Fantasy sewing: Underwear

I still don’t have a sewing room (although there have been some signs of progress). It’s been an all-day-every-day job getting things even as close to “settled” as they are (it took me two weeks to find my eyeliner). The fact that half of our stuff is remaining in storage at least for the short term is not helping, either. But when I DO get it set up, what will I make? The season for the adorable sundresses I had been banging out has emphatically passed, and while there’s several fall-ish dresses I’ve had in mind, the lack of a closet I’m currently dealing with is making any clothing that needs to be hung distinctly less appealing than it was before. I could, of course, make a sweater or bunnyhug, but that would be like practical and stuff. I’ve bought a fair few thrift store patterns recently, in a ridiculous and counterproductive attempt to soothe the creative itch, but I’m not sure that any of them are absolutely screaming to be made. And I’m not quite willing to dive into the list of coats for winter without a bit of a warmup.

One thing that has been on my mind is the perennial, elusive, underwear. Underwear is kind of my unicorn—attempted several times, but always elusive, usually due to sloppiness on my part. There’s the failed, self-drafted pair I blogged here. Before that, there was a pair from this pattern:

Lekala Panties:

Lekala panties—tried but failed.

Which didn’t work out either technically—wonky construction—or fit-wise (the rise was way too high). I’ve tried and failed at least one more time in the past, I think with this Burdastyle pattern:

Bikini style underwear

Bikini-style underwear

Β Which was similarly disastrous, although I don’t remember exactly why. The odds are it was me, though, rather than the pattern.
Beyond these free patterns (I downloaded the Lekala one back when they had a free demo size that just happened to be more-or-less mine), I have a few possibilities in stash—I’m pretty sure that the differences between panties and bikini bottoms are in fabric and finishing rather than cut, so I’m including them here.

In the retro category Β is this one:

Simplicity 9933

However, only the one-piece is designated “designed for knit fabrics only” which makes me rather scared of the two-piece bottoms.

Kwik Sew 2100

Most recently, I found this Kwik Sew pattern. It has the advantage of several reviews on Pattern Review, although they’re not overly positive in terms of fit and sizing. (I’m a bit confused how you can rate a pattern “highly recommended” and then write that you had to go down two sizes and reduce the width of the crotch panel by an inch.)

McCall’s 4471

Possibly the best candidate would be this McCall’s pattern. There are several helpful reviews, and it’s the general bikini shape that is kind of my fall-back.

Of course, there’s no shortage of other underwear patterns, too. Aside from the old staple of tracing your favourite pair (I’m still not convinced my problem was the self-made pattern), there are several free options available:

Cheeky panties? (click for source)

This cheeky panties one is cute, though I think the finishing leaves a bit to be desired. I go back and forth on the whole cheeky panties thing. Same with the lace tanga panties. Sew You Said is in the midst of a series on drafting your own, as well.

If you want to pay for a pattern, a couple I’ve seen recommended are:

Jalie 2568

Jalie’s underwear pattern (does anyone ever say not-good things about Jalie?)

And several of the Kwik Sew lingerie patterns.

And I’ll throw in a link to the Ohhh, Lulu patterns for thoroughness, though I think I’ll be wearing high-waisted panties about three days after hell freezes over. No offense to everyone who loves them… just not my thing. And I’m so over thongs.

Oh, and there’s probably something that would work in the Merkwaerdigh line, which I also generally hear good things about, although more about the bras.

Which is not to say that I’m totally convinced that underwear is my next-up in things to make (and if I do it would probably be from one of the patterns I already have). But feel free to throw in your favourite pattern, and any technique tutorials you find super-helpful. Because apparently in this department I need all the help I can get. πŸ™‚



Filed under Sewing

26 responses to “Fantasy sewing: Underwear

  1. Just for the record, Merkwaerdig is a Dutch brand and as far as I know (I’m by no means an expert, ask Sigrid if you really want to know) their patterns come with the instructions only in Dutch. Which could be a bit of a complication for something as fiddly as lingerie.

    Following your theory of the similarity between swimwear and underwear patterns, I have one more link to add:
    This site is all about swimwear patterns, with easy to follow instructions to draft your own. And if you don’t feel like drafting, there are even two bikini bottom options among the ‘lazy people stuff’. Just fill in your measurements and let the site generate the pattern.
    However, there are few to no sewing instructions.

    And by the way, I know what you’re talking about on the topic of lingerie. I’ve tried a few times myself, first being frustrated by a completely useless sewing machine and later by little oddities in the patterns and/or the non-standard features of my body and/or the properties of different notions (mostly elastics) and/or over-ambitious perfectionism.
    Now that I got swimwear to sort-of work for me, maybe I should give lingerie another go.

    • Yeah, I would definitely want English instructions for something like a bra. For panties… well, given the track record maybe I need some better instructions there, too. πŸ˜‰ Though I think the ones from the Kwik Sew pattern would serve for most of these.

      Thanks for the patternschool link, I hadn’t thought of it! πŸ™‚

    • clothingengineer

      Merckwaerdigh patterns do have an English translation, but like the Burda magazine they don’t have pictures and the writing style can be a bit odd. I dont really need them though, as I learned how to do bras from Pinup Girls patterns and panties from Jalie and Kwik Sew. Lingerie seems complicated but is actually simpler than most sewing projects, which is why when I want a quick project I always default to a bra or pair of panties.

  2. gillian

    I’ve had great luck with the drafting instructions on the Pattern School site, which is a goldmine for anything to do with stretch fabrics. He’s got options for several different styles of swimsuit bottoms that work wonderfully for underwear too:

  3. I can’t recommend “Sewing Lingerie That Fits” by Karen Morris highly enough. It is unfortunately out of print, but really worth it if you can find it cheap enough (Amazon has some from $32-$40 price range). It has detailed directions for drafting your own panties, and the instructions for the crotch lining is the best I have seen. As is typical of Taunton Press books of this time period, it is full of sewist’s eye candy. It is one of my top five favourite sewing books. There is also a Sewing Lingerie book in the Time Life series that is pretty good.

  4. Muahahaha. Thank you thank you thank you for this post. πŸ™‚ Saves me heaps of time looking around for good stuff… I meant to stitch some panties this week, didn’t get around to it. I have disastrous wadded panties stuff here and there in my sewing room, I’m so glad it’s not just me… I mean… Shoot. I can sew. Heaps of other people make great panties. Why can’t I??? Waaaaah! πŸ™‚

    • Well, I confess I’m glad to be in such good company, sigh. I think I need to really apply myself to it—comparing a pattern to a pair I know fits, deciding on my technique, using good fabric and elastic, and making sure I know what I’m doing in the elastic application. A big part of my problem has been in sloppy technique…

  5. clothingengineer

    The Jalie pattern is very good, though like their jeans it is drafted for a more up-and-down figure with not much of a butt. It didn’t take too much to make it work for me (mostly adding to the crotch depth and a wedge to the CB) but it is something you should be aware of. If you are are more adventurous you could always try the panty book from Bramakers Supply. It shows you how to draft a pair of panties based on your measurements, figure type, style requirements, and the amount of stretch in the fabric you are using.

    • Thanks for the info on the Jalie pattern’s fit, that’s interesting to know (and probably wouldn’t’ve occurred to me). Amount of stretch in the fabric is definitely a variable I haven’t always remembered to take into account… πŸ˜‰

  6. I would use the Kwik Sew pattern you already have. I’d just make sure that you measure the flat pieces to find the size you need, and then narrow the crotch by an inch in the traced off piece. You’ll have comfy underwear in no time! (Well, as soon as you locate your machine and all the accompanying goodies.) πŸ™‚

  7. A first in the history of sewing bloggers: the Jalie pattern didn’t work out for me. I know, I know. Jalie works for everyone. I made the lace tanga. At first I thought it was great, but then the stand/sit/stand/walk/repeat of my day resulted in a monstrous wedgie of epic proportions. This may have been the fault of the lace and not the pattern. But just thinking about it makes me shudder. It was enough to convince me that the overpriced panties I griped about might not be as overpriced as I once thought. Sigh.

    One of my problems – like you – is that the well designed panties all seem to have a much higher rise than I like. (blech) It McCalls 4471 looks promising though!

    Good luck with the unpacking. Hooray for eyeliner!

  8. Best of luck to you in getting set up for sewing! I just got home and have no idea where things are, either, but my first project isn’t as simple as underwear…maybe I should take a cue from you — I did just pick up a panties pattern at the thrift store before I left SF. Unfortunately, it’s the high-waisted variety.

    It’s kind of frustrating, isn’t it, that underwear is so basic and has so few pieces, but is so hard to get just right!

  9. I know how you feel, I’ve just been there. A whole pile of stuff in storage and now we are finally unpacked I almost forgot what it felt like! I did some fantasy sewing in my head for about 3 months but now my list is way too long, I am overwhelmed. My plan this weekend is to just start something! πŸ™‚

  10. Sufiya

    Ha, I found a copy of that Karen Morris lingerie book at a local used bookstore the other day…for $12!

    I have never understood the love affair with thongs that everyone seemed to have there for a while; I was a burlesque entertainer back in the day (late 70s-early 80s) and it was a standing joke between me and my friends that like “housewife’s knee” , and ‘tennis elbow” , “strippers’ a-hole” was OUR particular “occupational hazard”, thanks to the g-strings we wore!!

    Here’s a VERY helpful tip about fitting panties I will pass along from that Karen Morris book: when you put the elastic on the leg holes, one does it by pinning the elastic in 4 places to evenly distribute the elastic, right?-…well KM recommends a bit of ‘uneven distribution’, i.e. making the fabric quarters a little bit LARGER towards the back to allow the seat of the panty to “balloon out” a bit more and thus avoid ‘wedgie syndrome” by pushing more fabric around to the back where it’s needed in order to cover the curve of the buttock. I thought this tip eminently sensible and will be happy to provide the text of the instructions if you want them. Just indicate this by ‘replying” to this post and I will pass them along!

    • Great score! And LMAO at the “occupational hazard”!

      I had heard of uneven elastic-distribution being helpful, but haven’t tried it yet. Frankly, I don’t think I’m even that far along in the process—still looking for the right pattern, then I can worry about things like wedgies.

  11. I’ve recently started trying to sew pants/panties to no avail. Three pairs I’ve tried on now, with no good results. I’m going to keep at it it though, I’m determined to do this. And then hopefully bras.
    Also, so you know, Merckwaerdigh do sell their patterns in English. I bought one, along with notions, but am still trying to master elastic and pants before going anywhere near the bra pattern.
    I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling, and that it’s a universal problem.

  12. That’s a lot of a patterns for undies. I think the best route is to cut up a pair that fits really well. I know that it’s hard to make that sacrifice, but hopefully then you will have several favorite underpants. And I agree with Sufiya’s comment, it’s also helpful to see how the elastic was allotted to different parts. I really want to make more underwear, I’m not sure where they have migrated to.

    • Yeah, you’re probably right. Unfortunately the best-fitting ones have mostly been worn beyond to death, so I’m not sure if any of the panels are sufficiently undistorted to get a good pattern from. >_< Which is probably more than I ever wanted to tell the internet about my underwear…

  13. I like using 5-6″ wide lace elasic and making cheeky panties like the black ones on the last Jalie pattern. The front and back pieces are the same which gives the cheeky look to the back. It’s just a matter of getting the curve to fit yourself. I use the curve from a RTW pair I have, but the RTW lace isn’t as stretchy as the lace I buy. Not that I buy expensive stuff, it’s just from Fabricland and often goes on the buy 1 get 2 free sales.

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