Saturday, August 31, 2013

Experiments in Underwear

I haven't been able to go out yet to buy specific panty fabric, or even a double needle (though I did get a pack of ball point ones at Wal Mart on my quick errand trip yesterday.) David is away for the weekend and rather than drag all 4 kids with me to Jo Anns (my oldest informed he would rather die than have to suffer the agony of going there) I decided to work on some practice underwear with stuff I already had here.

My problem is, I have no jersey. I don't sew with it. I have cottons, wools, linens and even some silks. But hardly anything modern and definitely nothing stretchy. So I decided to try an old t shirt and ended up experimenting with several cut-down garments made of knit fabric.

Panties #1:

These were the first panties I tried. I selected my size based on my hip measurement and cut out the pattern from Cloth Habit. I sewed them up exactly according to the pattern and these were the result. I loved them. The fabric was a t shirt I hardly ever wear though I loved the fabric and the print and the little sparkly rhinestones embedded in the cloth.

How did they work out? 

They didn't. Well, okay. They fit. Sort of. But just barely. They stretched and. . .stayed stretched. I like firm fitting undergarments and these weren't doing it. And the crutch area was really really long. So to make them fit I had to pull them high, which looked ridiculous and was uncomfortable. If I wore them comfortably on my hips the crutch sagged down and that wasn't comfortable either. This was probably due to a combination of my fabric stretching as well as a really long crutch area on the pattern itself.

Panties #2:

I decided that since the jersey t shirt I used for my first pair did not work well I needed to use a really lightweight, very stretchy fabric that would spring back to its natural shape after being stretched. I didn't have any t shirts like that, but I did have a dress that I have only worn a few times. It's not a very flattering cut but I love the fabric. The only downfall is that it is not a natural fiber. However, I decided to try it. For the pattern I modified the size I cut for trial #1 by shortening the crutch area by 1.5" and also shaving some width off the sides by slicing and overlapping the pattern in the middle. I also decided to use my own measurements for the elastic for the waistband and legs instead of the measurements provided in the pattern. Since my lace is very stretchy, these measurements were significantly smaller than the ones provided in the pattern.

How did they work out? 

These were almost perfect! I loved the fit. The only thing I wanted to change was the tightness of the leg. They felt a bit loose in the back. I also wanted to add a smidge more coverage to the back. Though these are a conservative style it is a common feature of these "boyshorts" to only cover about half your rear. I decided I could live with that, for these pair, but wanted to add more coverage to any future pairs. Otherwise I loved these. The fabric was perfect. Still, they are a bit too "fancy" for my liking for plain old everyday wear.

Panties #3:

I decided I wanted to try cotton jersey again. After all, that is what I normally wear on a day to day basis. It's comfortable and washes well and breathes. I used a sleeveless t shirt of David's to try these. It is a lighter weight jersey than the t shirt I used for my first attempt. I modified my pattern from #2 to add a bit more coverage in the back and to decrease the width of the leg a tad, in the back.

How did they work out? 

These came out very tolerably. They fit tighter than the ones above, but I think that is because this jersey does not stretch as much as the fabric I used for #2 and it is heavier than the fabric as well. They still fit, but if I make more in jersey like this I will add a bit of width to account for less stretch of the fabric. The "gathering" at the leg openings and waist is more noticeable in this fabric since the lace is much lighter in weight than the fabric. Still, I am very pleased with these and will definitely wear them. And yes, I picked the lace off the #1 pair and reused it for these. I couldn't bear to waste my pretty lace, even if it was only 50 cents a yard.

Panties #4:

These I made from more of David's grey t shirt. I wanted to try a different style for variety so used an old pair of store bought panties for a pattern, as per the tutorial on Come and See the Seitz. I cut these all in one piece and added a lining to the middle with another layer of jersey. Then I sewed on the lace and sewed up the sides. This went very quickly and these probably took about 15 minutes to make start to finish.

How did they work out? 

The fit is really great with these though I would like a slightly higher waistline and a narrower crutch. I like the fact there is no seam going down the center front or center back. When worn, these look nearly the same as the panties from the Cloth Habit pattern. The elastic gathers more fabric in, so it looks puckery when the panties are laid out flat but since the lace has a lot more stretchiness than the jersey, it all smooths out to a very good fit once on the body.


I really need a good lightweight jersey. I would also like to make a few more sets in fancier fabric, since it just feels so nice. Maybe I will transition from practical mama panties into something more delicate and feminine. But in the meantime I will be looking for nice very light jersey when I go out! I hope to hit the Labor Day sales at Jo Anns tomorrow evening so perhaps I will find something useful there.

Out of the three fabrics I tried for the experimental panties, I definitely liked the way the slinky dress fabric worked the best. It works well with the elastic and has a good stretch recovery. I wish I could find natural fabric that behaves the same way.

One thing is for sure: this is fun! After my initial frustration/disappointment/anger/despair/weeping/wailing over the first pair, I found I really enjoyed the process of making these. They go together so quickly and its nice to be able to control the fit instead of having to make do with something off the rack. I may even try stretch lace sometime! Who knows!



  1. Oh they're looking pretty! Nice job. :) It looks fun! XD

  2. It's interesting to hear your experiences with the various fabrics and patterns. I've been thinking about sewing my own panties too, because (like you) I hate how expensive they are in stores, and it's hard to find styles/colors I like anyway. I think every woman has her own preferences when it comes to fit, so why not make a custom pattern when they take so little time and fabric?!

  3. Sarah,

    Your prototypes are really coming along! Thank you for taking the time to let us know what you think of each fabric choice. That's really helpful information. I know you'll come up with something really good that works great for you.

    I read a blog about a seamstress who has gone down that journey, too. Here's one of her posts about it.

    She's inspired me to try and make my own underwear someday because the brand I really like doesn't make plain white in my size anymore. Or at least sell just plain white--I have to buy colors I just don't care for. I would rather make my own! I have traced out a pair and hopefully I'll get the chance to try making some. That's why I appreciate you sharing your experiences because they are going to help me when I get to my project.

    I laughed out loud at your oldest's response to going to JoAnn's....mine is the same way, and he's 20 now! Actually my daughters are that way somewhat, too, but when they are working on a project (or I am working on one for them), I can get them to go. Perhaps it's for the best--it's easier on the budget to have one family member on a first-name basis with the ladies at JoAnn's (actually, I'm not quite at that status, but I'm getting there).:)

  4. I really enjoy seeing all the things you create. This is something I've meant to do for a long time. So, so thank you for sharing the process, and the links. I think I will be tackling some now with a little more confidence.

  5. They do look pretty! And thank you for sharing what you've learned. I would never have thought that subtle fabric differences could create so much difference in fit, but for all the ways a panty must stretch, of course it would. Love the lace - I'd reuse it too.

  6. Hi Sara-
    I'm making some panties for my sister's birthday, and I wanted to know if you have any advice you would give after your own experimenting. I've bought some basic knit fabric (it has some stretch), some elastic, and I do have a little bit of stretch lace.
    Did you try using the double needles? Do you think they're necessary? I wasn't planning to use them since I don't have any.
    Also, congratulations on your baby! That's so exciting!

  7. Gosh, how cute are those? I saved a couple of my old button downs and a few from my hubby, any thoughts on using those to make some really sweet girly fun undies?

  8. I too like boy shorts, but I want them to be much longer than the ones in the store. I think I shall have to start making my own now...


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!