18 March 2015

Underwear experiments

Have you tried making your own underwear yet? I must admit that initially I had no interest in sewing my own, but the style of my regular undies got me thinking that maybe I should give it a go. It's not the best look when your undies come up a good 5cm above all the skirts and pants that you make. And just maybe, I might have a go at a matching bra and undies set.

I was going to try out the T-Shirt undies from Indigorchid, downloaded the pattern, and then attempted to print it out. As you can see below, my results were less than satisfactory, so I gave up on the whole idea for a few months. I tried printing it 3 times, and each time it decided to print a different size, and sometimes all in black. Aagh! I was going to have another go at printing the pattern out after I'd calmed down, thinking that maybe it would work from my husband's computer? However, I decided to just trace around a new pair of my existing undies, and make the changes that I wanted to that. When making my pattern, I cut a trial pair from one of my husbands old singlets, made some changes and tried again.

The undies that I made for this experiment are all from old T-Shirt backs, the fronts of which will one day feature on a T-Shirt quilt. Some of them are really old, I'm talking 20+ years, while others are only 5 or so years old. I did have an issue with my needle making holes while I was sewing them, especially at the side seams, so I liberally used fray stop so they wouldn't get any worse. I changed to a new needle, and still had the problem, so changed again to a different type of ball point needle, again new, and it was still happening! I finally put it down to the age of the fabrics, and the fact that they were already worn out, and the fibres were no doubt starting to break down.

Next problem - I hadn't bought any elastic for my undies, but I did have an assortment of bits and pieces to try.

The order of these elastics are the same order of the undies in the photos above. From left to right:
Underwear elastic - pretty flimsy, I didn't stretch it out enough so the undies are too loose
Underwear elastic - quite a firm elastic, but based on the result of pair number one, I stretched this one too much, so they ended up too tight. Worth fixing? Maybe.
Fold over elastic - really good. These might actually be wearable
Bra elastic - worked well, but stretched it out a bit much, and the fabric itself didn't have as much stretch in it.
Bra strap elastic - worked surprisingly well. It wasn't an obvious choice for undies, but I have an overabundance of this narrow elastic (7mm wide), and while I was trying out everything else I had, I thought I'd give it a go.

I also tweaked my pattern a couple of times as I went. For the first three pairs, as the comfort level changed so much from pair to pair, I assumed it was all due to the elastic, but by the time I finished the fourth pair I realised that I needed to add to the width, so put in an extra few centimetres at the side seam. The fifth pair I was thinking I actually got right, until I wore them for a whole day! I had sewn the elastic directly to the edge of the fabric with a 3 step zig zag, but it has a tendency to roll under on the lower leg. I will make a note of how much and trim this off the pattern. Also, further to my previous theory that the fabric may be too far gone, I can confirm that it most definitely is not going to work to use more of these really old T-Shirts. I put my thumb straight through the back of the blue pair when I pulled them up! I didn't quite get a full day's wear out of them before they'd already had it. Oh well. At least they were comfy, and I can probably re-use the elastic on another pair.

When I make more (out of some not-quite-so-old T-shirts), I can try them on before adding the elastic, and if the fabric has more stretch I can remove some of this extra width before adding the elastic. I'm looking at my son as a future source for T-shirts. He has a tendency to chew holes around the necks of his T-shirts (which I'm really hoping he will stop doing soon), so the rest of the shirt is fine! Not sure if I'll get the back piece of the undies out of them though.

So that's five T-shirt backs stashbusted. Not sure how I'll account for that with the stashbusting, but you can be sure that I will!

I'm still on the lookout for the best elastic for the job, but I have plenty of the black fold over elastic, and white bra elastic and bra strap elastic on hand if I feel the need to make more undies sooner rather than later.

Do you have an unusual success story with elastic choice?


  1. I also find the elastic the tricky bit. I did see someone recently who used shirring elastic on the leg holes, can't remember who though! I mean to try that sometime.

    1. Apart from regular old elastic, that's the one elastic that I have a lot of that I didn't try. I didn't think it would work for me!

  2. I used a really simple self-drafted pattern a few years ago that didn't require any elastic. I wish I could remember where I got the idea from since those undies were soooo comfortable. Of course, they stretched out after several months of wear and wash, but the original fit and feel were superb. It was all scalloped edges and I think there were only side seams. I was obsessed with making dresses for my niece at the time, so I didn't put much effort in to the underwear project. I regret that now. ;)

    1. Maybe it's time to revisit that project! I was even thinking of trying out a bikini bottom with my pattern, but first to overcome my fear of sewing lycra.