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!

*     *     *

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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18 thoughts on “sewing underwear: the extras”

    1. 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!

  1. 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. 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!

  2. Hi, I understand from your tutorial above I have to stretch the fold over elastic but not the material on the first lot of stitching before you fold it over, but once you fold it over do you then stretch it again or just stitch it without stretching on the top /right side of the fabric???. I hope this makes sense. Great tutorial thanks for making it, very handy. I have done a overlock stitch on my raw edge to attach the wrong side to the wrong side of the elastic fold, now I am thinking about using a twin needle to finish the top/right side on my elastic, any idea if using twin needle stitch will have enough stretch?.

    1. Hi! I know you responded you already figured it out, but these are good questions. In the first round of attaching the elastic to the fabric I do stretch the elastic and not the fabric. In the second round you already have the elastic in the right place, so you don’t need to stretch it, but sometimes I do just to let everything lie flat. The stretching is mostly necessary to get the shorter elastic to match the longer length of fabric.

      Also – twin needle is a great way of finishing the right side! It has more stretch than a straight stitch since it has a zig-zag shape on the wrong side of the fabric, and is a super way of finishing stretchy fabrics if you don’t have a coverlock machine. I don’t have a coverlock machine myself (not yet! I’m hoping to buy one soon!), so twin needles are the way I finish pretty much all of my stretch fabric projects.

      Thanks for your questions and comments!

  3. . I was making myself underwear out of thrift store t-shirts in 1990! And? Nice Elizabeth Zimmerman reference. I was searching for a men’s boxer brief when Google led me to you. I have been experimenting with making my own pattern for boy shorts and so far, so good. I might have to give your pattern a go. So thrilled to see someone blogging about this! I get funny looks when I say I’ve done this, whatever people, what. Ever.

    1. Haha! I get some funny looks to – it’s not exactly what I tend to open conversations with… but in the blogging world, sewing your own underwear is the most popular thing right now! Well, specifically bras, but undies too. I’ve made some men’s underwear too, and they’ve been pretty successful. The hardest part, I find, is sourcing new appropriate elastic. By the way – Thread Theory has a men’s underwear pattern, if you haven’t already seen it!

      1. That is so very, very much the men’s underwear pattern I was trying to find! I could not remember the name of it. So getting ahead of myself with Christmas sewing.

  4. Hello Birgitte, I tried your underwear pattern, it was simple and they turned out great! Thanks for all your tips, they were my first homemade pair, but I hope to do more. :)

    I have a question for you, have you thought about your eternity? The Bible says “it is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgement…”(Heb 9:27) And, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”(2Cor 5:10)
    Would you say that you are a good person? Here is a quick test. Have you ever lied? Taken something that wasn’t yours? Taken God’s name in vain? Looked with lust? (Jesus said lust is adultery of the heart in Matt 5:28) If so, then you are a liar, thief, blasphemer, and adulteress in heart. (Just as the rest of us) Those are four of the ten commandments, if God were to judge you by His law would you be innocent or guilty? Would you go to heaven or hell?
    The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (Nahum 1:3), and no unrighteous person will enter the kingdom of God.(1Cor 6:9-10) Therefore, the just punishment for all sinners is hell. I hope you keep reading because there is good news for the guilty.
    “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Cor 5:21) This is what Jesus has done for sinners, He(God) took on flesh(John 1:14), and was obedient to His father even unto death on the cross.(Phil 2:8) We broke the law of God, but Jesus Christ paid our fine, he took our punishment, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities”(Isaiah 53:5) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:8) Christ rose from the dead three days after His death, conquering sin and death.(2Tim 1:10) What we need to do to be saved and forgiven is repent(turn from sin), and believe in Jesus.
    “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”(John 3:36)

    I write this to you because God has given me eternal life, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”(John 17:3). I love Him, and desire to obey Him by telling others the gospel. I truly hope you will consider what God has told us in His word and come to Christ. No one is promised tomorrow, our lives are like a vapor. “For, ‘all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass.'”(1Peter 1:24)

    Blessings, Katie

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