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Don’t get your knickers in a twist

Just over a couple of years ago, when the blog was very new and I was still new to sewing, I made the Watson bra. Remember it? I was fed up of the uncomfortable, boring underwired bras available in the shops, so decided to take things into my own hands and see if I could sew me something that I felt better about wearing.

I could.

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Since then, I’ve not worn an underwired bra once – and probably never will again. I just feel that there’s something SO weird about putting wired cups under your boobs. Don’t even get me started on push up bras ? (I know that there’s ladies out there that need the wire for support and to feel comfortable, but I just feel that personally, putting wires underneath mine feels a little odd).

Along came a rough few months back in 2018 though, and had some anxiety (and weight gain) issues going on – which made the Watsons feel tight and restrictive around my ribcage. Not to mention the ‘v’ between the cups was quite deep and wide, and resulted in… well, spillage. Wearing my trusty Watsons had become unpleasant and I needed something comfortable – and I needed it NOW. So I headed into the stores.

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The soft elastic (and roomier cut) of these Jack Wills bras was my saviour, and I’ve literally lived in them the past couple of years. The only downfall is that they don’t come in the most fun prints (solid colours only, usually, and you know how I feel about that) and there’s that branded elastic along the bottom too which I’m not too keen ? I’ve wanted to replicate the garment in some fabrics that were more ‘me’ for a while.

I couldn’t find a pattern, though, and I needed/wanted more bras pronto. I thought about making more Watsons in a bigger size, but in all honesty, the fit really wasn’t that great. Even if I made the band bigger around the ribs, there was still the issue of the über-plunge front. The Jack Wills bras, on the other hand, are enclosed right across the front so spillage risk is 0% ??

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I kept my eyes open for potential patterns, stalking Instagram and the interwebs every chance I got. I bought the Cartesian Crop pattern from Sophie Hines, but then decided that I didn’t want another bra with a clasp at the back (like the Watson) – I wanted a soft back (like the Jack Wills bra). I also bought the Lana Bra from Made for Mermaids (a new-to-me pattern company) as it’s got a higher front which should cure the spillage issue, but I’m not sure how I feel about the thin straps. I’ve gotten used to wider, comfy straps – I don’t wear any strappy tops so having them on show isn’t an issue for me (and we’re heading in to winter anyway).

Then, as you do, I bought a pattern on impulse and bumped it straight to the top of the queue ?

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It was the Effie crop top from Evie La Luve. It was exactly what I wanted, the same as the Jack Wills style and I had some leftover scraps of the PERFECT jersey to make it with, which just so happened to coordinate beautifully with some hot pink fold-over elastic that I picked up in NYC when we were there last year, with no idea at the time of purchase of what I’d actually use it for. Now I knew ??

I decided to copy the Jack Wills bra and line the Effie with some lightweight power net – I just cut the main body pieces twice (one from jersey, one from power net) and basted the two together at the very edges. I bought Prym wide elastic for the bottom band.

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I fell within the size ‘small’ of the Effie – bust of 33 -35 inches. I measure about 34, so I was smack bang in the middle.

To keep the side seams a little more secure, I stitched them, overlocked them, and then went over them with a wide coverstitch. Probably not needed, but it made me happy to do it in the pink thread ????‍♀️


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The one thing I couldn’t understand about the method is why you’re instructed to attach the fold over elastic into the front/back scoops and armholes before you sew the shoulder seams – then the raw edges get sewn up into that (pretty bulky) shoulder seam. My method would have been to join the shoulder seams, and then go round with the elastic. This way, you’d have a smooth pass over the shoulder – I mean sure, you’ve gotta then secure your elastic into a circle somewhere, but this should be no more tricky than the same method with bias binding on an armhole. Butttt I thought that maybe there was a reason I’m unaware of for choosing this method, so decided to proceed as instructed. This left me with SO MUCH BULK at that shoulder seam – you’ve got four layers of elastic, two of jersey and two power net and the whole thing is overlocked. Not only does this give a lump on the shoulder bone (tres uncomfortable) but it looks a right state on the inside. You’ve got to overlock all those layers together to finish them off, and then you’ve got to hide that overlocked bit from peeking out to the front. No stray threads can stick out from behind the elastic, otherwise it’s gonna look like a shitshow. I ended up anchoring my seam allowances down by hand to stop it from moving about, which seemed like FAR too much faff and effort for such a small seam.

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Next time, I will 100% do it my way – even if I can’t quite get the pre-joined-elastic-loop plan to work, I think I’ll swap the join from being on the shoulder to being at the underarm instead.

When it came to adding the wide elastic, I decided to overlock it to the main body of the bra, and then use the coverstitch to hold everything down from the right side. The instructions have you zig-zag stitch the two together, and that’s it, but I wanted a bit more of a secure finish. I’m happy with mine ??

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You add the band before sewing the final side seam of the bra, so that the raw edge is enclosed within that seam and then everything gets overlocked together. You also put a little row of stitching next to the join on the elastic, for added support (and it keeps the overlocked edges secured down on the inside, too).

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I thought that I might find the fold-over elastic scratchy on the underarms – I don’t – but I have bought a binding attachment for my coverstitch machine so that I can attach it with that rather than doing the whole double-zig-zag thing. Seems the official Brother attachments are like almost £100 (?) so I went for an eBay-shipped-from-China job for a fraction of the price. They arrived, and look pretty similar to the Brother one, but I’ll admit they look a bit scary to use. You have to somehow fix them to your coverstitch machine and it’s also apparently important that you position them correctly – and they come in different sizes, just to add to the mix. I think there’s gonna be a lot of trial and error with getting this contraption to work (probably more error than trial if I’m honest), but I’m hoping it will give a better finish than the zig zag.

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The bra was a really quick make – you’ve only got two pieces to cut out, and the sewing time is probably only an hour or so (don’t hold me to that – I didn’t time it, and it felt like I spent most of that time swearing about that shoulder seam and tucking in all the stray threads).

Next time, I think I’ll make a medium because although it ‘fits’ – as in, I can get it on – I’d prefer a little less stretched-ness over my boobs. I’d also prefer a slightly higher neckline (as in, maybe just a half-inch, not much) and I’d prefer it slightly looser under the armpits – it’s cutting into my back fat BAD ? Oh! And pro tip – the back and front look reaaaaalllly similar, so put a label in the back! I swear about this every time I have to line up the front with the back to see which one is which (the front neckline is slightly higher than the back). It’s not the end of the world if I put it on back to front I guess, but I’d like to think that I’m good enough at adulting not to be wearing my underwear backwards ???‍♀️

A note on the sizing… as the sizes are ‘bust size’ rather than ‘cup size’, I think this is what’s caused my fit issues. Even though I measure 34 bust, quite a lot of that is boobs. My under-bust is considerably smaller. Someone else could have a big ribcage, with smaller boobs and still measure a 34 bust, and the bra would fit them much better than it does me. They wouldn’t have the same tight fit that I have across the chest. So bear that in mind when choosing your size!

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To go with my new bra, I also wanted some matching bottoms. (Pants? ‘Knickers’ is a horrible word, ‘panties’ sounds too airy-fairy and much like what you’d hear in a porn movie, and ‘underpants’ sounds like men’s Y-fronts. I just can’t find a term I’m happy with ??‍♀️). I’d bought Evie La Luve’s Maxine Panties (eugh, but it’s the official name so I’ll go with it) a couple of years ago but never got around to making them – now seemed the perfect time.

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(also – it’s a free pattern! Get it from Evie La Luve here)

Now, I LOVE a good pair of high waisted pants, but I knew as soon as I cut out the pattern pieces that these were wayyyy into the Bloomers Department. As in, they legit could reach my armpits.  But I figured that I could always lop an inch off the top if I needed to, and it was my first attempt at underwear and the pattern was free soooo ??‍♀️

Based on the measurement chart, my hips put me into a size large. Having just made the bra in a S, and deeming it slightly snug, I thought a large sounded about right. They did look proper large though – or perhaps I was underestimating the size of my arse ?

These were even quicker to make than the bra. Three pieces – front, back plus the gusset. Simples.

I used fold-over elastic for the waistband and leg openings – you can use regular lingerie elastic too, but I didn’t have any that matched the fabric to hand (and plus I wanted to match the finishing on the bra). I’m not sure I like the FOE for the bottoms – it feels a bit too much. It’s quite thick – I’m sure it would defo give a proper visible line under some clothes, and all the zig-zagging feels scratchy on the inside of my leg. I did use regular polyester sewing thread mind you (Gutermann Sew-All, if anyone’s interested), so perhaps it was time to get the softer Seraflock thread out, but this wouldn’t have done anything the reduce the bulk. Lingerie elastic plus Seraflock could be the way to go, or if I can get that coverstitch contraption working then that could also improve things.

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In the end, I could have done with a size large at the hips and a medium at the waist (seriously, do I have to grade EVERYTHING?!), and I ended taking off one inch of height from the top. Trying on the finished item, it should have been two inches, so I’m going to adjust my pattern pieces for this. These are SERIOUSLY high waisted, people.

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I’ve made frequent complaints before (in my head, to myself lol) about underwear gussets that are too narrow (for reasons that I’m not going to explain ?) but the gusset on the Maxine is really wide ? So much so that the leg elastic wasn’t sitting nicely in the crease of my leg, but instead on my thigh. A bit like boxer shorts with a really short leg. Very odd. For the next pair I’ll narrow it slightly and see if that improves the fit. I feel like this pattern would be really good as a swimming costume/bikini bottom – for everyday lingerie, they just seem a little… big. They’re big pants. REALLY big.

It’s a good construction method though, you roll everything up into a burrito and stitch the gusset, so that there’s no exposed seams. No one wants that from their underwear, amirite? ?

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I ran out of pink thread while I was sewing the elastic on these, so I had to start mixing up the colours… I like the contrast of the turquoise against the pink (and it adds to the 80s theme, too!) but it does show up every wobble ???‍♀️

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The elastic for the leg is installed once the leg is sewn together – in the round, so to speak. This leaves you with a bit of a bulky join somewhere, and it looks a bit naff…

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I started eyeballing ready to wear lingerie to see how they do it (and also the insta accounts of some of the pros – Ohhh Lulu was one) and it seems that the way to go is to put the elastic in while the leg seam is still open, and then join and overlock the side seam in one go to finish all the raw edges of both jersey and trimming. This is the same way that the shoulders of the Effie Crop Top were constructed (that I moaned about because it was so bulky and ugly), but theirs looks 100% better than mine did, so it’s possibly down to experience and other things that I haven’t figured out yet.

I possibly should have changed the overlocker thread to the same colour as the elastic rather than the fabric (I had black thread, pink might have been better), and also it seems that the pros are using a narrow overlock stitch, so I need to look at adjusting my machine perhaps. I did see something on the inside that looked as if it narrowed the stitch width if you removed it, which I stupidly pulled out and then panicked that I didn’t look closely enough at how it went back in ??? I thought that I may as well confirm whether or not it narrows the stitch now I’d gone that far – it did, but it also messed with the tension something rotten ????‍♀️

Thankfully I managed to get the bit I pulled out back in, and the machine forgave me for messing about with it’s innards. We’re friends again.

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I was really pleased with the quality of the pattern and instructions from Evie La Luve – she has a lot of lingerie sewing patterns so I’ll definitely be trying more. I’ll also make the Cartesian Crop and Lana Bra patterns that I bought, just to see how they compare.

I feel like there’s a lot to be learned here, in techniques and materials for the best finishes, but I’m actually quite excited to learn so I’ll keep practicing!

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Cartesian Crop – Sophie Hines

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Despite the fact that the bra is a little too small and the pants are a bit too big, I’m actually pretty pleased with how these turned out. It’s a good starting point – I don’t have a great deal of experience at sewing lingerie, and although my Watsons looked good from the get-go and the Effie needs some work, I know that the Effie will be the one I reach for moving forwards. It’s a bit like the boxer shorts for the husband – the first version was good, the second was better, but I know that subsequent versions (with a bit of tweaking) will be da bomb ?

I hope.

Wish me luck! ??

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Next week on the blog… I broke the rules and made a knit version of the woven Scout Tee pattern ???‍♀️ Was it a success? I’m not tellin’! You’ve only got a week to wait to find out ? All the deets and the full lowdown can be delivered straight to your inbox, via the box below??

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31 thoughts on “Don’t get your knickers in a twist

  1. Well I think they both look great, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Bra making has been pretty high up on my to sew list this year but I still haven’t got around to it, I’m contemplating taking a course at the New Craft House in October, but at 160 quid finding it hard to justify, it is the day after my birthday though, so I’m hoping someone will treat me. I’m still not sold on the soft bras though, at my age I need all the help I can get! I’ve also got the same squeamishness in naming underwear related terms – gussets gets me every time – ugh! I’ve started to call them Undies, you’re quite right panties is too porno1


    1. Thanks Sam! ? I’m glad I’m not the only one with the ‘panties’ issue ?? Let’s go with undies!! I feel that I’m not too bad at the bra-making thing, but I defo need some more practice on pants. I will try lingerie elastic on the next pair and see if that improves things – the FOE was just a bit too bulky for my liking. Honestly though the soft bras were life changing for me – give it a try, you might never go back!! Fingers crossed that the birthday fairy brings the New Craft House course to you ???


  2. An interesting blog. I like the idea of making my own undies, but have not yet tried it. I, too, detest underwires. I also have lots of cotton/lycra jersey scraps.
    I have a binder attachment for my Janome coverstitch machine. When you’ve figured yours out, perhaps you could tell me how to use it? I have never used it (after paying all that money); it’s just too scary!


    1. Hi Bren, underwires are the DEVIL, amirite?! ?
      Undies would be PERFECT to use up all of your jersey scraps! ?? Okay, deal – once I figure out how to use the attachment, I’ll give you a step-by-step to encourage you to get going with yours! (That is, assuming I can actually get mine to work ????‍♀️)


  3. I had a splurge on undie making some time back but found it boring, I do need me some hiiiiggggghhhhh waisted briefs though to contain my matronly flab. [Briefs, much better than panties I agree lol]
    I get you on the wide gusset too, who needs their lady lunch escaping and eating the gusset hmmm?
    Looking forward to your future adventures with underoos,
    btw, what’s with that photo for the Hines undies? THat model looks STRETCHED!


    1. I mean, I get that it’s not the most *exciting* thing in the world – so I see why you find it boring! Yes – let’s go with briefs, well I’m happy with ANYTHING so long as it’s not ‘panties’!!
      I’ve seen some undies in stores that have a suuuuuper narrow gusset, and it just baffles me that people are actually wearing these ??‍♀️
      Oh, the model is Sophie Hines herself! I think she’s pretty tall ??
      Hmm yes I think maybe I’ll cut the medium in the front for the bra, and the small in the back… and I mayyyyybe (might) consider reading up on a stretch FBA.


  4. This is such a fun fabric! How about using a sports bra pattern for a next one? There are several patterns out there! I’m considering to make my own undies, but somehow I get distracted by other projects all the time.


    1. Thanks Karin! The fabric is SO cool isn’t it! ? Evie La Luve actually recently released a sports bra pattern, and although I prefer my sports bras to have a front zip (so that I can actually remove them from my body ?) it could work as an actual bra for me. Haha I guess making undies isn’t as exciting as making other things, so I hear ya on that! ??


  5. Just a “brief” note from across the pond. In the US (and I’ve lived north, south, east and west) innocent little girls call their underpants “panties”. It’s a thing. (But not a porno thing.)
    Great post Sarah! Panties, unders, underoos, knickers (what we call your knikerbockers… seriously) – we all gotta have ’em, and I’m afraid to make ’em. So I’ll stay tuned! (And…why do ‘we’ in the US call men’s briefs (underoos) “boxers”? I dunno…)


    1. Hi Melody!
      I think the ‘panties’ thing must be a British thing – it’s just not a word we use in an everyday sense ???‍♀️
      Is it just mens briefs that you guys call ‘boxers’? We only call the shorts-style ones boxers (because they are like the shorts that boxers wear in the ring), but the jersey short variety also gets called boxers for some reason… briefs sometimes get called ‘briefs’ and sometimes ‘pants’. It’s all SO confusing!!
      Stay tuned for the second round of the underwear making… hopefully it will encourage you to take a stab at making your own! ?


  6. Hi Sarah a really interesting post about underwear. I have been looking for a specific style of high waisted, full bum coverage knickers (I really struggle with panties, preferring pants). I found the Stitch Upon a Time (SUAT) scrundies and Bunzies and chose the Bunzies pattern. The patterns have a variety of options. People who make them rave about how comfortable they are. I made myself a couple of test pairs according to my measurements but both were not comfortable and not high waisted enough. I’ve lost my motivation but will have to return to them making a bigger size and adding length to them to get nearer my waist So far they are nowhere near the M and S rtw ones that are getting a bit old but sadly the style was tweaked and nowhere near as comfortable. Their USP was no side seams but a flat seamed panel in the front.
    I always look forward to your informative and interesting posts


    1. Hi Maureen!
      Ahh I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy the blog ?
      I’ve seen the Scrundies pattern – they do look comfy, I think it’s those wide bands around the openings. They look pretty soft, unlike elastic digging in to your leg! That’s really interesting to hear that you didn’t find them comfortable – are the bands quite bulky? I imagine they could be. I have a really high waist and find low-rise underwear to be really uncomfortable – but these Maxine’s were too high even for me!
      Isn’t it frustrating when you find something that’s really good, only for the manufacturer to change it ? i guess it’s the motivation you need to try and make your own?! ???


  7. I utterly DESPISE the word “panties” – I hate hearing it, I hate saying it, I even hate reading it. I say “underwear.”

    And I started making my own a couple of years ago, using Kwik Sew 3881 (https://kwiksew.mccall.com/k3881). I hybridized view B and C because I wanted the cheek coverage of a hipster with the waist height of the bikini and they are absolutely perfect. I also don’t use fold-over elastic or anything fancy – just 1/4″ braided on the leg openings and 3/4″ braided on the waistband; I sew them to the wrong side of the openings, then fold the fabric down as if doing a hem, with the elastic inside the hem fold, and stitch it down again. Braided elastic is cheap and easy to find, and this way I don’t have to stockpile a hoard of elastic in different colors.

    I use Maxi-Lock thread cones on my serger and coverstitch; I keep 4 cones of neutrals and frequent use colors, then a single cone for more unique colors, from which I will run up 3 bobbins to use in place of the other 3 cones. I’ve never had a Maxi-Lock seam break, so I recommend it.

    Also, I’ve been collecting bralette patterns for a few years now, because like you, I realized that my figure doesn’t require underwires (and I can’t wear them to work anyway – metal detectors don’t like them). But…I have yet to actually SEW one up. I am such a slack-ass in that regard. My old Fruit of the Loom plain spaghetti-strap sports bras are getting long in the tooth, though, so I’ll have to get to it sooner rather than later. Especially now that you’ve gotten it done – challenge accepted! 😉


    1. Haha, it’s WAY up there on my list of hated words ? With ‘underwear’ though, I’m always left with the dilemma of how do you distinguish between top half and bottom half?! I sort of put bras in the ‘underwear’ category as well as briefs/pants/whatever ?
      I’ll check out the Kwik sew pattern – thanks! I like me some cheek coverage, ain’t got no patience for underwear that rides up my butt ? Ooh I hadn’t thought of using braided elastic – and I think I even have some kicking around at home!!
      I’m not really sure whether my figure doesn’t *require* underwires… but more like I don’t want to wear them anymore and to hell with being judged on how perky my boobs are ??‍♀️?? And soft bras are sooooo comfy!!
      I think it’s time that you started sewing up all those patterns you’ve been collecting… challenge given. GO! ??‍♀️


  8. You’re making me feel like I maybe want to try underoos (is that better than pants? Ugh, no) again. Well, bottoms for the first time, bras for the second. This set is a ton of fun! Maybe lingerie elastic instead of FOE would reduce bulk and maybe help narrow the too-wide gusset? I haven’t used either enough for that to be anything like an informed opinion, though.


    1. Underoos… haha. I just don’t think there’s a word I can settle on. With men, it’s easy – boxer shorts! (Or briefs). I think lingerie elastic was DEFINITELY the way to go – won’t be using FOE again. I would like to persevere with the bottoms, but think I need to find a different pattern (or at least try a few from different brands, and see how they turn out) ??‍♀️


  9. Finally got around to reading this. Count me in the No to panties camp. I once saw an old movie about a rape trial, where the judge informed the jury that the word “panties” would be used, and to regard it seriously (piece of evidence). It seemed childish and stupid to me.

    I wear a large enough size to get a wide-enough gusset, but my complaint is that it starts too far back! Pants (trousers) inseams are often in front of the edge of the gusset. I wonder if other women agree with me, but it’s an awkward subject to discuss!


    1. Hi Rebecca! I’m SO glad it’s not just me, the word is just… EUGH.
      Ooh, I’ve not actually thought about the placement of the start of the gusset, perhaps I’ll dig out some RTW pairs and compare. I wonder if the rise has anything to do with it – I like a high rise, and in the past I’ve had lower rise pairs which I’ve felt like I wanted to pull up at the front (to get them to sit where I want), but this in turn lowers the back and also the placement of the gusset… so I wonder whether that’s an issue? Might be worth checking in a mirror whether the front and back are level when you’re wearing them? ? just a thought! ?


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