Idea and Research
For years, I’ve been wearing 100% cotton Jockey bikinis. As basic underwear goes, they’re the best — sturdy soft cotton knit, long wearing, a nice cut, and as boring as a June day is long.
Nice underwear is surprisingly important. Of course, underwear seams can be seen through your outer clothing, and poorly fitting pieces can distort your shape. [Bra fitting post in the future.] What you wear under your clothing can affect your mind too. Wear stained panties with holes and you feel like a schlub. Wear something sexy and you feel you could find your Sigma Unicorn*. My Jockeys say plain and serviceable, but not pretty or sexy. I’m ready for a change.
Have you priced sexy underpants lately? Most of the pairs I saw in the outlet stores were over $10, and though pretty, didn’t look like they’d last through one heavy date. Panties that match bras in my unusual size are in the $30 range, and aren’t any sturdier. I’m still recovering financially from my last divorce; I can’t afford any of this.
But I can sew. I have a top-quality sewing machine. If I can find patterns (which I can modify) and fabric, there’s no reason I can’t make my own lingerie. And I might even be able to dye the fabrics to match my bras. [I;m not up to sewing my own bras, at least not yet.] Time for some research …
Patterns for Panties
I quickly turned up half a dozen free panty patterns. Some of these are definitely in the “specialty wear” category (retro French knickers), and some will need modification (Grannie Pannies), but several patterns look good for regular wear. I did find other patterns, but these look well-designed.
- Favorite Knickers are a standard bikini cut panty. [In the UK and Europe, the word knickers means exactly the same thing as panties in the USA.] Side seams and a separate inner gusset. This pattern looks like a good starter for experimentation.
- “Cheeky” panties of stretch lace and a solid crotch liner.
- “Grannie Pannies” 1950s full waist high briefs. One piece plus crotch liner, center back seam. Also good as a starter for modification.
- 2 different French Knicker patterns. [Use Grannie Pannies link and scroll way down.] These are not panties, but loose knickers made from woven fabric. Good for loungewear or under some dresses, but not practical everyday.
- Rosy Ladyshorts are basic, front & back seams, slightly boy-leg panties. Another good starter pattern.
OK, patterns exist. [The above list is current as of May 2015.]
Now for the fabric. The only fabric store in a reasonable driving distance is a chain that sells very little garment fabric. More online searching turned up several suppliers of lingerie fabrics and notions, mostly white. A few dealers, mostly on eBay and Etsy, sell luxury fabrics and lace. And best of all, the prices are very reasonable! A pair of all lace panties could cost less than $2.50. And once I get my patterns and methods down, I can sew panties worthy of Agent Provocateur for the price of a sale pair at Macy’s. [See above. If my Sigma Unicorn is a dot-com billionaire, I’ll point him there and give him my size.]
Here are some of the sources I found for fabric online:
- Sew Sassy wide variety, low prices. $15 minimum. Often missing fiber content info.
- ZoeLees Fabrics wide variety, more types than Sew Sassy (lace embellishments). General fabric store with lingerie section.
- Bra-Maker’s Supply Canadian source. More expensive than Sew Sassy, better descriptions. Though they specialize in supplies for bras, they have plenty of fabrics for panties, too.
- Mood Fabrics has stretch silk & a variety of lace. Luxury materials! Their stock changes often.
- Lace Heaven Lace & trims, including stretch lace
- Mary Not Martha at Etsy “Fine trims, laces, fabrics & millinery flowers” Lace & stretch lace, luxury items including designer fabrics. The shop can be tricky to navigate; here’s the stretch lace section.
I expect that eBay and Etsy dealers may change over the years. If you’re reading this post several years past May 2015, some links may be dead.
Dyeing Lingerie Fabric
Can I dye the lower cost white lingerie fabric? Absolutely yes, if it’s nylon. Nylon dyes as easily as wool, and I’ve dyed plenty of wool in my time. Here are a few posts on dyeing nylon and lingerie fabric:
- Paula Burch on Dyeing Nylon Paula is the online authority on dyeing fabric. I’ve learned a lot from her website.
- Bra-Maker’s Supply blog This post goes into detail about dyeing not just fabric, but trims and notions.
- Sewing Lingerie Myself blog This is a nice post from a “do it yourselfer” dyeing a variety of lingerie fabrics with craft store dye.
Finally, I need some cheap fabric to perfect my patterns. This fabric needs to be stretchy, lightweight and nylon, so I can dye it if my test “muslin” comes out good enough to wear. For this, my local fabric store came through, and I came home with a yard of swimsuit lining. [One yard of fabric makes a lot of panties.] That, plus some elastic, and I was ready to start sewing.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
* Sigma Unicorn is my term for my next romantic partner, the one I haven’t found yet.