sewing underwear: adding lace inserts

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I have a long-standing love affair with sewing underwear, as shown from my first post on making underwear (6 years ago!) and the several more I’ve posted specifically since then. The little mini-series with my underwear free pattern and the how-tos of sewing them are the posts with the most traffic here on the blog.

I’ve made many more pairs of underwear than has made it on the blog (really, they all look the same after a while!), but some experiments have turned out so well I want to share them. I’ll call this the fourth installment in the underwear series, and this is on inserting lace in a pair of stretch fabric undies. Note! I use a length of stretch lace ribbon, not a piece of cut lace fabric. Just so we’re all on the same page!

Directions:
1. Take your front (or back) piece and mark where you want the lace to go. I like mine on a slight angle, almost parallel with the side seam but quite as steep. Mark a line on the outside of where you want your ribbon to be. I mark not the center, but to the side so I can more easily line up the lace ribbon. If you know where you want the center of the lace to be, just make another line *half the width of the lace* towards the side seam.

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Cut the length of lace with a bit of overhang – this makes it easier during the sewing process. I actually don’t cut off the excess until after I’ve sewed across it however I’m finishing the leg hole openings and waist seam. I find this makes for a sturdier construction.

2. Use thread that matches the lace on top, and a bobbin thread that matches your fabric color. Sew down the ribbon with a zig-zag stitch on each edge. If the scallops are deep and pronounced, you might want to follow them exactly. Otherwise, just make sure you securely fasten the lace to the fabric on both sides. I sewed with a width of 3 mm, and stitchlength of just over 1 mm – at least the numbers on my sewing machine was 3 and 1! If the stitchlength is too short you’ll get wavy seams, so adjust to a longer stitchlength if that happens. 

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3. If you want appliquéd lace ‎and like the look of what’s going on, stop here! Assemble the rest of the undies as you would normally – check out my tutorial on sewing underwear for help with that. Continue with the steps if you want to insert a piece of lace, meaning you’ll see the skin through the lace when you wear the underwear.

3. Give the stitched on lace ribbon a good press. The elastic is made of synthetic materials, so you might want to use a presscloth. From the wrong side, cut down the middle of the fabric only, between the two rows of stitches. Cut carefully – you don’t want to accidentally cut your lace at this point!

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4. Press the excess fabric between the two rows of stitches to either side.

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5. Stitch another row of zig-zag stitches right on top of the first one, catching the folded layer of fabric underneath. If your lace is 1″ wide or more, you could also position the second row of zig-zag stitches to the outside of the lace, sewing only through two layers of fabric and avoiding the lace altogether. This makes for a little less bulk and secures more of the fabric excess on the inside.

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6. Finish constructing the underwear. I have several posts on sewing underwear with different types of elastics and other tips and suggestions, definitely check those out.

These pairs are actually made from a swapped tunic I shortened to a t-shirt. On the one I kept the finishing super simple and just overlocked all outer edges. For the waist I threaded a thin round elastic through the overlocked loops on the back and tied a knot to secure. For the second pair I went on lace elastic overload and just used it everywhere! For the leg hole openings I overlapped most of the elastic with the fabric, and did two rows of zig-zag stitches to secure it down, while for the waist I overlapped just about 1/3 of the elastic, and sewed just the one row of stitches.

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

• Sewing underwear: the (free) pattern
• Sewing underwear: the basics
• Sewing underwear: the extras

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

underwear: successes and failure

I think it’s well established that I like to make underwear. They are just so quick, and instantly gratifyingly easy! Most of the time, at least. Behold, two successes and a wadder:

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Let’s start with the ugly. It’s my second go at the Amerson pattern, and with this one I do give up. I won’t be trying this again. With some lessons learned from the previous one, also a wadder, I was meticulous with seam allowances, and changed my color scheme to be less boxer-meets-clown-like (as witnessed in my previous attempt). And I still can’t make it work! I know there are many fans out there, so maybe it was my fabric choice being bad again, (a cotton voile or lawn might be better suited to give some structure), maybe my use of fold-over elastic was ill-advised since it is much softer in its elasticity, or maybe it’s just not a style I feel cute in. I don’t know, but this here thing will not be living in my underwear drawer:

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I thought the chiffon layered over lace could look cute. I’m not sure I’m totally sold!

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The other pairs were more of a non-brainer, since they’re made with my very own pattern (it’s free! Click here to read more and download). I’ve made these so many times I could maybe break into single digits of minutes spent sewing these up. Especially with this version – since the jersey I used was pretty stretchy, I could actually get away with not adding any elastic anywhere. This probably only works if you have a fabric that is both fairly stretchy, but also with good retention – that it will snap back into shape.

I didn’t measure exactly how much, but I did cut the waist- and leg-opening bands shorter than the openings themselves, 10% smaller maybe? I used my still new serger to whip these up, which both takes less time and makes them look more professional, score! Isn’t the fabric fun? I totally fell for this funny tetris-like print at my local fabric store, and I have an almost finished jersey dress in the same pattern that I intend to finish some time soon. It ended up being to big in the sides, so I just have to decide how much, shave that off, and finish the edges. Haha, I could have a matching dress and underwear set! Didn’t think of that until now. I was just using up the jersey remnants in my favorite way!

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!

sewing underwear, the basics

Ready to sew some underwear from a t-shirt? Good! Need a pattern? Check out my previous underwear-sewing-post with a free pattern to download!

In this “how to” I’ll be covering the basic construction of underwear with this turquoise and brown specimen below as a sample. Next underwear-post will cover some other alternatives for adding elastic, including fold-over (FO) elastic, and the bare-bones regular kind of elastic.

You  will need:

  • pattern for underwear
  • 1 t-shirt
  • ballpoint or jersey machine sewing needle
  • regular elastic, or specialized underwear elastic such as fold-on elastic (I’ve had very good experience with this company).
    The amount will depend on the size of the underwear, but roughly 2 yards pr piece of underwear? Continue reading “sewing underwear, the basics”

sewing underwear: the (free) pattern

Underwear. Knickers. Pants. Undies. Whatever you call them, I have a free pattern for sewing your underwear that I want to share with you! I’ve included several sizes; XS, S, M, and L – so I hope that is helpful!

I’ve been making underwear from t-shirts for years. My first undies-sewing attempt taught me that I should follow the grain of the fabric. The second time I discovered that twin needles are awesome. Most recently I’ve been playing around with different kinds of elastics to finish the underwear, and I’ll be showing that soon!

The “t-shirt underwear” pattern I’ve made is in the bikini brief style, but it can easily be tweaked to fit you perfectly. It’s graded in four sizes; extra small, small, medium, and large. I think the sizes should be pretty standard, but do let me know your feedback!

So if you want to make your own underwear, click the image above or the link below to download the pattern! The pdf includes the choice of 1 page in the 11″ X 17″ format, or 3 pages that you line up and tape together (it is formatted to work for both US Letter and European A4 – just make sure there is no resizing when you print).

Download the t-shirt underwear pattern!

I’ll be doing a couple of posts on sewing the underwear, the basics of how to sew them together, and then some options of how to finish them with different types of elastics. So be sure to come back for that!

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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!