Making your own period panties
Hi! My name is Alechia and I work for Sue here at Bra Builders. When Sue told me she was interested in pulling together top notch supplies for period panty kits, I was all in! I used to make cloth diapers for my children and as I'm not super fond of unnecessary outfit changes on wiggly babes, I experimented with methods to optimize the waterproofing- so I know this can be done successfully. Plus, I'd been playing with the idea of buying period panties for a long time, but they are so expensive! A few years ago I began making my own underwear so now I'm spoiled and the imperfect fit of ready to wear undies about drives me nuts. The idea of paying an arm and a leg for something I may not love kept me from purchasing, but making my own seemed like a great idea!
And it is! Let me tell you a little bit about what I learned. For myself, I need a period panty that can pull some seriously heavy duty. I expect my period panties to absorb a gush even when active and stay leak-free even for extended wear. They need to hold as much as a super long ultra-thin pad, fit perfectly and be comfortable. Mine need to be easy to launder, easy to make and I want them to be no-show beneath my clothes. Oh, and I want them to be cute, too! Not asking for much, am I? We were up to the task, though. And it's really quite doable, so let me share what I've learned with you.
I started with my favorite panty pattern (Greenstyle No-Show Brief) and my favorite fabric (our Microlycra Air). I put a 2 layer absorbent pad in the gusset along with a layer of wicking fabric towards my skin and a layer of waterproof PUL just beneath my main fabric. I discovered that the weight of the absorbency was most comfortable with a slightly snug leg elastic to hold it close to my body. This was unexpected for me, as I am all about elastic free panties, but a lighter absorbency worked better for styles without elastic. For that first pair, I just added foldover elastic to the finished pair and it worked great. But I also discovered that for this level of absorbency, I prefer a more substantial fabric than Air. Air is perfect for a lighter absorbency.
To create the gusset for my period panty pattern, I traced the shape of the original pattern along the gusset and up the leg edges to the length I wanted my absorbent area to be. One way to increase the comfort is to round out the front and back of your new absorbent gusset pattern so it's shorter along the leg edges, but longest where you need it in the center of the panty. Its a little bit like those curved shower curtains that hotels use to make bathtubs feel bigger!
I choose to include 2 layers, on some pairs, 3 layers, of absorbent fabric. We chose an absorbent fabric that has a 3D texture. This maximizes absorbency while minimizing bulk. We also wanted something made of natural fibers (bamboo and cotton) as it is healthier and launders fresher over the life of the garment. My 2 layers provides at least the absorbency of an ultra-thin pad of comparable size. I graded the two layers of absorbent fabric with one layer being about 1/4" smaller all the way around, and zig zagged these together. This keeps the edges as smooth as possible. I layered all my gusset pieces (wicking layer on top, two layers of absorbent fabric quilted together, waterproof fabric on the bottom) and serged around the edges (zig zag on a regular machine would work just as well).
Leaving the gusset free-floating, meaning that the front and back are not attached to the panty, only sewing it to the panty at the leg openings, made the absorbent gusset lay smoothly against my body and allowed the stretch of the main panty fabric to fit as it usually would rather than pulling tight. A free-floating gusset also allows for great laundering of the layers. I stitched the crotch seam of my panties, placed my completed gusset where it needs to me, tacked it along the leg edges and applied my leg elastic.
Foldover elastic is so easy to apply around the edges of your absorbent gusset layers and to hold everything in place. In our testing, we also found that it wicks less than many choices, especially if you need a heavy duty product like I do. This isn't really a concern if you have a great wicking fabric for the layer closest to your skin- because in that case, moisture is moving through to be trapped in the absorbent layer quickly rather than slowly creeping towards the edges. I really love the Stay-Dry Wicking Crotch Fabric that we carry. It moves moisture through super fast and feels dry, which is absolutely necessary for comfort during long wear.
Then I finished up my panties as usual!
I've just described what I've found works best to make my super heavy duty period panties, but there are so many options for different needs. Just about any panty style/pattern can be adapted depending upon your needs. The hedgehog print panties in the photo is made with Sinclair Kiki- I found it to have absolutely perfect leg coverage for use as a period panty. You've got lots of options to make your panties just as cute as you can imagine or part of a perfect set to match your newest bra. Let's talk about some of the other options you can consider.
For myself, I really need that waterproof layer between my absorbent fabric and my outer panty fabric. Polyurethane Laminate fabric is perfect for this purpose. It's long been used in cloth diaper products and menstrual products and was originally designed to be used in medical applications. We looked high and low to source the best. Not everyone may need this waterproof layer, those looking for a very light absorbency or a product for mild incontinence may not, but because of what I'm expecting my period panties to do, I need this waterproof layer.
If you're thinking of making an undergarment for sports/active days or overnight, it's also possible to include a longer waterproof panel through the center of your underpants. I have the Grace Panties Pattern by OhhhLuLu, and patterns like this one are great for creating a long waterproof zone in the center. I like to use stretch mesh along the sides to keep me cool. Along the same lines, I am really excited to try our Stay-Dry Wicking Crotch Fabric in stretch mesh (maybe even stretch lace!) panties just to stay fresh for workouts and the hottest days. Just add a little bit of absorbency and now you've got a way to control sweat. So many options to make the perfect panties for you!
Less layers or a standard sized gusset can accommodate iron-on elastic or no-elastic. Just be sure that you have about 1/4" of extra fabric to fold over the edge of your gusset to zig zag for a no-elastic version. Its even possible to quilt a portion of absorbent fabric onto the underside of your usual panty gusset before putting together your panties for just a little protection.
Our ultra-soft bamboo prints are substantial enough to use for even the heaviest duty period panties. The same is true of Microlycra. Microlycra Air worked for my heavy duty undies with FOE, but it was best for less absorbency undies because its so light. Some of our substantial panty fabrics such as Glimmer Knit are also great choices for even the heaviest duty panties.
All this begs the question- why not just use disposable products? Well, if you're like me, you may need to be conscious of the chemicals you use around your skin. All natural disposable products are not available locally and they are expensive. I personally have always been averse to disposable pads- the adhesive is seriously unpleasant for me. And sometimes we need to double up protection. For me, my period panties are the add-on I wear with my regular product, and they have offered me the comfort and confidence I need to go about my day without worrying about having a coat to tie around my waist or how to make a quick change (worries no woman wants!). My neighbor was telling me a few weeks ago that she purchased period panties for her daughter because she was concerned about leaks at school and I plan to make them for my own daughters for the same reason. I think we all deserve undergarments that fit and function so we don't have to worry, and I hope my experiences help get you started in making your own period panties!