I’ve finally tried my hand at making underwear. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to be modeling anything I made in this post – you’ll just have to trust me that it fits well. 🙂 I do want to share what I’ve learned, though!
The basic process (explained more thoroughly in many, many tutorials across the web): I made a pattern by tracing an existing pair of underwear on scrap paper. There are three pieces – a back piece, a front piece, and an extra lining piece for the crotch region.
After sewing the three pieces together, I bound the edges. Now, all the internet tutorials say to use something called fold-over elastic (FOE). This is elastic that has a groove in the middle of it, so that it folds easily in half along its length. I’d never used FOE and didn’t have any. I like to make things with materials I have on hand if I can, so I started by using knits to bind the edges, similar to how I make tank tops. (Favorite tank top tutorial.)
Above and below, you can see the three pairs I made using knits to bind the edges. It kind of works. The seams got really wavy because of stretching the binding as I sewed it, though the waves are not noticeable when the underwear is on. The orange knit in particular, though, really stretched out and sags, which is neither comfortable nor attractive.
After the touch-and-go nature of trying to use knit bindings, I decided to bite the bullet and buy some FOE. First I just went to local JoAnn fabrics and bought a 7 yard package of black 1 inch FOE. Sewing this on was such a dream and worked so well that I looked up how to buy more online. Look at all the pretty elastic…
Sewing FOE is so incredibly easy. After figuring out how long to make the different bindings, I cut them and sewed the edges to make loops. Then I pinned it, stretching the fabric evenly along the elastic binding. It took a little finagling, but it worked well.
And then the dreamy part is next: just fold over and zoom along, sewing the other half down. No pinning, no stretching, no finagling… just zooming.
Different pair from the previous photo.
Pattern: Self-made. It took a few tries to make it fit exactly how I wanted to, but now I’ve got a pattern that’s really easy to use.
Fabric: Old t-shirts! I had a stack of old t-shirts that didn’t fit me anymore, but I really liked the design on them. Those designs got incorporated into new pretty underwear!
Notions: 1″ Fold-Over Elastic
Hours: Once I figured out the pattern and was using FOE, each pair took under an hour to make. There were a couple solid days involved in the first three pairs of underwear and making the pattern and fiddling with knit bindings.
Will you make it again? Probably! Underwear wears out with time, after all.
Total cost: The fabric was all free, because it was made from old t-shirts. The FOE from JoAnn’s was about $13 for 2-3 pairs worth (I haven’t measured to see if I have quite enough for a third pair, but there’s a lot left over). So those two pairs were ~$6-7 each. The other FOE was $0.67/yard, 3 yards/pair (with leftovers!), $3.57 shipping for the lot – altogether, $13.67 for five pairs of underwear, or $2.74 each. Good price for me!
Final thoughts: Fold-over elastic is wonderful!!! I want to use this for so many things now. I’m really interested to see if I can make simple sports bras (the kind for general wear, not the super-supportive kind actually for sports) using t-shirt material and FOE. Back to this project, though – I love the results, but I actually don’t like making these very much. It’s a solid half hour of work to sew on the FOE to each pair of underwear. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s boooooooring. There’s nothing new or innovative about it, and I already know what the result will look like. Sewing bindings onto projects has always been one of my least favorite sewing activities – one of the few I actually see as a chore. That said, it’s so useful to be able to make my own underwear that are so cheap, quick to make, and fit well with cute designs that I will almost certainly be using this again in the future.
Yay fun underwear and recyling old clothing! Two of the pairs aren’t pictured, because they aren’t quite finished – I got too bored to finish them on the same day as the rest of these. They’ll be done soon, though! ~Kelly
Thanks for posting this! I've been thinking about making my own underwear for a while, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. The info on f.o.e. is especially helpful.
You're welcome! Thanks for commenting. Once I tried the first few pairs to get a pattern I was happy with, it was insanely easy to make the underwear. I do find them really boring to make, since it's pretty much all just seam binding, but the results are fantastic and I will certainly be doing this again!