I’m far from an expert, but there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that I thought I’d pass on.
- Making your pattern template – When designing your pad shapes, I’d recommend first making the pattern from paper, then tracing that onto cardboard from a cereal box and making a couple of pads from that pattern. When you are happy with it, trace the pattern onto a piece of translucent plastic as your final pattern template. I buy plastic document wallets (like this) that are coloured – They cost me about 99c-$2 each and I can usually get 2 pads and 2 core patterns from each one (depending on the size of the pad) I find that if you use totally clear ones it’s easy to lose the template, so the coloured plastic allows you to see the templates while also being able to see through so that you can get the right print placement when making pads. I use all purple of course :D but I did start out using the same colour for the core pattern and the pad pattern, so you know instantly which pattern pieces go together.
- Storing your pattern templates – I have a LOT of templates as I have a variety of sizes and styles, so I store all my templates in a document file that has labelled sections, so each section is used for each pad type. When I had fewer templates though I used a hole punch to punch a hole in the top of each template and I hung them on the wall above my sewing machine
- Always make a “mockup” – Before cutting into your good fabric, if testing a new pattern/design, make one up using scrap fabric first so you can see how it sews up before making more of them.
- Pad cores don’t need to come right to the edges – Especially if the pad has PUL. Leave about a 1cm space (or more) from the edge of your seam. Having the core right up to the edge is harder to sew and can make the pad feel bulky.
- All layers don’t have to be the same size – Again to help pads feel thinner, if you make each layer slightly smaller then when you sew them together you’ll have a gradual thickening of the core rather than one thick obvious one.
- Additional layers can be a lot smaller – Following on from the above point, if you’re making a heavy pad for example, you could put 2 full size core layers in and then a 3rd layer just down the centre where the absorbency is most needed. Again, especially if you have PUL, your pads will likely be able to hold a lot anyway, so you shouldn’t suffer any loss of absorbency by making the 3rd layer smaller.
- Wing Length – When designing your pattern, make sure the wings are the right length. Too short and they will pull the crotch of the pad making the pad sit more rounded than flat. If the wings are too long they won’t hold tightly around the underpants. While you can place the snaps further in the wing to make the pad snap tighter than if you placed the snaps at the ends of the wings, the wings can then get “flappy” with that extra bit.
- Snap in the wrong spot? – If you place a snap (the resin KAM style ones) on wrong, you can get it off again by holding a soldering iron to the centre of the snap to melt the plastic. Just be careful not to burn yourself or the fabric!!
- Pin in the Seam allowance – A lot of people get worried about not pinning through PUL. While it really shouldn’t matter even if you do, as your pad should not get full enough to leak through a couple of pinholes. If you are worried, rather than fussing about with paperclips or other methods to keep the layers together, just put your pins in sideways into the seam allowance. It won’t matter about pinholes in there.
- When you sew up the pad, instead of starting and stopping along the sewing edge – start/stop on a 90 degree angle, sew over the same spot a few times, then do your sewing line. This will help stabilise the opening and stops the thread getting loopy at the opening
- Line drying Velour -If you need to hang velour fabric on a washing line, rather than pegging it on and having peg marks, use safetypins. To stop the fabric getting stuck into the little coil part of the safetypin, cut a little square of PUL or other fabric and put that on the pin first – that will protect your fabric from the coil.