Fabrics

Here I’ll explain some of the fabrics I use in pad making, giving some advantages and disadvantages to help you make an informed decision about what pads you are buying.  Click the tabs to go to the particular sections to read more.

I try to choose fabrics that are fun and interesting, as well as feeling nice against your skin. Because different people have different preferences for what fabrics they like and whether they like the print facing up or on the back – I offer a range of fabric options and make pads both print up and print down. When pads are cut from a printed fabric, each pad will usually contain different areas of the print. Often I will photograph one pad in a particular fabric, and sell many pads also made from that same fabric, but not individually photographed – so not all pads will look identical to the one shown in the listing. Where a print is large and each pad would look significantly different, I do photograph each pad individually, so that you can see the actual pad you are going to receive.

I don’t use “zorb” in pads, because I feel that is it important to use natural fabrics where possible (primarily because of the eco-impact) and zorb is made with polyester nylon.

I make most of my regular and heavy pads with PUL as the waterproofing layer, but occasionally I make some with no synthetics.

Why I do’t use fleece as a backing
I use PUL instead of fleece because PUL is regarded in the industry as being completely leakproof in a pad and is a very thin fabric.  Whereas fleece is only leak-resistant (unless treated with a DWR chemical coating) and adds extra thickness.  I like to make pads to be as thin as they can be, so they are more comfortable and less obvious to wear (which is why I often leave the PUL exposed, as it makes the pad thinner).

While some people feel that fleece is more breathable and prefer it, a PUL pad is overall much thinner and some people find that cooler.   A lot of people use fleece backing because it is seen to be a more “breathable” option to PUL, but I’m not sure that something as dense and treated as Windpro is, makes much difference in the breathability aspect (especially if you have a cotton or other suitably breathable fabric touching your skin anyway). Ultimately I feel that if you need/want some leak-resistance, you’re better off with PUL which will give more protection for a thinner pad.

The use of synthetic fleece fabrics is causing micro-plastic pollution in our oceans.  This is where tiny particles of the fleece fabric is shed through the washing process and ends up in the ocean where small fish consume it and it works its way up the food chain (Link, Link, Link).  So I feel that a PUL fabric provides a more effective waterproofing fabric which is better for the environment.

Why do I use PUL then if synthetics are bad for the environment?  Because ultimately cloth pads need to be effective, and for many people a leakproof layer is needed in the pad to provide a pad they can wear for a reasonable amount of time.  Having a pad with PUL in it can mean you are able to wear the pad for longer and get to go out and do the things you need to do.

Bamboo / Hemp Fleece – This is what I make most of the cores of the pads from, as it forms the main absorbent part of the pad.  This “Bamboo/Hemp fleece” is 70% Bamboo, 30% Hemp, 320 GSM.  Mixing hemp and bamboo together makes a fabric that has benefits from both types of fabric – the softness and absorbency of bamboo with the durability and eco-friendlyness of hemp.  The bamboo component stops the hemp from getting too stiff.

Hemp is a very eco-friendly fabric! It is fast growing, doesn’t require the heavy use of pesticides as cotton does, requires less water, makes a more durable fibre and yields more fibre  than cotton.

While this bamboo/hemp fleece is a little less absorbent than the bamboo/cotton fleece commonly used in padmaking (as the bamboo/hemp a thinner 320 gsm fabric compared to a 400gsm bamboo/cotton fleece), I feel that it provides a more eco-friendly core fabric.  In absorbency tests I have done to compare the two fabrics, I have found that overall in a whole pad, the slight decrease in absorbency would be very minimal (A 25cm pad would have around 60mls total absorbency, only about 7mls less than if made with bamboo/cotton fleece)

Advantages of Bamboo/Hemp Fleece:
More absorbent than cotton or hemp fleece.
Not as stiff as hemp fleece.

Disadvantages Bamboo/Hemp Fleece:
Not as durable as cotton or hemp fleece.
Not as eco-friendly as hemp fleece.
Not as absorbent as Bamboo/cotton fleece

Bamboo / Cotton Fleece – The “bamboo fleece” I use is 85% Bamboo 15% Cotton, 430gsm “Heavy” weight .  While not as durable or eco-friendly as hemp or organic cotton, bamboo is more absorbent and beautifully soft.

Advantages of Bamboo Fleece:
More absorbent than cotton or hemp fleece.
Not as stiff as hemp fleece.

Disadvantages Bamboo Fleece:
Not as durable as cotton or hemp fleece.
Not as eco-friendly as hemp fleece.

Bamboo Jersey This is similar to t-shirt fabric, a stretch knit. The bamboo jersey I have is silky soft, 100% bamboo, but very thin and won’t add much extra absorbency to the pad.

Advantages of Jersey:
Soft and silky feeling.

Disadvantages Jersey:
May not be as durable as cotton fabrics.

Bamboo Velour – This is a really lovely soft topping for pads. The coloured bamboo velour I use is a 70% bamboo, 28% organic cotton 2% polyester. The natural (undyed) bamboo velour has the same percentages but is not organic cotton. The poly content in the velours is in the backing to add stability and more wear resistance.

Advantages of Bamboo velour as a pad top:
Thicker than flannelette, so more absorbent.
Soft against the skin.
Fluffier fabric so absorbs flow quicker, good for “gushy” flow.

Disadvantages of Bamboo velour as a pad top:
May feel warmer (“Sweatier”) than a “flat” cotton top


Hemp is a more eco-friendly fabric than regular cotton, as it takes less water and pesticides to grow a hemp crop. Hemp is fast growing and provides very little waste. Hemp can however become stiff after washing a few times if you line dry, particularly if you handwash. So running the pads through a tumble dryer or scrunching them up in your hands or giving them a shake as you hang them out, can help soften them. I’ve also found that washing with soapnuts instead of normal detergent keeps hemp fabric soft.

When I say “Hemp” it generally refers to a 55% hemp 45% cotton blend fabric.   For my pad cores I use “Bamboo/hemp fleece”.  Most of the “hemp fleece” I use has organic cotton as the cotton component, and is used as a pad core or a top or backing fabric. I occasionally use hemp jersey (a t-shirt weight fabric) for tops of pads. I have some 100% hemp fabric that I occasionally use in pads – however this fabric does wrinkle more than other fabrics (as it is like a linen). I use both plain or dyed hemp. Undyed hemp may be more prone to staining (or you are more likely to notice stains), but some prefer the natural nature of it for environmental or health reasons.

Advantages of Hemp:
Very eco-friendly fabric.
More absorbent than cotton.

Disadvantages Hemp:
Can become stiff after a few washes.
Less absorbent than bamboo.
May hold stains and odours


Printed Cotton (Also known as Flat/Woven/Quilter’s) – This is your regular everyday 100% cotton fabric, as you’d find in dresses, table cloths, quilting/craft cottons etc. I use these as a top layer and/or as a backing, because some people like cotton tops, some people prefer other tops and a cotton backing.

Advantages of cotton as a pad top:
Don’t get “pilled” or as worn out looking as quickly as flannelette does.
Can feel cooler to wear as the fabric doesn’t have a fluffy surface to trap heat.

Disadvantages cotton as a pad top:
Doesn’t wick flow away as quickly as more textured fabrics do.
May feel “wetter” on top than flannelette or other fabrics.
Slightly less absorbent as flannelette.

Flannelette (Flannel) – This is a soft feeling 100% cotton fabric. Over time it looses some of its “fluffiness”, but still generally feels softer than plain cotton. It comes in a range of prints and plain colours, so it is the most commonly used fabric for topping pads because it is colourful and interesting.

Advantages of flannelette as a pad top:
Slightly thicker than printed cotton, so slightly more absorbent.
Fluffier fabric can feel softer and can absorb the flow a bit quicker than printed cotton.

Disadvantages flannelette as a pad top:
Can get “pillied” and worn out looking within a few washes.
May feel warmer than a printed cotton top

Cotton Jersey – This is similar to t-shirt fabric, a stretch knit. 100% cotton. It generally feels slightly softer and is more absorbent than standard printed cottons as it is a little thicker.

Advantages of Jersey:
Can feel softer than plain regular cotton.
Can be slightly more absorbent than regular cotton.

Disadvantages Jersey:
Not as easily available in prints.
Doesn’t trap flow as quickly as flannelettes or Velours do

Cotton Velour – This is a soft topping for pads. The cotton velour I use is 80% cotton, 20% polyester. The poly content in the velours is in the backing to add stability and more wear resistance.

Advantages of velour as a pad top:
Thicker than flannelette, so more absorbent.
Fluffier fabric so absorbs flow quicker, good for “gushy” flow.

Disadvantages velour as a pad top:
May feel warmer (“Sweatier”) than a “flat” cotton top

Velveteen – This is 100% cotton fabric, similar to velour but with a shorter pile. Sometimes this is available printed, sometimes in plain solid colours.

Advantages of velveteen as a pad top:
Thicker than flannelette, so more absorbent.
The higher pile on this fabric helps grab the flow quickly and can therefore feel less wet on top.

Disadvantages Velveteen as a pad top:
Not as soft as velour.
Darker colours tend to gather (or show up) lint more than other fabrics (use a lint brush or some wide stickytape to lift it off to pretty them up)

Sherpa – This is an 80% cotton 20% poly fabric that I find hard to describe. Its a fleece type fabric, but has a texture almost like lambswool (in that unlike polarfleece that has the pile standing straight up, this is a little more “bally”). Being mostly cotton its quite absorbent while feeling nice and soft. I believe (but I’m not 100% sure) that like poly/cotton blend velours, the poly part is probably only in the backing of the fabric (which is done for durability) and the cotton part is the top part that would touch your skin.

Advantages of Sherpa:
Can feel softer than flannelette or printed cotton.
Thicker fabric so is much more absorbent than regular cotton, jersey or flannelette.
The texture of the fabric helps to grab a “gushy” flow, making it good for heavy flow.

Disadvantages Sherpa:
Has some poly content.
Not as soft as bamboo velour.

Pinwale Cord – This is a fine corduroy fabric (so the ridges are smaller and the fabric is not as thick as regular corduroy), made from 100% cotton. I mostly use this as a backing for wingless pads, as the extra ridges of the corduroy can help grip the underpants a little better. I do occasionally use it as backing on winged pads as well.


Microfleece  – This is a smaller pile version to polar fleece, so it is thinner. As fleece is a synthetic fabric, it does not like to hold liquids itself, so used as a pad top it can make a “stay dry” type effect, drawing moisture down into the core. As a top of a pad base (for the base&insert style pads) it is used to help grip the inserts and as a non-absorbent layer. I use mostly a fairly lightweight anti-pill microfleece – “anti-pill” meaning that the fabric will resist pilling (fluffy balls on the surface of the fabric).

Advantages of Microfleece as a pad top:
As a top layer it can be “stay dry” – where the flow soaks through but doesn’t stay on the surface, feeling drier.
Does not usually stain.

Disadvantages Microfleece as a pad top:
Can feel hot and sweaty because it is a synthetic, particularly when used as a pad top.
For a light flow the blood may sit on top of the pad and not flow through into the core.
Can make the pad slightly bulkier.

Minky – minky is almost like a fake fur. It is very fluffy and soft. As it is a synthetic fabric, it does not like to hold liquids itself, so when used as a pad top it can make a “stay dry” type effect, drawing moisture down into the core.

Advantages of Minky:
Can be “stay dry” – where the flow soaks through but doesn’t stay on the surface, feeling drier.
Does not usually stain.
Can be a good fabric for a heavy/gushy flow

Disadvantages Minky:
Can feel hot and sweaty because it is a synthetic.
If the flow is not heavy enough, the blood may sit on top of the pad rather than soaking through.
Can make the pad slightly bulkier.

Suedecloth – Suedecloth is a relatively thin synthetic (polyester) fabric that is a little bit like suede leather. As it is a synthetic fabric, it does not like to hold liquids itself, so when used as a pad top it can make a “stay dry” type effect, drawing moisture down into the core. As this is thinner that minky or microfleece, it may not feel as hot and sweaty as those fabrics.

Advantages of Suedecloth:
Can be “stay dry” – where the flow soaks through but doesn’t stay on the surface, feeling drier.
Does not usually stain.

Disadvantages Suedecloth:
Can feel hot and sweaty because it is a synthetic, though may be less so than other synthetics as it is fairly flat.
If the flow is not heavy enough, the blood may sit ontop of the pad rather than soaking through.

PUL – PUL stands for Polyurethene Laminate, and is a fabric (generally a polyester) that has a thin Polyurethene (“plastic”) Coating. This makes the fabric for all intents and purposes waterproof. It is also considered “breathable” because it will allow a slight amount of airflow to help stop it feeling as sweaty as a normal plastic would. When used in cloth pads, the fabric side of the PUL may be used as the pad backing – so the plastic is inside the pad. Or there may be a PUL layer “hidden” inside the pad with another fabric layer as the backing.

While some pad makers claim that PUL is slippery and doesn’t make a good backing for pads, I’ve found it’s generally no more slippery than a cotton back if you are wearing snug fitting cotton underpants (which you should be wearing with any cloth pads anyway :Þ), so I make a lot of pads with a PUL back as the pads are slightly thinner without the extra layer of cotton in them. I do offer both “hidden” and exposed PUL backed options in my pads, so that people with preferences either way can find pads to suit them.

Advantages of PUL:
Makes a pad almost completely waterproof.
Thin and doesn’t add much bulk to a pad.
Because the flow can spread out over more of the pad core, you can wear a cloth pad with PUL in it for longer than you may be able to wear one without PUL. Making it especially good for heavy or “gushy” flow.

Disadvantages of PUL:
May make pads feel sweatier than pads without PUL

 

Why I do’t use fleece as a backing

I use PUL instead of fleece because PUL is regarded in the industry as being completely leakproof in a pad and is a very thin fabric.  Whereas fleece is only leak-resistant (unless treated with a DWR chemical coating) and adds extra thickness.  I like to make pads to be as thin as they can be, so they are more comfortable and less obvious to wear (which is why I often leave the PUL exposed, as it makes the pad thinner).

While some people feel that fleece is more breathable and prefer it, a PUL pad is overall much thinner and some people find that cooler.   A lot of people use fleece backing because it is seen to be a more “breathable” option to PUL, but I’m not sure that something as dense and treated as Windpro is, makes much difference in the breathability aspect (especially if you have a cotton or other suitably breathable fabric touching your skin anyway). Ultimately I feel that if you need/want some leak-resistance, you’re better off with PUL which will give more protection for a thinner pad.

The use of synthetic fleece fabrics is causing micro-plastic pollution in our oceans.  This is where tiny particles of the fleece fabric is shed through the washing process and ends up in the ocean where small fish consume it and it works its way up the food chain (Link, Link, Link).  So I feel that a PUL fabric provides a more effective waterproofing fabric which is better for the environment.