To make belted pads, measure the length between your legs from where you would have the belt (on the hip or at the waist), and that’s how long you need your actual pad to be. Don’t be alarmed, it will be quite long! As you may only need the absorbency in a smaller section of that pad length, you can have the core of the pad finish a few inches from each end – so you’re not wasting absorbent fabric where you don’t need to.
To help get a good fit, you can sew elastic into the sides of the crotch area – Do this by marking your elastic placement on the seam allowance of your pad before you turn it out, then measuring your elastic lengths by pinning one end to the first mark and stretching the elastic to the other mark. You want the elastic quite stretched as it won’t be as stretchy once sewn up. Make sure both pieces are the same length and sew the elastic (stretched out) onto the seam allowance of the pad crotch. When you turn the pad and do your topstitch don’t forget to stretch the elastic as you sew so that it can expand.
For the belt – you could use something like cotton twill tape that can tie up around you, for comfort and ease of use you might want elastic. You can buy the sliders and clips for bras and swimwear to make this adjustable. The wider the belt the more comfortable it is likely to be. Once you have the belt sorted out, then you need to work out how you plan to attach the pads to the belt. The method you use may depend on the thickness of your belt and the shape of pad you want.
As I’ve mostly experimented with pads that use a snap to attach to the belt, I’ve tested belts that had a D ring at the centre front and back and I also tested the belts without the D-ring with an optional length extender that consisted of a loop of ribbon with a D-ring on the end (the pads can snap around the elastic of the belt if the extender isn’t needed). The extenders allow you to wear the belt higher without needing a longer pad.
While I don’t have free patterns available for the pads, it shouldn’t be too difficult to modify an existing pad pattern into a belted pad – you really just have to make the ends longer. You’ll find that you need the back to be made longer than the front, as it needs to go over the buttocks (so the crotch won’t be in the centre of the pad).
I will show you some photos and describe the belted pads I have made and you are welcome to use those as inspiration to make your own.
The first design is what I call the “casing” or “flat end” design. Where you simply make a long pad that has flat ends. You could have this as a straight strip, but it will feel more comfortable if you give it a nice hourglass type shape so that it is narrower through the crotch and wider at the back. Have your core fabric stop a good 3-4 inches from the ends and fold those flat ends over, sewing them down or putting snaps on to keep that top end folded over. The belt is then threaded through this casing.
The second design has a slimmer shape with more pointed ends and is made with long thin tab sections on each end, which are folded over and snapped or sewn down. This doesn’t have as much coverage at the front if you wear the belt down on your hips though, but I think it makes a nicer shape. Originally I did try a design that had pointed ends without the extended tabs (explained below) but it didn’t really work well as there wasn’t enough space to thread a belt through unless it was very narrow.
Another design I’ve come up with is a bit of a hybrid of the 2 designs. This is a bit hard to explain so I’ve included several photos. It has 3 parts – the belt (here I covered elastic with fabric, to see how that worked), pair of extenders (not sewn on, so they can be positioned as needed) and the pad (which in this case was a Base & Insert design).
Unlike the above version where the pad has the snaps, this version has the pad with plastic rings on the 4 corners and the extender has the snaps. This allows the wearer to adjust the overall length of the pad by choosing which snap setting to use.
Earlier designs I tried…
I also tested edging the pads with Fold-Over-Elastic (FOE) to give it a curved shape. Testers didn’t really find it made any difference.
If you want something a bit more like underpants, I have come up with a design for making a pad belt using nothing but an old bra! This could be used to hold any normal pad – just use the belt like underwear and snap a pad into the crotch area.
Click here to see the “pad belt from a bra” tutorial