Upcycled Smalls….

Seeing as I have shown you upcycled underwear I made for my long suffering other half I thought it was about time I finally got around to posting about the pants I made for myself from old t shirts, to prove that I do unto myself as I do to others! I found an almost complete blog draft from May 2014 – it just needed photo’s uploading. I think I hadn’t finished it as I felt I hadn’t quite mastered the t shirts to underwear trick yet and wanted to perfect that first. But more on that later, for now I’ll hand you over to former me …..

frog knickers!

frog knickers! These make me smile so

I blame Philippa from Gloria and Me, she put the idea in my head before Christmas, so when I realised that I had a knicker shortage, instead of nipping to Marks and Spencers I followed her example and made some.

I looked at So Zo’s tutorial and at Cal Patch’s tutorial, scratched my head a bit, raided my overstuffed t shirt drawer for some t shirts that had got to that short and wide stage, and got going.

I decided to draft my own pattern, as I don’t like hipsters. I tried So Zo’s method, then switched to Cal’s as I found it easier, but I did draft it onto paper, rather than cutting the fabric straight away. This helped me make improvements for the second pair.

slightly modified draft

Second pair (with slightly modified draft) cut and ready to assemble. The front is on the left and the back on the right.

My first issue was working out what shape the back and front are supposed to be. It may seem obvious, but as the underwear I own has seams at the front and back of the gusset it took me a while to figure out that they actually join at the back seam, so the front has a long dangly bit that the back doesn’t. (The seam at the front of the gusset is created when the gusset is attached to the front)

Then I added seam allowance where the side seams would be and where the back and front are joined together and at the front and back of the gusset, but I didn’t add seam allowance at the top or around the leg wholes as the elastic is sewn straight to the edge.

part way through

About to sew the gusset, back and front pieces together (the front is hidden underneath). Please excuse former me’s appalling photo skills.

My next issue was how to join my three pieces. For some reason I couldn’t get my head around the instructions. In the end I worked out to put the front and back pieces right side together as if just sewing the joining seam with the two of them. The front one needs to be underneath, right (out) side up and the back piece on top wrong (inside) side up. Then lay the gusset piece on top, matching the back of the gusset and put it wrong side up.

misaligned gusset

misaligned gusset (sewn down)

After seaming I added a step to grade my seam allowances, I trimmed the front piece seam allowance a lot, left the gusset seam allowance and trimmed the back piece seam allowance to half way inbetween before opening the front and back pieces out flat and flipping over my gusset. Then I topstitched that seam, before folding over the front end of my gusset and sewing it down.

Now, you may have noticed that my gusset doesn’t line up to my front piece. This was not deliberate. I trimmed them to fit each other after this. I took more care with the second pair and it happened again. On pair number 3 I cut my gusset rectangular (right length, but extra width at the side, if that makes sense) and then cut it to match the front piece after sewing. This may not be the best technique but it worked best for me!

attempt number one with Fold Over Elastic

attempt number one with Fold Over Elastic

I hadn’t used fold over or knicker elastic before and found both easy to work with. The fold over (on the red pair) was marginally easier to use but the knicker elastic (on the purple frog pair) looked “more normal”. I didn’t pin my elastic and I stretched it slightly as I was sewing. I like the look of the triple zig zag (a stitch designed for sewing stretchy things like elastic) in a contrasting colour against the elastic. I found I got a better finish if I sewed the side seams before adding the elastic to the leg holes.

Back view

Back view – with an upside down logo that was on the bottom of the t shirt in case you’re wondering (Morris dancing related, so now I have morris knickers)

So, was it worth it? Economically, no probably not. I used a whole 2m pack of elastic each time (for approx size 16 knickers, so I guess someone else might need less, but as I could only find it in 2m packs that wouldn’t help much), so one pair cost me £1.60 and the other £1 (as that pack of elastic had been in a bargain bin, a trick I’m unlikely to manage to repeat) which is not really a saving (and I haven’t factored in thread and electricity). It did cross my mind that I could unpick knicker elastic from knickers that were about to be binned and reuse it, but I’m not sure that I have the patience to do that. I also tried looking online but I’m not sure that buying a bundle of different elastics that I might not use all of and paying for postage is a saving. I really want to be able to buy the elastic on the roll, but that’s not possible where I live.

Stylistically they’re not going to win any prizes. When not on, they look like an old t shirt that’s been cut into a knicker shape – they don’t sort of scrunch up the way shop bought knickers do as they’re made from thicker fabric. They do look better on, but I’m not posting a belfie to prove it.

Comfort wise they’re just fine. My second pair is better, partly as I altered my pattern slightly and partly as the first pair were cut in a rush and ended up slightly unsymmetrical. But I have worn both all day and forgotten I was wearing them.

But the sheer satisfaction of knowing that I can and have made usuable underwear is great. And it’s good too to recycle a much loved t shirt that I haven’t been wearing and get more use out of it.


Spot the bike?

Spot the bike?

So, that was the original post. Afterwards I wanted to experiment with “non knicker” elastic. I made a third pair, from a much loved t shirt (that was also thinner fabric, more like that used in shop bought t shirts). I bought some frill edged elastic from a roll, but it didn’t save me any money. And I pulled it too tight as I sewed so they cut into my legs and I’ve never worn them. Boo hiss. They were the best looking pair. But I can’t face unpicking triple stitch at the edge of t shirt fabric.

I have an idea to modify the pattern put a seam allowance around the waist and leg holes and then use normal 5mm elastic, with the fabric folded over it to encase it. The aim is use of cheaper elastic but then it’s hidden. However, this has been my plan since last May so don’t hold your breath!

Any top tips on where to source cheaper knicker or fold over elastic? Or how to use normal elastic?

10 thoughts on “Upcycled Smalls….

  1. These look great, do you use an overlocker?

    Like you I hate hipster style underwear – I confess to wearing big knickers its blissful having something round your waist instead of halfway up – it cuts across the widest part of the body and isn’t that flattering.

    I make French knickers for the summer, mostly because I always wear skirts and dresses – thigh chafing is not pleasant! French knickers – problem solved! No VPL and no muffin top!

    • I have yet to try french knickers, I tend to stick to the same style I’ve been wearing since I was a teenager! Maybe I should give it a go – what pattern do you use?

      I don’t have an overlocker, I just use the stretch stitches on my sewing machine – you only need a machine with zig zag. Plus t shirt fabric doesn’t fray, hooray, so no edge finishing (lazy me).

      • I wear French knickers in the summer.. I hardly ever wear trousers… its nice to wear French knickers because they stop my thighs from rubbing in the heat… (I am ashamed to admit!) As for patterns, well any shorts pattern will work, but it should be cut on the bias.

  2. Wow! I think you have great patience and your t-shirt knickers look great fun. I really don’t think I’ll ever graduate to knicker making from old t-shirts, but reading your last couple of posts about underwear made from t-shirts has made me think that I can make something from my old t-shirts that isn’t just dusting and cleaning rags.

  3. Pingback: Prolific Project Starter | Oh no , not again.

  4. These are all pretty great! I love the frog ones.

  5. Pingback: Prolific Project Starter | scrappily sewing scraps

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