I sewed the ugliest panties ever

Panty sewing fail

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon this awesome panty-sewing tutorial over at verypurpleperson, and I decided that sewing underwear was something that I had to try like right now.  So I gathered up some jersey from the depths of my sewing bin, purchased various types of elastic and some ball-point needles, and hunkered down for a Friday night panty-sewing party.  Umm, it did not go well.  Above you can see the fruits of my labor: two of the most ugly, ill-fitting, and grandma-like panties ever.  Why did I think this would be a piece of cake?  EPIC PANTY FAIL!

Bamboo jersey dress from May 2012

Instead of buying new jersey for such a perilous endeavor as sewing underwear, I turned this old bamboo jersey dress that I had made last summer into scrap fabric for my insane panty escapade.  This was my first (and only) serger project, and although I was proud of myself for completing it, I was never quite happy with the fit.  I never wore it outside of my apartment, so I figured the fabric would be better used as something else!

Madalynne - Amerson Undies Pattern

Panty attempt #1: The Amerson Undie from Madalynne.  What’s not to like about this super-cute, ruffly, and feminine free pattern?  I want to wear these panties everyday forever and ever.

Amerson panty fail

Yeah.  It didn’t quite come out as expected!  I suspect it’s 100% user error, as this was my very first attempt EVER at attaching elastic to anything.  It was pretty hilarious to watch myself do this, as I clearly had no idea what I was doing.  : )  I deviated from the pattern in quite a few areas: using jersey instead of a woven, attaching the elastic on the inside instead of the outside, and generally being a clueless noob.  The fact that the elastic doesn’t match the fabric isn’t helping either.  Also, why did the crotch area come out so much more narrow than in the pattern photos?  My bits and pieces aren’t quite that narrow!

I learned many things about elastic from this project.  Most importantly, all elastic is not equal, and you have to use the right elastic for the job.  The elastic I used here is 3/8″ flat elastic, and I think a picot lingerie elastic or fold-over elastic would have worked out much better.  The amount of stretch, however, was pretty good.

Elastic detail - zig zag

To make the waistband and leg openings, I first folded over the edge of the fabric and zig-zagged it down, and then I attached the elastic on the wrong side with another zig zag.  The area in the photo above is not bad, considering how awful the rest of the panty is.  However, this method made absolutely no sense, and I have no idea why I did it this way, even though this is how the pattern instructions are laid out.  For a WOVEN.  Hello??  Clearly this was not going to work!

When I tried on the panties, they looked like a hot mess.  (Sorry, no photos of me modeling them – I’m not that brave!)  Then I made a pair of hipster panties (see below) and decided that the sweet Amerson wasn’t so bad after all.  The hipsters were so. much. worse.

makeBra - Free Hipster Pattern

Panty attempt #2: I tried this free hipster panty pattern from makeBra, thinking that they were pretty different from the Amerson, and how bad could they possibly be?  Hahahahaha.  Again, I think my disaster was 100% user error, as the panties in the photo actually look very cute.  Are you ready to see my heinous creation?

Hipster panty fail

Avert your eyes!!  This has to be the absolute ugliest, most ill-fitting, most uncomfortable, and most FRUMPY pair of undies I have ever seen in my entire life.  These remind me of some horrible underwear that I had as a kid, before I knew that I could pick out my own undies and actually wear something flattering and comfortable.

I think the worst error I made here was using the wrong type of elastic.  This is 1/2″ braided elastic that I picked up at Michaels (man, why do I ever buy anything from that store?), and it is not very stretchy at all.  At all.  The waist and leg openings threaten to cut off my circulation after wearing them for only a minute or two, and the 1/2″ thickness is just too wide to be flattering.  The texture is heavy too.  Overall, just not a good fit for panties at all.

I cut the elastic about 20% shorter than the openings, but I guess I should have cut them about equal considering the lack of stretch in this stuff.  Well, really, I just shouldn’t have been using it in the first place.  Live and learn!

Elastic detail - three stitch zig zagTo attach the elastic, first I zig-zagged it to the wrong side of the fabric, and then I flipped the edge over and used a 3-stitch running zig zag to topstitch it in place.  The overall effect is not bad (despite my awful execution here), and I can see how this could look nice if done more professionally.  However, I still think using a picot or fold-over elastic would be better than flat elastic.

Anyway, despite my epic fail here, I’m still pretty excited at the thought of sewing my own undies, and I’m not giving up!  : )  I want to locate and purchase some panty-appropriate elastic and practice attaching it over and over again until it starts looking respectable.  I also want to try out a bunch of different patterns (maybe this or this?), and maybe even come back to the Amerson.  It’s just so adorable!

And yes, I do laugh at myself when I sew horrible garments like this.  If you can’t laugh at yourself, then life is just not going to be a very fun ride, is it?  : )

Do you have any advice on sewing panties or favorite patterns to recommend?  Any advice on what type of elastic to buy and where to buy it?

12 thoughts on “I sewed the ugliest panties ever

  1. Hi Carolyn, your panties are certainly… interesting. But I guess my first try wouldn’t look better 😀
    I dont know what I’d use for the leg openings, but lingerie elastic should be perfect for the waist (I just spend 10 minutes trying to find what the stuff ist called in English… Hi from Germany by the way!). And from there I’d just look around if I can find anything that feels similar for the leg openings. I just used lingerie elastic for a pair of tap pants, it wasn’t that hard to sew on. I pinned the unstreched elastic to the fabric (guessing a little here and there, but I started by pinning the beginning and end of the elastic to the middle of the back, then the middle of the elastic to the middle of the front, then again the middles of the elastic halves to the side seams (I hope you understand what I mean) and then somewhere in between. Then you can stretch the elastic while sewing it on.

    Good luck with your next try!

    • Thanks Sanne, and hello from the States! (BTW, I work with 3 people from Germany and hear them speaking German all the time – I need to learn a bit!) I did use that pinning method when attaching the elastic, but I think I was just using the wrong type of elastic for this project. I probably cut the elastic too short as well. Apparently elastic is like a wild beast that needs to be tamed!

  2. Hi Carolyn, the closest I’ve ever come to sewing lingerie was a loooong time ago purchasing tricot & lace from a lovely shop which was closing its doors. I don’t think we can count numerous pajama pants for teens as “lingerie” in my repetoire!

    The Singer Sewing Reference Library (now out of print) is an excellent collection and has a volume on lingerie sewing.

    http://www.amazon.com/Sewing-Lingerie-Singer-Reference-Library/dp/0865732612

    Here is a link to another blogger with a resource listing lingerie findings, etc.

    http://sewintriguing.blogspot.com/search?

    I think Kwik Sew patterns has a book about lingerie sewing as well. Sew Sassy fabrics probably carries it.

    Two final thoughts: check out Jalie patterns (much like RTW) and You Tube.

    You made me smile as I read this. Sewing is a problem-solving adventure and you’ve put a positive spin/humor on this project.

    • Thanks Ellen! I think a reference book like that is exactly what I need. I didn’t realize that sewing lingerie was an entirely different realm of the sewing universe, with different tools and techniques, different materials, etc. I just marched on in there and expected a piece of cake, ha! Thanks for the list of findings too – I’ll have to buy the appropriate elastic online since I can’t find it in my local shops.

      Glad to hear my ill-fated adventure put a smile on your face. 🙂 Sewing is what I do for fun, so I try not to let it get me down!

  3. Ah yes, sewing lingerie. I was forunate enough to take a great course on lingerie making where we made panties, bras, french knickers and camis. So great to learn how to do things like attach elastic etc! For panties, I use a lightweight picot edged elastic which I get from Boobie Traps in Sydney http://boobytraps.com.au/haberdashery/strapping-elastics/elastic/lightweight-scallop-elastic-13mm-biscuit.html but it’s readily available pretty much anywhere…just search for lingerie elastic. Also, it might be worth looking into buying a kit – comes with everything you need! I have a tut on making French knickers which shows how I attached the elastic if you’re interested http://coutureacademic.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/ooooo-la-la-french-knickers/. Best of luck! Sewing lingerie is fun and really rewarding…just need a few specialized techniques up your sleeve. Books also help – I have this one http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/like/141023004280?lpid=87 and it really helped me with the basics!

    • Thanks Kat! Yes, that picot elastic is exactly what I need – I’ll have to order some online. (I love the name “Boobie Traps” BTW!) I’m glad to hear that the lingerie course was so helpful, and I think I definitely need more information/instruction before I try this again. Since you and Ellen both recommended the same book, I’d better order it ASAP! One day I’ll be cranking out cute and functional panties… hopefully. 🙂

  4. It’s okay, you’ll get it. I’m a [super] newbie with sewing, I’ve given up trying to make things perfect at this stage. Not to say that I don’t try to make them functional, but it’s more important what you learn from the adventure. I considered trying to make underwear from one of the various so-called “easy” tutorials, but I’ve never quite gotten up the nerve. So, you did much better than me. From what I’ve seen insofar, elastic is a tricky beast, so don’t worry.

    I know you’ll get it 😀

    • Thanks for the encouragement Wynn! Yes, apparently working with elastic has quite a learning curve… who knew? 🙂 But as you said, that’s what so great about sewing — learning new techniques, learning from your mistakes, etc. There is always something new to learn. I think the “easy” tutorials assume the user knows a bit more than I do at this point, so I’m going to try to find more detailed instructions.

      Good luck with your own sewing adventures, lingerie and otherwise!

  5. Hi Carolyn – I just stumbled across your post as I was googling “lingerie elastic” as I’m also having the experience of needing to make my own knickers like NOW and also hunker down for a “Friday night panty sewing party”!

    You might not have succeeded with the knickers but you DID succeed with a brilliant blog post – so funny and it’s really always refreshing to see these sewing horror stories and have a giggle because it’s such a solitary art at times and it’s just fantastic to see the sewing network grow! Anyway I just wanted to say a huge well done for having a go and writing a great post, and good luck with your next pair! And THANK YOU for the tip, I will also steer away from using the elastic lurking in my sewing cupboard for knickers (it did cross my mine) and get myself some picot edged elastic from “Booby Traps”) (thanks Kat)! Anna in sydney xxx

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