Winnipeg crafter creates reusable menstrual products

Winnipeg business Sew Dandee offers menstrual pads that can be washed and reused.

Andee Penner opens up conversations about bodies with pretty, practical product

Andee Penner holds fabric she plans to use to make carrying bags. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

Andee Penner no longer adds menstrual pads to her grocery list, because she's switched to reusable ones — and she makes them herself.

This year the owner/operator of Sew Dandee, which runs out of her St. Vital home, started selling handmade reusable menstrual pads to others through Instagram and at craft shows.

The sales have opened up all kinds of conversations, she said.

"The ick factor definitely I address with people right away, and it's not nearly as gross as you think it is. It definitely is just a regular body function," Penner said.

While some might be a tad shy to talk about periods openly, Penner says there's no need for embarrassment. She approaches the conversations just as she would for a tea towel or cloth bag.

Penner makes menstrual pads in many colours and patterns. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

"It's pretty diverse and pretty common for most people with uteruses to menstruate, so why is it such a taboo topic?"

The people coming to her table have brought different perspectives, and include those who menstruate but do not identify as female, which made Penner think about incorporating more gender neutral fabric patterns into her collection.

There are also bold fabric choices, such as a collection of colourful cupcakes against a pink background, which have attracted attention from a younger demographic.

"I've had some incredible heartwarming moments with young women who've just started menstruating saying, 'Hey, I wanna try this.'"

Three layers of fabric sewn together attach to the underwear with plastic snap buttons. An organic flannel goes against the body and the middle layer is made of waterproof material.

The fabric design on the outer layer can range from simple to fun. 

Penner sews three layers of fabric together to make a pad. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

"You know that 'No one knows what's going on in my underwear' feeling? You can take that with you throughout the day as something to smile about."

Penner uses whatever fabric she has on hand. She had some left when she closed her brick and mortar shop in Osborne Village and friends have given her fabric.

The result is an eclectic collection of designs that's included tiny flowers, classic swirls and even hamburgers and hot dogs.

"The irony of bleeding on ketchup kind of made me giggle a little bit."

A cupcake pattern adorns one of the reusable menstrual pads. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

While washing the pads may turn some people off, Penner said it's not that bad.

She rinses soiled pads out in a sink and squeezes the excess out, lays them flat to dry and then tosses them in the wash with everything else. Some of the pads she uses are years old, but still in good shape.

Penner uses small bags to transport the used pads. She is now working on sewing up her own storage bags to complement the pads.

Penner also has begun sewing pads directly into her underwear, with plans down the road to work with another crafter to make period undies for the public. For now, she's a happy to take anyone's favourite ratty old underwear and enhance it.

The pads come in three sizes, depending on the amount of coverage needed. They range in price from $14 for the liners up to $20 for the heavy flow pads.

"They are relatively affordable and I am always open to working on trade with people, too, if finances are something that's been keeping you back from making the switch."

It's important to Penner that those in need can access products like hers. She hopes to create kits that could be given out. 

A pad is pieced together from three different fabrics. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

They're also convenient, she said.

"I would find it more difficult, this is only from my perspective, to constantly have to go out and find tampons or buy a box of pads, as opposed to knowing I've got my reusables."

Sew Dandee will be at the Vegan Handmade Market at Robert A. Steen Community Centre on Dec. 7 and at the South Osborne Holiday Market at Lord Roberts Community Centre on Dec. 15.


Shannah-Lee Vidal is CBC Manitoba's community and traffic reporter.


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