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!

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:


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:

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


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!

a reversible knitting hat Q&A


I recently checked in to my patternpage on ravelry, and saw my Reversible Biking Hat has passed 100 projects! Yey! I thought it could be nice to collect the questions I’ve gotten since releasing the pattern all in one place, so here we go – a little reversible biking hat Q&A. I’ll add to it as there are more questions, and hopefully it can be a resource! Follow this link for the actual Reversible Biking hat pattern.

What are the sizes?
They are Small, and Medium. The first hat was made to fit my boyfriends head and appearently it’s really small! I kept getting feedback from knitters about the hat ending up too small, so I added another larger size. Since the original wasn’t very big for men’s heads, I called the original size S, and the larger size M.

… and the stats?
The size S measures 16″ (41 cm) around, is 8″ (20 cm) tall, starts with 96 stitches, and counts 24 repeats.
The size M measures 18″ (46 cm) around, is 9″ (23 cm) tall, starts with 112 stitches, and counts 28 repeats.

Well, I’m making a hat for a *really* big head… how do I make a size L?
For the next step up, I’d reccomend casting on 128 sts. Here is why: The difference between the S and M sizes, are (112 sts – 96 sts =) 16 sts. The reason for adding 16 stitches between the sizes has to do with the decreasing pattern, so to keep that in check, add another 16 stitches on to the M size stitch count (112 sts + 16 sts), totaling 128 sts.

And, to get a little technical about the decreasing: This setup will give you 32 pattern repeats, which will decrease with 16 sts per decrease round until decrease row 6. Decrease row 6 has you halve the stitches, so at the end of row 6 you should have 32 stitches. For the final decrease row (decrease row 9) you’ll halve the stitches again, for a total of 16 stitches. You might want to do another round of decreasing half the stitches if you prefer ending with 8 stitches instead.

I’m going rouge and using a totally different gauge yarn than recommended. Any comments?
Yes! Do it! I love knitting based on what I have on hand, and I’ve never been very good at matching yarn and pattern perfectly. So, I’ve learned to adjust the pattern according to my yarn. It’s not that hard, I promise. I wrote about that in this post on alterations to the biking hat pattern, so be sure to read that too.

The general gist of it is this: you take the finished measurement of the project, multiply it with the gauge you get with the yarn you’re using, and that is the total number of stitches you need. Let’s do an example. The circumference of the Reversible Knitting Hat in size is 16″. My hypothetical gauge with my hypothetical yarn is 3,25 sts pr inch. 16 ” x 3,25 sts pr inch = 52 sts. So, I need to cast on 52 sts to achieve the goal of 16″ finished measurement.

In other words, goal # of inches x your stitches pr inch = amount to cast on.

Great. What about row gauge?
Yep, my example didn’t address row gauge. But for simple objects like hats, knitting until indicated length will be fine. However – if you use yarn that is way thicker, or way thinner than the original, you’ll probably have to adjust the number of rows to decrease over. Thinner yarn will need more rows to get enough height, and thicker yarn needs fewer rows. If you’ve knit until the decreasing starts, you can just measure your rows to see how many you get pr inch, and multiply by how many inches you’re doing the decreasing over – which for this particular hat is around 1 1/2″ – 2″.

And repeat patterns?
You also going to need to check that your new number works with any repeat pattern! The repeat pattern in the Reversible Biking Hat is 4 (k3, p1), which means any total number of stiches you get after doing our fancy math, should be divisible by 4. If it isn’t, round up or down to the nearest multiple of 4.

That was easy. To make it a little harder, let’s look at the decreasing again. This pattern is set up to work best with an even number of repeats. In the example above, I’m starting with 52 stitches, which is divisible by 4, producing 13 repeats. That’s not an even number. What is going to happen, is this: I start with 52 stitches, and decrease 1 sts pr repeat for half of the repeats, including the first and the last repeat, so 7 sts (now 45 sts total). Then I decrease 1 sts pr repeat for the other half of the repeats, 6 sts (39 sts total). I do that one more time, reducing first to 32 sts, then 26 sts. This number now gets halved at least once, to 13 sts, or alternatively another time if your stitch number at this point is above 15-ish, but this is depending on the thickness of your yarn.

Now, what has happened is that instead of each 4-stitch repeat section being combined neatly with its neighbour several times over for a wedge-like finish towards the crown in tidy pairs, you have one little section left over, and an odd number of stitches to pull the loop through. Most likely *nobody* will ever notice, but it doesn’t decrease as neatly as with an even number.

I want to make spirals like that picture up there.
Easy! I covered that in this post, so be sure to read that. Basically, you stagger the repeated section every yo-row by one stitch. So at the beginning of every yo-row, knit 1 stitch (or 2 if you’re into steeper diagonals!), *then* knit the rest of the section as normal. You’ve effectively just nudged the pattern over by one stitch, and when you keep nudging at the beginning of every repeat, you get diagonal lines!

Phew. I’m glad we’re done with all those numbers. Let’s look at some pictures.

image credit alois

image credit manosa

image credit kellys

Any recommendations for picking a good fiber? Something that won’t get too hot, but stay warm and keep its shape for cyclists biking in the cold.
I enlisted the help of my boyfriend – the handsome man in the pattern pictures – for an answer to these, since he’s the cyclist in our household. This is what I learned from him:
•  The version I made in a wool/cotton mix (the dark grey hat in the pattern pictures) is his lightweight version. I’ve also noticed it’s not as good at keeping it’s shape, I suspect the cotton does that. He doesn’t really use that one below freezing.
•  The sports wool version I made in brown, no pictures of that unfortunately (like a sock yarn with some poly I think) is what he uses when it’s cold.
•  Neither are enough for bitter cold (from -5 celsius or around 20 degrees fahrenheit), and he has a lined fleece earflap hat he uses for that, as well as one of those microfiber things that almost totally covers his face.
•  He says the eyelets means that neither of the biking hats never really get too warm, since they sort of self-ventilate!

And in conclusion, I admit to being very much partial to wool, just because I think cotton is more uncomfortable when it gets damp or wet. So my suggestion is a sports-weight wool (eg sock) yarn.

I like seeing this hat on men with beards.
I do too. Check out the ravelry project page for even more men with facial hairs wearing this hat.

image credit © lngom

I want to see this project mentioned elsewhere!
Aren’t you lucky? I’ve collected them right here!
•  Allergic to wool’s post on Winter cycle chic (Meghan is also the co-editor of Pom Pom!)
•  My own post on gauge, alterations, and potential design changes of the hat
• Ariane of Falling Stitches with her fabulous taste in knitting, featured the hat in a Ravelry round-up on her blog.
•  And of course, on ravelry! The project page have some really fun hats on there, like one made for running, with a hole in the back for a ponytail (!), people’s first go at eyelets, or knitting in the round (with success!), a whole lot of men, and a whole lot of bearded men (I honestly didn’t expect this to be so popular with the male demographic, but I’m thrilled! I’m sure the bearded boyfriend model helped in that regards!), and my favorite… a husband who had added the hat to his lady knitter’s queue and added “Make this for hubban since I love him“. How adorable!

Any questions out there about the pattern? Let me know! Also, find the pattern for the Reversible Biking hat right here!

Free pattern: Elvish Leaves Scarf

I have a pattern to share with you! It’s the Elvish Leaves Scarf I made based on a dishcloth with this same pattern.This scarf with an elegant leaf pattern repeat is a good intermediate lace project. The thin scarf is perfect for slightly chilly days where you just need that extra little warmth and comfort around your neck!

The chart in this pattern is based on one ravelry-user Jadis made, with her knowledge and generous consent.

I made this with some reclaimed yarn in a delicious mohair/angora/other woolly wools blend, making it nice and warm and super soft. I really enjoyed knitting this scarf – and I hope you enjoy the pattern!

Download the Elvish Leaves Scarf pattern!

Ravelry page for the Elvish Leaves Scarf pattern

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, or 2-3 times as wide as your elastic. Approximately 1/4″ wide elastic 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 at least 1/4″. 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! Check out my previous post on sewing underwear as well for a “how-to” on using picot-edged elastic.

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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!

reversible biking hat – alterations

The autumn hat I shared recently is one I based on my pattern The Reversible Biking hat. I’ve made a few of them now, so knowing the pattern pretty well, I wanted to change it up a bit. And altering knitting patterns to fit your own needs really isn’t that hard! Here is what I did/what you can do:

First, I used a different yarn, which usually means a different gauge. The gauge in the original pattern is 24 stitches per 4 inches, or 6 stitches per inch. My gauge for this new yarn was around 17 per 4 inches, or 4,3 stitches per inch. How many stitches do I need to cast on to make the same size? (hmm, I sound like a math book problem!)

The circumference of the hat is 18 inches, and with 4.3 stitches to the inch of my gauge, I simply multiply the goal number of inches with the amount of stitches per inch my gauge is:

18 x 4,3 = 77,4 (≈78)
goal # of inches x your stitches pr inch = amount to cast on.

At this point, you might have to make some adjustments to your cast on number. If there is a repeat pattern, the number for your cast on has to be a multiple of that. In this case, the repeat pattern I used is 6 (p1, k5), and 78 is divisible by 6, so I’m all set. Alternatively, if you have a cuff or a brim, you can adjust the number of stitches up or down in the first round after the cuff.

reversible biking hat

Another thing I did to change the look of this hat, was to stagger the 5-row repeats and create diagonal lines instead of straight lines. This is also quite simple; at the first round of the repeated section, knit the first stitch, then do the section as normal. You’ve effectively just nudged the pattern over by one stitch, and when you keep nudging at the beginning of every repeat, you get diagonal lines!

Reversible biking hat

When you tweak the number of stitches, one thing is to be aware of the stitches in each repeat. The other is to be mindful of the decreasing. The Reversible Biking Hat is pretty simple in how it decreases, so the major thing to consider here is that I have an odd number of repeats (13) instead of an even number of repeats (24) like the original has. This means that while most knit stitches in the very last row corresponds to two whole sections, there is one left over that corresponds to the last, thirtheenth section. That is ok – you can cut the tail and loop through the rest of the stitches that turns out to be 14, instead of 12.

The more intricate the pattern and the decrease design, and the longer the repeat is, the harder it is to substitue numbers. But for relative simple designs like this one, all you need is a little math!

If you have any questions, or if something was unclear, do please ask!

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?

1. Cut out all patternpieces, making sure to stay on grain. Often in t-shirt material there is a distinct horizontal or vertical orientation – line up your pattern pieces with that, not the side-seams or hems if they seem very off. Because of how t-shirt material is often made (knit in a round tube), the material is often off-grain when sewn up to a garment, and that my friends is why t-shirts twist and the side-seams aren’t at your sides anymore!

Digressing aside, you need one front, one back, and two gusset pieces. For this sample I took advantage of the existing bottom hem, and lined up the top of back and front pieces with the hem.

2. Sandwich the front piece between two gusset pieces along the shorter gusset  edge, and sew. Make sure that both gusset pieces are facing right sides towards front piece.

Sandwich the front and gusset pieces (gusset, front, gusset)

Front and gusset pieces sewn.

3. Roll up the front and back piece *into* the gussets,  and line up the longer gusset edge and sew.

Contorting the pieces for an enclosed gusset.

4. Un-wind everything, and it should now look like this:

Not looking too bizarre now. And I’ve done the elastic in the casing already at this point, which really can be done at any time before sewing the side-seams.

5.  Taking advantage of the existing hem, thread elastic through the casing the hem creates. Zig-zag or backstitch the elastic inside the seam-allowance of one side. Pull the other end of the elastic slightly to ensure a snug fit, and sew down on opposite side of the casing/hem. Cut off the excess elastic, and do this for both front and back pieces. Note! When adding elastic in another way, skip this step entirely.

6. Sew the side seams. Consider finishing the side seam with a flat-felled seam, mock flat-felled seam, or topstitch the seam-allowance down on either side of the seam. These are mostly decorative, and therefore quite optional!

A mock felled seam for the sideseams

7. It’s time for the elastic! I’ve used some picot edge elastic for the leghole. Line up the non-decorative edge along the edge of the leghole with the right side of the underwear up. Zig-zag using a fairly wide stitch, but not wider than the plain part of the elastic. I usually cut the elastic only when I’m all the way around, overlapping the two ends and backstitching. You can fold one layer under to make the join neater, but it get’s a little bulky and unmanageable. Stretch the elastic slightly as you sew.

The first step of attaching the picot elastic, the right side of the underwear seen in the foreground.

8. Turn the elastic back and under, so the elastic stays flat and the fabric folds under itself. On the right side zig-zag again, along the edge of the underwear fabric . Backstitch.

10. Look at that, you’re done! Well done!

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

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

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

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