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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Underwear review

Ages ago I made myself some underwear, but never continued, mainly because the pattern I used didn't fit and it seemed too much trouble to fiddle around fitting with something that was so easy to buy.

Lately however I have been eyeing my bamboo, rayon, and nice cotton knit remnants and thinking they were too good to throw out, and thinking I should revisit sewing my own undies.

First the patterns. 

These are the ones I used in my trials. I know the fabrics are pretty wild, but this was muslin work.

First: Jan Bones' The Smoothie:

The key features of this pattern are great bum coverage, high cut front legs made possible by the side seams shifted to the front, which gives that back wrap.

Before showing you my sample I have to say I learned something in my practice sewing. This was that on my body, with my personal requirement that nothing was too tight, particularly the front leg (don't you just hate it when that digs in?) the elastic really worked best when it was applied one to one, except a little stretched under the back, sort of a finish to the raw edge not a gather.

What this means is that the off the machine version looks really wavy, although on me it lay flat, and after a day's wear the waviness had disappeared. Interesting.

The wear test was important, I have learned the hard way that the way something looks and how it feels are too different things. I never want to review anything without that all day test.

Grade: A 

Comfortable and since this pattern has been drafted for sewn in elastic, it will be a good choice when I can't find any stretch lace or foldover elastic to match my fabric:

Next pattern Kwik Sew 3881:

This pattern was a surprise. I have a 40" hip and cut out the medium. When I looked at the pattern pieces they seemed huge but I sewed it up anyway, basted the side seams once the crotch was sewn in, and tried it on.

Old lady droopy drawers.You don't need pictures to convey that - use your imagination. Here are the pattern pieces. Big at the back and low cut legs at the front:

Grade: F, at least on me.

Next pattern two versions of the same pattern:

Jalie 2568:

I made both the "hipster" (more a boycut) and bikini versions of this pattern. Here is the bikini version. It was nice but didn't have enough rear coverage for me at all, you can see how high the back leg is cut. The bisected butt is not a good look. However for someone less heavily endowed in that department it might work great:

Grade: D for me but may be someone else's A

Finally I made the hipster version, sort of an afterthought, the boycut never appealed to me, not being a boy myself. But then again as my kids say I am one of the original hipsters (not totally sure what that means or if it is a compliment or not, something about sewing when sewing wasn't cool I think) so I tried this out.

Interestingly this pattern had the option of a turned and stitched leg opening and since the fabric for this pair was a bamboo knit with fair body I tried that too, using a nice three step zig zag. I used a fold over elastic for the waist because I thought that would work with the grey and the boycut thing.

Here we go:

Now this was just a muslin trial but I did wear these and was most impressed. The back coverage is good, unlike the other pattern companies there is only one crotch seam in the Jalies, and I found that comfortable. The front legs weren't as low as I expected. Most of all I was impressed with how well the turned under leg looked and this was definitely the most comfortable of all my pairs from that perspective.

This was the fastest panty to construct and will probably be one of my favourite patterns. My sense though is that if you are turning and stitching you really need a good two-way fabric with some recovery, with thinner and less bounce back fabrics I will probably use the Jan Bones pattern.

Grade A+

I don't think I will be buying underwear again. My two As are much nicer to wear than anything currently in the drawer.


theresa said...

Haven't gone down that road yet as the "hi-cut" panties from Hanes still fit the bill. I am going to attempt bras. Hanes changed factories (must have, as the fit is off) for the sports bras as the XL is too big and the L, my usual size, is too small. I commend you for your efforts.
Theresa in Tucson

Jen L said...

The gray ones look really good. Underwear is a good project and once there's a reliable pattern, it lends itself to assembly line style construction. The Jalie looks nice. As an alternative, it's really easy to trace out a copy of any good fitting RTW pair. I made an underwear "sloper" on a piece of manila folder & now I just have to trace the pieces onto my fabric. Easy enough. During my early trials I also came to a similar conclusion about applying the elastic. I now just stretch it minimally around the legs. Really minimally. Personally I prefer stretch lace for the elastic - there's usually no waviness. I'm also interested in trying to make some shape wear some day, but good fabric choices are hard to come by it seems.

Jodie said...

Yes, I make my underwear as well. I like what I make better and have tried a variety of patterns. Here's my current favourite

But if you have a pair you like - go for it! Congrats on the book deal!

me said...

Thanks for your review. I used to make my unders all the time. A year ago I "tried" -I had the worst luck getting a pattern to fit. I'm in the process of packing to move but as soon as I'm settled I'm going to try again. In addition to the Jalie and Bones - I have Anne St Clairs pattern and also her daughters!!! I have a KS but not sure of the number. Again Thanks

Jane M said...

I too tried making undies about six or seven years ago but never got a pair that I loved any better than RTW. I cleaned out my sewing space while our renovation was underway this summer and found some of those old versions. I think my fitting skills and understanding of my bottom fitting features has improved and so with a few adjustments I think I might have some versions to give an all day test to in the coming months. I have the untried Jan Bones pattern and I like the turned and stitch version, especially when you said it wasn't too much of a boy cut leg. Great news about the book deal as well. Lucky future readers!! said...

I really like the panties from Monica who has the Bravo Bella website. And I definitely have an ample behind. They have a center back seam like the very expensive Vanity Fair panties I used to buy.

ElleC said...

I love making my own undies! The best part about my me mades is that I never have to adjust them during the day, they stay in place all day. I use an OOP Kwik Sew pattern. I find the hardest part is finding fabric I like, I prefer beige or pale pink (to eliminate showing thru light coloured fabrics).

Yay! You are writing a book! Can't wait.

Tracy King said...

Thank you for the undies review! I have been thinking of making my own for a while now. My hubby, of course, thinks I'm crazy but I am intrigued by the idea of being totally clothed in items I made myself. I love reading your reviews because you are so bluntly honest and that makes me smile. Thanks again :)

Kath V said...

For the legs of undies, I used a length of knit fabric about 4 cm wide x the length of my upper leg circumference. Sew into a circle and pin mark to 4 quarters of the leg opening. Sew to inside edge, then fold over, fold under and sew down on the outside edge. Super comfy and the best finish I have tried so far. I usually sew undies using soft tshirts from the opshop.

Louise Perry said...

What a great post, Thank you for all your hard work. Think I will investigate the later pair.

Genevieve Arthur said...

There must be something in the air ;)
Last week I was on a basic top sewing binge, made myself 4 versions of my fave Jalie T. Then spent all day on undies and a soft bra, 6 panties and one bra. I figure I saved myself $150 smackeroos. I use the Watson for my panty. I have to admit, I was surprised by your finding the boy short was your favorite...I always shy away from the boy short because I connect it to trendy for the 20-somethings :blush
Glad you've found comfort :)

Marion said...

I also like the idea of using off cuts from nice knits to make underwear. I have and like a couple of Jalie patterns, and a Ezi-Sew along with Bra-makers panty book. My first choice of late has been the Barrie brief mentioned already in the comments. The body has nice coverage, are a comfy as the off cuts you use and instead of elastic they have bands. I use supplex off cuts for the bands so these truly are free. They are not your "date night" lingerie but and don't replace the pretty bra/ panty sets ( which don't get made as often as they should). I first tried them on an austerity kick, thinking they would be "OK" for hiking etc but actually reach for them a lot.

Jenerators said...

I recently tried Scrundies by Stitch Upon a Time - first time I've made undies and I used some black stretch lace remnants. Hubby was impressed AND they're comfy!

lorrwill said...

Thanks for the info. I am with you about the styles that work with different body types. I have added both of your A grade patterns to the wish list.