underwear, v2.0

I’m back with the underwear! This was my first attempt, and I’m happy to report that they are all still in commission. This batch is the new and improved version, and this is what I got out of a nice, soft, size M, cotton t-shirt:


So, to sum up, I learned a couple of things from sewing up the first round of underwear (hence these new ones being improved).

  • Pick t-shirts with care. Stiff is not so good because of the lack of give, soft is good, but supersoft is not better. Supersoft often means superthin too, which tends to make for a weaker fabric.
  • Avoid a lot of stress on the seams. Which sounds silly because it’s underwear, and should be able to put up with a lot of wear and tear. For the first batch of underwear I attached the binding by sewing right sides together, flipping over and around, and stitching in the ditch to secure the backside of the binding. This however, meant that there was a lot of tension where the binding and main fabric were joined, especially since I used a straight and non-giving seam.
  • Lay pattern-pieces on the grain. My thrifty self wants to get every use out of that t-shirt, but you will end up with a stretchier piece of underwear that doesn’t twist if you actually go with the grain, rather than randomly squeezing things in.

underwear_lineOps, I got the inside and outside mixed up on this one. See the zigzag-stitch on the binding?

Let’s get technical (skip this if you’re not too much into underwear construction!):

I used the same patterns as for the first pairs I made. The one for me has four pattern-pieces, and the one for the boy has six. For mine, there is the front and the back piece, and two identical gusset lining pieces. I sandwich the front piece between these two smaller pieces first, and sew them down. Then there is a little moebius-like magic, as I twist the smaller pieced layers before matching them up with the edge of the back piece. Doing it this way makes all the seams completely on the inside, nice and tidy. I use the neckband of the t-shirt as a waistband when I can, and since they usually are ribbed, they stretch and fit quite nicely. Similarly, I use the hem from the sleeves or the body for the binding as well. They all have a crease running down the middle already, which is convenient for matching up the fold with the top of the main underwear piece. For these pairs I sewed down the edges right sides together with a zigzag, before doing the matching up and tucking under (on the wrong side), and using a twin needle to secure the overlapping parts. This might all be a lot clearer with an image-heavy tutorial, I think! Perhaps I will do one if there is desire and interest for it?

The boy version is in many ways much easier to sew. First the two smaller front pieces go together (four pieces cut out, so two identical sets when this step is done), and then that is attached to the large front pieces on either side. The back seam is next, and at this point, I do a double top stitched seam on all seams, meaning that I sew a straight seam to either side of the pressed open seam. It’s not terribly functional, but it looks very nice. Now I add the second layer of the front piece, but seam allowances of these front panels facing each other, so it’s as nice and tidy as can be. I couldn’t find a way to tuck the edges of this piece under without making it bulky, so I left them raw and uncovered. They seem to be doing just fine – t-shirt material doesn’t really unravel. Almost done! After sewing the inseam, the hem is turned up and zigzag’ed (a twin needle would also work), and then the elastic waistband is secured with a zigzag-seam as well.


Waistband made from the t-shirt neckband, and a nice double seam on the binding, courtesy of the twin needle.

There we go, new underwear! And what have I learned?

  • Twin needles are my friends. They make a very nice, evenly spaced double seam on the right side, and a zigzag (and thus stretchy) seam on the wrong side.
  • The patterns should be symmetrical. I haven’t done anything to the pattern since I traced it from an old piece of underwear, and it’s not completely even. I think the pieces will sew together more accurately once I’ve retraced and fixed the pattern.

This is becoming a ongoing project I look forward to doing – it’s pretty quick and easy to do, so it earns instant gratification points. It’s also re-purposing, and I especially like how useful the end product is! With several t-shirts in my pile, it only becomes a matter of picking which color to do next!

14 thoughts on “underwear, v2.0”

  1. THREE underwear out of ONE shirt? My god, your hiney is small! I remember those days…no wait, that wasn’t me…it was my sister who’s always been thin.

    Anyway, this gives me inspiration to try AGAIN. And, just so you know, thanks to “karlamcurry” who referred me to your site.

  2. Aloha Bella Cherie!!
    A million beautiful thank you’s to you!!
    I am currently with child and have recently gotten back into sewing. I’m on the edge of figuring things out, I know in my heart there is an easier way then buying a pattern and following it. I would love it if you could share your men’s underwear pattern, and or make a tutorial? I would like to make a pair for my love for his birthday. I have searched for hours and finally found your site, which has pictures of exactly what I am looking for. I am still without a pattern. I will post pictures of underwear I make, however it may take me some time as I am still in the process of gathering supplies and multiple projects. Thank You sooooooooo very much for sharing!! Your work is amazing and inspiring!!

    1. Hello Elizabeth! Thank you for your comment and suggestions! At the moment I don’t have a pattern for men’s underwear, but I do have a women’s underwear pattern you can try out. I might eventually make a men’s underwear pattern, but in the meanwhile you can try what I did – either take an old pair of underwear apart to make a pattern from it, or to just lay it on top of paper and draw around it to get the shapes (that is a little more tricky, but still possible).

      Best of luck, let me know how it goes. And I hope you enjoy getting back into sewing!

  3. Hi Indigorchid,
    I have been hunting for a way to do the double crotch lining bit and thanks to you I have now found it. I am about to sew undies for myself. I have been sewing for many years and used to make undies for my children when they were little (store bought ones were too big) and even made training pants for them. But I just never made my own undies. I am your newest follower (email) and will let you know hoe the undie making goes.

    1. Hi Deidre! Welcome, and I’m so glad you found my posts helpful! Have you seen this one? It has some pictures that might be clarifying of the process!

      And do let me know how it goes – I would love to see!

  4. I was wondering do you find when you put them on that the seams bust alittle? is your zig zag you use stagered or do you just use plan zig zag? and do you make your zig zag long or close together?

    1. Hello Patrice,
      I find that the side seams get a lot of stress, and that they can bust a little. I’ve used a flat felled seam on the side seams a couple of times, and that works better since there isn’t just *one* seam that gets all the stress. I avoid using zig-zag as a final seam where it will be a “load-baring seam”, so to speak, because I find that the points of the zig-zag stitches eventually makes little holes in the fabric from the stress on the seams. Instead, I use regular zig-zag seams (not close together) to hold pieces together, but finish the seams with a twin-needle straight stitch. I don’t have an elastic seam option on my sewing machine, but this is a good alternative, as the front will have two evenly spaced seams, and the back will have a zig-zag looking stitch that allows for some stretching that the regular straight stitch doesn’t.

      Hope that helped!

  5. This is just what i was looking for (well, i think so, at least). I have been googling for an hour, and could not find ANY info on sewing ribbing to the legs on undies, or other things, where the edge looks finished on both sides. (like double bias tape, only it’s ribbing) I was wondering if they have some special machine to do that over in Asia where that stuff is made. Do they really sew it once, fold over the edging with the raw edge tucked under, and sew it again, like I would have to do (with uneven results, like i usually get)? I had no idea the twin needle was for anything but making two rows of straight stitches that looked good. I have seen the results of what you are talking about on many garments, without knowing what it was (or that you could do it without an overlock serger). Thanks!

  6. i actually have a bunch of old t-shirts saved up for making panties.. just got to improve my pattern, and explore the elastic stitches on the sewing machine! :)

    oh! question! about the twin needle – can i get that for any sewing machine, or did you use some fancy machine at uni? (or maybe Earl is just more special than other machines…:)

    1. Make them Petchy! ;) I actually don’t have elastic seams on Earl, something that I struggled with on the first batch of underwear – I mean, the seams need to be elastic, right? I’ve ended up only putting elastic in the waistband – I’ve seen several patterns with elastic on all three seams, but I’m ok without.

      The twin needle has the same upper shaft as regular needles, but then it turns into two needles (image here). They should be pretty easy to get at sewing machine stores, and they are shaped the same way standard needles are, so if those work with your machine, I assume the twin needle would work too! You do need two thread-sources for the upper thread, but I usually just wind an extra bobbin for that second thread.

      Show off the underwear when they are done, will you? I look forward to seeing them! :)

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