09 September 2009

172. Wednesday Workshop: Bikini Undies to Boy Short Undies

People, I am not even kidding! This is part 3 of 3 in a comprehensive exploration of sewing your own undies. This weekend I saw another $7 escape my life forever as a pair of nylon boy short undies from Target bit the dust, after maybe 20 wears. Never ever ever again. That was $7 that could have bought a month's worth of coffee, or a matinee ticket to The September Issue or Coco Before Chanel, or 3 jars of Nutella, or a yard of decent fabric. I'm not buying undies anymore, mark my words.

Here's my completed boy short version. You know I don't shy away from the colorful and bold when it comes to the undies:

It has actually been 2 weeks since my last Wednesday Workshop post. Things were quite busy 2 weeks ago with my training work, and I couldn't get my head around converting those bikini pattern pieces into boy shorts. I knew it could work... just took me some time to get in the right mindset to figure it out. Here's the good news: it might take 30 minutes to draft the pattern, but if you've sewn up the bikini panties from two weeks ago, putting these boy shorts together will take 15 minutes. Here's the Flickr tutorial:

This concludes the undies workshops! A few notes after wearing the three prototypes:
  • I've tried elastic casing, sewing regular elastic right on the fabric, and sewing a lingerie elastic with a picot edge right on the fabric. The most comfortable so far, which happens to be the easiest to me, is the lingerie elastic with the picot edge. I used it on the boy short undies, it is very comfortable against the skin, and it has just the right amount of give and stretch. A package of this (enough for one pair of boy shorts) was $0.38 -- yes, 38 cents -- on sale, but at regular price was $1. Worth every penny.
  • I will try two more kinds of elastic on future undies: the legendary fold-over elastic, as suggested by Johanna Lu, and elastic lace, which I had a hard time finding locally. I think the elastic lace will do a better job of hiding pantylines. If you have worked with these or end up using these in an undies project of your own, please let me know what you think.
  • The hipster undies were originally sewn with the leg hems just turned under and sewn with a zigzag stitch. This did not wear well -- the leg openings (predictably) stretched with wear, and more than I was comfortable with. I will probably sew a 1/4" elastic on this pair. But hipsters are not my favorite style of undies to wear, so I doubt I will sew them again.
  • I suspect that you can draft the boy shorts pretty easily without converting a pattern. But I'll save that experiment some other time. I'm burned out for now exploring undies.
A Flickr user asked me how sewing your own undies is more economical. Let's calculate the cost of 10 pairs of undies I've bought in the last year, several of which are already falling apart, at an average of $6 per pair: $60. I can get 4 pairs of boy short undies (which use the most fabric of all types) from a yard of 60" wide cotton jersey. Let's say that runs $6 a yard, so for 2 1/2 yards I'd pay $15. Plus 10 packages of elastic for a total of $10. Including a spool of thread for $2, that brings my monetary investment in self-made undies to $27 for the same 10 pair.

What about the time investment? I've invested about an hour of pattern drafting time and 15 minutes per pair of undies, for a 3 1/2 hour total time investment. When I purchased the last 10 pairs of undies, I probably spent more than 3 1/2 hours hemming and hawing over how much longer I could use the tattered and torn undies I had, driving to the store, trying them on over my undies in the dressing room, thinking about how poorly some fit or how uncomfortable they were while I was wearing them, and dropping to the ground to curse the heavens when some of them started falling apart within a year.

So the undies are done and it's time for a new project! Any ideas for upcoming Wednesday Workshops? I have a short list of experimental DIY kinds of projects, but am open to suggestions. :)


  1. I can't wait to try this! Thanks so much! :o)

  2. you are so generous to share your tutes and your lessons!

    as for a wednesday workshop, i'm definitely into garment construction and was wondering if maybe you could share how you can take a basic pattern and tweak it to make it your own????

  3. Again, very cool. For those of us who are drafting-uninitiated, what is the z measurement?

    Also, I don't think any of us really sew just to save money. There's a coolness factor in making your own undies, and of course being able to customize fit and durability is huge. Spending an extra $30 on underwear per year is not that big of a deal. If you wanted to save money, you could just buy cheaper underwear. I think the point is knowing how to sew knickers.

  4. Oh you are so funny! "Dropping to the ground to curse the heavens" How about chasing the little dog around the house that has the underwear your daughter forgot to put in the hamper, only to find when you get the underwear back the crotch is chewed to pieces! UGH!! LOL!!!
    Linda in Calif.

  5. I adore the knit fabric for the undies!! Love them. They need a matching tank for bed!

  6. I used to scoff at the idea of sewing underwear, but with two daughters I'm beginning to rethink this. I'm not sure where I'd buy the triple stretch corseting that holds me together, but the girls scanties I can manage.

  7. they are gorgeous - you couldn't by cuter at any price!

  8. Ha, I love those colorful ones :-)

    * between elastic lace & picot edged elastic I generally prefer the picot edge stuff. I do like sewing the elastic lace ones because they look so pretty, but what I pull out of my dresser to wear are the picot edged ones

    * the jalie hipster/boyshort pattern ( #2568, also has a nice tank top), if you ever want to buy one, is FANTASTIC. Definitely gotten a lot of use out of it.

  9. I can just imagine that there's a regular fabric party going on in your undergarments each day! Not to sound inappropriate, my way of saying I love, love, LOVE that underwear fabric!

  10. Super!!! I am going to draft my own boy shorts pattern...I love the way they fit, but I really want a pair that comes up a little bit higher in the waist.

    Where have you been able to find FOE? Picot edge lingerie elastic? Our local joanns doesn't carry it, and cloth world has closed their doors.


  11. @KnitaBella - I hope you do! Let me know how it works for you.

    @bookwormbethie - I appreciate the suggestion. That's a broad topic -- any specific garment, style, example you're thinking of?

    @Anonymous - Great question about z -- that's not so much a drafting-uninitiated thing as it is an undies thing! That had my brain twisted for a few days. ;) In boy short undies, the crotch piece extends so far as to add fabric to the leg opening. So the z measurement is the leg circumference minus what the crotch piece adds, divided by 2.

    I don't sew clothes to save money. But I have spent so much on undies that don't fit well, aren't comfy, and/ or don't last long that it does end up being a good financial investment for me to sew them. I don't mind spending money on something I enjoy or will last, but buying undies these past 6-7 years has been like flushing money down the toilet. That really bothers me!

    @rattie4fun - Srsly, like dropping to my knees with my fists thrown to the sky, shouting "Noooooo!!!!" in slow motion. Ooh, something's gotta give in that equation -- daughter gets in the habit of putting undies in the wash or dog gets trained not to chew on fabric! Good luck with that one.

    @Cindy - What a great idea! Love it. I might have to do that now.

    @Gail - "Triple stretch corseting" makes me laugh! If you're serious then I need to point you to a great post I read recently on modern equivalents of footbinding. ;)

    @Mary Nanna - Thx. I like that crazy fabric, too!

    @wendy - I can see that you'd like the picot edge one -- the lingerie elastic has got everything just right. But I can't help but think the elastic lace is flatter and would have a better chance of undies lines going undetected underneath slacks. Has that been your experience?

    @Jessica - I love it! Fabric party in the undergarments! LOL Sarah@Sewer-Sewist pointed out how out-of-context one sentence in the post was, the "I'm burned out on exploring undies". Lots of room for out-of-context, I guess.

    @angelapea - DO IT! I forgot to mention in the post that my boy shorts are tricky b/c you want the back to feel covered but you don't want your undies peeking out from under your pants. I think there's some experimentation to find exactly the right rise, etc. Picot edge lingerie elastic is at Hancock -- they had lots when I came, until I bought 5 packages. FOE is at Sew Sassy, and very reasonably priced IMO: http://www.sewsassy.com/LingerieProducts/lingerieelastic.html#anchorfoldoverelastic

  12. Those are cute! I never thought I'd make my own knickers, but now I want to give it a shot!

    I've recently started drafting my own patterns (made 2 so far!), and would love to learn more about the process. Wednesday workshop fodder, perhaps?

  13. your undies are so cute! you have inspired me to love color in undergarments. i haven't tried any of your tutorials yet, but soon...i hope. anyway, suggestions for wednesday workshops. i don't know...my brain is packed full of back to school thinking right now, so it's all lunchbags and reusable snack bags right now. sorry! i will say i've always wanted to try making a hooded zip-up sweater/jacket thingy that all the kids wear in the fall.

    love reading your blog!

  14. You really inspired me to start making some more panties! And yes the math is very much in favor for making one's own undies.

    I have used (a narrow) stretch lace for a pair of panties and really like how they turned out and feel. No tugging into the thighs whatsoever, which is an issue I sometimes struggle with when it comes to store bought panties.

  15. You are amazing! I'm hoping you might consider doing a tute on long underwear! I have always wanted to make myself some bike shorts type panties. They make them for men, but not us. And some soft skivvy shirts that actually fit and feel right under a sweater.
    I'm so grateful to you!

  16. I've used stretch lace and it's easy to sew and feels great against my skin. I had to order stretch lace online from Lace Haven. Here's the link to stretch lace http://www.laceheaven.com/stretchlace1.html

    I haven't used lingerie elastic or foldover elastic yet but I'm going to make slips this weekend and I'll be using lingerie elastic on one slip and stretch elastic on another.

    I'm looking forward to making boyshorts. Thanks for the tutorial.

    CarlaF-in Atlanta

  17. Keep on rockin' on with the tutorials!! and thanks for the link for the FOE. I wasn't sure where to find it.

  18. @Curry - I am not sure I'm totally qualified to teach patternmaking, but I guess I am qualified to share how I do certain things. Any specific issues? BTW, your blog is AWESOME. I assume you take all the photos yourself. They are amazing.

    @Sisi - A friend charged me with the task of reinventing hip boys' wear since I am such an expert at complaining about the lack of good boys' sewing patterns. So I may end up doing something like a simple jacket pattern. We shall see, thanks for the ideas. Keep 'em coming!

    @Johanna Lu - I see that SewSassy also carries several kinds of elastic lace so I will try both the narrow and wide.

    @Pamela - It occurred to me that boy shorts could become leggings.... but not with that extended crotch piece. I will have to give that some thought (and if you figure it out, tell me please!). When you say "soft skivvy shirts" do you mean simple tank-style tops made out of some soft knit fabric?

    @CarlaF - Thanks for the referral to Lace Heaven. I haven't heard of them before but will check them out and bookmark the site. Let me know how the undies work out for you!

    @Kyle - You bet! I am just amazed at how inexpensive the FOE is. Seems like it is priced better from SewSassy than regular junky elastic from the craft store.

  19. I like that the center of the shorts isn't where the seams come together in a point. Even if there's gusseting on the inside, it's just uncomfortable. My very tired eyes got quite an eye-opener when I first read this as I thought it said that you got 20 years out of one pair. HAHA, I think I need to go to bed now.

  20. I remember wearing home-made undies as a child, though they would probably be better described as bloomers. They were made of this white woven - lawn or something. I used to joke about this to my friends, but now the thought of wearing home made undies sounds so much cooler...

  21. Those are such cute boy shorts! I'm really enjoying your blog and I've added you to my blog roll so I look forward to all your future posts!

  22. Cute undies and an awesome tutorial! I posted a link at Craft Gossip Sewing:



  23. great idea! I just went through my wife's underwear draw and at the back were the ones that have seen better days (my wife throws away nothing!). We'll be playing around with these and the sewing machine this evening.

    Thanks for a great blog


  24. These are so cute! I just bought some foldover elastic to make some boyshorts and comfy bras... I'll let you know how it goes. :)

  25. You make me want to get out my sewing machine again....or at least buy a serger!!

  26. This is a great pattern! Thanks so much for posting. I made a newsboy cap out of my brother's old slacks, and it fit my big head perfectly :D

  27. My gosh, you ARE clever. Thanks for this. Especially the tips about avoiding the dreaded Visible Panty Line.

  28. Can I ask how do you get the Y= Crotch Depth Measurement? And where do you measure the i=inseam and x = outseam lengths? So I can make sure to measure the same way.

    I measure crotch depth from my waist to the hard surface I am sitting on, which gives me 11.5" but the length of my crotch peice is only around 3" so the shape would not look like yours. I adjusted mine to about 2.5 " so it resembled your pattern peice.
    Is there a written instructions I am missing? I am just working from picture examples.

    Thank you for sharing ☺

    1. I wrote these so long ago that I had to do some research to answer your questions LOL. Those three measurements, Y, I, and L are taken by you based on your preference, and then of course you need to add seam allowance. There's more explanation that I left as a caption to the worksheet photo on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/22676897@N02/3900773228/in/album-72157622182253699/

      The crotch piece is from the first week of tutorials, when I cut apart panties and traced the pieces onto paper and added seam allowance. In case you're curious, here's the link to that photo set on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/22676897@N02/albums/72157621944226657

      Good luck! :)


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