lingerie + swimwear wardrobe

Adventures in Lingerie Making

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t altogether sure if I wanted to blog these me-mades or not. I’ve already shared some flatlays of them on Instagram, and I’m not sure if these really deserve their own blog post. Further, I didn’t want to model them, and if I didn’t model them, how would these photos differ from the ones I’ve already shared?

But I’ve found that this space has a purpose outside of just sharing my work with others; I’ve also found it useful as a personal reference for future makes with past notes, alterations, things I would do differently in the future, or just plain what size I made the previous garment.

So with that, I give you my first foray into Me-Made Undergarments. I’ve made three different patterns in a stretch galloon lace and picot edging I found at Mill End in Portland (which, by the way, has a decent selection of Lingerie notions -sans rings and sliders- if anyone in the area is looking for them).

I have to admit, despite so many Sewists in our community sharing beautiful me-made lingerie, I hadn’t been super into the idea of making my own underwear in the past because I felt like it would be a waste of creative energy and sewing time; why bother making something I can get for just a few bucks? But swimwear — yes, yes, yes — I knew I wanted to make a bikini for an upcoming trip to Sicily. I figured making a bra as a wearable muslin for a bikini top would be the only way I would dip my toe into underwear-making. So, a few months ago I put together a lingerie kit for myself: some yardage of stretch galloon lace, picot edging, bra straps, and some rings and sliders I had harvested off an old bra. And finally, the other day when I was feeling particularly uninspired and like I couldn’t bear to cut into one of my precious fabrics from my stash, I busted out this kit and within two episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee, I had a brand new bra. It was especially easy because there was ZERO creative decision-making involved in the actual process since all my choices had already been made by Past-Saki. Not bad, eh?

The Bra

Pattern: Sierra Bra by Madalynne (free pattern; sew-along 1, 2, 3)
Fabric + Notions: Stretch Galloon Lace, Picot Edging, Bra Strap Elastic, and Mystery Content Lining from Mill End in Portland, Oregon; Rings and Sliders cannibalized off of an old RTW bra
Size: Small

This is one of Madalynne’s free bra patterns (who also designs non-free, more structured bra patterns for Simplicity). It’s an adjustable halter strap and wrap-style bra which, after circling your body a couple times like a bandage, closes in the back with a traditional bra hook and eye. The pattern is entirely flat; there are no darts or seams for the curves of the bust, so it holds things in place by the stretch of the lace and lining and the resulting compression.

As far as fit goes, I’m not too pleased. Let’s just start by saying that, while I (like nearly every other woman on this planet) have had body image issues in the past, I’m at a point in my life now where I have zero qualms with it. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it never will be, and I don’t remember the last time I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “gee, I wish I could change that.” Instead, I sometimes think, “wow, cute butt!” It might sound self-absorbed, but I am a firm believer that a positive shift in paradigm is the first step in living a happy and abundant life. Imagine if every time you looked in the mirror, you lifted yourself up instead of tearing yourself down. How much stronger would you feel?

Ok, I’ll get off my soap box of positivity and back to the bra-talk. The reason I’m not super pleased with the fit is that this bra holds things in place through compression and not through lifting or supporting, thus perfect for smaller chested women. My breasts are small enough to not need support (I frequently go without a proper bra, especially in the summertime) but too large for this style because my underbust measurement is significantly smaller than my bust measurement. This is where the fit issue lies. While it provides as much support as you could expect from a bralette (read: none), the danger is that one false move and my breasts could easily slip out the bottom.* Perhaps NBD and unlikely if I’m wearing it as a regular bra with clothing over the top, but it’s easy to imagine the downfall in wearing it as a swimsuit.

There are a few solutions to this, though I have yet to try any:

  • adding elastic to the bottom edge of the bra, particularly right below where the breasts sit.
  • adding a bust dart.
  • sizing down or shortening the bra “wings” (as Maddie calls it) to increase the compression (though just pinning it shorter hasn’t done much for improving the fit)
  • using a sturdier lining with less stretch.

I think I’ll start with the first option, adding elastic along the bottom edge, before writing this style off altogether.

Other than that, I’ve made no alterations at all to the pattern. One thing I will suggest if you’re considering making this bra is to be intentional in measuring the width of your hook and eye fasteners before cutting and sewing your pattern. Maddie mentions this in her sew-along, and for whatever reason I only eyeballed and did not actually measure, which resulted in a pleat/tuck at the closure. It could stand to be a bit cleaner, but I’m mostly okay with it for a first run, especially since it’s only visible from the inside.

*Edited to add: After having worn this bra for a couple of days while traveling, the opposite of what I expected happened; the bra slid down too far. I’m quite frankly not a fan of halter styles because it pulls too much on my neck and gives me bad posture (does anyone else have this problem?), so I was wearing the neckstraps somewhat loosely and I think that’s why it slid down. I’m still planning to move forward with adding elastic to the bottom and figuring out a way to add more compression, but I also think I’ll convert the halter straps to regular straps that attach at the back band. Any other suggestions, friends?

The Panties

After finishing the bra, I had just barely enough stretch galloon lace leftover to squeeze out two pairs of panties if very strategically placed. However, I only had enough picot edging for one pair, so I opted for two different patterns that I could still cut and sew in tandem: the Bella Lace Panty by Evie La Luve and the Lace Undies by Sew So Easy.

Pattern: Bella Panty by Evie La Luve
Fabric: Stretch Galloon Lace and Picot Edging from Mill End; a scrap of linen jersey from Komolka Stoffe in Vienna
Size: XS

I cut the two sides one at a time and laid the first piece I cut over the second so I could get matching seams. Unfortunately, I did have to piece together the crotch piece; I just didn’t have enough lace left to cut it as a whole. This doesn’t affect the fit in any way, and it’s not really “visible” per se, but to be totally frank, no part of these garments are “visible” so it matters about as much as a botched seam anywhere else.

I also didn’t have any scraps of a thin cotton jersey for the crotch lining, and outside of some other rayon and synthetic blends, the only natural fiber jersey I had was linen. I did briefly consider using the mystery-content nude lining I used in the bra, but obviously, this part of the body benefits from having some amount of breathability so the use of synthetics was out. So, while this is also not a highly visible area of this garment, there is now a mismatched pink crotch lining on both pairs of underwear. And… at the risk of sounding crass, I think the lining color is a little too uncanny valley for it to look “right.” It very borderline creeps me out.

This pattern calls for Fold Over Elastic for the top, but I didn’t have any in my stash and didn’t want to deal with finding a matching elastic here in Germany to the one I sourced in Portland, so I substituted it with leftover Picot edging. While I had every intention of adding an additional 3/8” to the top to account for the seam allowance required by the Picot edging, I totally spaced when it came time to cut the fabric, so this pair is now accidentally ultra low-rise.

The pattern also calls for cutting the fold over elastic 6cm shorter than the circumference of the waist opening, but having underwear squeeze into my tummy and back/butt is one major pet peeve of mine (so much so that I avoid buying underwear with elastic along the top). So, I cut the elastic the same length as the waist circumference. I think I may have accidentally stretched it as I sewed, which definitely is a factor in why the waistband is soooo wavy. I also accidentally placed the seam for the picot edging at center front rather than center back, and I also also sewed the wrong sides together which resulted in some unpicking and a really sloppy looking center front. Fortunately, there’s only one other person in the world who’ll see these up close, and he doesn’t judge my sewing skills based on a pair of panties.

I used an overlock foot (Bernina foot #2) that came with my sewing machine for sewing all the seams. I’m pleasantly surprised by how effective this foot is at keeping the fabric from getting sucked into the feed dogs and getting tangled into itself, while still sewing right along the edge of the fabric. I’m excited to experiment with this foot in future projects to finish lightweight fabric edges, like chiffon.

Pattern: Lace Undies by Sew So Easy (free pattern )
Fabric: Stretch Galloon Lace from Mill End; a scrap of linen jersey from Komolka Stoffe in Vienna
Size: XS

Due to a lack of fabric, I had to shorten the width of this pair by 1.5 cm. If it sounds like I was making something out of nothing for these two pairs of panties, I was. Like I said, I had to very strategically place my pattern pieces to get it to fit within two centimeters, and since these were the wider pair with less restriction (i.e., no additional elastic), I figured these should be the ones to get cut down.

Coincidentally, the lace that I worked with for all three of these garments is actually the same that was used in a sample pair for this pattern.

All in all, I don’t think either pair of panties will last very long. It’s not an issue with either pattern, but rather that my construction feels pretty shoddy, even if it isn’t actually. Have you made lingerie before, and do you have any tips for me? Or better yet, tips for converting an underwear pattern to swimwear? Am I alone in feeling like me-made underwear will just fall apart in a washing machine?

Thanks for reading, and I hope you all have a joyful week. xxoo


14 Comment

  1. I love sewing lingerie! I haven’t tried any Madalynne patterns yet (I’ve got two of their bralette patterns though) and I was especially hesitant about this one since I’m a 34D and I see no universe in which this pattern would work in that size 😀

    I’m a bit of the opposite opinion when it comes to sewing panties though: I think they turn out very sturdy and nice, and since I’ve almost never been able to find a RTW pair that fits me it’s my favorite item to make (after drafting patterns that fit me specifically). Stretch lace only can be a bit flimsy though, but you can always line with mesh to make it sturdier. I also managed to join my elastic in the center front the other day – problem easily solved by adding a bow 😉

    I haven’t ventured into swimwear yet but would love to, I’ve never owned a well-fitting bikini.

    1. Drafting a pattern to fit specifically for underwear– that’s a great idea! Especially because nice undies can be so expensive. With your love of sewing lingerie, it would probably be a cinch to venture into swimwear! I hope you take the leap! And share what you make 🙂

  2. I’m at the point now where I pretty much make all of my underwear and bras and I have also made my last three swimsuits. I use the underwear and swimwear patterns interchangeably. The reason is simple- I just can’t find RTW that fit well for me!

    The biggest thing for me when using swimsuit bottoms an undies (and vis versa) is sizing. I typically use a larger size for the swimsuit and a smaller size for the undies. Typically the underwear fabric has more stretch and you want the swimsuit to fit more firmly so it doesn’t fall off! The only other change I make is to seam allowances depending on desired finish. I would say that if this is your first swimsuit it might be easiest to start with something designed for swimwear or at least activewear. If you want something in the wrap style, Jalie has a wrap dance top that might be better drafted than this pattern and wouldn’t require any changes to make it swimwear friendly (just be sure to look past the styling on the product photos):

    1. Wow Megan, ALL YOUR UNDERWEAR? That’s so impressive! And thanks for suggesting the Jalie pattern; it’s definitely a contender now for my swimsuit project. Do you recommend sizing down for swimwear if I’m using an undies pattern?

      1. Hi Saki- I would probably recommend sizing up when using a undie pattern for swimwear. You would have to think carefully about your fabric and stretch percentages, etc. but that would be my general recommendation. For example, If you use a swimwear fabric and a lining fabric or a mesh lining, those two fabrics combined will probably have significantly less stretch than the stretch lace you used for undies above. I use the Soma swimsuit from Papercut patterns both both swimwear and undies- I use the XXL for swimwear and the M for undies!

        1. Ah, thanks for the clarification. I will likely use an indie pattern, and you’re right- I have midweight powermesh and scuba, so it would have significantly less stretch combined. I’ll have to look at finished garment measurements and go from there

  3. I have no experience sewing lingerie, but I’m glad you shared yours. Hopefully others will give you the advice you’re looking for.
    BTW, beautiful photos!

  4. Despite all the little mishaps they are very pretty indeed! I used to be like you and fairly disinterested in making smalls but I find they’re a great way to use up knit scraps. The rtw undie brand I like sells for $17 a pair, so to make a similar pair for only a couple of bucks makes me happy! And at the moment I’m time poor, so making a full garment in a couple of hours is very fulfilling!

  5. I’m in the same boat, I’ve never been super interested in sewing underwear. Bras I find a bit more interesting though, and I have the Watson Bra on my list. I love this bra in that lace!

    From what I can tell, I think we might be a fairly similar size, and I’ve done the Sierra Bra in a swimsuit. I did elastic on the bottom and it worked just fine. I added swim hooks instead of a bra closure and did a non-adjustable halter strap from the swim fabric. I think I cut the halter too short and it’s a little tight, so I’m looking forward to trying another one this year. I didn’t do a whole post on it (pre-blog), but you can find it on my Instagram, and Made By Meg did a post on hers I think! Good luck! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    1. Thanks Kendra! I’m glad to know the Sierra worked for you as a swimsuit. I have some swim elastic so I’m hoping that that would make the bottom work well. I looked up your Sierra and it looks great! I’ll keep an eye out for your updated version this year!

  6. Hi Saki,
    I had the same problem with this bra pattern – it felt like everything wanted to fall out/down. And I also hated the halterneck. I changed that to be like normal straps, but still get the fall out/down feeling. So I just never wear it. It’s pretty, but just not practical for me.

    1. I think it really is designed for people with small busts. It’s pretty and it’s great that it’s a free pattern, so I guess we shouldn’t expect too much more than that!

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