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.
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!