Monday, July 15, 2013

Sewing Skivvies: Tutorial from Naomi at One Avian Daemon on Drafting Underwear!

Whenever I see someone take the Seamless Pledge, a pledge where they will only make their own clothing OR buy used from a second hand or vintage store, most people include a clause that they plan on continuing to buy their underwear. I've unofficially taken the pledge and stuck with it for 2.5 years, though mine started because I was poor, and I too had an unwritten clause about buying underwear. But why? Why does underwear seem so mystical to us?

I made my first bra, which was ridiculously easy and still so, so comfortable. For real, I actually wore it all weekend rather than going bra-less, mostly because I forgot I was wearing it. And remember how I was all sad and felt strange about it flattening out my chest? Apparently this is normal, and I had no idea. None. (Too many fake chests on TV maybe?) Your comments and support amaze me, and I am so encouraged to continue making more bras. I may delve into a push-up bra at some point so I can have the stereotypical look for certain occasions, but right now I think I want to continue being comfortable and I'm going to make another Jasmine in skin-tone.

So what about underwear? That seems the next natural progression and it even seems easier than bra making. The underwear I buy doesn't always fit right. It's too loose, too tight, or it rides up so I should definitely make my own, but I've been a bit nervous to try. Ashley experimented with some Amerson undies and found they were too small all-over, including the crotch!

I asked Naomi from One Avian Daemon to do a tutorial about making underwear. If you haven't heard of her, definitely check out her blog. She makes beautiful self-drafted clothing and usually includes tutorials so you can easily achieve the same look!

Naomi in a gorgeous shirt she made from a tablecloth with sentimental value.
Naomi is a self-taught seamstress who sells her clothing on etsy and in boutiques in the San Francisco area. Last week I linked to her 7 part series on how to draft your own swimsuit, and today she's teaching us to draft our underwear! On her blog she's written about using fabric scraps for underwear, but this tutorial has more details on the fabric and finishing technique - perfect!

Making underwear is fun and easy! It doesn't take much fabric, so you can use left over scraps or buy expensive silk you wouldn't be able to afford in larger quantities. Almost any fabric will do: stretchy jersey is easiest, but you can use a woven fabric if you make it a bit bigger than you are and gather it in with elastic at the waist and leg holes. The liner should be cotton or jersey (a stretchy knit fabric), preferably both.  

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To make underwear in my size (small), I usually use about 1/4 yard of fabric and 2 yards of elastic. Larger sizes will need a little more fabric and a lot more elastic. I've written in the past about the pattern I like to use for underwear, but if you like a different style it's easy to make your own pattern. 
Just pick out some undies you like and trace them onto a piece of newspaper or other large paper. This is easiest if they're worn out and you don't mind cutting them up - then you can just cut along the seams, but even if you don't want to do that you can trace the back easily, and the front by carefully folding and scrunching up the back so you can see the leg holes. Remember to add in seam allowance, particularly along any seams where you're going to use elastic. 
Once you've sewn together your undies you have to finish the edges. The most fun way to do this is with decorative lingerie elastic. To use it, sew the elastic to the fabric with the right sides facing each other (as if you were making an ordinary seam) using a slight zig zag stitch. Then fold the elastic under, and top stitch using a wider zig zag. 
You can also finish the edges using regular 1/8 inch elastic. Sew the elastic to the wrong side of the fabric at the edge of the leg hole, using an 1/8 inch zig zag stitch, beginning at the crotch seam. Hold the elastic tight, but don't stretch it. When you've gone all the way around the leg hole and reach where you started, cut off the extra elastic. Fold the edge of the leg hole over so the fabric warps over the elastic. Fold again. Sew down this folded edge with an 1/8 inch zig zag, stretching the fabric and elastic slightly as you sew. 
A third option is not to use elastic at all. I like this for underwear I'm going to wear with tight jeans, because it doesn't leave any elastic lines. But it also means there's nothing to hold the edges of the underwear in place (besides your pants), so it doesn't work well at all for underwear you're going to wear with dresses. If you have a serger, it looks nice to finish the edges with a lingerie hem stitch. But if you don't you can just fold the edges over like a regular hem.

Naomi makes it look so easy and beautiful! I'm especially intrigued by the lack of elastic - I may have to sew a couple different types of underwear this week! Have you made underwear before?


  1. I never thought to just to use a hem stitch to finish my underwear(i always use elastic) I might try it on the leg opening and then add a band on the top since I only wear briefers :)

  2. I'd love to make underwear someday soon! Thanks for the links! Personally, I haven't made my own yet (even though I have a make or buy only used clothing pledge), because I don't need any new underwear at the moment and finding the right fabrics is much harder for underwear than it is for other clothes (not much to choose from at local fabric stores).

    1. Ha, it's true, you don't always need new underwear like you do dresses. ;-) Not sure what options you've got at your local fabric store, but I think I'm going to start simple with some cotton and jersey and I'll report back!

  3. Just featured your flapper dress on my new Sassy Sewing Bees page page. Absolutely love it

    1. Thank you so much - glad you like it! It was surprisingly easy to make!

  4. Oh, thanks for the tute!! And, you know what?? I used Naomi's tutorial and pattern for my swimsuit bottoms! I love them, but the sizing was a bit off, since I think the fabric I used did not have as much stretch as some swimsuit fabric and was quite thick, so I had to re-sew it a size bigger.

    1. Ooh, thanks for letting me know about the sizing - so crazy that you used her patterns for the swimsuit!