These are basically a pad without a core, as the “base” (Waterproofed or not) with straps or pocket ends that hold an insert on top of the pad base. The pocket-ended version is sometimes incorrectly called a “pocket pad“. The base can also be made with snaps that allow the inserts to snap onto the base and not need straps or pocket ends.
Strap (ribbon) version with shaped inserts | Pocket ended version with trifold inserts
You can make the base out of anything you like, and it can be waterproofed or non-waterproofed. If you’d like a waterproof base I would recommend something like PUL topped with microfleece or suedecloth – because the the blood should not absorb into the microfleece/suedecloth, so you should be able to wipe it clean. It will also grip the inserts well. If you want to avoid synthetics then a nice way to make these pads is to use contrasting fabrics on the pocket ends.
Straps, Snaps or Pocket ends?
You can use the guide on Base & Insert pads to see the advantages and disadvantages of all styles.
Pocket Ends – All you need to do is copy the end shape of the pad for about 1.5-2 inches. Or you can simply make the pocket end a square/rectangle and trim the excess when you’ve sewn it up. You can have the straight edge as a fold or edge it. Making the pocket ends out of something stretchy like jersey makes putting the inserts in easier.There is a bit of a trick for getting extra room in your pockets which I’ll show you with the sewing guide below.
Straps – You can use elastic, ribbon, strips of jersey (or anything you like). “Rick rack” is sometimes suggested, but I’ve seen people comment that the rick rack can roll up and be uncomfortable. Treat the ends of the straps to stop it fraying if you need to, especially if your pad will be overlocked/serged. When making strap ended B&I pads I have the ribbon placement marked on my (clear plastic) template so I get the right placement each time. I then use sticky-tape to hold the ribbons on while sewing. If making a Turned & Topstitched pad, you will be placing the ribbon straps between your backing and topper layers. Remember that the ribbon will then be flipped over once the pad is made, so use double-sided ribbon or put your ribbon printed side down.
Snapped – To make your pad snap-on, you might want to make yourself a template for the snap positions. That way you’ll know that the snaps will be in exactly the same position in every pad you make – so you can mix and match them around. Sew your pad base up and then mark out the position of the snaps and apply them. Then cut out your inserts, but before sewing them up, apply the snap to the bottom layer of the insert, then sew/overlock the insert up, so that the top of the snap is hidden. If using sew-on press studs or velcro, you could do this after sewing the inserts up.
To make the Inserts
There are 2 main types of insert – a fold-up (“trifold” or “bifold”) or a “shaped” insert (which is the shape you need, with no folding).
A “trifold” insert is one that is folded into 3 to be used. This is 3 times as wide as you want the crotch width to be, and the same length (or just a bit shorter if you’re using pocket ends) than the pad is long. You can combine several inserts to make up the absorbency you need, but as a guide making n insert from 2 layers flannel/flannelette becomes 6 layers when folded and would be suitable for regular flow.
A “Bifold” is folded in half, so would be twice the width you need. This could be useful if you don’t need the thickness of 3 layers of fabric.
To make the ends of your inserts thinner (easier to stuff into the pocket ends), cut one layer (purple) a little shorter than the other (pink), then sew that smaller piece onto the larger one – then overlock/serge the edges.
To make a shaped insert, make an oblong or contoured shape as long as (or just a little shorter) than the pad is. You can have a more curved shape with this design than the trifold will allow – meaning you can have a narrower crotch and flared ends to the pad. I normally make them by cutting 1 layer of bamboo or hemp fleece and laying that onto a roughly cut layer of flannel and overlocking around that. This makes a “light” absorbency insert, which can be layered together.
Making the Pocket Ended Pad
I cut the end pockets in a square shape, fold it in half and sew along the fold to make the edge of the pocket. You can cut these out in the exact shape you need to waste less fabric. I have the placement of the pocket ends marked on my (clear plastic) template so I know where to place them. So I place the backing fabric down (good side up), then my pockets on top of this (folded/sewn edges inside the pad) – place my template on top and check the placement. Then the topper fabric (good side down). Pin around the edges and sew up. I leave the hole for turning in the wing because it makes a neater finish, however you can leave one of the pocket ends open and turn the pad that way. With the pocket on the wrong side of the pad, Zigzag the open edge, then turn the pocket over to hide the stitching. The top stitching will hide that zigzagged edge. I find this makes the ends a little bulkier though.
When you are doing your topstitching, make sure you go over the edge of the pockets a few times to strengthen them. Also pull the fabric over (as you can see in the photo) to give you a bit extra room in the pocket.