My sister and I many times in our childhood would sleep on rag curlers. However, just winding hair around a strip of fabric always made the ends really kinky. So, we found some curlers (I think they sell a similar curler (Sun curlers??) at Walmart now) that were cushioned and they got rid of the terrible kink at the end of the curl. Well, after decades of use, they have fallen apart and Walmart's are expensive and with the thickness of our hair, if my child gets thick hair (which is likely) it would take too much money to buy enough of them.
So, I made some out of shoulder pads (taken out of thrift store finds), pipe cleaners and t-shirts.
First, cut a pipe cleaner in half. Then, cut a rectangle of shoulder pad (you could use a few layers of batting or micro fleece or something similarly squishy) that will fit around the pipe cleaner.
Then tack on the shoulder pad so that it won't open up inside the curler in the future.
Then set the curler on a tshirt (you could use other scrap fabric) and cut a strip of material to cover the back and the front. I tapered it here a bit.
Then stick the pipe cleaner and shoulder pad combo in between the two layers of t-shirt.
Then sew around the curler, try to get pretty close to the pipe cleaner, but don't sew onto the pipe cleaner.
Cut off the excess fabric ouside of the seam and zigzag around the edges.
And now you have one cushioned rag curler. You could probably do it without the pipe cleaner, and just sew in a pad and tie on the curler - hmm, will have to try that. Metal twisties came in my old ones, so that's why I chose to do it this way.
This is how you would use it. Start out at the end of the section of hair and begin winding it onto the pad.
Wind it down to the scalp.
Twist the pipe cleaner to make it stay.