Knickers big and knickers small

It’s been a while since I made knickers – I made some Burda pin up pants here and here. But this week I had a go at some other varieties from this book: The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Standford.

The Secrets of Sewing LIngerie

One of my lovely work colleagues was given this book, but as a knitter rather than a sewer, she thought it would be better placed in my hands and who was I to argue?! It pays to let the whole world know that you are a crazy sewing blogging lady: beautiful sewing things seem to gravitate towards you from all angles! And what a beautiful book this truly is. The photography is gorgeously inspirational and leaves you wanting to make everything in it.

So I started from the beginning, intending to work to the end. And I still might. I just need to overcome a few hurdles.

The first pattern is for a pair of cotton minis, entitled Pretty as a Picnic and they truly are. The fabric suggestion is cotton lawn and I could just imagine how lovely they would be to wear. It’s not my usual style. I’m more partial to a pair of stretchy big pants but ‘pretty’ won me over. I also have a fair bit of printed cotton in my stash and it struck me as a good project to use it up.

cotton minis

I painstakingly followed every instruction which incidentally was very clear and I even basted where suggested, like a good girl – I’m not usually that fastidious! But I had to abandon mission before completion when it became apparent how small they were! Far too mini for me. I think the photo in the book is a shot at an angle which makes them look wider at the sides than they actually are.

So I adjusted the pattern: I added an inch to the depth and a bit extra across the width too. (Gawd knows why I just didn’t trace a size up!) And so I made another pair. Seemed to do the trick but lets just say I’ve worn better. The recovery of the elastic is a bit slack (my bad, probs) and where the fabric is cut on grain there is just no give, so they do feel and look a bit strange. I may give them a third go, cut on the bias and see what happens. I WILL have a pair of pretty minis!

But rather than have a go straight away. I got lured by the cotton French knickers. After all. What could go wrong with those? And even if anything did, I could wear them to bed where no one would see. They are described as natural bed-fellows in any case.

cotton knickers

But why don’t I learn? These are cut on grain too. And I didn’t even pay heed to the need to size up either. I’m seriously such a bozo sometimes!

They look dreadful on me. They are simply too small but yet the waistband extends at least an inch above my natural waistline despite being sold as a ‘softly-fitted style sitting between the natural waist and the hips’. I checked that I’d traced the pattern correctly and I had, so I think that may be an issue with the pattern itself.

That said, I loved the implementation of some of the techniques used. There are French seams throughout. No rtw-style serged seams going on here and the centre front and centre back are pressed in opposite directions so there’s no bulk at the crotch.

knickers french seam

The top edge of the waistband is top-stitched at the fold and at the base of the elastic casing with gives such a neat and professional finish. Exact measurements are given for the casing and the size of the elastic which seems to prevent the elastic from twisting too. Little things certainly please my little mind!

knickers waistband

The coquettish vent is a lovely touch too. There seemed to be a notch missing off the pattern so I just allowed 3 inches which worked just fine.

knickers side vent

But if only they fit!! I’m convinced that these also would be made far better by being cut on the bias and then I realised that there was a version of bias cut silk satin French knickers further on in the book, doh! They use different pattern pieces with shaping at the centre front and back and appear to be much wider in size. I’m confused by this. Why would the bias cut ones need to be bigger? Surely the on-grain version would need to be bigger to account for lack of stretch. Am I missing something?

Anyhoos. I’ll report back once I’ve had a mo to try them out. Because I really really want these to work.

I’ve had a scout round to see if anyone else has had experience in sewing undies from this book but mostly the reviews are of the book itself and not any real findings. So please let me know if you’ve made any and what the outcome was. I’m really keen to know how these patterns have worked for for you.

Oh, and don’t forget to enter the Classic Tailoring Techniques for Menswear book Giveaway if you haven’t done already. Good luck all!


12 Replies to “Knickers big and knickers small”

  1. They may be tiny undies but they sure are pretty! Your sewing looks perfect on the blue/white pair. It’s too bad they didn’t fit. Luckily undies do not use up much fabric 😉

    1. Thank you Kristin. My (not-quite) minis are wearable but just need a bit of work. But yes I agree, great for using up leftover fabric!

  2. Oo lala!!! I agree about woven knickers, they can be pretty odd, and the only types I’ve like to wear are with just elastic around the top so the middle bit is woven if that makes sense. Tanga style.
    I made silk cami knickers many moons ago, and cut them sort of like a skirt, wth front and back being gored like a skirt panel with a curve t the waist, so then they are on the flared out a bit, if that makes sense. It certainly compensates for lack of stretch anyway.
    On an unrelated note, I just got Liberty sweat shirting. WEEE!!!! xo

    1. I’m not giving up Mrs C. I’m going for the bias cut ones next and I’m ever hopeful! Looking forward to seeing that Liberty sweat shirting take shape! x

  3. I only made the picnic knickers from this book so far, and was pretty miffed when I had to go to the biggest size (every now and then I kid myself my hip size will decrease…) and they are brilliant. I made a load of them in the end (from an old duvet cover)….. they are fine for most wear, but I dont wear them under trousers as they would have some VPL. I am still meaning to try the jersey ones… and I was very impressed also with the techniques shared in the book. the fabric and finish on your makes are lovely

  4. I have had exactly the same experience with this book! Delight at the option to sew lingerie, delight over the beautiful pictures and potential options, slight confusion over the sizing but the decision to plough ahead anyway… and exactly the same results as you. The pretty as a picnic I had the same issue, sizing based on hips wouldn’t even go over my hips at basting, sizing up (and up again) left me with baggy bloomer-like knickers. Same issues with french knickers. I tried the bias-cut camisole from the set with the bias french knickers and have had several attempts to sort out a suitable FBA but given up after three wadders.

    I was really disappointed, I loved the idea, thought the techniques were beautifully described, but also found problems with missing instructions, missing notches, misaligned pieces and sizing that was just horribly off. I’m also disappointed that, for beginner sewers, there is no indication of where to go for alteration advice, “make a toile” is all very well, but suggestions for how to do FBAs, how to adjust waistlines, length adjustments etc, there is nothing. If you’re a B cup and fit exactly into their sizing, it might work, but I’ve put the book aside in favour of other patterns, as I realised I would essentially be re-drafting everything, which is far too much effort.

    I might go back to it, but I think I’m more likely to dip into it for the beautifully described techniques and apply them to other patterns. Such a shame, but too beautiful not to have on the shelf!

  5. Re: bigger underpants pattern when cut on the bias*. I’ve read some theory on pattern cutting that all items cut on the bias should be wider and bigger to account for the fact it becomes longer and narrower when worn/left to hang. It makes sense for larger garments, but not sure it should apply to underpants…

    *Sorry for the blunt wording, I can’t help but take all of the fun out of pretty frilly lingerie!

  6. Re: bigger underpants pattern when cut on the bias*. I’ve read some theory on pattern cutting that all items cut on the bias should be wider and bigger to account for the fact it becomes longer and narrower when worn/left to hang. It makes sense for larger garments, but not sure it should apply to underpants…

    *Sorry for the blunt wording, I can’t help but take all of the fun out of pretty frilly lingerie!

  7. Pretty knickers! I would not wear woven fabric knickers, ( Only did once and regretted the discomfort- on my wedding day! so never again! But still, Oh! pretty knickers!

  8. I know I’m a bit ‘late to the party’ with my comment, but I’ve just got this book and was sitting here fuming and downhearted after trying the ‘picnic’ knickers. It is a beautiful book, but so few of the patterns seem to be created for real, grown-up women. I want to make something to wear, not to frame and hang on the wall. My picnics were nothing much more than a heap of picot elastic with a couple of tiny triangles of fabric front and back and the smallest crotch I’ve ever seen in my life! I did notice that in the book they don’t apply picot elastic in the traditional way, by turning it over after the first pass. Of course, since I already ‘knew’ how to apply picot, I didn’t bother reading the instructions, which meant that my knickers lost an extra quarter of an inch all round, which didn’t help. I was also taken aback by the way they tell you to measure the elastic – by measuring the pattern pieces, adding 20% then taking off 3cms, or something. I ended up with enough to go around me three times, so I went back to basics and measured it around my body. I really fancy the cami knickers but I’ve lost faith in this book already. Pretty pictures are all well and good, but decent instructions by an experienced sewer and patterns that can be worn by real women living real lives would be far more use.

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