After that first foray into sewing lingerie, I got all excited and went out and bought more wide stretch lace for making more pairs, only to get sidetracked by something else (oooh! squirrel!). The poor lace sat in my stash for the next three years, until one day last week, I read the sewcialist blog and found out that July is officially Lingerie Sewing Month.
I'd been doing a lot of mending and alterations and refashions, and then I had a couple of not-quite-successful makes, so I was feeling uninspired. At first, I thought I'd just sew up a couple pairs to get my sewjo going again, but then I was seized with the Must Make All The Underwears frenzy and went on to feverishly sew a whole week's worth of them over the next several nap times. They're the perfect project for someone whose life is dictated by when the baby sleeps, because you can still get most of one finished even if SHB only naps for half an hour.
Because prolonged wear revealed that I wasn't a fan of the Lacy Tanga pattern I used last time (too low of a rise in front, although it does do its originally intended job of eliminating VPL), I decided to go on a pattern testing spree.
I started with Butterick 4331, a 1970s lingerie pattern, using my hacked up Blank Canvas Tee for fabric (when I was going through my closet and culling me-mades, I realized that I had somehow managed sew up the whole tee with the wrong side of the jersey facing out):
Verdict: kind of pretty I guess, but like one would expect from a Big 4 pattern, especially one drafted for the little-to-no-ease knits of the 70s, there was waaaaay too much ease. I cut off a whole two inches on each side seam! Also, I didn't have the right elastic in my stash yet, so the stretch lace I used for the leg openings is much too wide. It looks okay until you look at the crotch.
Mr. Cation's judgment: agreement re: the lace width, plus the color is off-putting because it's the same color as this one free t-shirt that we got in college -___-
Next up: So Sew Easy's free Cheeky Undies pattern, so that I could use up my stashed lace.
Verdict: again, pretty to look at, but unfortunately not practical for wearing. The pattern is clever in that it makes use of the scalloped edge of the lace, so no edge finishing is needed and there's no VPL to boot, plus it sews up ridiculously fast (maybe 15 minutes from cut to finish). However, if your lace is not very wide (the pattern calls for 4-6", mine was 5"), the rise is very low. I also have a pretty major concavity where my leg meets my hip in front, so the straight line of the lace results in too much fabric flapping around there (Especially obvious in the picture of the burgundy pair). If I'm feeling really motivated, I might go back and add elastic there to reign it in, but TBH, I probably won't.
Mr. Cation's judgment: "Ooh, those are nice!" But when I pointed out the extra fabric, he agreed that they weren't the best for long-term wear. "But you can just wear it before sexy times, right? Because you'll only need to wear them for a few minutes!"
Trial pattern #3: Cloth Habit's free Rosy Ladyshorts pattern, which calls for a 4-way stretch fabric with 60-70% stretch. I used an old t-shirt that had a 5% spandex content, but it was the only one I had and I can foresee having trouble sourcing appropriate fabric in the future. I also hadn't received my FOE in the mail yet, so the elastic is a mix of 1/4" elastic from Daiso for the leg openings, and 3/8" elastic from an Italian supermarket for the waist.
Verdict: Very comfortable, thanks to the elasticity of the fabric, and good coverage because of the cut. I obviously didn't go the recommended route with the stretch lace fabric and trim, instead opting to use what fabric and elastic I had on hand, so the final product is more functional than pretty. Still, I could see these making it into my regular rotation. If only it wasn't so hard to find fabric with the right stretch! Girl Charlee lists percent stretch on their website, but very few other knit stockists do. I tried calling some fabric websites' customer helplines and they were entirely unhelpful, so this might have to be a buy-in-person-and-bring-measuring-tape-to-test-stretch pattern, which defeats the purpose of being green by recycling old tees to make underwear.
Mr. Cation's judgment: YES. Surprisingly, it turns out that these were his favorite. Apparently he likes the boyshort cut, even though he doesn't get why they're called that. "They don't look anything like my shorts."
Trial pattern #4: So Zo's free knickers pattern, which were ideal for recycling old 100% cotton, minimal stretch/recovery, run-of-the-mill single jersey t-shirt fabric. In other words, all my free tees from college can be turned into underwear now.
Verdict: My personal favorite of all the patterns I tried! These were supremely comfortable and my prescribed size-according-to-my-measurements fit right off the bat without any adjustments. I think this will be my go-to pattern when I need new underwear. After the first pair, I did make the tiny adjustment of lowering the center back rise, much like Allspice Abounds described when she made up this pattern. My FOE joins also need a lot of work.
|I tried three different ways, and none of them are satisfactory: making a closed loop first, overlapping, and applying it before joining the side seams and then serging the cut ends. Anyone have any wisdom to offer?|
Mr. Cation's judgment: Fine, but as I mentioned above, he's not as much a fan of the bikini briefs. He is, however, a fan of saving money by using up old tees, so there's that.
All in all, my second foray into making underwear was quite successful! I came out of it with four wearable everyday pairs, and three bonus pairs. And then because I still had quite a bit of the red jersey left, I went ahead and made the matching slip from the Butterick pattern.
|First, a close-up.|
|Of course, I couldn't escape without at least one mishap...the lace on the back is wrong side out! *headdesk*|
Fabric: 3.5 old tees, doomed for the donation pile, all cotton.
Notions: Yards of 1.5" wide black stretch lace, inherited from a destashing friend; a few yards of black 5/8" FOE; miscellaneous stash elastic and ribbon
Other: A Sharpie laundry marker to draw cats on the one pair
Hours: This was several days' worth of naptimes; the intial pair took a good hour to figure out fit and process, but by the end I could bang out a pair in 15-20 minutes. I'd say that including the slip, this was a good six hours.
Total cost: $5 for the FOE, everything else was free from the stash! Although I guess if you were to be honest about the original cost of the wide stretch lace, that would bring the cost up to oh, $10?
Will you make it again? The Lady Shorts and the So Zo panties, yes; everything else, no.
Final thoughts: I never thought that sewing underwear would be so satisfying. I'd always dismissed it as one of those things that only "hardcore" people do, but I think it actually makes a lot of sense for a beginner sewist with the right pattern. There's nothing too difficult technique-wise, knit fabric makes for relatively easy fit, and unlike floofy party dresses you can definitely wear the results everyday. Bonus: if they turn out ugly, nobody will know since they're hidden under your clothes...I hope. Unless you're Superman, with his whole undies-outside-his-tights look. And I'm guessing that if you're going to be criticizing Superman for his Becky Home-Ecky undies, we've got bigger problems than that.
Lastly, I know that readers prefer live models instead of just laying garments out flat, or even mannequins, so here's Walnut to model the matched set!
|Why is red so hard to photograph? None of these pictures really captures the color. And then it really throws off the color balance of the whole photo and washes out Walnut's luscious fur.|
I am grateful for the proverbial kick in the pants (I didn't realize that this was Brit-speak for underwear, and American pants = trousers for them...oops!), Gillian et al! Lingerie-sewing was just what I needed. Now it's back to figuring out what my teaching wardrobe needs for the fall.
[ETA: I tried to test out the Indigorchid free T-shirt Underwear pattern too, since you know, t-shirts! Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to print right since two of the pages are scaled for a different size sheet, but you might be able get it correct with some futzing around with scaling. I just didn't have the time because SHB woke up.]