How to Make Knickers
by Maddie Flanigan
Knickers weather the most movement and the most wear and tear of any garment, even more than bras. They walk with us, sit with us, run with us, and stand with us. A poorly fitting pair of knickers can be noticed in less than ten minutes after putting them on. There is nothing worse about an outfit than a pair of knickers that rides up, shifts, or are uncomfortable.
Knickers are divided into silhouettes based on the amount of ‘behind’ coverage, the cut of the leg opening at the sides, and how high they are worn at the waist. Silhouettes are completely a personal preference based on comfort and function.
CLASSIC BRIEF: sits at or just below the waist, has full ‘behind’ coverage, and has leg openings that extend below the hip.
HIGH CUT/FRENCH BRIEF: sits at or just below the waist, has full ‘behind’ coverage, and has leg openings that extend above the hip.
HIPSTER: similar to classic and high cut/French brief except it sits at the hip; leg opening is similar to classic brief.
BOYSHORTS: inspired by men’s briefs, boyshorts sit low on the hip and have leg openings that are level with or below the crotch.
BIKINI: the most widely worn silhouette. Similar to a hipster except that the sides are narrower, sometimes a string, and the ‘behind’ coverage is less.
THONG/G-STRING: worn at the hips with no rear coverage and very narrow sides; crotch extends to the back and a strip of fabric is worn between the buttocks.
All knickers are constructed with a crotch lining. Usually made with comfortable fabric such as jersey, crotch linings are clean finished to back and front panels and are usually left unfinished/serge at front (crotch linings can be clean finished at front for a nicer finish).
Because a lot of bras and knickers don’t have a closure (bras with hooks and eyes is just one exception), they need a way of stretching the garment out to get it on and off. This is where elastic comes into play. Along with stretch fabric, elastic is what makes lingerie work. Elastic gives garments the ability to stretch well beyond its relaxed measurement and return it to its pre stretched measurement so that it fits the body like a glove.
First of all, what is elastic? Technically defined, elastic is a series of rubber or spandex cores that are bound or wrapped in polyester, cotton, nylon, or a blended thread that are then braided, woven, or knitted together to create elastic. Said more briefly, elastic is thread and rubber strings that are interlacing in varying ways. The way the elastic is constructed – braided, woven, or knitted – is what classifies it.
CLASSIFICATIONS BASED ON CONSTRUCTION
BRAIDED: braided elastics narrows when stretched and are not high quality. Because it loses elasticity when sewn, it is used mostly in casings (i.e. waistands on pyjama bottoms).
KNITTED: knitted elastic is soft, strong, and the preferred choice for most garments. It doesn’t narrow when stretched and is great on lightweight fabrics. Because it doesn’t lose elasticity when sewn, it can be applied directly to a garment (not inserted in a casing).
WOVEN: woven elastic is strong, thick, and often referred as “no roll” elastic. It has a basket weave pattern (horizontal and vertical ribs) and doesn’t narrow when stretched. Because of its thickness, it is used mostly on heavy weight fabrics such as upholstery and canvas.
POLYURETHANE/CLEAR: polyurethane/clear elastic is rubber free, transparent, and stretches 3-4 times its length with complete recovery to size and shape. It can be sewn directly to fabric or is inserted in side seams to help maintain shape. It is also used in lace lingerie where the elastic does not want to be visible. A downside of polyurethane/clear elastic is that it deteriorates quickly.
TIP: FOR SEWING CLEAR ELASTIC
When joining/overlapping, place a piece of paper behind the help stabilize and reduce slipperyness. Remove paper after sewing by tearing away.
OTHER TYPES OF ELASTIC
PICOT: one or both sides have a series of small loops that create a decorative edging.
PLUSH: one side is brush or felted for comfort.
STRAP: usually satin and are most often used on bras.
VELVET: a nonconventional and couture choice that can be used in place of regular elastic.
STRETCH SATIN RIBBON: another nonconventional and couture choice that can be used in place of regular elastic.
RUFFLE EDGE: one or both sides have a ruffle attached.
ELASTICS ON BRAS & KNICKERS
BRAS: I usually sew two types of elastic on bras – one type for the upper bra band and bra cup and one type for the lower bra band. The elastic at the upper bra band and the bra cup is softer and thinner while the elastic at the bottom edge of the bra is thicker, has tighter tension, and has one plush side. Both types of elastic usually have one or two picot edges. Please note that the type of elastic used on the upper and lower bra band and cup is completely a personal choice. Depending on aesthetic and function needed, many types and combinations of elastics can be used.
KNICKERS: I usually sew one type of elastic for knickers – the same type of soft/thin elastic used for the upper bra band and bra cup (I have never used elastic with one plush side on a pair of undies). The elastic usually has one picot edge.
DECOLETTE: 1/8” clear or knitted elastic is sometimes sewn at top of bra cups and before cups are attached to bra band to help bra cups lie flat. This type of elastic is usually found on bras where the fabric for the bra cups is lace
ELASTIC SEWING TIPS
Tension must be adjusted when sewing elastic. Because elastic stretches when sewing, cut ½” shorter than desired relaxed length (Example: if the waist on a pair of knickers is to measure 15” relaxed (waist measurement taken flat), elastic length before sewing should be 14 ½”).
Stretch elastic numerous times before sewing to reduce the amount elastic will stretch during sewing. When attaching elastic, align elastic join seam with a seam for a clean finish. When attaching elastic to garment, stretch elastic only (do not stretch fabric).
Always attach elastic in the round. Example: if sewing a pair of knickers, do not attach elastic at front waist, back waist, front leg, and back leg, and then sew side seam. This is a production friendly way to sew a pair of knickers because elastic is quicker to sew and easier to handle in this order of operations. For the home sewer though, it takes more time because aligning the elastics when sewing the side seams is very difficult and time
Apply elastic evenly to leg opening. There is a theory that easing fabric more on the backside of knickers will prevent them from riding up. I do not believe this theory because pulling fabric from the side of the knickers towards the bottom of the them will cause the pattern to be off balance and will result in drag lines. To eliminate knickers from riding up, length should be added. If leg opening is pulling when worn, elastic was not applied evenly.