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!

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!

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!

*     *     *

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!

sewing underwear

Final update, January 2017 – I have decided not to do any more work on this underwear pattern, and in extention I won’t be making the old pattern available again either. The reason for this is two-fold. First off, I’m was no longer comfortable sharing the pattern when I stopped being happy with the quality of it. I had every intention of working on and improving the pattern to share it again, but life. Which is the second reason. I am in a different place in life and I have taken a new direction with my job (teaching! Loving it!), and I am simply no longer as driven or interested in working on sewing patterns to be shared and potentially sold, like I was a few years ago -when this was a fun and learning-driven side-project for me.

I sincerely appreciate all the interest you guys have shown in using the pattern, and I hope you will find another pattern to help you among the many that are available online. Please also consider buying a pattern from one of the talented drafters who put a great deal of time, effort and care into their products. :)

Underwear. Knickers. Pants. Undies. Whatever you call them, I have a free pattern for sewing your own 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).

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!

*     *     *

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

• 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, v2.0

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.

underwear_lineOps, I got the inside and outside mixed up on this one. See the zigzag-stitch on the binding?

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.

underwear_detailWaistband 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!

i make underwear

Yes, underwear! I made these. They used to be t-shirts, and now they are fully functional, very comfortable underwear. And happily quick to make.


The first thing to do, is find some suitable t-shirts to cut up. I’ve used gifted and thrifted t-shirts, but my closet is under close scrutiny at the moment. I prefer my cotton straight up, no synthetics, and the softer (and thinner), the better.

As I’m no genius at pattern-drafting, I thought sticking with my favorite pair of undies as a model was the best bet. It was quite finicky to make this not-so-big 3D garment translate in to a 2D pattern, but it’s perfectly doable, especially with a little patience and persistence. In cutting the pattern pieces out of the t-shirts, I’ve generally just squished them all in there to get as much out of my t-shirt as possible, but in the future I am going to put down the pattern pieces horizontal on the t-shirt, to get more stretch in the underwear. And this I know from experience now: some t-shirts are naturally quite stiff and has very little give, and that means there is a greater chance of seams tearing, so stretchy t-shirts are good (I guess better luck next time in making underwear for the boy).

It’s a moose. Too bad Guttkes Fritidsstugor printed his moose on such a stiff t-shirt.

I’ve even managed to use the neckband of the old t-shirts as waistbands for a couple of the new undies. That makes me quite happy. Also, I’m quite happy with the stitch-in-the-ditch sewing and nice seam finishing on some of these, most visible on the brown underwear in the picture below:

For those who suddenly got an urge to get up and make themselves some underwear, there are some patterns and tutorials out there, like this one at Supernaturale, and this one over at BurdaStyle.

The color scheme of my underwear collection was in no way planned, but brown is a very good color. I’ll end with a picture of the very first undies I made. It looks like the t-shirt would have read ”Alabama” at some point, but it really didn’t. The word was ”Alaba”. Huh.

(eta: thanks to the boy for the pictures)