I’m a newbie to sewing underwear, but nevertheless I’m well aware that there is a whole lot of other content for lingerie, including articles, round-ups, plenty of tips and articles to dive into. I’ve browsed around and read bits and pieces, but the thing with lingerie (and me, actually) is that I’ve no idea whatsoever what it is that people are talking about most of the time. It seems quite technical and lingo-dense, so that, even though I know that’s mostly because of the bra stuff rather than the knickers stuff, I figured I’d jump in, make some undies and then everything might make more sense.
I’ve been aware of the Watson bra and pants pattern set for a long time and already had the pattern. They’ve been so popular with sewists everywhere that it seemed like a formality to try this design out when kicking off my journey into undercarriage coverings. In addition, I’m taking part in Bimble and Pimble’s #bpsewvember Instagram photohop, and in response to one of the prompts, someone alerted me to the existence of the FREE Evie La Luve Maxine pants (I capitalize FREE since that’s always a nice thing) and highly recommended them. So I figured – why not? – and printed off that pattern too.
I am a total novice and I have not made perfect pants. The good news is that even fair to mediocre pants don’t take long. I guess it’s the finishing that takes a little while to get the feels for, but since nobody much sees that stuff anyway, even the bad ones are still wearable. Therefore, I offer a small summation of the two pairs and some supplies info as notes to myself, and if they’re of use to you, then even better!
The Maxines are described as high-waisted panties and are a free pattern from lingerie designer Evie la Luve, who has a significant YouTube presence and Etsy store from my initial delving. Since these are fairly full in terms of coverage, I decided to go with a soft navy and silver stretch lace that I got in a sale from Girl Charlee (it appears they’ve sold out for now).
I paired it with a similar navy lace knicker elastic, which I purchased from an Etsy store called Mary Supplies, based in California. These guys have a great selection, it took mere days for the elastic to get to me (I ordered quite a few different types), plus it was so. much. cheaper than JoAnn’s or other local options I found. Like A LOT cheaper. I don’t have any fancy bows or other pretty adornments yet (although I suppose they must be fairly simple to fashion), so I went ahead and made these undies as described in the pattern.
For a free pattern, there is a heckuva lot of info and tutorial guidance for the amateur pants-maker and this is a GOOD thing. The thorough instructions give options for both FOE and knicker elastic and recommend the three step zigzag stitch. My comments for this are that it seems to use a lot of thread and that I also found this stitch much easier to sew at top speed. It does, however, seem very firm and holds extremely well.
I made the largest size (43″ hip) and I will tell you these fit me very well. I was expecting the Watsons to be a better fit (maybe because paid vs free?), but the truth is that these are almost perfect right from the pattern. I was also very excited that to make the enclosed gusset/lining involved using… the burrito method! I loved learning this for sewing yokes when making the Grainline Alder shirtdress and was pretty happy that I recognized the technique. Of course, it’s basically the same thing, and works beautifully.
The Watsons are a more traditional bikini pant and I was excited to make these since I love the examples of both bra and bikini on the Cloth Habit page. The instructions for the gusset used a different method with one open seam but when I looked up the sewalong on the website, there was the same great burrito method as before, so I used that again. And what a great website! I definitely plan to go back there and read up on lots of lingerie info when I get the chance.
I really like a few things about this construction method. First, there isn’t a specific length of elastic to cut. Instead, you’re advised to just begin sewing, pull gently and then cut the length when you’ve sewn round. This does take a little finessing for “feel” I guess, but I can see it would be a much preferable method to faffing around with quarters and pinning and so on. Secondly, the instructions advise you to use a zigzag stitch with length 2.0 and width 3.2. This used a lot less thread and I loved that a specific size was given. It’s so hard to know, as a novice, what a “narrow” or “fat” stitch is.
Having said that, these didn’t fit me as well as the Maxines. I made them in a cotton lycra with a contrast pink knicker elastic. I compared them to a cotton lycra RTW pair I love and they are quite a bit larger. So I think I’ll go down a size and also read the excellent suggestion on alterations proferred on the Watson sewalong page. There seems to be a little extra fabric in the front and I don’t think the height is quite right for me.
- Must use thinner material for gusset/lining. I used two pieces of rib knit for each and it was way too thick. Either one piece or different fabrics next time!
- Try and avoid bulk at the seams – my machine really didn’t like going over those.
- As you can see, the pink elastic on the Watsons looks quite ugly. So I guess I should use elastic-matching thread for the first round and fabric matching for second round?
- Although the instructions advised to stitch close to the decorative edging on the elastic, I think it was too thin for that, so there wasn’t much to turn over? I’ll try and experiment with some ends.
All in all, I was pretty happy with my first attempts, and I can see why people get into this. It’s a great way to use up scraps and they’re so fast to knock out, with infinite variations! If you have any tips on anything I’ve done (or not done) here, please feel free to leave a comment – I’d love to read them! I’m looking forward to reading more about this now, but nothing beats experience. 🙂