A Few ‘Unmentionable’ Sewing Projects…

There’s been a lot of overly basic sewing going through my machine over the past months – and I’m talking about more than just masks.  The couple that wears handmade clothing stays together…did I get that right?!  Thus, I might as well spice that necessary stuff up a bit to make my practical sewing more interesting.

Not content with once around, the leftovers of one recent refashion plus some lace remnants were enough to eke out a special little sewing for my intimate wearing!  Then, some one yard novelty fabric remnants went towards making some quirky new boxers for my hubby.  Sorry if this is quite “too much personal information” to share, but I am proud of all the sewing I do and this stuff would never be seen otherwise if I didn’t post about it!  (That might be a good thing…anyway.)  I do think these look nice enough to share, especially my pretty bra, and yes – they are brand spanking new at this point.  It’s so hard to show how wonderful these items are without modeling them, but we’ll spare you that!  You’ll just have to believe our words and settle for my beginner’s ability to pull off an interesting flat-lay.  I paired the items with something that recalls the era of the pattern date.  You can see a peek of my silk true vintage 1930s pink bias slip as the backdrop for my bra, while hubby’s favorite vintage 60’s skinny tie and his monthly magazine subscription are the accessories paired for his boxers.

I think it is important to post about making underwear and lingerie so as to show others that it is much easier to make your own basic necessities than you might think.   These items are 100% more comfortable on us and much better fitting than any store-bought RTW items.  No wonder – they were tailored along the way to fit each of us, besides being incredibly personalized with the materials chosen, turning into an everyday treat to wear.  Also, everyone can see how pricey it is to buy quality, name-brand underwear and lingerie.  With remnants and under a yard of material, you can sew yourself something better than RTW at a very low or even free (if using scraps on hand) cost.  It’s a win all around.  Especially when these are such easy-to-make patterns, and vintage designs to boot!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  except for the little bit of lace on my bra, every item shared here is in comfy cotton – each one is just a different variety and weight of cotton (I’ll explain in further down in the rest of the post)

PATTERNS:  the brassiere – Simplicity #8510, a reprint from 2017 of a year 1937 sewing pattern (originally Simplicity #2288); the men’s boxers – Simplicity #5039, year 1963, from my personal pattern collection

NOTIONS NEEDED:  Luckily, I had the specialty bra making supplies already as part of a $1 grab bag of notions I bought a while back at a rummage sale.  Besides that, everything else I needed was basic – thread and elastic.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The brassiere was made –from start to finish – in 3 hours and was made in the afternoon of July 27, 2020.  His boxers were made here and there over the past few months and only took 1 ½ hours each to make.

THE INSIDES:  The insides of the bra are cleanly hidden, encased between the layers, while hubby’s boxers are zig-zag stitched finished along the edge.

TOTAL COST:  Each boxer cost about $2 to $4 (what a deal) while the bra materials are as good as free, being mostly leftovers from something 15 plus years ago.

So – where to start?  At first, the motivation for such sewing was both pure necessity as well as an inability to shop for such things in person (as we prefer).  But you know, what?  Somewhere along the line such basic sewing became more enjoyable.  We normally make sure to save my time and buy such items, yet the amount of 1 yard or less cuts that I have on hand are so plentiful and the perfect resource.  Besides, they both were quick projects that required barely an hour and so were practically perfect for the small segments of time I have for sewing recently!  It is nice to have a fast turnout item in between more complex projects, like the over the top dresses that my pandemic brain has been needing as of late (more on that soon).  It’s wonderful to have a completely handmade wardrobe inside as well as out, and it is also really special to be able to share that feeling.  I suppose doing such would be weird to share with anyone else but a partner, anyway!

I will start off with my selfish sewing.  The 90’s plaid skirt I refashioned to become this 1940s blouse had a basic cotton lining underskirt to it which was left behind.  It was a very small amount, about a half yard wide by about 25 inches long, but in simple A-line shape with only the two side seams so it was as good as a folded fabric remnant.  While it was out and not stashed away yet, why leave that good fabric neglected without a productive idea to match with it?  That would not be me!  So I reached for something that would need very little fabric, be different to make, and be something I could use at a practical level.  The basic ivory color and semi-sheer thickness dictated using the leftover lining cotton for some garment that was not to be seen.

This vintage year 1937 lingerie set has been a pattern I have been itching to try ever since I picked it up when it came out and so it was the natural choice.  Even though I was only able to use the skirt lining for a half set – just the bra (and the leftover fabric went towards two face masks) – this refashion was an immense success that makes me excited to pick up the pattern again and make a full set in a fashion fabric.  This is a very lovely surprise project, and a totally wearable muslin test.

As the lining cotton was a plain ivory and almost sheer (even with two layers), I realized mere dyeing to change the color would not add both a special touch and a bit of decency to this bra the same way layering it with some leftover lace did.  As the pattern is not complex and has very few seams I chose a posh French lace from on hand to layer over the outside.  Wow, does that lace addition really elevate this bra!

Yet, without realizing ahead of time, I found out it is a good thing that the lace was so delicate and the cotton was so soft and thin because it was quite hard to gather the middle seam of the bra down to the length the pattern intended.  As it was, I could not gather any tighter and that spot is still ½ inch longer than supposed to be.  If I had used a fabric any thicker this detail would have been even more difficult.  It is important to get this section as closely gathered as possible because it provides the bulk of the bra’s shaping, beside the small underbust darts.  The lesson learned (without having to recover from a failure) is to keep to lightweight, thin, and drapey for at least the brasserie half of this vintage reprint design.

Other than the challenge presented from the fabrics I was using, this pattern was a breeze to sew.  I found the size spot on and the instructions good.  The shaping of the bra is well done and the support is gives is just enough to do its job while still being comfortable to the point of feeling heavenly.  Of course you can see I upgraded to modern bra notions when it came to the notions used just so that this can be a vintage merge to get the best of both worlds.  There are times where I like to go all out vintage so I can both learn a new, different way of doings and also come from a historical perspective to try to understand how things used to be.  I did that already, however, for this earlier 1930’s lingerie set (posted here).  That aqua bra was finished the way the old vintage instructions dictated – with twill tape straps and such in the non-adjustable manner – and it needs constant tweaking to be brought back up fitting me as perfectly today as it did when I made it.  This time, I was determined today’s pretty little project was going to be more enjoyed than the last vintage lingerie, and what better way to do that than make it fully adjustable for my body and a touch more up-to-date?!

Next comes my unselfish sewing project!  This trio of boxers were very much mindless sewing I really didn’t have to think about how to construct.  They were pretty much the same as the 1940s pajama pants I had made him (posted here).  To save on interfacing for the front fly, I merely tripled up on fabric layers.  Interfacing and elastic still seems hard to come by, but luckily I had a pretty good stash of 1 inch wide elastic from my deceased Grandmother.  Thus, with the exception of the first pair of boxers I made for him – the animal print ones – which were two channels of ½ inch elastic, all the rest were a single piece of wide stretch waistband.  The instructions said to make two channels, but he seemed to find the dual channels of elastic would twist and line up wrongly as they get worn, so a single wide elastic waistband is always less fussy…and who wants fussy underwear?!

I gave myself a bit of a break when laying out the pattern for these boxers.  I laid the lower bottom edge out along the selvedge to save myself a bit of extra time to do hemming.  Also. I cut them opposite the grainline to save on fabric and better align with the directional prints on two of the boxers.  All of the pairs are cotton wovens that are not shifty and so going a bit against the rules of sewing and fabric isn’t a big deal, especially when you’re talking about mere underwear.  I normally never do such a thing so I was really in a special mood for such a disobedience to happen in my sewing projects.

Each pair is a different weight and kind of cotton.  As I said, I was not only using what was on hand but was experimenting to see what he would prefer.  The animal print ones as a tissue weight voile, the Captain America print is a medium weight quilting cotton, while the red print is something you might recognize, leftover Indian block print from making my sari ensemble choli blouse (posted here).  The Indian cotton was actually my part of a deal he made with me.  He encouraged me to not be feeling bad for placing a big fabric order from “Fibers to Fabric” on Etsy (yes, I honestly sometimes feel guilt for adding to my already generous sized stash of sewing supplies) as long as he gets a little something made for himself out of it.  I said I would use one of the fabrics to make him boxers, because I know how luxurious Indian cotton is, and underwear is the best way to appreciate good material.  It seems this is his favorite pair on account of the fabric – it is almost like a silk in the way it is very breathable, cooling, and weightless.

The voile is lightweight, yes – but not as silky the Indian cotton.  I know, he put up with me sewing him the animal pair, but I couldn’t help but think of Tarzan when I saw this one yard remnant.  Those were my crazy choice and my hubby has humored me.  The quilting cotton is a thick and tightly woven, as I’m sure many of you know (us vintage enthusiast always get tempted by its pretty prints for day dresses!), that has way too much sizing in it so it’s not the best choice for underwear.  Many washes will fix that eventually and break it in…and by then it might be looking almost worn out.  Ah, yes, I have a love-hate relationship with printed quilting cotton.  Yet, the Captain America print is so darn fun it has to be the winning boxer pair, though!  It is a print that is practically made for our family interests.  I actually ordered enough of this official Marvel brand fabric to make several face masks for each of us, with a yard still leftover to sew some pajama pants in the future for our little guy out of it as well.

The frequent wearing of loungewear along with finding ways to be self-dependent both are having a strong moment this year.  As we are all staying at home and outdoors more frequently, whether for work, play, or eating.  Crafting your own ‘unmentionables’ for your own personal comfort and enjoyment might just become as much of a thing as the “Nap dress” or food canning.  I love to be on trend using old trends.  Drive-in movie entertainment is coming back, so hey – anything is possible!

Handmade lingerie is really not as impossible a task as it might seem at first, and it is a fantastic way to use up small fabric scraps and bust that stash you’ve been holding onto, as well as be as sensible, sustainable, and thrifty as possible.  Besides, the holidays are coming and a handmade intimate garment would be an easy and cute little gift – just saying!  The world will never know how handmade your outfit really is when you make your own underwear…it’s merely a little undercover secret about your modern day superpower.

My Quadruplets of 1950’s Grannie Pannies

Just in time for the holiday of hearts and warm feelings, I’ll reluctantly post about four versions of some super easy 1950’s style full coverage under panties. These knickers were so easy, so fun, and a practical indulgence…how can I not gush!

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THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  All four are stretchy knits, just with varying fiber contents – 100% cotton, cotton and spandex blend, 100% rayon, and a polyester lace.

NOTIONS:  In order to make these panties sensible and practical I used all of what was on hand, including dis-assembling another unwanted pair of underpants.

PATTERN:  The pattern was free from the blog “Sew Vera Venus” (scroll down and look for the title “50’s Style Under Pants”)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Each pannie took more or less 2 hours. My first pair was made in early April 2015, number #2 and #3 were made December 28, 2015 and #4 were made on Jan 8, 2016.100_6719-comp

THE INSIDES:  Each pannie has a French seam for the center back, with all other seams covered by the crouch lining and the edging.

TOTAL COST:  Nothing! Free, free, free!

With the pattern being a free download, the quickness of its construction, and the simplicity of its design lending itself to being made solely from scraps, these underpants are the best thing ever in my book. I actually could just keep going and make plenty more – one from every knit or pretty stretchy fabric that I have leftover…perhaps I’ll do that. I really don’t mean to sound like a cheap freak, or stingy, but this pattern really does make underpants that are the most comfortable I’ve ever had. There is one exposed seam, making it easy and comfy on the skin. As is, they are full coverage, and come to a real waist height (they’re only hip huggers unless you adapt the pattern). Ready to wear doesn’t offer enough which falls at a normal waist height so I really appreciate finding these.

The only real trick to making your own underpants seems to be acquiring the knack for understanding how to figure the right measuring of the elastic. You have to take out a few inches (more or less depending on the fit you want) and when it gets sewn on it gets stretched out further, so it’s like a silly balancing act. Each kind of elastic acts differently as well. I had to spend the extra time to do some sort of unpicking on almost every pair of pannies to get the elastic just right for my liking. That’s just the critical perfectionist in me…*sigh*.

100_4920a-compMy first pair of under pannies is pretty just being basic, in my opinion, but I did use some fabric markers to draw my own decoration. This one was made out of 100% knit left over from my Doris Day “Romance on the High Seas” movie look-alike blouse. For the finishing, I went with the seemingly “traditional” lingerie elastic. Mine came from an old 1980’s packaged “kit” which I’d been holding on to in my stash – it has a lightly wider length for the waist and two slightly less wide lengths for the leg bands, both with decorative looping. I’m unimpressed with this kind of elastic. The decorative looping unraveled off after only the second washing…pooh, pooh. Otherwise, they’re still great.

100_6722-compMy second pair of knickers is my ultimate favorite. They are made from 100% rayon knit, leftover from making my 1946 high draped neck yellow blouse. The waist of these is cut slightly below the natural waist. As I mentioned in the “notions” part of “THE FACTS”, a ‘like new but never worn’ pair of panties provided me with the leg elastic which went on my newly made pair. Hubby was extremely generous to do the unpicking apart of the old panties and elastic for me. He also unpicked the raw fabric off of some matching stretch elastic in my stash (something I’ve been holding on to for maybe 10 years which came off of the bottom of a tank top). He says he likes unpicking, but I’m thinking he wanted to see me finish my pair of undies, the sweetie! We find it interesting how both re-used elastic pieces match so exactly. Perhaps it’s because they came from the same store (Target), but there is a 5 years difference between the dates of purchase.

100_6726-compWhatever the reason for a happenstance of matching, I love the finished product. The fancy lace and the light sheer knit makes this pair the prettiest in my opinion. Having a rayon knit against the skin is the most enjoyable and luxurious feeling ever – it’s so soft, yet stable, that it’s a treat to wear. Whenever I feel them on me, it makes it smile ‘cause it’s a happy sensation (like a warm bubble bath) but most of the time they’re so lightweight I don’t feel them. Rayon knit undies are a very fine, indeed. If you have any of this fabric, use it to make some underwear for yourself and you’ll feel like your fabric’s giving you a really nice hug. Now, I have an early 40’s nightgown I want to make out of more rayon knit in a lavender color.

100_6718a-compMy third pair is also made from leftovers to the last mention project, my 1946 yellow blouse, except this was the basic white, part spandex lining. It is jazzed up with some fun color courtesy of the trim. I used a pack of vintage nylon stretch lace (with a copyright of 1971) in a bright lime green for the leg opening. I have another pack of this same 1971 stretch lace in a bright magenta color…can’t wait to use this on another pair of panties…maybe made of pink knit? Anyway, the waistband is a light yellow modern elastic in a “fold-in-half” style. It has a sort of indentation running through the middle of the length and a soft satin finish, both making this easy and comfy option. This pair is my most full coverage due to the ultra-stretchiness of the fabric.

100_6886a-compMy fourth panties, but probably not the last, are fun and playful, but my least favorite. They are made with polyester stretch lace leftover from my 1979 T-shirt knit dress. The lace had some weird stretch that didn’t lend itself well to stretching one it was stitched, even with the proper sewing methods of pulling the fabric as sewing and using a “lightening” zig-zag stitch. Due to lack of any more stretch lace, I made binding strips from the same self-fabric for the legs and the waist. However the only way I could get the panties to stretch enough to go on me was to sew the waist binding only part way around the sides and back leaving a raw, turned under patch in the center front for a few inches. I used the cotton crouch from a ‘like new but never worn’ pair of panties (the same ones the elastic came from for panties #2) to go into my lace undies, but the lace is still slightly itchy on my skin.

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The back view…

The pattern is one size, but with limited seams it should be cinch to grade up. Simply add in some length through the center front and center back, extend the buttock coverage as needed, and heighten or shorten the waist as desired and I would think that would do it!
“Grannie Pannies” is not the most complimentary name for these underpants, I know, and the shape might not appear as the hottest little number. However, vintage styling does things right so many times and these 50’s underpants with a 50’s flair are no exception. Even if you don’t want full coverage, the pattern is free and can be made from scraps in about 2 hours, so adapt it…what’s the risk?!

In stores, underwear can become quite pricey, so now that I’ve made my own and know how easily they can be sewn, where’s high cost coming from? I’ve noticed in the last 6 or so months a striking increase in people making their own lingerie and underwear, so I’m happy to see the sewing world taking matters into its own hands and discovering the joy of making your own intimate wear.

My foray into the world of making intimate underwear wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be (I’ve already made vintage underpinnings with my #1 and #2 tap pants and my tango knickers). As you can see, I enjoyed myself, otherwise I wouldn’t have made multiples of panties! Comfort and practicality never was so satisfying. Now I think I have the gumption to try more complex lingerie. I’m thinking maybe brassieres and a garter belt will be fighting to be next!