The road test went well, so over the weekend I made another 4 pair. Awesome!
I blame this whole underwear-making thing on Amy Karol. She just won’t stop making underwear!
But while she’s making pretty little things, I’m making plain functional white cotton panties. Basically, I am motivated by the fact that I have one particular style from Victoria’s Secret that I have been purchasing for *ages* and it looks like they have discontinued this style. AND the last thing I want to have to go shopping for is underwear. So, I thought I’d give it a whirl. And by my calculations, I can make these for about $1.50 per pair (cheaper if I want to buy more elastic at once, but I bought enough for 15 pair this time).
1. I bought my elastic from Lace Heaven. I used E519 for the waistband (5/8″ plush on both sides) and E455 (3/8″) for the legs. However, I don’t see the E455 on their web site right now (I hope it’s not discontinued!).
2. I used t-shirts from the Goodwill. I looked for the largest ones I could find in the men’s department that appeared to have never been worn, that I could hopefully get one cut out from the front of the shirt and one from the back, and that were included in the half price sale they were having that day! If you actually like the design on the t-shirt, you could consider cutting it out so the design is on the front or back. Note how I cut around the Budweiser logo in the photos below. You’ll never see a Bud logo on *my* bum!
3. Elastic and I are not old friends. I have used elastic very little in my lifetime. I have also never sewn with t-shirt fabric before. I eventually got the hang of it and you will too. As a bonus, this is a very forgiving project. After all, not too many people are going to see them.
4. I like the Clover chalk with the little wheel that you’ll see in the first photo below. It glides easily over the stretchy t-shirt fabric instead of pulling like pencils do. Try it!
5. This is all based on my copying a pair of cotton underwear and making more cotton underwear. If you are trying to copy something that isn’t very stretchy to some kind of fabric that is stretchy, all bets are off.
Making the Template:
(sorry, no photos of this part!)
1. Use a pair (or two) of old underwear. You will need to cut these up. I saved two pair (of the same style) that I decided needed to be thrown away, just so I could use them for this purpose.
2. In order to figure out what size and shape to cut the fabric, remove the elastic from the old pair and cut the sides where the seams will have to be added so that you can lay it out flat. Don’t stretch it or anything. Just lay it down flat. It will probably look huge (mine did)! That’s because the elastic is no longer holding it all in. Trace around this onto something that’s easy to make adjustments to, like paper, Swedish tracing paper, or whatever.
3. You will also need to make a template of the extra gusset piece where it is doubled up at the crotch. I cut this from the second old pair to make it easier (make sure you’ve removed the elastic). Same deal as above — lay it on your paper and trace around it.
4. Look at the elastic that you cut off the waist and legs. How much fabric is still attached to the elastic? You’ll need to go back to your templates and add back in that width to those edges.
5. At the sides where you’ll be adding a seam that never existed before, add an additional 5/8″ of an inch (if you want to follow my instructions below) for the seam allowance.
6. On the main fabric piece, mark the general locations of where the gusset is supposed to be attached.
6. Measure the length of the elastic you removed from the waist and the legs. If your new elastic is similarly stretchy, then the same length should work just fine. I ended up shortening my leg elastic by a couple of inches because my new stuff wasn’t as stretchy, but the waist elastic length was fine.
Tip: Once you’ve tested out your pattern — and made adjustments to it as necessary — create a version of your template pieces on some heavy duty plastic so that you can use it over and over and over again! 🙂
Making Your Undies:
I want to say right here that I set my machine for woven medium and did not use any sort of stretch or knit settings or stitches. I used white cotton thread (not dual-purpose) with an 80/12 jeans/denim needle and the zig-zag foot. Just so you know. 🙂
Pre-wash your t-shirts before you cut them! I can’t imagine anything more depressing than making your own underwear and then having them shrink in the washer. Even if the t-shirts say pre-washed, wash them (besides, if you’re like me and got them at the Goodwill, who knows where they’ve been?).
Because I find it kind of confusing to refer to the “right side” and “wrong side” of this project, I have used the terms “inside” and “outside”. I’m pretty sure we all know the inside of our undies from the outside!
1. Cut 1 of each of the two template pieces. Remember to mark where the gusset piece goes.
2. Attach the gusset piece to the inside of the main piece using a zig-zag stitch, backstitching at both ends.
3. Place outsides of main piece together and sew side seams using a 5/8″ seam allowance. I use a straight stitch for this. Trim the seam allowance to about 1/4″, fold toward the back of the undies, and then use a zig-zag stitch to stitch down the seam allowance (sorry — failed to get a photo of that last part!).
4. Cut waist elastic to the length you measured (mine was 22 3/4″) plus a little extra for overlapping (so, I cut at about 23 1/2″). Mark your measured length (again, for me 22 3/4″). Overlap the ends of the elastic so that one end is placed at the mark on the other end and use a zig-zag stitch to make a loop of your elastic. I found it helpful to use a wider zig-zag stitch here. Backstitch at the ends and then trim off any extra elastic tail.
*It’s helpful at this point to set up your sewing machine for the free-arm mode, if you can.*
5. Place waist elastic on the outside of the underwear fabric around the top edge (in the photo below the soon-to-be-undies are inside out). From the outside you should see only elastic, and not the raw edge of the fabric. Pin the elastic evenly around the opening (I used 8 pins). The fabric should only come about half-way up the elastic (see next step).
6. Sew on the elastic using a zig-zag stitch, pulling the elastic taught as you sew. If possible, place the stitching so that it both overlaps the edge of the fabric and lies close to the bottom of the elastic. This will (hopefully) help keep the elastic from flipping up on you later. Backstitch at the ends. If you look closely at the picture below, you’ll see that I’m not always successful at this, but I don’t consider it a deal-breaker, just something to aim for.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the leg elastic. I used a 15″ length plus a little extra for the overlap. Also, this time instead of pinning it evenly all the way around, I did it so that most of the elastic stretch (in other words, less elastic to more fabric) would be on the bottom half of the leg and around the bottom of the bum in the back, and not around the top of the leg opening (hopefully you can see this in the image below). I saw this tip on the web in a discussion on how to make bathing suits. It helps it stay put where it has the most trouble staying put, if you know what I mean.
8. Attach label, if desired. Mine are printed onto printable fabric and then cut out and sewn on with a straight stitch. This is the most fun part and makes it easiest to tell the inside from the outside in the wee hours of the morning before you’ve had your caffeine, so I highly recommend not skipping this step!
Enjoy your custom drawers!
If you have any questions about this, let me know. This is kind of long, but I tried to include all the tips I could, because it took me some time to figure out things like that I needed to cut the elastic off to trace the fabric of the old pair, how to figure out what length elastic to use (I know, seems obvious now!), and that I needed to be pulling the elastic as I sewed (told you I’m not used to sewing with elastic!).