sewing underwear: the extras

After sharing an underwear pattern, and some basics of how to sew underwear (well, at least how I do it! There are many ways that are all right. If it works, it’s right. That is what Elizabeth Zimmerman taught me), I wanted to show some other types of elastic you can use.

But first, a word of warning! See how the fabric is twisting and the underwear looks crooked? That is because I didn’t take my own advice about following the grainlines of the fabric! So don’t do what I did.

FO, or fold-over elastic
Fold-over elastic is a type of underwear elastic that is slightly shiny on one side, and has a faint grove in the middle. The grove is a handy guide in folding the elastic in half, and makes it easy to have an even amount of elastic on either side, as well as finishing the inside and the outside. This wasn’t the stretchiest elastic I’ve worked with, so I’d stretch it more than usual while sewing with it. (This is the source of underwear elastic that I’ve used.)

1.  With the right side of the fabric facing you, line up the grove in the middle with the edge og your fabric, and zig-zag. Choose a stitch-width that lets you stay inside of the grove on right side, and the edge of the elastic on the left side.


The grove in the middle makes it easy to fold the elastic over evenly.

2.  Fold the elastic over along the grove, and zig-zag through all layers (basically, in the same spot as the last seam, just through the extra layer of elastic).

3.  Step back and admire. Looks nice, doesn’t it?

Regular elastic
The downside to using regular elastic is that it doesn’t lie as flat and nicely as the other methods, but there is no need to buy special elastics if you don’t feel like it! This way doesn’t add elastic to the outside edge of the underwear like the other alternatives, so I’d recommend adding a generous half-inch to the pattern where you’ll be using this technique.  1/4″ or so would be a good size.

1. With the wrong side of the fabric facing you, line up the edge of the elastic with the edge of the fabric. Zig-zag all around. Fold the elastic in, so the fabric-covered side of the elastic is facing up. Zig-zag again. You can stop here and  have it look nice from the outside and ok on the inside. Or, you can fold and zig-zag again, and have the edge of the fabric completely encased and looking pretty on the inside too. Completely up to you!

Stretch lace
Using stretch lace to finish the seams is perhaps the easiest of them all, since it doesn’t require any folding!

1. With the right side of the fabric facing you, place stretch lace on top, overlapping the edge of the fabric. Zig-zag on top of the lace with a thread color that matches the lace. Depending on the width, you might need two rows of zig-zag-ing.

And that is it! I hope these posts can be helpful!

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Did you miss a post in this underwear-making adventure?

If you make a pair (or five?) from this pattern, please share! Comment, link back, and show off!

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9 responses to “sewing underwear: the extras

  1. I’ve been wanting to sew some underwear and these posts will certainly come in handy! I’ll let you know when I finish a pair.

  2. Pingback: I can’t believe I’m sewing underwear | Karla M Curry

    • I’m so glad! It took me quite a while to figure out what techniques I preferred and what made sense to me, and several rounds of tweaking the pattern itself to a shape I was happy with. I’m glad to see you’re trying different approaches and making it your own!

  3. 1. Can I modify the pattern to XL or even XXL…or maybe XXXL (you get the idea!)?
    2. I realize the necessity of having an elastic waistband, but can the leg holes be made without elastic, or would they not stay put well?

    • 1. Of course! I’d measure a pair of underwear that fits you well, and compare that to the L size, to see how much they need to be increased by. Then, I would eyeball the changes that happen between the S-M-L sizes, and try to get the same overall shape in the larger size. I am planning on adding more sizes and improving the pattern based on feedback and offering the pattern for sale, but that’s a bit into the future. Let me know how it goes if you try it out!
      2. No, you don’t need the elastic in the leg holes. I’ve made several pairs without, and my experience is that either they fit in size but feel a little snug (since they don’t stretch too much), or they are comfortable but a little gappy. But really, the waist is the only place you *have* to have elastic.

      Good luck!

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