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What I’ve learnt about sewing undies

19 Jul

Undies, knickers, panties, those things! Being an Aussie I’ll refer to them as undies, m’k?

A personal goal of mine is to make my own lingerie, inspired by the likes of Bloom’s Endless SummerHandmade by Caroline, Sewaholic, and all the lovely patterns and blog posts on sewing lingerie to be found in the online sewing community. I figure ‘if you guys can do it, then so can I!’ Right? Right!

(I’m sure I got this at attitude from being a little sister. All my life I’ve watched my older sister do stuff, and I’m thinking ‘If SHE can do them, then so can I!’ Mum reckons this attitude always annoyed my sister no end. Poor Kylie!)

Sewing lingerie is a pretty daunting goal though, so I divided it up, starting with undies.

What do I want in a pair of undies?

I feel kinda crazy talking about the different roles of undies in my life! But there’s no point in sewing undies I won’t wear, be them ever so pretty in my lingerie draw, so bear with me?

I need to:

  • be able to walk over an hour in them
  • dance over and hour in them
  • bike ride an hour in them
  • do a pilates class in them
  • not have to adjust them just at that moment I am sighting a feral pig down the length of my arrow – or even having just gotten out of the car, for that matter
  • not have them show under my clothes
  • look suitably cute and appealing when viewed by my partner

Gosh I don’t ask much, do I!

There’s a few rtw styles that fulfil the requirements – the ubiquitous Bonds hipster bikinis(left) and Parisian knickers (right).

I can buy them fairly easily, so why am I so determined to make my own? Well, the Bonds bikinis are BORING. The Parisian Knickers are hard to find in cotton – polyester undies in this climate? No thankyou O_O. But mostly because they just don’t last long . I suspect this is a climate issue – the lycra in the fabric dies within 6 months. It happens with t-shirts with lycra in them too.

Heh, and I bet too, that now I’ve told the world how much I like them, they’ll both be discontinued by this time next year.

Oh yeah, and, I like a challenge:-)

Patterns patterns patterns

I made a pattern from each rtw style.

Next I pulled out the most likely suspect from my pattern collection, a Kwik Sew boyshorts-style pattern from an op-shop. The pattern envelope has long gone so I don’t know the pattern number, sorry 😦 However here is the pattern after I’d muslined them for a one-way stretch cotton knit. (More on muslining later.)

I also looked online for more inspiration. I fell in love with the Granny Panny from Sew Vera Venus. She offers a number of truly awesome patterns for free, including the Granny Panny.

And lastly, I have a pattern from off the internet that I’ve thrown away the original printout, and on the tracing I kept, all I wrote on it was simply ‘Pretty Things’ . I have NO idea who or what Pretty Things undies are, but if you do know, please tell me so I can a) acknowledge them properly, and b) thank them, because they are really comfortable!

What I made!

The RTW undies: When made in similar fabric to the originals, both the Parisian Knickers and the Bonds bikini were almost exactly the same as the rtw. This surprised me. I had my doubts that copying a rtw pair would produce anything much useful, but it was actually really effective. Yay!

I don’t have a picture of the me-made Bonds bikini, but could you just take my word they were very comfy? Here are the Parisian Knickers:

Photo

For these, I used stretch lace fabric found in the scrapbooking section of Officeworks. Seriously. *rather bemused* All I can say is it is a good advertisement for the value of reaching out to touch every textile you ever see 😀 It was only when touching it that it became obvious it was stretch lace. Why you’d need stretch lace for scrapbooking, I don’t know…?  The fabric is modal jersy/lycra from Dharma Trading and I’m sadly disappointed by it. It’s a nice comfy stretchy cool fabric – that pills the moment it’s washed. And I have a front loader I only use cold water with, so I am not butchering them 😦

The Kwik Sew supposed boy-shorts in one-way stretch cotton from Spotlight (This is how they ended up after adjustments to make them fullfil the Undies Requirements. Not exactly boy-shorts anymore, are they!)

My version of the Granny Panny (Oh why isn’t my photo all neat and shapely like Sew Vera Venus’s?), in a very funky purple polkadot cut a dress I found in an op-shop. I never took to the dress, but as a pair of Granny Pannies? LOVE!!!

 

The mysterious Pretty Things undies, in modal rayon/lycra from Dharma Trading, and stretch lace from Spotlight. Very comfy!

Hey Imogheena, just get to the good stuff already!

ok ok, So what have I learnt?

Patterns…

  • Why have more than one pattern? The patterns have very different layouts – some take up a lot of fold, some barely use a fold. Some are made of one big pattern (nice and easy to work with!), others two or three smaller pieces which fit on small scraps of fabric better. For eg I got 2 Parisean briefs out of a singlet top requisitioned to undies-making. If I’d used the Granny Panny or even the Bonds bikini, I’d have only gotten one pair from it. Conversely, with the modal rayon/lycra, I could get more Bonds bikinis than any other type. However it was so slithery, the Granny Panny with only one main piece, would actually have been easiest to use.
  • Crotch style (eg attached only at the sides/a seam down the centre/no seam/sandwhiched onto the front and back etc) has a huge bearing on how comfortable undies are, and there seems to be as many different versions of crotch-linings as there are undies patterns!  I found it’s pretty easy with a bit of judicious tracing and perhaps a seam added or taken away, to adjust most undies from one crotch-lining style to another. The increase in comfort a crotch-lining in your prefered style creates is well worth the effort.

Muslining undies…

  • Muslining is really really useful. And I HATE muslining, so I don’t say this lightly! Often quite small differences in stretch and recovery between fabrics can make a huge difference when on your body.
  • It works an absolute treat to literally draw with a pen where you want the exact leg-opening and waist-opening to fall on your own body! It was perhaps the most useful thing I worked out about sewing undies. Yeah! Go me!
  • If you do draw the openings on your muslin, it helps to have fabric to draw on, so cut extra length in the leg and waist openings.
  • There are tutorials out there that teach you how to adjust the pattern to different fabrics. (Using this principal in this tutorial by Cloth-habit) However they don’t take into account the lengthwise stretch or lack, of a fabric. But this is important for the comfort. You can do the same calculations for the length, but neither of these approaches necessarily made the leg opening fit well. (Noooo I’m not finicky! Honest!) I found muslining the easiest way to solve all of these issues at once.

Elastic and stretch laces…

  • The width of the stretch lace needs to be calculated into the fit. ie if the fit is perfect with 2cm wide lace, if made with 4cm lace it isn’t gonna fit right, especially through the crotch which will now be 4cm wider than drafted. Yeah I know. Obvious when spelled out, right?! Fortunately it’s easy to just cut that extra width off the pattern pieces before applying elastic.

How much elastic/ stretch lace to apply to each opening?

Like fabrics, different lingerie elastics and laces all have a different stretch and recovery. You want to get this bit right. After all a leg-opening that binds is a misery; too loose a waist and you might lose your duds, too tight and you’re back to misery. I decided the best thing to do was just experiement. Make 200 undies! (Well, not literally. I  mean the 200 zips concept) figuring eventually it would all make sense. And it did! Phew!

Firstly I simply measured each kind of elastic around the relevant body part at the taughtness that felt comfortable. Boy did that not work! Often the elastic I’d cut would be longer than the opening it was supposed to pull in. Huh? Even when it was smaller than the opening, once applied it was usually just too loose.

Eventually I realised that so long as the undies fit nicely, all you need is to cut the elastic a bit smaller than the circumference of the opening. DUH!! So obvious – well, now I’ve worked it out…

The caveat is: the ‘bit smaller’ varies with the stretch/recovery property of each elastic, and I haven’t yet found a way to work out how much by other than trial and error. I’m open to suggestions!

Fortunately I’ve now done so much trial and error I’m starting to intuitively know how much smaller particular elastic needs to be.  The 200 zips principal at work. YAY!

THEN I discovered that like bras, elastic in undies loosens as it ages. *facepalm* (I blame the Bonds hipster bikinis that I didn’t know this already – the fabric dies long before the elastic does.) So now I add that into my calculations too.

Construction…

This is the easiest way I’ve found, it means you’re applying elastic to a long edge rather than in the round, making it a lot easier to handle and match the elastic evenly along the fabric.

  • Sew the crotch seam and sew or baste the crotch lining in
  • Apply leg elastic to both leg edges
  • Sew up one side seam
  • Apply elastic to waist
  • Sew the other side seam up

 

Applying Elastic…

I’ve seen many suggestions for applying elastic, and duly tried them all. I’m really sorry that I can’t credit these suggestions correctly because they were gleaned from many late nights vegging out on pinterest and following links and I’ve long forgotten who said what. They’ve come from tutorials on adult lingerie, children’s undies (Do children have lingerie???) and swimwear for both adults and children. One day I intend to sort my Pinterest sewing boards a bit better, when I do I’ll come back and link to the lingerie-sewing board.

The suggestions:

‘Stretch the elastic more across the back than the front leg opening.’ IME it makes no difference and is a pain to do, so I don’t do it.

‘Stretch the elastic and the fabric a bit’ and conversely ‘only stretch the elastic to fit to the fabric’ IME this also makes no difference. What DOES matter is that you have good control of both fabric and elastic. Some elastics sit better on fabric that is stretched, others on fabric that is lax. Some fabrics are easier to sew the elastic to when stretched, others not. I do what works best.

The other important thing this impacts on is the stretchiness of the seam itself. I discovered the seam itself needs to be very very stretchy. If the seam is any less elastic than the lace it feels binding. The zigzag chosen needs to be very wide, and not very long.

And not elastic but still a common suggestion, ‘You can cut up old t-shirts to make undies!’ Hmph. See the point about muslining. By the time you’ve muslined there probably won’t be any fabric left for the Real pair. However if you’ve sewn 200 undies (or thereabouts ;-P) you’ll have enough experience to use t-shirts effectively. But when learning? IME it makes it harder, not easier.

 

Pretty pretty undies all cut up (from two singlets I wasn’t using) and ready to sew up 🙂

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Vogue 8888 or: a sweet but scratchy vingette

1 Sep

According to wiki, a vingette originally meant “something that may be written on a vine-leaf.” Hmm. A written on a fig might be more appropriate for these lovely french knickers?

 

  • Fabric/trims/notions used
Royal blue rayon cupro (an op-shop find!) YUM!
Black nylon embroidered lace
Underwear elastic
  • Inspiration

I’ve been working on sewing my own undies for a while, having a lot of fun – and no little frustration – experimenting. Vogue had a $5 per pattern sale at Spotlight recently. An invitation I can’t pass up on. I saw this gorgeous-looking pattern and nabbed it. I have some idea of one day making that wrap. And one day making a cami from it too. But this week I made the french knickers

  • Construction notes

The knickers are cut on the bias. I cut out the largest size – 20, not sure how the fabric would behave, and if the measurements given were stretched bias or non-stretched or what? Let alone having no idea how tight they might be across the top of my thighs, which are quite big. (Dancing. Gotta love it!) Ended up being just fine across the tops of my thighs, but a bit too big in the hips so I cut it right back down to size 14 in the hip, sizing up to 20 in the thigh. I could possibly have sized them down in the thigh a bit too, but they’re perfectly comfortable so I may as well leave them.

I liked the instructions to sew the seam, then simply sew it again just inside the original stitching. I haven’t thrown them in the washing machine yet but being bias-cut I think that’s likely all the seam will need to stay neat and not-unravelling.

The elastic around the waist is pretty loose. I didn’t use the elastic guide, I just estimated on my own hips but I think it needs a more solid affair around the hips. I might cut it off and redo it. The rise is high enough I could easily get away with losing a half-inch from elastic mistakes and the knickers still work.

Rather than following the instructions to put the lace over the actual fabric of the knickers then cut the excess fabric under the lace away, I added it to the bottom of the leg hem. This made them wider in the crotch and longer in the leg. Cute over the leg, but really annoying in the upper thighs, bunching up. I’m not entirely sure I actually like wearing french knickers. Owning them, yeah! But wearing them? Another matter entirely. But with these ones I could actually see that the width in the crotch is vitally important to comfort. Too wide it will start bunching between the upper thighs and pulling the whole garment out of wack. Aha! Maybe if I make the crotch the actual same width as my own self in that area, the knickers might sit nicely not pull out of place when I move, thus staying fitting nicely and be *gasps* comfortable and cute all in the one lingerie garment. That would be a major WIN!

Seeing if I can fix them so they don’t bunch won’t be too hard because …. WAGH!!! The lace is scratchy 😦 So much so, that in spite of it making the knickers extra-sweet, I’m gonna chop it off, and either replace it with a simple gathered edging I have in my stash or, of that looks like it won’t work in the crotch area, I’ll just rehem it and try it out sans any trim or lace.

  • Cost

Fabric: 50c op shop find

Elastic – $1

Lace $3

Pattern $5

total: $8.50. Hmmm, that’s competitive with my go-to rtw Bonds hipster undies. Kewl!

  • Last word

In spite of my plans to pretty much redo the waist and leg hems, I couldn’t resist taking a piccie and doing a post coz they’re so very very sweet as they are. Looks-wise, at any rate. We won’t mention the effect of horribly scratchy lace on the comfort of them!

The Galah Bra (Yes! I made a bra!)

31 Oct

And yes, it’s pink and grey again…

Kwik Sew 2489

  • Pattern: Kwik Sew 2489

Found it in an op-shop years and years ago!

  • Inspiration:

All the beautiful bras and lingerie people have been sewing then posting onto their blogs. Mmmmm!

  • Fabric/notions/trim used:

Stretch (ish) satin in pink and grey galah colours from a  previous project idea I never actually did. (told you I love those two colours together 🙂

Pink bra fastening, straps and underwire casing cannibalised from a bra whose cups had stretched out of shape while still fairly new.

Lingerie elastic from Booby Traps I bought years ago (ie last time I decided I’d give bra-making a go.)

  • Construction notes:

I put the bra fastening on the opposite way to RTW bras. Do you know how difficult it is to do up and undo because of that? Like being 12 again and trying to put bras on for the first time in my life!

Fitting issues: I don’t know why it surprised me that I had similar fitting issues in a sewing pattern bra to RTW bras, but it did. The top of the cup cuts into my bust in RTW and this bra pattern. I must have quite a full high bust, I think. I get around this issue by getting stretchy cup-fabric in RTW bras. But in this satin the “stretch” was really only a token stretch. So I took to the bra with my scissors and sliced into the top bra cup piece, let it open to where it needed naturally, then filled in the gap with a scrap of fabric.

It actually worked! I measured the width of the gap and it is 4cm. So next bra I make I’ll redo the cup, cut and spread it, maybe in three different places to get a more even spread of the extra 4cm.

I also think I’ll run a line of clear elastic along the top of the cup for extra safe keeping. And possibly make the top edge of the cup a bit higher so everything stays neatly were it is supposed to.

I was looking at the cup style of my latest fave RTW bra. That side cup piece is interesting. I’m considering drafting that cup and try that as a pattern. So many possibilities!

 

Take a look at the inside of the bra. So messy! The satin frayed the moment I touched it, so in some parts I just had to zig-zag right over the edge, like at the base of the cup pictured. Also, white in the elastic side and grey on the outer would have looked much nicer. *takes notes for next time*

  • Cost

50cm stretch satin = $5

Pattern = 50c

Total = $5.50

  • Final word:

Hey, it worked!!! 😀 It is very comfortable too. Bonus! Must go make another one. It was a lot easier than I expected.

Bloomer love

7 Oct

I’m getting in early with the Christmas presents. Why yes, I am so organised, aren’t I!

The moment I made up my Madeleine mini-bloomers I could see my sister loving them too. I mentioned this to my mother. Her reaction was “Oh I don’t think that is the kind of thing K___ is likely to wear.”

“Mum,” I said patiently, “it wouldn’t be for her to wear them, but for her to take them off. Or preferably have her Gentleman Friend remove them for her!”

Since my sister doesn’t read my blog (Hey don’t worry, it’s mutual – she’s got a work blog I never read either :-P) I can put all my ideas down here. I have plenty of white silk dupion burning away in my stash, so I will make her a chemise to go with the bloomers, from Simplicity 9769, undergarments from the America Civil War. Apparently the chemise is quite complex with underarm gussets etc and when finished as per instructions is as beautiful inside as it is out. Sounds like an enjoyable challenge.

The bloomers in this pattern however, don’t appeal at all. I’m pretty sure she’d prefer the Madeleine bloomers. However, just because I know exactly which pattern I intend to use, it didn’t stop me from going on a Bloomer Adventure because …

I got a new overlocker!!!! Ok it is second hand, but in very good condition. And with far more bits and bobs and possibilities than my old one (the motor on it died *sniffles*). I realised if I made myself a pair of bloomers too, all the lace application and pintucks and elastic would be a good way for me to really put my new overlocker through its paces and for me to practise the decorative features on it. Sensible of me eh? Try it all out while making something beyoootiful. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

I’ve put this photo here for inspiration for my sister’s christmas present. Isn’t it lovely?

Although her bloomers will probably end up closer to this in style.

I like the way the leg narrows in and the nice thick frill on this one.

This one is extra-fancy. Pintucks above the leg elastic as well as what looks like two layers of leg-ruffle. I’m quite taken with the concept of a ribbon in colour with the rest of them totally white.
These are about the length I’m looking for for myself. Mid-thigh. A lot of the bloomers I found said the elastic in them is a draw-string and adjustable. I like that idea. The most practical way of doing the leg elastic I think.

This has the virtue of being Very Simple. Maybe too simple to really try out the overlocker. Oh well…

Pretty top! Nice idea of lace along the top and the waist elastic. Oh wait, aren’t I supposed to be looking for bloomers? Oop!

Yum yum! Eyelet lace. Looks like two layers of it. I just love the white wholesomeness of this one.

I rather like the black one below the white. Mmm!

Dancers in bloomers and camisoles! Can it get much better than that?

I’m totally in love with this one. Cami-knickers ie all one piece, top and bloomers. Very nice. If I did it in another colour than white I reckon I could wear it out and about 😛

Pretty top. I really like the double layer of lace. Unusual and pretty. I want! (Not sure why they show it with the woman wearing just plain lace undies. Why not a nice petticoat or something? Meh, wotever.)

Oh look! Lace around the top as well as the legs. YUM!!

This is closest to the overall shape I’m looking for, for mine. Same leg length and same fullness, and that lower waistline. I also like the effect of white trim on black.

Well, that was fun. Yay for Google Image Search. Goodness knows how my sister’s and my bloomers will end up, but never fear, I will blog about it when they’re finished!

Tropical dreams inspired by Folkwear’s Beautiful Dreamer nightgown

26 Sep

Nightie from McCalls 8108

McCalls 8108 1 hour dresses

  • Fabric/trims/notions used
Fabric is a quite finely woven cotton from Lincraft in Brisbane over a decade ago. Thus proving that yes indeed I do use almost all the fabric in my stash … eventually.
1 inch wide white cotton batiste and embroidery lace, and a turquoise trim (polyester) from Spotlight
  • Inspiration
I’ve been in love with Folkwear’s Beautiful Dreamer for ages, (Of which I have the adult version of the children’s one pictured below) but the whole thing is just too heavy and hot for tropical nights. So I got my TNT McCalls 1 hour (in their dreams, more like 4-5 hr) pattern, and went to town with pintucks, lace and woven trim.
Here’s a close-up of some of the detailing
  • Useful info
I did the pintucks the traditional (?) way of folding over the fabric where I wanted the pintuck and sewing in a millimetre or two from the edge. I lost count of how many pintucks I did. In addition to the ones pictured on the front and sleeve, I did ones on the back, and around the bottom ruffle as well. I was driven completely barmy by them. So much so that when I next went into Spotlight and saw some soft white cotton voile with pintucks already sewn into it, I bought 3m on the spot. My slightly crazed justification was “So I’ll never have to sew another pintuck!!!”
  • Construction notes

I cut the fabric into two big pieces, one for the front, one for the back. I then measured carefully where I wanted the pintucks to sit across my shoulders, and how deep I wanted them to go. I did the same for the back, but since they were in the centre it was a lot easier to work out what do to with them.

Next I did the pintucks on each piece, ironing the fold first on the ironing board where it was easier to measure them all up accurately, then stitching them. Then I cut the pattern out from the big pieces. With the side seam I just pushed all the extra fullness from the pintucks into the centre fold, so I was essentially cutting the same pattern, but just wider by the amount I’d used in the pintucks. Because the pattern is so simple it worked really well.

I also kept the side bust dart in the pattern, mainly because I am noticeably fuller in the front than back. A combination of a c-cup front and a very flat, short back means that I do need proper shaping in the front. Otherwise the fabric pulls up and sits out at the front, looking awful and feeling uncomfortable. I know it is a nightie and all, but I wanted one that looked pretty and felt pretty, not one that was a compromise.

For the ruffle pintucks I cut the ruffle the required length (For ruffles I generally use a length that is half again of the thing I’m gathering onto. So in this case, the nightie hem was 2m wide, I made the ruffle 3m wide.) I sewed the pieces together with a flat-felled seam, making sure I was creating a circle, not twisting the pieces into a figure 8! Next, I sewed the pintucks. 5 of them x 3m ruffle. O_o

  • Cost
Uh, uh… if you’ve had the fabric for so long you’ve forgotten how much it cost does that mean it is free?
Trims $6 total
Pattern: $0. This was the 6th or 7th use?
Impulse purchase of ready-pintucked cotton from Spotlight $30. (I know I know…*sheepish*)
  • Last word

This fabric gets softer and softer each wash. A very nice trait in a nightie! And I feel so romantic and delightful in my lovely nightie 🙂 It is comfortable to sleep in, and nice to waft round the house in when awake!

Inky blue silk mini-bloomers (Colette’s Madeleine mini bloomers)

22 Jan

Haha! My first dot-point post.

  • Inky Blue Silk Mini-bloomers (completed early Jan 2012)
  • Fabric/trims/notions used
Blue sari silk. A word on this: the sari was from ebay, sold as “good for home decor or clothes sewing” I LOVED the colour. 5m of Inky blue sari silk with think border edges woven in gold, and blue silk. Can it get much better?
Well, when I got it, It sure as hell wasn’t 5m. More like 4.5. I complained to the seller, whose only response was “Saris are 5m long. Saris are 5m long.” I do wonder if he (an Indian) had gotten 5 yards mixed up with 5m? That is the charitable conclusion, anyway.
I washed it by hand (can’t afford dry-cleaning, thanks… and it certainly didn’t come with a dry-clean only tag) the gorgeous gold woven edgings shrunk dreadfully. Completely useless for my envisioned loose long trousers with the border along the hem. Plus a few other garments, as 5m is quite a lot.
I cut the badly stuffed up edging off and threw the rest (plain blue silk) in the back of the cupboard. That was 5 yrs ago. It took all that time, plus the inspiration of this pattern, to pull it out and try to salvage something out of it.
A bit of elastic and a bit of thread.
  • Piccie of finished garment
  • Inspiration (for the garment)
All the other blogs out there! And they look so cute…
  • Useful info
I ended up choosing the sizing on the waist measurement, making sure it was big enough to go over my hips comfortably, but no bigger.
Other bloggers had noted it the bloomers are extremely low-slung. So I added an extra 3 cm to the top of them, so they wouldn’t be quite so low-rise. However when I put them on I realised I am far more used to low-slung undies than perhaps other bloggers and would have been totally ok with the original pattern designed.
The double elastic affair on the waistband is Good! It makes them sit a lot more firmly than a single row, but still retains the light airiness of thinner elastic (as opposed to one row of thicker elastic). I’ve used this technique on a pair of elastic-waist shorts
I also used elastic in the legs, for comfort, and it looked a darn sight (now, is that sight or site???) easier than their technique
This is a very nicely drafted pattern. Everything matches up, and taking into account the wide difference between their model’s figure and mine, looks just as pictured. As an introduction to Colette patterns, as it was for me, I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to try one of their other non-free patterns if the inspiration hit me.
  • Cost
Pattern: free. Thanks Colette people!!!

Fabric: OUCH!!! the sari was $50 plus $6 postage. OUCH!!!

Elastic and thread from stash.

  • Last word

These are really comfy under a loose dress or skirt. It is surprisingly comfy under trousers too. Sari silk is perfect for it. Oh and my sister-in-law has a pair and loves them too!

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