Tips for Sewing Midwest Mission Distribution Center feminine hygiene kits
Don't pay full price!
If you become passionate about this mission, you'll be buying supplies in bulk. I buy flannel and cotton by the bolt, liner polyurethane laminate (solids) by the 5 yard piece, waterproof pouch PUL (prints) by the 2 meter piece (three at a time), zippers by the hundred-pack, snaps by 200-pack, undies by dozens.
Perhaps you'll want to specialize in particular parts of the kit. I don't want to share my sources for supplies in my videos, because they can change (and I don't want to have to claim an "ad"). So here are my techniques for making ever dollar stretch.
(Note: The resources described in the hover boxes below display best on a computer screen.)
I use Comfy Cozy solid-color cotton flannel from Joann (never Super Snuggle prints). The Comfy Cozy brand is brushed on both sides and thicker than any printed flannel. But you still need to check it with the guage as shown in my video on Constructing the Pad.
Comfy Cozy lists for $8.99 per yard in 2023. I never pay that! Sign up for email advertising, and watch for the sale.
It goes on sale regularly for $3.99 per yard if ordered online. And you can get an extra 10% off by buying a bolt, which may be 8, 10 or 15 yards. Plus, I always pick up my online order at my local store, so the store gets the sale but I don't pay shipping.
For Day and Night Pads padding and covers .
Thread - 100% polyester
Likely you have drawers full of various cotton or cotton-wrapped polyester thread. Use it for the one-handle and drawstring bags. You may also use it to zig-zag the cotton padding to the cotton flannel pad cover, because cotton is absorbent.
But for the day and night pad final construction, and the waterproof pouches - anything that pierces PUL - you must use 100% polyester thread, because it doesn't wick fluids. Thread can be pricey when bought by the spool, but you can get it in 2500-meter cones for as little as $2.24 (in 2023) when Joann has a half-price or buy 3, get 3 free online sale.
Polyurethane Laminate for Pads
For the waterproof cover layer of Day and Night Pads.
Polyurethane Laminate comes in solid colors and prints, and in various thicknesses.
The thin, flexible version is available from various vendors. I acquire it from MamaBear Fabrics on Etsy.com. This order does require paying shipping, but MamaBear refunds any excess from estimated postage costs - I appreciate that!
I once acquired a shipment of white PUL from Joann that was nearly too thick to use. And, Joann does not carry PUL in stores any longer so you can't check it before ordering.
To complete each day or night pad, you'll need Size T5 plastic snaps and a snap-applying pliers and awl, and a case to corral the snap pieces. But you don't need the very expensive name brand ones hanging on the racks in your fabric store (even in my favorite fabric stores!)
These snaps are made in China and mostly sold through Amazon. The prices for the kits vary widely (say, from $8 to $25 for the starter kit you need), and they often advertise discounts (which might even be real)! I read the reviews carefully and buy the middle of the range.
When you finish the snaps that came with the kit, you buy refills. You can buy a variety or a single color.
PUL for Waterproof Pouches
If you find you enjoy making the waterproof pouches for the kits, you'll need a slightly heavier, printed version of PUL for them.
I buy the 2-meter cuts from MOOK, accessed through Amazon. These fabrics have a 2-mil laminate which may not extend quite to the edge, and are less stretchy than the solid-color PUL. But at two meters, they are 6 inches longer than a yard.
You can make 21 pouches from each meter, using my cutting layout, especially if you use scraps from your solid-color PUL to make the handles.
I plan to post a video showing how to make the pouches soon.
The waterproof pouches are closed with a zipper. You need 9-inch nylon coil zippers, which you'll attach with the metal crimps on both ends outside the seam allowance, so that the metal will be cut off.
I buy zippers in bulk packs of 100 for $12, or 12 cents a zipper! At this price, you will run across an occasional zipper with a malformed crimp (which will be cut off anyway) or the color apparently sticking the zipper slider to the coils or crimps. So before you sew in the zipper, be sure to test it by opening and closing it a couple of times. If it sticks at first, gently pull the tapes apart - that generally un-sticks the slider.
Zippers for Pouches
Rotary cutter blades do wear out. When they begin to skip and require heavy pressure, it's time to replace your blade.
A standard (yellow package) blade costs around $15. A case of five runs $65 - $75, but occasionally Joann will have a "all cutting tools" sale that reduces that to $40-$45. Jump on it!
A new supposedly "twice the cutting" blade has just been introduced, called "Endurance." I haven't tried it yet, but when my current set of five is finished I will. In 2023, a pack of two (gray pack) is $35, or $17 apiece.
Rotary Cutter Blades
Do you plan to donate complete FHKs to Midwest Mission? If so, then you will also need a washcloth, hand towel and bar of soap for each kit.
I buy these from Target. I buy the Room Essentials brand: packs of six washcloths or two hand towels for only $3 per pack, and you can buy Dove sensitive skin soap bars in packs of 12 for $15 in 2023.
But, you can save time by ordering online and save money by picking up in-store. And watch the specials! While I've found the prices are never reduced, at times there will be a "Spend ___ and get a gift card for ____." That's the equivalent of an easy-to-use rebate.
Other Purchased Items
Besides undies, a full kit includes a washcloth, hand towel and a bar of soap.
I subscribe to Hanes email promotions, and watch the sales for women's underwear. Even at full price one can get hipsters for about $2 apiece, in packs of six, seven or even 10, but I aim at a lower price than that, around $1.60 - $1.80. And by ordering online, I can have them shipped directly to MMDC, saving myself the cost of shipping them with the rest of my kits.
Sometimes Target also has them on sale.
When buying undies, use the bell curve statistical principle - there will be more recipients in the middle of the range than on the ends. So I order in multiples of sets of:
1 size five, 2 size six, 2 size seven, 1 size eight
Each FHK contains three pairs of underwear, women's size 5,6,7 or 8; girls' 10,11,12,13 or 14.
If you plan to donate complete FHKs to Midwest Mission, you may want to include the "One-Handle Bag" that contains the whole kit. MMDC has many folks who sew these, so they aren't as crucial to include - but I like to do so.
But the heavy upholstery weight fabric required can run $20-$40 a yard - OUCH!
So every time I go to Joann's, I check the "Last Chance" bin where the steep, steep discounts on such fabric can be found, and pick up lengths of one to five yards, the ends of bolts, for as little as $5 a yard.
The One-Handle Bag
...into which everything else must go.
You'll need long, thin pins, with narrow heads, to attach the thick cotton padding layers to the cotton pad cover. These are labeled one and three-quarters inches, but they are actually nearly two inches. And you'll want these narrow heads, not fat heads in the form of flowers or hearts or thick glass beads, so you can pin parallel to the zigzag edges without the heads interfering with the presser foot.
The clips come in packs of 10 to 50. In my experience, 20 is a number that handles anything you need. They do eventually break, after long and faithful service, but a pack of 10 should cost about $8 or $9.
Pins and Clips
Pins for the cotton padding, clips for everything else