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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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Oops! I accidentally stifled my creativity.

10 Oct

Well, I thought it was a good idea to put aside sewing clothes for myself for a bit. You would have thought so too if you’d seen how full my wardrobe was!

I have Other Projects to do. Like some christmas presents. (Yep, I am organised, I’m working on christmas presents and it’s only early October. But the thing is, you see, I sew or otherwise craft my christmas pressies, so I need time to get them made. And most of my family is overseas or elsewhere in Australia so I need to get them in the mail early.)

I also promised my mum I’d make her some new dresses, her wardrobe, unlike mine was, resembling Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

I also need a new handbag. Of course, I could just go buy one. *chokes* and indeed it was starting to seem likely I’d have to, until… I found this pattern on Etsy. *dies in delight* in the shop Charlie’s Aunt. An independent pattern designer selling bags and accessory patterns with a retro 1940’s-1950’s flavour. Go check it out. It’s awesome!

Sewing pattern to make the Kitchen Garden Bag - PDF pattern INSTANT DOWNLOAD

Miserable thoughts of having to buy a new bag went straight out of my head. Clearly, I needed to make this bag!

Then I saw this bag pattern in the same shop:

Sewing pattern to make the Brideshead Bag - PDF pattern INSTANT DOWNLOAD

omg *drools* I’m sure I need two new handbags, right? Right! Of course I do! Especially as there was this promotion:

2 PDF sewing patterns of your choice

All in all, I thought it would be good to stop sewing clothes for myself, and sew and craft non-clothing stuff (like a new handbag!) for a bit.

That was about 3 weeks ago. And since then a very strange thing has happened. I’ve just stopped making anything. Ok so I’ve been sick, (nasty virus) but that usually only slows me down, not stops me completely.

And my overlocker has been on the blink. But it just needed a good clean and re-thread, which I’d usually do without it even registering I’d done it.

So why the lack of creative crafty sewing-y goodness?

After much thought the past few days, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve simply put a damper on my creative energy. I just love making clothes for myself so much I’m almost never out of ideas, or out of enthusiasm for it. (Or fabric, actually, but The Stash is another story!) I also do heaps of other crafting things alongside the clothes sewing, like decoupage, crochet, craft sewing. They get swept up in my overall creativity.

But putting those dressmaking ideas aside for a month or two has just cut my creative verve totally dead.

Weird feeling.

I also took a good hard look at the clothes in my wardrobe and decided very sadly that about 6 or 7 of them (OUCH!) were so faded and worn they needed to be consigned to the rag bin 😦 Clothes just don’t last long in this climate. Now my wardrobe is resembling Mother Hubbard’s cupboard a bit too!

I think I need to go sew some clothes for myself…

😀

Pattern drafting dreams

8 Mar

I am become more and more interested in drafting my own patterns. I’ve tended to be more interested in the construction and sewing than the actual drafting. But in the past few years, instead of buying yet another new pattern, I’ve thought “I could tweak that pattern I already have just a bit here and there.” I always did plenty of frankenpatterning and even tweaking but I’m doing more significant changes now – and succeeding in getting it to work too! (Always a bonus :-P)

My curiousity about drafting increased when I started teaching a plus-sized friend to sew. Her measurements are just a few inches toobig for the plus-sized patterns to fit. So I have had to teach her how to draft her patterns to be big enough to fit her, alongside teaching her the absolute basics like sewing a straight line. It really hasn’t helped that “Plus-sized” is usually “A bit bigger but still fitting within the shape and mindset towards bodies as “normal” patterns do. Which is woefully inadequate and inaccurate for most people I know with “plus-size” bodies. Crazy.

To add to the difficulty, she’s in Melbourne, I’m in Darwin, a whole continent between us. And don’t get me started on how slow my internet is. Regional Australia internet is CRAP. Skyping with video is almost impossible. Believe me, I’ve been thinking it might just be easier to draft a few basic patterns for her myself, and then work out how to tweak them to get different styles, than to do such big adjustments to existing patterns.

Then I started a pinterest account and through that I’ve found so many things about drafting, or tweaking patterns and I’m even more keen. The ones I’m drawn to the most are vintage and historical garments. Like this hat pattern I have from Mrs Depew  which consists of really simple instructions for drafting the ensemble. I haven’t made it yet but I’m really clear in my head how to make it. Although now I know how to do it, I’d probably just tweak another cloche pattern I have, to get the same effect.

Vintage Sewing Pattern French 1930's Cloche Hat, Clutch Bag and Scarf PDF Depew 1025 -INSTANT DOWNLOAD-

 

A step up from that is this 1889 chemise pattern from Tudorlinks.com (This is about as big a picture as I can get.)

Front View, Lady's Old-fashioned Chemise, 1889 - 1893

The most complicated bit would be the yoke and sleeve. Here is the pattern draft. It is only one size but I’m pretty confident in resizing things to fit my own sweet self’s body. These diagrams make perfect sense to me – presuming they’re in inches. In cms they might be a nice draft for a chemise for my daughter’s dolly 😛

Front & Back Yokes, Sleeve & Sleeve Band, Old-fashioned Chemise, 1889 - 1893

 

The only real snag is that I’ll have to work from the computer screen because Stupid Printer is being Stupid aka it won’t print. I think the error message was saying the moon was in the wrong zodiac house for it to be able to work.

The next step up (As I see it) I’ve already done – drafting a straight skirt to fit myself. I think I’d be more inclined to try drafting my own version of something like these. I could do with a pair of “Step-ins” I’m sure

Pinned Image

 

Also regarding Pinterest, I did something really rash and created a board for my sewing list. It’s HUGE!!! And it is missing a few things like the above chemise and hat. I’m not sure if I feel overwhelmed and intimidated when looking at that board, or just excited 😀

De-stashing!

3 Feb

Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I?

I have a bit of a weakness for op-shop patterns. Sometimes I grab them coz I’m sure I’ll use them, other times I grab them for an interesting collar or neckline, or I like the line. Any reason. They’re only 20c each so hey!

Oh ok, I confess, I bought some of them new…

Any questions, just ask!

Vogue 9512 sizes 6-10 dress and jacket, pattern uncut.

 

Reserved for the lovely Sew Busy Lizzie who’s just made cushion covers out of men’s shirts. How funky is that? Pockets for the tv remote control and all!Vogue 9512 size 6-10

McCalls 7946 sizes 8-10, uncut (knit dress and top)

Butterick 4988 sizes 14-20 (tops, uncut) I’ve made this but I didn’t really like the fabric so it was hard to like the top. It’s frou-frou but kinda fun.

Butterick 4032 sizes 12-16 (Jacket, skirt and pants) This looks gorgeous. I bought it when I lived in Canberra before the Winter defeated me and I ran home to Darwin and the tropics.

Style 3694 size 10 (83cm or 32 1/2 inch bust) printed 1974, cut but all pieces there.

Butterick 4198 (knit singlet top, t-shirt, jacket, shorts and trousers with elastic waist) sizes xs-m (bust 30 1/2 inches -36 inches or 77-92cm) uncut

Simplicity 7178 size 10-14 (Dress or top with asymmetrical closure and elastic-waist trousers) uncut

788888888y6uI’ve already nabbed myself something from Mercury – Handmade Fashion’s stash – this embroidered linen! Just my colour and fibre composition. I confess I’ve been back a few times to Pinterest to gloat over it. I wonder if I could ask her to send it to me asap. My birthday is very early March, it would be lovely to get it in time for that…

Lilac embroidered linen.  Piece measures 1m x 130cm wide.

The winner!

10 Dec

Of the pattern pyramid is Wendy of Sew Biased. Congratulations Wendy 🙂

And if you’re terribly sad about missing out there are still some of the Wellington Pattern Pyramids going. I really want that McCalls skirt and trouser pattern from Nikki’s Stitches give-away. But I can’t decide if it is just plain greedy to sign up for another pattern pyramid after already winning one, or not…

 

Anyway, happy pyramiding!

 

Heather Bailey voucher giveaway

17 Nov

I recently bought Heather Bailey’s Boho Cloche pattern. I’ve almost finished a hat from it, and I’ve made 5 flowers from her flower pattern!

 

I’m really impressed with the pattern. It’s very well drafted, and looks just the way it is pictured, and is quite an ingenious design of hat. (I know – I’ve sewn heaps of hats in my time). It also came with a little 10% off voucher if I make a purchase before the end of Nov.

I don’t have anything else I want to buy from her shop, and it seems a shame to let it elapse. So I’m taking the chance to say I’m very impressed with her pattern, and offering the voucher to anyone who would use it and find out for themselves the quality of what she is offering. First in best dressed! Let me know if you want it, and your email and I’ll send you the details!

 

Blouse pattern loveliness

10 Nov

I loves me a delicate white blouse. I loves me bias clothes. I loves me this pattern, Colette’s Jasmine Blouse, and I want to make it in some white silk I have in the back of the cupboard. I can order the pattern in Australia!  I just discovered SewSquirrel’s site thanks to sewbusylizzie‘. Er I think Sewsquirrel is in Aust. I’m not getting charged postage at anyrate, and you know what that means! More money for patterns!!!

Now, un-sidetracking from the point of this post, did any Australian readers watch Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries on the ABC earlier this year? I’ve read all of Kerry Greenwood’s books I’ve ever got my hands on, not just the Phryne Fisher ones, and thus just had to watch the shows. Ok ok of course I’m in love with Phryne’s wardrobe. I would have to be 6 foot under to not be. However I also just loved Dot’s blouses. She seemed to have a long procession of sweet often white or a subdued brown blouses with the collars edged in lace. ENVY!!!

Looking around for a pattern so I can have a sweet blouse with a lace-edged collar too, I found the Armistice Blouse from Folkwear.

Folkwear Armistice Blouse

Here is Casey of Casey’s Elegant Musings’ version. Oh I love this.

Then I remembered I have this pattern, which if you look closely and ignore the stamp on it, you can see the bodice and collar on the blue dress are very similar to the folkwear pattern:

Then I saw this fabric in Spotlight – cotton poplin, which I fell in love with and a wonderful friend bought me as a little present. (Thankyou so much S___ :-D). (Bet you can’t see where all this is heading!)

And I have literally a good few metres of this lace I crocheted myself, from an Irish Crochet pattern from the early 1900’s, similar time frame to the Folkwear Armistice Blouse:

I really like the tie-waist of the Folkwear pattern, as with this top, I discovered I like wearing looser-style shirts tied at the waist, so I figured if I used the bodice pieces but didn’t shape them in to the waist, I’d get the same effect.

And I’ve just cut it out! Stay tuned to find out how it all comes together…

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