Thoughts on Thinx

I bought two pairs of this special underwear called Thinx that’s meant to be worn when you have your period. The underwear has an absorbent and odor-neutralizing crotch panel that can absorb a tampon or two’s worth of menstrual blood (depending on the style of Thinx you choose). In theory, you can go without tampons or pads at all and just wash and reuse the underwear.

In short, did they work? Yes. They are probably not for everyone, however.

This is a pretty long post and has a lot of details in it. If you’re squeamish, find something else to read. I am not affiliated with this product in any way, and I did not receive any free samples or other compensation as a condition of writing this blog. This is really just my thoughts and experiences with this product.

I bought two pairs of Thinx for a few reasons:

  • I’m very interested in new textiles and how garments can be used to support medical needs, be it menstruation, illness or disability.
  • I’m interested in alternatives to standard menstrual products in general. Having consumed these products most of my life, I always think, “There’s got to be a better way!”
  • I like that female engineers, businesswomen and scientists are thinking anew about menstrual products, and that they are able to get funding to manufacture and market these products.
  • I would like to reduce my use of disposable, nonbiodegradable things in general. All the wrappers, applicators and packaging of standard tampons and pads could be reduced or eliminated.
  • I think that women should be able to talk about menstruation openly and without shame. Products such as Thinx open the dialogue.

I read over the product specs (see www.shethinx.com for more) and bought a high-waist style ($38) and a hip-hugger style ($34) to try. Based on the measurements, I ordered a large but they were too small, so I got a refund and bought an extra large in each style.

Because I like to sew, I know when I am looking at a well-made garment, and these were. The lining of the underwear is made of a cotton and elastane blend. The waistband and outer layer is a nylon-elastane blend – the waistband has a pretty, sheer stripe detail. The absorbent inner liner is made of a polyurethane laminate, or PUL fabric. It runs from waistband to waistband front and back and is encased in the lining and outer fabric. The sides are sheer.

I tried them this week. I wore the hip-huggers on Sunday, under jeans, without any back-up tampons or pads. They performed admirably with no leaks. I was aware each time I used the toilet that the underwear was absorbing blood, but it soaked in to the absorbent layer and did not feel sticky, just a bit damp. The underwear was a bit bulky, but not bad, especially under jeans. There was no smell at first, but by the end of the day, I could detect a scent – not the usual menstrual blood scent, but a scent that’s hard to describe – a bit plastic-y and sharp. The scent wasn’t objectionable, really, but it was there.

I wore them for the rest of the day and to bed. I woke up with no stains on my PJs or sheets. The odor was much stronger at this point, but that’s to be expected – I wore them for a full day! The instructions say you should rinse the underwear and then wash it, using regular laundry soap but no fabric softener. I saw a lot of blood come out in the rinse, so I let them soak a bit, then rinsed again until the water was clear. Then I let them soak with some laundry detergent, scrubbed them by hand, rinsed and let them line dry.

I had intended to wear the high-waist pair to work Monday, but when I tried them on with my dress, they rode up a bit and were noticeably bulky in the rear with the style of dress, so I switched to some high-waist trousers. This time, I backed up the underwear with a tampon because I couldn’t take chances at work, but I didn’t use a pantyliner as I normally would. Again, they performed well. There was no odor or leaking, although to be fair, tampons did most of the job. The general fit of the underwear was not great and rode up all day. I wore them to bed without any back-up and they were fine – no leaks or stains and the faint odor. Again, I rinsed them and washed them in the sink with some laundry detergent.

I reused the clean hip-huggers to work Tuesday under a skirt without any tampon backup, and they performed very well, although my flow was a lot lighter by then. There was no odor or dampness.

My takeaways:

  • Thinx are a viable alternative to tampons or pads. They do their job and perform as promised.
  • They look nice and are well made.
  • Thinx are not gross or smelly – not any grosser or smellier than the normal menstruation situation, anyway.
  • Using Thinx alone without tampons or pads, I would not want to wear one pair all day but rather would change them after 8 hours  or so. This makes sense, since I’d normally change tampons every 4 hours or so, and the underwear’s meant to absorb about two tampons’ worth.
  • Using Thinx as a tampon back-up, or on a light flow day, I will wear them all day.
  • I will wear the high-waist pair exclusively to bed, because of the bulky nature and the poor fit. I am OK with this because I usually wear big diapery pads to bed (I don’t want to get up in the night to change tampons) and occasionally have to deal with leaks.
  • I can handwash them and let them dry so that two pairs will get me through a typical cycle.
  • The cost alone doesn’t really justify the purchase. At $70 for two pairs of underwear, I could buy a couple hundred tampons, pantyliners and pads.

I will be interested to see how these hold up and perform over time. I will buy more if I really like them.

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“You Can’t Spoil It”

I canned seven pints of piccalilli today, following two old family recipes. As with most family recipes, they make no sense. But after a bunch of roundabout instructions, random amounts of ingredients and other “be sure to’s,” there’s a line at the bottom: “You can’t spoil it.”

True enough. This stuff has enough acid, sugar and salt in it to survive World War III.

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The base for this sweet and sour relish is green tomatoes, as piccalilli is meant to use up all the veggies from your garden at the end of the season. I picked all my Roma tomatoes yesterday, saving anything red or almost red for one last batch of spaghetti sauce. The rest went into the piccalilli pot, along with a green and a red bell pepper, a couple of onions, and some broccoli stalks. Everything took a whirl in the food processor, before being salted, drained, and boiled in white vinegar with more salt, what seems like way too much sugar, a pickling spice sack and a generous palmful of mustard seeds. I hot-packed the relish into sterilized pint jars and processed them in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes.

They’re sitting on a beach towel because after they’re processed, I swaddle them in a heavy towel so they can cool very slowly.

I learned to can at my great-aunt’s knee. She had a kind of subsistence farm in rural New Hampshire, where growing and canning food was a matter of survival. I’d visit for two weeks every August to help her harvest, process and can her food. She had a special set-up in her basement with a giant hand-crank Foley Food Mill and some pressure- and boiling-water canners. It was hot, dirty, dangerous work. I loved it.

One time, we worked all day and went to bed early, only to be awakened by the sound of smashing glass. In the basement, we discovered that a jar of tomatoes we’d canned that day had exploded, in turn smashing several others around it. We’d forgotten to swaddle the jars and had left the basement windows open, letting some damp cold mountain air invade the space. We cleaned up the mess in our nightgowns, glass crinkling underfoot, the stinky tomato guts all warm and slimy.

I laid awake for much of the night, convinced that more jars would expolde.

The next day, my great-aunt inspected all the other tomato jars and decreed that the exploded jar was defective. She sent me home with several jars of what we’d put up, and I was afraid the whole long ride home that another explosion was imminent. To this day, I swaddle my jars overnight.

Some years, I don’t get around to making piccalilli or canning anything else. For one thing, a freezer is a much better option for preserving food nowadays. (We rarely have power outages; Every winter she’d be out of power for at least a week.) For another, I really don’t need to do this time-consuming, archaic chore. I don’t live off my food I grow or even care about it that much. But then I look around my home and think about all my blessings, and think about where I have come from and where so many of my relatives still are – scraping by, yearning for the past, feeling like a stranger in the here-and-now. I and so I make some piccalilli, using the old recipes, for Christmas gifts that are truly appreciated.

 

And Now for Something Completely Connecticut

I live in Connecticut, USA, where we have to make existential decisions all the time, such as:

  • Pants: Cuffs or no cuffs?
  • Dog breed: Sporting or nonsporting?
  • Carpet: Oriental or Aubusson?

I resisted this for a time. A long time. But as the pull of the Distaff Side grows stronger and my 50s grow closer, I start to think I should stop fighting and just OWN it.

Behold:

It’s a boucle pencil skirt. Cue the “Ladies Who Lunch” music. (Also: notice I went with “Oriental” for the carpet choice.)

I made this for Round 1 of the PatternReview.com Sewing Bee. I don’t know why I participate in these sewing contests. I have no prayer of winning. I just enjoy the camaraderie and looking to see what others made.

I bought the boucle at Banksville Designer Fabric in Norwalk, Conn. Because it’s fragile and frays like my nerves after a day with my mother-in-law, I underlined it with silk organza and used a Hong Kong finish on all the seams.

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This really isn’t difficult, just time-consuming. But with a pencil skirt’s close fit, I could imagine it fraying away as I sashayed down the street otherwise.

The pattern is Burda 6895. I hate Burda. There, I said it. The directions make no sense to me and the fit baffles. I only got this because I needed a princess-seamed pencil skirt and this was the only pattern in the store in my size. I would have taken anything else.

As it was, I had to add two fat darts to the back and take a wedge out the zipper area to get it to fit – too big of a job for a little princess seam adjustment. The seams didn’t lie on the heaviest parts of my thighs but rather a bit off center, so they were not as much help as I would have liked.

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I added an Art Deco reproduction button with tab to either side of the high hip, to riff off the vibe I was going for. I lined it with Bemberg rayon.

Now I am tempted to make a Chanel style jacket to go with it. I happen to have Simplicity 1202 in the pattern stash (the raglan-sleeve blouse is a TNT pattern).

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Dare I? Will it make me look 70?

A Stash Ain’t All That (for Me, Anyway)

I am not much of a fabric stasher. I tend to buy fabric for a specific project, and usually only the amount needed for the project. When I hear of other sewers who have hundreds of yards stashed away, it makes me wonder if they are on to something. Or, are they wasting a lot of time, money and space?

To be fair, I live within a 15-minute drive of two Joann stores for basics such as threads and needles, and a 40-minute drive to a great designer fabric store. And I work a couple of days a week in New York City, pretty near the garment district. So I am spoiled with choice, and I know I can get whatever I need within a day or two.

That said, I keep track of my meager fabric stash in this cheap workaday photo album.
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I staple a postage-stamp sized swatch onto an index card and record the basics of length and width, fabric content, where and when I got it, what I paid, and care instructions.

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I organize the index cards by purpose (apparel woven or knit, home dec or quilting), then by type (cotton, silk etc). Finally, I sort the cards by yardage – 2+ yards, 1-1.5 yards or less than 1 yard.

I have run into three big problems with “stashing.”

1. Fabric is ruined in storage. I had some really pretty Irish linen that faded badly. I have some lovely silk dupioni that has probably permanent crease marks from being folded for 15+ years. Plus, storage itself is an issue – I don’t want to waste money on storage bins etc.

2. Fabric is too nice to use. I bought some lovely hand-silkscreened fabric at the Philadelphia Textile Museum, made by one of the students there. It sat in the stash for 10 years because it was “too nice” to use for anything, and then there wasn’t enough of it for what I wanted to use it for. Finally I made a blouse out of it and was disappointed.

3. There’s too much, or not enough. I bought some beautiful and expensive Liberty lawn, only to discover that I didn’t buy quite enough for a blouse, unless I wanted a sleeveless blouse, and I didn’t want sleeveless. Or some good quality ponte that’s not quite enough for a dress, but too much for a skirt.

So, no big stash for me. I’d love to hear ideas about how to overcome some of these problems.

$56.18

The 20 items I tried to sell at a consignment shop brought me a whopping $56.18. I could look at this two ways:

  1. That’s pathetic. I could have done better on eBay. I could have gotten more for a tax deduction if I had donated the items to Goodwill.
  2. That’s $56.18 I didn’t have before, so hey, money is money.

I am choosing to think about #2 because #1 is too sad.

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Some lessons learned are:

  • Clothes depreciate to almost nothing, overnight. I estimate the 20 items I consigned cost me, retail, about $1,500. (There were several $100+ items in the mix, many items in the $50-70 range and only a few things at $20-$30).
  • To be fair, I got a lot of wear out of some of the higher-quality items. And a few things didn’t fit anymore because I have gained weight. So let’s say that I wasted a third of it – about $500 – on cheap junk or trendy things that didn’t fit with my life.
  • I should buy less – a lot less – and really love the things I buy.

Every time I am tempted to go shopping to ease boredom, enjoy a retail rush, take advantage of a so-called “sale” or just to be polite when I am out window-shopping, I’ll look up this picture again and take a pass.

The Lure of “Free” Patterns

Shortly after I started sewing apparel, I got into a “free pattern” kick. That is, FREE PATTERN! DOWNLOAD! DOWNLOAD! DOWNLOAD!

Some have been great (the Deer & Doe plantain shirt and the Maria Denmark kimono T):

Some have been “good for what they are”, such as the Sew So Easy bolero jacket (embellished heavily), the Halloween Hat Pack from Fleece Fun (made for the Womens’ March on Washington in January) and these three chemo caps I sewed for my mother-in-law’s friend from three different patterns found online):

And then there’s the stuff that just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the pattern. Maybe it was a full moon and Mercury was rising. Whatever. The latest disappointment was the Noelle racerback bralette from Madalynne:

 

 

I am reluctant to be too critical of a free pattern – getting what I paid for and whatnot. But this is really off. I made it out of stretch lace with a stretch mesh lining and about 4 yards of picot elastic.

For starters, the instructions stink. They’re written out but there are no drawings or photos to help. I had three major construction problems:

  • The instructions never refer to the lining (when and how you’re supposed to put it in). I just basted it on – basically treated it as an underlining.
  • The instructions for how to install the sliders on the straps made no sense. I just figured it out.
  • You sew picot elastic around the whole thing (the top, armholes, under the bust and at the bottom of the band). The instructions say to sew the elastic flat. So basically the elastic doesn’t do its job at all. I stretched as I sewed and it was not enough.

I wanted a bralette for Pilates – something soft and breatheable for exercising. I had made the Colette Florence bralette last year and loved it, so I wanted to try this style next. Unfortunately, this was a waste of time and money. The fit is very off – even stretching the elastic as I sewed, the bottom band is way too big and the underbust area does not remotely offer enough support and I can’t make the straps any shorter. And I’m a mere B cup. Also, the whole thing just looks sloppy and unfinished.

So, downloader beware? What are your favorite free patterns?