpants to check the width of the pad against those too.  A pad that is too narrow for the style of underpants you wear, can pull the crotch in (“bunch”) too much, which you may not like, and a pad that is too wide for your underpants may not snap securely around the crotch and can slide around.   The pads should snap around the crotch tightly to make sure they don’t slide around, and the overall width of the pad shouldn’t feel too bulky when you are wearing it.  Some pads come with 2 snap settings to allow you to choose between the settings to better fit your preferences and your underwear.  You may need to wear different underpants with your cloth pads than you might wear normally, to provide the best fit.

It is also important to pay attention to measurements to avoid being disappointed when you get your pads.  You don’t want to have the excitement of your “fluffy mail” to be ruined by receiving a pad that is longer or smaller than you imagined.

Of course not all pads will fit well for everyone! There are a multitude of different shapes and sizes of people, as well as different shapes and sizes of pad.  Some people prefer a big pad so they feel secure, some prefer a small one so they don’t feel it at all. So it is impossible for a cloth pad to suit everyone.

Unfortunately due to the personal nature of cloth pads, and health reasons, we cannot accept returns of cloth pads, even those that have not been worn.  If you have an issue with your pads due to a sewing flaw or other defect, you should contact the seller to discuss what options may be available.

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What Are Cloth Pads?

Cloth Pads are a washable and reusable alternative to disposable menstrual or incontinence pads.  Worn in the underpants just like you would a normal disposable pad.  With fabrics like ultra soft and luscious velours, or funky printed cottons, Cloth Pads are not only a practical and eco-friendly product, but also more enjoyable to wear than a boring white disposable.

Cloth Pads come in several shapes and sizes, as well as many different fabric options, so you should be able to find something that suits your needs and preferences – from teeny tiny pantyliners to uber sized night pads!

Cloth pads generally have wings that fold around the gusset/crotch of your underpants, which help to provide coverage over the wing to help prevent leaks, and to help keep the pad in place.  These wings usually fasten together with “snap” (press-stud).

Unlike disposable pads, which use adhesives on the underside to stick them to your underpants, cloth pads have a fabric backing which doesn’t slide around as much as a plastic backed disposable pad would.  With added help from the wings, which should snap tightly around the gusset of your underpants (Some pads offer 2 snap settings to allow you to adjust the width for the best fit).  The snug fit of your underpants also helps to keep them in place, so make sure that you have well-fitting underpants on so that the pads are held snugly against your body.  You may also like to make sure you have underpants with a sufficiently wide gusset to be able to hold the pads securely.

Made from soft breathable fabrics, cloth pads are said to feel nicer to wear than plastic disposables, and can help eliminate thrush and sweaty irritations.  As well as being something fun!

Easy to care for – cloth pads can be rinsed out and then washed with your regular laundry.  Just like washing underwear or clothing that has been in contact with blood.  You shouldn’t need to use any sanitisers or disinfectants in the wash, your standard washing routine should be enough to keep your pads clean. Please see the Care & Use of pads article for more information.

If you experience stains (which seems to vary from person to person), you can treat these with a stain remover, or choose pads with a darker top fabric or a bold print to mask stains.  Synthetic fabrics such as suedecloth, microfleece and minky are stain resistant options you can try if you are concerned with staining.

For urinary incontinence, most cloth pads that include “PUL” waterproofing fabric and have an absorbency of regular or heavy should work for mild incontinence.  Obviously the more absorbent the pad is, the more liquid it can hold – so you will need to select pads based on your personal needs.  The longer the pad the more fabric it contains, so choosing longer pads as well as heavy absorbency ones will provide more absorbency overall.  Synthetic “stay dry” fabric toppers may be suitable to both wick away moisture as well as providing a more durable and colourfast option when pads are frequently used and washed.  “Pantyliners”, particularly those with PUL, may offer some protection from mild stress incontinence (when sneezing etc.).  Overnight heavy absorbency pads may be suitable for higher amounts of bladder leakage.

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Why Do Cloth Pads Cost So Much?

It’s a question I’m sure most people have wondered about. You can go to a fabric store and buy a whole metre/yard of fabric for cheaper than you can buy 1 pad for, so what are you paying for? and why do some pads cost more than others when they seem to be the same?

No, it doesn’t cost $10 in fabric to make a pad… but just like you wouldn’t walk into a restaurant expecting to buy a steak for the same price you can buy it raw from the supermarket – a lot more goes into producing a pad than just the cost of the raw materials. Not many people really know or think about what goes on behind the scenes with pad making, so I thought I’d give some insight.

Firstly there are 3 main types of cloth pad sellers….and this is probably the biggest factor in the price of a cloth pad, because it usually defines the way they price their pads. Not because one type of pad maker is better than the other, but because of the way they do things.

Hobbyist
These pad makers are just interested in making some pads – mostly for a bit of fun or perhaps with the intention to make a few dollars for the novelty. Sometimes using second hand (“reclaimed”) fabrics to keep costs down. They tend to stick to fabrics they can buy locally…. so usually not using things like PUL, Hemp or Bamboo. Usually a hobbyist pad maker will be pricing their pads low out of the desire to make an affordable product, and is probably not actually making much of a profit on their sales. Usually they sell from personal blogs or community websites without websites of their own. Unfortunately the hobbyist pad maker can “burn out” after a while…. realising that they are working hard for little money, and deciding not to continue doing so. Or they often step up to the next level…

Business
These pad makers are sometimes looked down on, under the impression that they are driven by making money alone because their prices are sometimes higher than the “average” cost of a pad. Which isn’t necessarily the case. What separates the pad making Business from a Hobbyist is the way they run their business, the fact they run it as one. It may include “proper” business practice like keeping receipts and filing a tax return and declaring their income, but it is also other things like having a name to trade under (a business name), website/online store and other business-like things where they have made an effort to achieve a business profile. Business pad makers will generally realise that there is more to the pad than just fabric cost, and price them accordingly, which usually results in a higher priced pad than one made by a hobbyist. Sometimes the business pad maker will make more “deluxe” lines of pads, with hand dyed fabrics, organics and other speciality fabrics, producing higher priced pads. Business pad makers can include “WAHM” (Work At Home Mother) or other types of work from home pad maker, who don’t have other employment outside of the home and treat their pad business as their “job”, or use their pad business to supplement their income. Because they run their pad making as a business, they are often more able to use higher priced and imported fabrics and buy fabric in larger quantities, giving them more range in fabrics than a hobbyist.

Company
By this I’m meaning the very large businesses who employ staff, where the business owner is not the one sewing and running the business. These types of pad makers often supply other businesses with pads, so are able to get their products well known, and they sell more because there are more outlets stocking them. Company pad makers have the advantage of being able to buy fabrics in bulk at greater discounts, so the cost in fabrics for each item is lower, but they employ people to sew them, so that extra cost has to be added in. They also don’t have the freedom to offer hand dyed and specialty pads because they need to have a constant range. As a result the pads from a Company can either be cheaper than the average business made pad (since the fabric cost is lower and their turnover is greater), or more expensive (since the cost of wages and other expenses is added).

So….if 3 layers of flannel costs less than $1, why are they charging $4 for a 3 layer pantyliner?
For a start it needs to be sewn up…. so you are paying for the finished item, not the fabric it is made from. The fabric doesn’t just magically transform into a pad, and what you’re also paying for, on top of the actual physical product, is the time and effort the pad maker has put into creating that product.

Some fabrics also cost more than others…. a pad made with flannel from a local fabric store is going to cost less (in raw materials) to make than the same size/shape pad made from bamboo velour and other more expensive fabrics. Also some fabrics have a print all over, or are plain, and some have an obvious print that needs to be placed in a particular spot within a pad, which can mean you get less pads cut per piece of fabric.

Some pad makers, usually the more hobbyist, will price their product thinking mostly about the cost of actually making the pad… the fabrics that go into it, and not charging extra to cover other expenses that come into making pads. That is where the above pad maker types will influence how pads are priced. A Hobbyist might be happy to run at a loss if they are making pads for fun and not concerned with making a profit. A business pad maker however will realise the extra costs and price their product to cover those, and may have more expenses they need to cover (such as web hosting) that the hobbyist doesn’t.

A pair of jeans doesn’t cost the manufacturer anywhere near what you buy it for…. but part of the price of the jeans pays for advertising, worker wages, transportation and dozens of other things…. It’s exactly the same in the cloth pad industry.

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Costs of Padmaking
Lets look at some of the costs involved in making pads commercially.

Getting the fabric
First the pad maker will probably either drive to a store to buy the fabric, or have it posted to them. So there is the cost of petrol/wear & tear on the car (perhaps parking cost), or the cost of postage to be added. Usually when I buy fabric online its imported, and the shipping charges are often more than the cost of the fabric. Basically whatever postage costs incurred are added to the cost of the fabric, so when working out prices if you’d bought a $10 a yard fabric and shipping was $10, then the fabric cost is $20 a yard. Adding on extra for petrol/car wear and tear will be less than cost of shipping, so most people wouldn’t consider adding it, but it is worth considering. Some businesses may even keep a vehicle log book to track business trips to work out the actual cost of getting there. If buying fabric online, the pad maker may have spent considerable time locating suppliers of the fabric, while the time spent yields nothing tangible, it is still time spent on the business.

Washing the fabric
The pad maker should “prewash” the fabric, which means to wash it before they use it. This is to remove the excess dyes, starches and other things in the fabric from manufacture, and because most natural fibre fabrics shrink when first washed, so they need to be washed before anything is made from the fabric, or the resulting product can distort when the fabric shrinks. Some pad makers pay extra to use eco-friendly detergents and you want to hope they wash fabrics in a dedicated load – not with their personal laundry! So onto the cost of fabric needs to go the cost of washing the fabric (electricity, water and detergent – also cost of running a tumble dryer if that is used). I calculated once that my modern energy efficient machine, on cold wash, with line drying and middle-range cost laundry detergent only cost around 30c a load for power, water and detergent cost. It’s about doubled for a hot wash. If the pad maker uses a laundromat then the cost will be much higher. So while it’s not much over a whole load of fabric, it does add up, particularly if smaller loads are done to wash fabrics separately. Fabrics such as hemp or bamboo should be hot washed 2-3 times before use. Some fabrics must be ironed before they can be used as well, adding more time and electricity used.

Art meets Functionality
Sometimes the pad maker will “hand dye” the fabric – take a previously plain coloured fabric and dye it themselves. This generally involves quite a lot of work (hours spent washing fabric and doing the dying), which adds time for which the pad maker will want to charge more for, and also the cost of dye and extra washing to wash out the excess dye adds to the cost of a hand dyed fabric. Or perhaps they spend hours matching and planning so that the top and backing fabrics and the thread colours match perfectly. They may be custom embroidered, hand sewn…. The fabric might have a print that the pad maker wants to make a feature, so cuts out their pad shapes to best show off the fabric. Even the simple step of using machine embroidery to make decorative channeling lines can double the time it takes to make a pad.

Sometimes the line gets blurred between what is a form of “fibre art” and just a piece of functional menstrual garb. If a pad maker spends hours hand dying fabric for a pad, the resulting product is no less artistic than a painting you would hang on a wall…. and you’d hardly walk into a gallery going “I’ll give you a buck fifty for that piece of canvass over there some dude scribbled on”

Sewing
Now on to making the pad. The fabric needs to be cut out and sewn together. There can be around 5 layers of fabric in a pad, all hand cut. Presumably large companies have the pad shapes cut by machine as they do in clothing manufacture, smaller scale pad makers do it with scissors, or some may use a rotary cutter to make this a little quicker. Then the layers assembled, and the pad sewn up. It can take around 10-30 mins each pad to make from cutting to completion, depending on the layers and complexity of the pad. If it has decorative channel stitching, or is a more complex pad, that will take longer to make. The fabrics may need to be ironed before they are cut out, and the pad may need to be ironed after its sewn. If someone was being paid for their time doing another job, how much would they earn for 20 mins work? An average hourly rate for a seamstress is around $10 to $20 an hour. So the wages for sewing up a pad (not including any other expenses) may be around $2.50-$5 per pad. There are also the costs of the sewing supplies, which often need replacing – needles, threads, bobbins, machine oil, pins, fabric markers, scissors, roatary cutter blades, overlocker/serger blades, electricity for running the sewing machines (and room lighting) etc. Sewing machines need repairs and maintenance, and you can’t charge a customer $150 if the machine breaks while making their pad, so a pad maker has to price their product so that they are making enough profit to be able to afford machine repairs/maintenance. And don’t forget the fasteners and labelling…. adding snaps or other fasteners onto winged pads, as well as any branding tags also adds a small cost per pad and adds to the time it takes to finish the pad.

Getting the goods online
Most cloth pads are sold online… depending on the scale of the business there will be different costs involved with that. Ebay, Etsy and other such venues for selling your goods from cost money to list an item and take a percentage from the sale, others charge a monthly fee. If the pad maker accepts paypal (as most do), then there are paypal fees that come out as well. Some sellers offer bank deposit, and their banks may charge fees for their account. If the seller has their own website, then they will most likely have a domain name (www.them.com) which they pay a yearly fee for, and may have web hosting fees ontop of that. So for example, if you sell a $5 pad (including shipping) on etsy and the customer pays with credit card paypal, paypal will take out around 45c, and etsy will take out 38c. Leaving you with $4.17 left from the sale.

As well as the costs of selling online, there is the time involved. As with sewing up the pad, it doesn’t just list itself. Often pad makers take time to set up a backdrop and photograph their wares in an attractive fashion. They may then upload the photos to their computer and crop, resize and do other things to them, before uploading them to their store/website and writing up the descriptions to make them available for sale. This can take around 15 mins per pad.

Customer Service
The time spent at the computer uploading new products isn’t the only thing a pad maker does online. They also reply to e-mails from customers. Sometimes these can be numerous. Just as a receptionist or other employed person would get paid for time spent on customer service, a pad maker may factor in time they spend doing this into their pricing. Some pad makers charge extra for custom made pads because of the large amount of conversing with customers that takes place with providing a personalised service.

Advertising & Other Expenses
Some sellers purchase advertising space on websites or publications. This costs money. There can be other expenses to running a “proper” business too, such as product liability insurance, registering a business name, having an accountant do your tax return. All things to consider.

Packing the orders
Orders in, it’s time to pack and send them off. Sometimes pad makers wrap the order in ribbon or tissue paper, write a note on pretty paper, include little freebies…There is sticky tape, envelopes, printer paper and ink, biros, return address labels, business cards…. As well as driving to the post office to send orders, and to buy more packing supplies. Those all cost the pad maker money. Some pad makers charge extra “handling” with the postage price to help cover these costs, if they don’t then it comes out of the profits they need to make on each pad.

Seconds
An unfortunate side effect of being a human is the inevitable mistake. They happen with pad making, and you’re left with a “second” – a pad that isn’t quite up to scratch. Often these are for very small visual imperfections…. a bit of loopy/wonky stitching for example, that do not effect how the pad works at all, but in order to maintain a level of workmanship in their brand, a seller may mark them down. Sometimes customers complain because the “seconds” pads aren’t significantly cheaper than a regular priced pad, but the thing to remember is that it takes exactly the same amount of time and expense to produce a “second” than a normal standard pad. Infact, often the pad maker spends more time trying to correct the “second” than they would otherwise. Its also worth mentioning that often a pad maker will be very critical of their sewing, and consider something to be a “second” even though a customer wouldn’t. So if a pad maker takes $1 off the price for a “seconds” pad, you’re quite likely still getting a great pad at a great price.

Freebies & Special offers
When a pad maker has decided on a price they want for a pad, offering a “sale” price is cutting into their profits. Often pad sellers will offer deals and even give away free products, all of which cost them money (and time). Some pad makers even give away pads to charity or for other reasons. A Pad maker needs to consider specials and freebies, so that overall their business still runs at a profit even though they are occasionally giving things away for free.

Paying for the name & Market led pricing
With some of the more well known brands, the prices they charge may be higher than that of an equivalent pad made by a different maker. Just like with brand name clothing, a pad maker who has built up a reputation will often charge a higher price for their work. Here you’re paying extra for the pad maker’s expertise, knowledge, customer service or other aspects that may stand above other brands. Also sometimes the reason well known brands are well known is because they have spent time and money advertising their brand. Perhaps they spend hours sourcing special fabrics to make their pads more unique. Or simply be because there is a higher demand on them so they need to make sure their prices are such that it is worth their time. Which is why sometimes pad makers give up making pads, when they realise they are sitting there sewing for hours on end and only making a couple of dollars for their efforts. Often a lot of orders and custom work is done behind the scenes, so pad makers can be quite busy when their websites don’t seem to be updated often. There is also a lot of market led pricing. If customers are willing to pay a certain amount for a pad, and other pad makers of equivalent standard are charging a certain price, then often a pad maker will price their pads at a similar price to be in keeping with what is on the market. This actually helps to maintain an “average” price in the market. Interestingly there is often backlash in the pad maker community when new sellers price their pads too low…. undercutting the current prices is not only harmful for the other businesses, but in the long run pricing a product too cheap doesn’t benefit the cheap-pad seller, when they realise they are creating a sweatshop for themselves.

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Adding it all up
So… lets take an example of a basic pad and break down the costs that go into it. In US dollars and amounts.

Fabric – lets assume you can get 23 pad layer cutout from a yard of fabric. This is sort of a best case scenario, where you would be able to cut the pads out with minimal wastage, each pad shape slotting along side the next (this doesn’t always happen, particularly if a pad maker is cutting several pad shapes). Now fabric prices will be different in different countries, and depend on what type of fabrics you’re using… but for example take a $5 per yard fabric for the backing, which works out to be about 20c per pad layer… $7.95 a yard PUL works out at 34c…. $3 per yard flannel for the top at 13c….. and 3 core layers of bamboo fleece at $12 per yard for around 12c. So all up that’s around 79c for the pad. Yes….. you can pick your jaw up off the floor… not much is it. Although, for good quality fabrics, or if you’re somewhere like Australia or the UK (where fabric prices are higher and/or you need to import fabric), you can pretty much double or triple those costs. Also those fabric prices don’t include postage or washing costs. But as a basic guide, we’ll use that amount, as a cheapest case scenario.

Use a bamboo velour top for example and that might cost 78c just for the top piece alone. Also, a fabric that has an obvious print that needs to be positioned within the pad shape in a pleasing fashion will give you much less pads from the one yard of fabric. For example I’ve got a printed fabric where I get only about 20 small pads from one yard of fabric, where a plain fabric would yield more than twice that number. That fabric also cost me $30 a yard! So that makes each pad shape piece $1.50! When I top that with bamboo velour that makes the cost of that pad about $3.40 to make. You can see how fabric choices can make a HUGE difference to the cost of a pad.

Time – Lets assume it takes 15 mins to cut out and sew up the pad, including adding snaps and labels…. using $10 an hour as the price of labour, that’s $2.50. (If you’re giving yourself a decent wage as a skilled seamstress, double that) Now lets assume it takes another 15 mins to set up, photograph, crop/resize, upload and write the description for the pad…. that’s another $2.50 worth of labour. Now this labour is paying for the time spent, just as you’d be paid if you worked out of the home at a cafe, bookshop etc. So all up, making the pad and putting it online adds $5.00 worth of cost to the pad. Starting to add up now isn’t it! We’re at $5.79.

Fees – You’ll want to make sure you cover the fees, so if listing somewhere that you’ll incur paypal and listing fees, add an extra $1 to help offset that (of course making the pad $1 more expensive means more fees will get taken out than if it was $1 cheaper – since it’s based on the value of the item…). So that makes it $6.79….

Other costs – If the seller prints the invoice page or prints instructions add around 10c – $6.89. If the seller is wrapping in tissue paper/ribbon or adding a fancy note, you can add on another 20c or so…. $7.09. Snaps for the pad, another 5c, a label, about 10c perhaps… $7.24. Still we’re only really at the level of what the pad costs to produce/send. The pad maker might add a few dollars on to help cover the other expenses their business has… all those things listed above, such as domain name, buying office supplies etc. For example if the business has a website for which they pay $4.99 a month web hosting for… and they sell 10 pads a month, each pad would need to have 49c added to the cost to pay for the cost of the web host…. $7.73 (and if you want to add a domain name, that works out at about 8c per pad)

So there you go….
About $7.73 for a basic pad…. the kind of pad that you’d probably see being sold for about $6-$8. Which people might grumble at being “too expensive”.

So you can see how a $10 price tag on a “basic” pad can be justified. And the thing is, as you can see, fabrics actually make up a very very small portion of the overall cost of selling someone a cloth pad…. it’s a LOT more involved than just working out the cost in fabric. Also, a pantyliner and long night pad will still take similar amounts of labour time and extra expenses to make. So if a pad maker takes 15 minutes to sew up a pantyliner that they charge $4, they are probably not pricing their product as high as it should be to cover their expenses. The only saving thing is that a larger night pad is expected to cost more, so it can be priced higher to help offset the lower profits of pantyliners.

While most of us are on the hunt for a bargain, cloth pads (even expensive ones) are cheaper than using disposable pads in the long run, and while a $10 or $15 pad may seem expensive, you can buy one or two a month to build up a stash at a more affordable pace. See also my article on What are the Cheapest Pads. There is also the option to make your own.

Remember that a lot of time and effort goes into each one made. They are made by people, often in their homes. Not churned off a machine in some big factory like disposable pads are. Someone might have searched for hours to find that particular fabric print. They might have sat there sobbing while the machine refuses to sew properly, or they might have sung a happy tune while sewing. If only pads could talk! By customers buying their pads they might be able to afford their child’s swimming lessons, or buy themselves something nice to wear. Or you might simply be helping them be able to afford to feed their family. Or providing a business for a women who can then stay home with her kids instead of going out to work.

Buying a cloth pad can be so much more than just accumulating something else to bleed on each month.. you are supporting small business, contributing to a drive towards cloth pads, aiding the environment and getting something lovely to put into your underpants!

So lets not quibble too much about the price.

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What is the cheapest/best value pad?

This question comes up a lot. Its natural…..most of us what to spend the least amount of money we can, but the cost of an item and it’s value for money can be different things.

Cost” is simple. it’s how much something costs you to buy. “as little as possible” is probably what most people look for 🙂

Value for money” is more complicated…. it’s a personal measure – only you can decide that. It is how much value you put on the item compared to the monetary cost the item has. Think of it as a combination of how much you like the product, how much it suits you and works for you, and the price you pay for it. How happy are you about paying that cost for that item.

If you buy a dress for 50c but it doesn’t fit you so it stays in the back of the wardrobe… it’s not very good value for money, even though it didn’t cost very much. Its value to you is nothing, it’s worthless because you can’t use it. If you buy an $80 dress that fits well and makes you feel like a sexy movie star so you wear it regularly, you’d probably find that to be good value for money… but it cost a lot more than the 50c dress. The item has higher value to you, so you can feel that it was worth the price you paid for it. On the other hand, if you find a 50c t-shirt in a second hand store, and it fits, feels ok, doesn’t look too bad and you’re happy with it, then you’d probably find that better value for money than buying a $20 t-shirt new from a store. Cheap isn’t always a negative thing, it’s how much value it has to us that is a deciding factor if something is worth the price you paid or not. No matter what that price is.

If you want to be satisfied with your purchases (of anything), you need to look at value for money more than price alone. Just like you wouldn’t buy a 50c dress that doesn’t fit just because it’s cheap, the same concept applies with shopping for cloth pads. And just like going shopping for clothing, you wouldn’t just reach into a bargain bin and just take out something and buy it… you need to look at what it is, the price, the design and fit, what it is made of, and see if overall it’s the right choice for you.

Enough of the shopping references, lets look to cloth pads…

How much does a pad cost?…
(How long is a piece of string?) There is a huge difference in what you get for the price you’re paying in cloth pads… they aren’t just the one composition, shape or size. Some are longer than others, thicker, thinner, wider, narrower, contoured, flared, skinny, organic, hand dyed, heavy, light…..and so on. Looking through lots of pad stores you can get a feel for an “average” price for the same type of pad/pantyliner though, which can help you to work out relative costs for things.

There will be difference from country to country, just like a loaf of bread will cost different amounts country to country. Differences in the economy and fabric prices will affect the price of a cloth pad. An “average” price of $5 for a pad in one country may be different to what you can get for $5 in another country in their currency.

The cost largely depends on what the pad/pantyliner is made from. Take pantyliners for example. They can be any combination of fabrics, for example:

  1. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer cotton
  2. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer cotton, 2 layers hemp inside
  3. 1 layer hand dyed organic velour, 1 layer bamboo fleece inside, organic wool backing
  4. 1 layer flannel/flannelette, one layer hemp fleece, 1 layer PUL

4 very different pantyliners, and the variety you might find isn’t limited to just those examples. So given the variation you can find in pantyliners, imagine the variation in pads! So you can’t compare all brands/products by price alone, because what you get for your money can be completely different from brand to brand. A hand dyed bamboo velour topped pantyliner with a cool just released Amy Butler cotton print backing and organic cotton fleece inside is going to cost more than a pantyliner made of just 3 layers of plain coloured flannel.

To use that classic line… it’s like comparing apples and oranges!

So lets compare apples with apples then….Take a 3 layer flannel pantyliner for $3.00 and a 3 layer flannel pantyliner for $6.00. Same composition… that makes comparison easier…. but (always a but..) there may be size and shape differences. One may be twice the length of the other, so there is twice as much fabric in it. The type of flannelette/flannel used – one may be thicker quilter’s flannel, and one might be a thinner less quality one. How well is the product is sewn? Is it “serged/overlocked” or is it “Turned and Topstitched”? Does one have decorative top stitching? Is the shape and style is something you think suits you? This is why it is important to pay attention to what the product descriptions tell you about the products.

So when just comparing prices for something like a “pantyliner” it is important to look at what it’s made of for a start. While one may be much more expensive than the other, the fabrics used may be quite different. There may be more layers and of more expensive fabrics in the higher priced pantyliner. So with the higher priced one if it’s got more fabric in it, or uses more expensive fabric, its monetary value is higher – most cost has gone into it. So a higher price is to be expected.

Is it better to have a more expensive fancy pad or a cheaper less fancy one?
It depends on your preference. If you’d find it more enjoyable to wear a fancy velour pad, then you would mostly like find it to be better “value for money” than a cheaper less fancy pad, because you would place a higher value on it (you would like it more), so then it’s value goes up. If you really don’t care about fancy fabrics and a $3 flannel pantyliner will suit you just fine, then for you, the enjoyment you would get for the fancier more expensive fabrics isn’t worth the extra price you would pay, so it wouldn’t be good value for money for you.

Absorbency, shape and how the pad suits you!
And it’s more than just the fabrics too. Absorbency, and the pad being suitable for your flow,body shape and lifestyle, is really THE most important thing you should be looking for in a pad (though I think many of us are swayed by now a pad looks). If you buy a cheap pad that isn’t sufficient for your needs, then its probably going to be tossed in the back of your stash and not used. So that’s just a waste of money, not value for money. Again, not all cheap pads are inferior quality or made with less fabrics, but often when comparing prices, what you are getting for your money if different, so it is important to look at the fabrics used, amount of layers and what the pad is actually made of.

There is no point buying a $4 pad because it’s cheaper than a $10 one, if you just bleed straight through the $4 pad because it’s not absorbent enough. Composition is *the* most important thing to look at. Then you can shop around and look for the brand that offers the particular specifics you want for the best price.

Other factors affecting price and value for money
There are other factors that might influence value for money as well. Not just of the physical products on offer, but also how much value you put on the business making them as well. Some people prefer to shop at farmer’s markets and small stores rather than large chains – because they prefer their money to go to smaller businesses who may have better business ethics than larger corporations. These choices are made on the feeling for the business, rather than on the actual items. You may feel buying from certain businesses is better even if it comes at a higher price.

For example if a pad seller used green energy (to power their machine & computer for example), used only recycled paper, purchased carbon offsets, sourced eco-friendly fabrics, but as a result offered their products at a higher price to someone not doing those things, then for some people that extra price would be worth it. Or someone who spends a lot of time and effort on customer service, who is sewing pads instead of having a job out of the home, so that they can stay home with their children rather than putting them in daycare, even if their pads aren’t such good quality… might represent a better value for money for you than a large factory type business whose quality is greater but customer service not as personal.

Different people place different importance on these non-product aspects of a business. Some examples:

  • Does the seller have a good reputation for quality and place a lot of care into making their products?
  • Does the seller have a good reputation for being friendly and nice to deal with?
  • Does the seller ever do anything for charity, pad advocacy, or to help other pad makers? (things that show they are interested in more than just selling)
  • Does the seller work in an environmentally sustainable/conscious way?
  • Does the seller use reclaimed, organic or environmentally conscious fabrics?
  • Does the seller take the time and effort to produce hand dyed fabrics
  • Is the seller making pads to earn a living or supplement an income so they can stay at home with their children?
  • Does the seller seem to put a lot of thought into their fabric choices?

While price might be the ultimate deciding factor for many people, it really is about more than that.

There are a lot of hidden costs that go into making pads (See my article on Why do Cloth Pads cost so much), it’s worth remembering that the majority of cloth pads are handcrafted items. It can take from around 10 to 30 mins (or more) to make a single pad. From ironing fabrics, tracing out the pattern, cutting all the layers out, sewing them together, applying fasteners. Not to mention the business side of answering mail, searching for fabrics, photographing and uploading products, which can add up to be as consuming as a “proper” job.

I imagine most people dislike the idea of sweatshops. Surely everyone deserves to be paid a decent amount for the work they do? That also applies to pad makers. If a single pad can take 15 mins to make, 10 minutes to photograph and make available online, 1 minute in communicating with the buyer, 2 minutes packaging and sending…plus the cost of materials to make the pad…. how much would that person make in wages for that time working somewhere else? For the most part, you’ll probably find that most cloth pads are undervalued in terms of what the cost of producing them is. So many of them are already “cheap” for what they are and the amount of work that goes into producing them.

No… you don’t understand…it really is ONLY about the price!
For some people, cost really is a major concern, and getting cloth pads for the cheapest possible price is the ultimate goal. Some people are not in a position to be able to afford or justify paying extra for fancy fabrics, and for a seller to be able to work from home… and do really have to look for whatever is cheapest, and that’s fair enough. But just comparing pads themselves by price alone is not a guarantee of providing the best thing for you… If the cheapest is also the best for you, then that’s fantastic! But to avoid being disappointed and wasting money on things that don’t work for you, put some thought into what you need and want as well as how much you want to pay for them.

Ultimately if you’re after a “cheap” pad, then you are probably best to make your own, since that is going to be the cheapest option. There are tutorials and guides online that will enable almost anyone to make their own basic pads (try http://www.clothpads.org for a start – which has links to mad making guides). If you can’t or don’t want to make your own, then the next cheapest option would be to shop around and look for the best deals in cloth pads. Remember, it’s not about finding the *cheapest* pads, its about finding the *cheapest pads that will suit your needs*…. the best Value for money.

Pads in sets of more than one tend to offer the best value. Usually a pad maker will make the individual price of a set of pads lower than they would be to buy them separately. Also look for “seconds” pads, as often these have only minor visual imperfections (wonky stitching for example), and still make a perfectly serviceable pad. Buying pads from the one seller can save you money on postage, but sometimes it’s nice to have a range of different styles to suit the different needs you’ll have through your cycle. Also be aware that buying lots of pads from the one maker before you’ve tried the pads is risky… not all pads work for everyone, and you could end up buying a lot of pads you don’t end up liking or that don’t work for you.

The styles that allow for most flexibility, and therefore make the cheapest option are probably ones where the absorbent inserts sit ontop of a winged base. Like Sckoon, Lunapads and other such designs The inserts can be changed leaving the base part on, and often the pads are sold with a set of inserts, so that the one pad may be able to be worn longer than another style of pad. You also have the advantage of being able to use a folded facewasher or other such absorbent DIY insert in them if needed. These styles often do not come in a waterproofed version, but you can always cut a piece of plastic to fit under the inserts if you need to. Pocket pads likewise allow for extra boosting to go inside, and the opportunity to add waterproofing if none is included, however pocket pads need to have the entire pad changed when you would change the pad.

Also… don’t forget the possibility of asking for friends/family to buy pads for you… If they know that rather than a pair of socks for your birthday you’d prefer a pad, they might be willing to buy that instead…. you never know until you ask 😉 You could also barter with someone who can make pads and wants something you can offer…

Search for a bargain by all means, but also think of the real value of a cloth pad…Not just complain that they cost so much and “where can I buy the cheapest pads”.

Articles

How to Wear and Care for Cloth Pads

Wearing a cloth pad is almost the same as wearing disposable pads. The only difference is that a disposable pad has a sticky strip that you use to stick the pad to the fabric of your underpants, and sticks the wings together to keep them closed. With a cloth pad, the wings fasten together with a snap/button/velcro or other closure, and the fact your underpants are snug fitting and the backing of the pad being fabric, helps keep the pad in place.

Which way up?
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell which way up a pad should go, particularly when there is no standard fabric use. Cotton prints, fleece and even velour can be used as a top layer by some and as a backing by others. If there is stitching on top forming “channel lines”, then this sewn surface is the top and goes against your skin. Some pad makers place a clothing tag for their business on their pads, which will usually be done on the back/underside which goes against your underpants. Unless the pad has waterproofing, it probably doesn’t matter which way up you wear it, but if you are not sure, contact the pad maker and ask them which way up the pad should be worn.

Flared and longer ends
Some pads are wider and/or longer on one end. Generally pads are made so that extra length or width is at the back end to cover more of the buttocks, however some women like to wear the pads with the wider section at the front. Whichever way works best for you is the best way to wear them.

When to change pads
How long you can go before changing pads will depend on your flow and preference. Some women like to change their pads frequently to remain dry, other women are happy to leave the pads on longer. This of course will depend on how much you flow, and also the fabric the pad is made from can make it feel wet quickly or feel dry for longer. Many women change their pads when they go to the toilet, as this is not only most convenient, but pads can feel very cold and wet after the brief moment they have been away from the skin! Changing every 2-4 hours is about average for a moderate flow and a medium absorbency pad. You would change as often as you would do with a disposable pad. Pads without waterproofing should be checked for leaking through every so often until you are familiar with your flow and how well the pad performs. Simply look at the under side to check that the blood is not seeping through. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell when a pad needs to be changed, particularly if they are dark fabric, or synthetic topped which can feel dry even when the pad is quite full. One way to tell when the pad needs changing is to feel how heavy it is. Pads become heavier as they become more “full”, so comparing how the pad feels in the centre, front or back (wherever you bleed most and least) can give an indication of how full the pad is. If in doubt – change! Because you’re not paying for pads you use once and throw away, you can afford to treat yourself to a fresh pad more often 😉

Cloth Pads & Underpants
Different shaped underpants may have an effect on the way the pads snap around at the crotch. Sometimes wider gussetted underpants will gather (“bunch”) in at the crotch when a pad is snapped around them. This generally does not affect the performance of the pad, and the underpants will flare back out to their normal shape at the ends of the pad. Often the gusset of the underpants curves/bunches/gathers slightly while being worn anyway, but you can’t see it. Some pads have 2 snap settings to allow you to adjust the width to suit your needs. If a winged pad slides around in your underpants, it is usually due to the underpants being too loose, or the wings may be snapped too loosely for the crotch width of your underpants. Snug fitting cotton underpants are recommended for use with cloth pads (synthetic underpants can be too “slippery” for cloth pad use).

Washing
When you change pads, there are different methods to deal with washing the pad. Lifestyle as well as your blood’s tendency to stain can determine which method you find suits you best.

Soaking Method – Place the used pad in a container of plain cold water to soak until you wash them. You may leave them soaking until the end of your period and wash them all together at the end, or wash at the end of each day. A little teatree, eucalyptus or lavender essential oil in the soaking water helps combat any odour, however it is recommended to change the soaking water every day or two if not washing straight away. The soaking water can be used on the garden as “grey water”. Rinsing the pads out before putting them in the container to soak, and/or daily emptying the water out, rinsing all the pads and refilling the water, can help prevent odours.

“dry pailing” – That is to not soak them. Just place the used pads into your laundry basket (or empty washing machine) and leave them until you wash them. Some shapes of cloth pad can fold up to keep them tidy. Fold the ends of the pad into the centre, then snap the wings around to keep it secure. If this folding technique puts strain on the wings due to the shape of the pad, it is not recommended. Some women can find that allowing the blood to dry can lead to staining however, and prefer to rinse the pads out or leave them to soak.

Rinsing – Rinse them out straight away after you take them off, until almost clean, then either drypail or soak. This method has the advantage that the majority of the blood is removed from the pad before it is left to sit until it is washed, which can help prevent odours. Some women like to rinse the pads in the shower each morning to save water.

Cloth pads can generally be handwashed or machine washed, on hot, cold or warm setting. You should refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on washing the pads however. Hot wash only if you have thoroughly rinsed the pads first, as hot water can set stains. Tumble drying pads is not recommended, as synthetic fibres (eg fleece or PUL) and snaps may be effected (also be careful of the snaps as they can become hot to touch). If you need to iron the pad (cotton can become wrinkled), do so on a low heat and iron only the cotton side (do not iron PUL or synthetic fabric), being careful not to touch the snaps with the iron.

You should not use fabric softeners or dryer sheets on cloth pads, as this can cause them to repel liquid (the last thing you want with a cloth pad!). A little baking soda rubbed onto fresh blood before washing can help remove stains, as can allowing them to hang to dry in the sunlight. If you have left the pads soaking too long and they have developed an odour, you can try re-washing them with a little disinfectant or essential oil, then allow them to hang to dry in the sunlight.

Articles

Understanding Fabrics

This can be another confusing aspect of cloth pads…. “bamboo – isn’t that like making a pad of sticks”….. What is “PUL?”. Here is a brief rundown on some commonly used fabrics.

Bamboo
This is a fairly new fabric on the market (compared to the others). You may find it hard to believe bamboo canes can be made into a soft fabric, but it can! Its super soft! They use the fibrous inside of the bamboo canes to spin into thread to make the fabric. It commonly comes as jersey, velour, terry or fleece, generally with a small component of cotton (Anywhere from about 15% to 30%) which can help give it extra durability, although there are 100% bamboo fabrics available. The terry can come as a single or double sided loop. Bamboo as a fabric is more absorbent than cotton or hemp and much softer… it also has a slightly shiny look. It is not as durable as hemp however.

Corduroy
A ridged fabric, generally cotton, that can help stop the pad moving around in your underpants by providing a rougher surface that grips the fabric of your underpants. A good choice for wingless pads if you want something natural that doesn’t add much extra thickness. “Pinwale” refers to a fine close-together ridged fabric, and “Widewale” refers to one with very wide ridges.

Cotton (“Flat” cotton, “Quilting” cotton)
The “normal” cottons you can get for dress making or quilting. It is usually used as either a top fabric, or a backing fabric as it is available in a wide range of interesting prints, which make the pads visually appealing. They have the advantage over flannelette that they don’t look worn/faded as quickly, and do not pill. When wearing it as a top layer, you may not be able to tell much difference between the feeling of the cotton or flannelette, but it does not trap the flow as successfully as the fluffier pad toppings, so may feel “wetter”. Some find it also feels slightly cooler than a fluffier fabric, because it has no fluffy fibres to trap heat.

Flannelette/Flannel
This is a cotton fabric, commonly used in Pjs, sheets. Called “Flannel” in the US, and “Flannelette” in Australia/UK (In Aus and UK “Flannel” technically refers to a wool product, not a cotton one). A common choice because of the variety of prints available, and the fact it is easy to find in local fabric stores. A good all rounder, and probably the most popular choice in pad toppings. This is a natural 100% cotton fabric. Slightly fluffy at first, though it looses some of this with prolonged use, and after it is washed can take on a slightly “pilled” and messy appearance. It is softer than plain cottons because of the fluffiness. Flannelette has a small amount of absorbency itself, and is often used for internal layers of pads, either as stabilising for other layers (such as hemp or bamboo) or in several layers itself.

Fleece
This can be a little confusing because it can refer to many different types of fabric. Basically a “fleece” fabric is a fabric with a fluffy texture.

Polyester fleeces (Microfleece, Polarfleece, Windpro etc.) are used for pad tops and/or backing. As a top layer, a synthetic fleece (usually microfleece) can resist staining and provide a “stay dry” feel, where wetness is drawn through to the core, leaving the top feeling reasonably dry. As a backing, synthetic fleeces are used as a non-slip backing, and/or as a leak-resistant backing. The thicker or more dense a synthetic fleece fabric is, the better it will perform as a leak-resistant layer. A synthetic fleece backing helps to stop leaks as the blood tends to stay in the core rather than seeping through it, unless the core has become saturated (and then it can leak through the fleece). As the fabric is a more open weave there is more “breathability” than PUL, but its waterproofing is not as effective, so may not be suitable for a heavy flow.

Natural fleeces (Hemp, Cotton, Bamboo) are made by brushing the fabric to make this fluffy fabric. They are as absorbent as a terry, and used primarily as the absorbent “core” part of a cloth pad. They can also be used as a pad top or backing. A natural fleece backed pad will not be leak-proof at all, which is why it is important to understand the difference between a natural fleece and a polyester fleece.

Hemp
This is generally a hemp cotton blend (50% hemp, 45% cotton), and unlike the stuff almost hessian-like woven hemps that you may think of when you ear “hemp”, the hemp blends used in cloth pads are as soft as cottons. Hemp is reportedly about 2-3 times more absorbent than cotton, yet the hemp fleece/terry most commonly used is quite a compact weave compared to a cotton terry, so this can make for a more absorbent core for less bulk than cotton terry. It’s also apparently antibacterial (though this is apparently in the oils and it therefore looses it over time). It is said that hemp needs around 6 washes to reach its maximum absorbency, so some pad makers prewash their hemp 2-3 times to get it started for you. While you can use the pads before the fabric has been washed 6 times, you will find it gets slightly more absorbent the more it is washed. As a crop, hemp is more environmentally friendly than cotton crops. It is commonly used in a Jersey, Terry, Fleece or Velour.

Jersey
This is a thin T-Shirt fabric. Available in several Options (Cotton, Hemp, Bamboo). It may be 100% or a blend with something like spandex, Polyester or cotton. It is a common fabric – printed cotton jersey can be purchased through fabric stores fairly inexpensively. Other jerseys are normally purchased online or through specialty stores. It wears better than a flannelette (doesn’t “pill” or look as worn as flannelette can) and may be more absorbent than a plain/flat cotton because it is a little thicker.

Microfibre/Microterry
This is a synthetic fabric, 80% polyester, 20% polyamide. Commonly used in household cleaning cloths. It reportedly holds around 7 times its weight in liquid, making it a very absorbent (and quick absorbing) fabric while being quite thin. It can however take a long time to fully dry, and it can also have trouble with compression leaking – where it gets filled like a sponge, and any pressure lets the liquid pool….. natural fibres tend not to do this. Sometimes this is used with a natural fibre to increase the absorbency and limit the pooling action.

Nylon
“Ripstop” nylon or other forms of nylon fabric can be used as a water-resistant layer. They are thin fabrics and rely on the fact that the fabric itself doesn’t hold moisture and is a tight weave, so the blood is less likely to travel through. It is less water-resistant than a synthetic fleece, and much less than PUL.

Pill/Pilling
Pilling is the term used to describe the little balls that form on some fabrics. This occurs over time with wear – specifically when fabrics are rubbing against something. In clothing (athletic wear and t-shirts in particular) you often find pilling happens between the legs, under arms and on the front. If you are unfamiliar with the term, you probably still know what the effect is. Some fabrics like “anti-pill” polarfleece are specially designed to resist pilling. Cloth pads can have pilling, with fleece and flannelette being particularly prone to it. It does not affect the performance of the fabric, it just detracts from the visual appeal. You can get special “lint shaver” tools that you can use to shave these balls off to restore the fabric to its former smooth appearance. Polyester fleeces are commonly made “anit-pill” which means they will not pill.

Pile
This is used to describe the fluffyness of a fabric. The fibres that stick straight up (more or less), as opposed to the flat weave/knit of a fabric. Fabrics such as Velour and velvet have a “pile”.

PUL
This is a fabric (usually polyester or cotton) that has been coated on one side with a thin film of waterproof plastic (polyurethene), to create a waterproofed fabric. So PUL stands for PolyUrethene Laminate. It is considered to be “breathable” – as the waterproof membrane lets no water through but will allow a little air through. This doesn’t mean you can breathe through it – it means that according to the industry standard, it allows a certain amount of airflow. Just enough to lessen the sweatiness compared to a PVC or other non-breathable plastic fabric. It was designed for uses such as raincoats, where the fabric is designed to allow airflow to prevent the wearer getting too sweaty inside the coat. Pads with this should be basically waterproof. Some people don’t like this as they feel the pad becomes as sweaty/non-breathable as a disposable pad and others find no sweatiness and can’t tell the difference in wearing from a non-waterproofed pad. The amount of menstrual flow, and how you flow can be different from woman to woman, so some women need it to prevent leaks and make them feel secure, and others can use pads without it. Examples of brands are ‘procare’, ‘fabrite’,’gore-tex’, ‘diaper maker’.

Quilter’s Cotton / Woven Cotton / Flat Cotton
This is a flat 100% cotton fabric, like you would use for dressmaking or craft projects. It is referred to as “quilter’s Cotton” because it is often found only in quilting shops, or in the quilting section of fabric stores and is a higher quality or more “designer” type fabric than a regular cotton. These are generally chosen for their range of prints.

Sherpa
Sherpa is a soft fabric that feels a bit like a fleece (like hemp/cotton fleece or polarfleece), but has a “bally” type appearance, a little bit like a sheepskin. It is generally a Cotton or cotton blend (20%poly) fabric. It has the advantage of being soft and absorbent. It is also somewhat thick, so it adds absorbency.

Suedecloth
A synthetic fabric that is designed to resemble suede leather. It has a short pile, flatter than fleece. Feels soft.

Synthetics
These are 100% synthetics (man made fibres). Examples include polarfleece, microfleece, suedecloth, micro chamois and some velours. Because of the type of fabric, they can draw wetness down into the pad, leaving the top feeling drier, but this is more effective for heavy flow, as spotting can be too light to pass through as effectively. One disadvantage of a synthetic fabric is that they can feel hotter as they do not “breathe” as well as naturals. Because of their moisture repelling properties, some synthetics can provide a moisture resistant layer on the underside of a pad. Most notably polarfleece or microfleece. The synthetic fabric can also resist staining.

Terry
A fabric with a looped top. Sometimes called “Terry Towelling” (although “Terry Towelling” can also refer to the loopy thin fabric you might find made into tracksuits or baby clothes, which is polyester). The cotton terry is what you find in towels. Bamboo terry is similar to this, but has a shinier/silkier look and softer feel. Hemp or cotton “french terry” has shorter loops, and generally only on one side (the other is a smooth knit). This fabric is generally used as an internal absorbent layer in pads, or as inserts. It can also be used as a pad topping or backing. Some pads may be made from layers of this serged/overlocked together.

Velour
This is a velvet like fabric, slightly stretchy with a high pile (cut, not loopy). Feels very soft and nice against the skin. Generally commercially available in plain colours, occasionally printed. Available in natural (bamboo, cotton, hemp) or synthetic. The natural versions generally have a synthetic component – where the backing is polyester to give strength and durability (the pile being natural). The natural velours are harder to find (usually only available online), but has the advantages that natural fibres give. Synthetic velour has the advantages of synthetics as well as being cheaper and easier to find. Velours can feel drier on a pad than flatter fabrics (such as flannel or jersey) because of the “pile” of the fibres allows more airflow and space between the skin and the wetness. It also can help quickly grab the flow and allow it to absorb into the pad to avoid leaking.

Velveteen
Like velvet/velour, this fabric has a fluffy pile, which feels soft. Slightly shorter pile than Velour, and generally not stretch, and is more dense than velour. A cotton Velveteen will be more absorbent than a flat cotton because of the extra fabric in the pile. The pile seems to make the top feel dryer than a flatter no-pile fabric. Not commonly used due to its expense, though it is more readily available in fabric stores than a natural velour.

Waterproofing
A waterproof fabric is one that does not allow moisture through. In cloth pad fabrics this is generally a PUL fabric. A pad with waterproofing is said to be less breathable, as the waterproof layer forms a barrier that limits airflow through the pad. However with the surrounding fabric being breathable, this is still more “breathable” than a conventional plastic disposable pad.

Water-resistance
A water-resistant fabric is one that provides a level of leak-resistance in a pad, but is not completely waterproof. For a light flow this resistance may be enough to prevent leaks. Water-resistant fabrics, such as synthetic fleece or wool, can allow for more airflow through the pad than a waterproof fabric such as PUL. So these are seen to be a more “breathable” choice.

Wool
A natural option for water-resistance in a pad. Generally this is felt-like fabric used as the backing of a pad.