Project washables

This is the place to find information about our new project which provides ladies and young girls with hand-made washable sanitary pads.

Disposable towels are so expensive in Algeria that those from poor families make do with plastic bags and bin liners instead. So,wanting to help we intend to give those in need a pack of handmade pads which they can wash and reuse.

I came up with a basic pattern which can be used but please do feel free to use patterns from other sites too as they may be much easier to follow than this one!



The sanitary towel is made in two parts- an outer pocket and an inner pad this is so that they will be easier to wash and will allow ladies to use two inner pads if their flow is heavier.

The outer pocket

  • Cut out a rectangle of fabric measuring 10″ x 9″
  • With the wrong side facing take on of the longer edges and fold over a hem of 1/2″.  Sew across using the zig zag stitch to prevent fraying.
  • Do the same with the other longer side.
  • With the right side  facing take one of the hemmed edges and place it in the centre of the rectangle.
  • Take the other hem and place it on top of the first one. Pin into place.
  • Now sew along the other two sides 1/2″ from the edge of the fabric.
  • Take the pins out and turn the right side out. You should now have a rectangle with a flap opening in the middle.
  • You may like to iron the piece to press the seams into place.


The inner pad

The depth of the pad needs to be approximately 1/2″ thick and should not be less than this. Ideally it should be made up of several thinner layers as this aids absorbency.  Jersey and towelling fabrics are best to use – old bathroom towels are excellent! You may also like to include a waterproof fabric as the back but this is not by any means essential.

  • Cut out rectangles of fabric measuring  7 1/2″ x 3 1/2″You should have enough pieces so that layered on top of one another they measure a depth of approximately 1/2″.
  • Pin the layers together and using the zig zag stitch sew around the edges.
  • Take out pins.
  • Insert the pad into the pocket that you previously made.

That’s it. Finished!

Please let me know if you spot any errors or have any questions.

Please feel free to make only the outer pocket or just the inner pad if that is what your fabric stash allows for.


26 responses to “Project washables

  1. Susan Gibb

    Hi Emma, just read this pattern and realise the pads I’ve sent are far too thin. Sorry. They are 100% cotton with cotton wadding as centre layer. Hopefully you can make use of them for some young girls who may have a lighter flow, or perhaps 2 or more can be used at once? Will try harder next time, Susan

    • algerianaction

      Don’t worry Susan, I have seen your pads and they are fab! The thickness that I have mentioned is for the pattern written here. Please feel free to make the pads as you wish. Thank you so much for all your help with the project. Best wishes, Emma

  2. Nym

    I’ve made and used my own basic pads for several years and would be happy to make them for anyone who needs them! It would be useful to know what the women receiving them are likely to use in the way of underwear? Close-fitting briefs-style pants are really needed for my basic pads, especially the ones with waterproof backs, but I can make them with belt loops, or donate suitable knix to go with each set.

    Also, are the women likely to be able to hang them to dry openly, or would it be better to make thinner, fast-drying “stealth” pads in stain-concealing fabrics that look like nothing much at all when unfolded and hung with clothes? I’ve donated to collections for other parts of the world, and found that it’s helpful to tailor these details to the women who’ll be using them. Thanks!

    • algerianaction

      Thank you for offering to help Nym!
      In answer to your questions- The majority of ladies wear full brief style knickers.
      I hadn’t actually thought about it before but, I am imagining that the ladies will hang the pads to dry in the same place that they dry their underwear- in which case it will be in the open air but out of sight.
      Hope that helps a little.

  3. Nym

    That’s very helpful, thanks – no need to fiddle around making ‘wings’ or belt loops as I would if the ladies were likely to be using looser-fitting underthings, and I can use fabrics suitable for open-air drying. Brilliant 🙂

    I’m so glad that your son is on the mend!

  4. Lou

    Hi Emma, Hope all the boxes of clothing etc arrive safely they were picked up from here on Friday so should be with you anytime now. We have set our ladies the challenge of helping with these ST’s as part of the next challenge round for Loving Hands – they have already thrown themselves into the project and are producing them by the dozen – look out for big boxes of these coming your way very soon as well. We have now added Algerian Action to our list of charities we support so expect regular donations :0)

    • algerianaction

      Sorry, just saw your comment Lou,
      As you now know the boxes were received and the absolutely gorgeous donations are now posted on the website.
      Thanks a million to you and your team!

  5. As salam alaykum

    Dear sister,

    Just find your site masha’a’Llâh, may Allah reward you for your energy and lovely donations. Emîn

    your sister

  6. mrs mohammed




    • algerianaction

      Mrs Mohammed, the washables are really great! thank you so much for helping the project. A picture of your donations is now on the main page.
      Best wishes, Emma

  7. I wondered if you might be interested in this link – – where I’ve collected various links to web sites that have patterns and tips for making washable cloth pads.

    Most of the links are to free patterns or tutorials, and as a very inexperienced sewer I’ve found them very helpful!

    All the best, Helen

  8. Rosemary Frances

    I have made some pads for you. May I ask for an address to send them, please? They aren’t as thick as the pattern says – my sewing machine can’t cope! I broke two needles on the first one, so made them thinner and just made more of them.
    Also – do you send little dresses? A friend of mine pointed me to a US charity which asks for dresses made from pillowcases, which is a brilliant idea but I’m thinking it would be more efficient as far as postage is concerned to send any dresses (and shorts for the little boys) to a UK charity. Your thoughts??


    • algerianaction

      Pillow case dresses- what a fantastic idea Rosemary!
      I will e.mail you address details.
      Thank you for supporting the project.

  9. Monika

    Hi there, I’m wondering if we could provide you with some cloth pads handmade in Czech republic? I would like to organize a sewing event for ladies, where they can learn how to make cloth pads plus they can sew some more for charity. I was looking for such charity in Europe, because shipping to US or Australia (where most of such groups operate) is expensive. Or we may send our products directly to Algeria, is this possible? Thanks. Monika

    • Emma

      Hi Monika, It would be fabulous if you could supply us with some cloth pads- your event sounds great!
      I think it is easier and much cheaper for you to send your donation to the UK but you are very welcome to send directly to Algeria if you prefer -whatever works well for you. The adress can be found on our website
      Thank you so much for your offer of help!

  10. Sylvia Mulley

    One of my Inner Wheel ladies has made a lot ofliners, and prepared the pads but has broken her machine trying to sew them. Can I send them to you as they are – and hope you can finish them off. We do not have anyone else to do them. Where can I send them to.

    Inner Wheel Craft Club of Margate

  11. Beks

    Do you take unused but commerical brand pads? I cant sew (no machine and hand sewing takes too long) but I have a pile of branded pads that I have bought in multipacks that just arent for me, these are new (either seconds or first quality). I also have lightly used ones I dont like now I know there is an ick factor there but there was a charity I sent a load to a few years ago and I cant remember who that was so if that was you guys would you like those too?

  12. mohamed

    May god bless you dear Emma.

  13. If they’re well made, do you take hand sewn ones? I have no machine but I can sew carefully and well- hand sewn ones might not be quite as durable, though, although they should still last for over a year.

  14. Peta

    Following a ladies post on a sewing forum I am a member of I have been asked quite a lot about how people can become involved in sewing cloth pads for women who need them. What information can I pass on to them and how can we arrange to send our donations to you?

  15. (Sorry, I know I posted earlier, but stuff has changed since then.)

    Okay, so three questions 🙂

    1. Would it be helpful if we packed the pads up in packages to be given to individual women/girls? (For example, perhaps a drawstring bag with 2 overnight pads, 10 day pads, a small wetbag for used ones, and maybe a stain remover stick or some soap for washing them?)

    2. Do we need to include an ‘instruction book’ on how to use the pads (simple snap-around-undies design) or would that be overkill? And if it isn’t, what language should the booklet be in?

    3. What sort of weather do you see in the places you do work in? (If it isn’t very warm, there’s a special type of soft, stain resistant polyester fabric I can top the pads with, but otherwise I’ll just stick to good ol’ quilter’s cotton- not so hot and sweaty.)

    4. And lastly, will these pads be being hand washed, or machine?

  16. Evelyn McClin

    Hi, my name is Evelyn McClin
    And a lider of a ministry named
    Project Of Love. Project Of Love will like to make pads and donate them to your organization. There’s different verations of pads, and if its ok to make them with snaps or just all in one piece.
    Please, let me know. Thank you so much.
    Mrs Evelyn McClin
    Project Of Love
    Oviedo, FL

  17. Therese Bizabishaka

    I have started making my own pads and am looking at making a lot in the near future to refine my pattern with the out look of selling in the future. I look forward to sending my excess in the near future. Just a few thoughts I don’t think a thickness of 1\2 an inch is necessary, it really depends on the materials used. In my pads I use 2 layers of bamboo French Terry for regular and 3 for heavy. Also microfibre is a good absorbent material to use. I use stuff I have left over from making cloth nappies but microfibre dish cloths will do. It absorbs very quickly and dryer quickly so I use it as the top layer on the bamboo Terry. For waterproof versions you can buy PUL from cloth nappy suppliers or a bottom layer of polar fleece provides water resistance. Hopes this helps a bit. One thought I have a number of lightly used modern cloth nappies I made for my son which are no longer used. They look and fasten like disposables and are waterproof. However as I said they have been used and are an x large size ti fit my hefty son with wide hips. I would say for a big 2 year old or smaller 3 year old. Let me know if they can be any help to you.


  18. Sarah

    Is there an address these pads can be sent to? Thank you!

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