We all have a favorite pair of panties. Mine are a pair of red plaid cotton panties trimmed with black stretch lace I bought a few years ago at Victoria’s Secret. They fit just right and rarely see the inside of my lingerie drawer because they are worn so often. They are the “Perfect Panties.”
Unfortunately, they won’t last forever. After hundreds of wearings, the elastic will stretch out and the fabric will sag. In the past, when I’ve tried to buy another perfect pair, I’ve found the manufacturer has moved on to different styles, sizes changed, or materials aren’t of the same quality. I’ve spend heaps of money on ill-fitting panties trying to find another perfect pair.
The panty agony is over! In this tutorial, I will give you step-by-step directions on how to recreate your Perfect Panties on a home sewing machine.
Other online tutorials suggest cutting up your panties to make a pattern, but the method used here preserves your panties. (No Perfect Panties will be harmed during this tutorial.)
Tutorial Difficulty Level
This tutorial is intended for intermediate level sewists.
If you are an adventurous beginner, by all means, give this a go! Just remember that your panties will look prettier with practice.
Assumptions I’ve Made
- You’ve sewn with knits before.
- You know how to apply fold over elastic.
- You have experience working with independent or commercial sewing patterns.
- RTW Perfect Panties (Panties that are simply constructed are best. Hold off on recreating fancy lace and ruffles until you’ve mastered a simple pair.)
- freezer paper
- tissue paper or Swedish tracing paper
- pen or pencil
- crayon or a colored pencil
- paper scissors
- fabric scissors or rotary cutter
- seam gauge
- ball point pins for knit fabrics
- stretchy and thin knit fabric (No one wants thick panty seams showing through their clothing!)
- matching thread
- stretch needle
- fold over elastic (FOE)
Step 1: Rub off your RTW panty
- Place your RTW panties on a flat surface. Make sure they aren’t wrinkled and all seams are laying flat.
- Place a piece of paper on top of your panties. Freezer paper works best here because it doesn’t tear easily. If your panties are on the small side, a piece of printer paper might work. Make sure the entire panty is covered by the paper.
- Using a crayon or colored pencil, rub the outline of the panty onto the paper. Check to make sure all seam lines are clearly visible.
- Remove your panties from under the paper.
Step 2: Trace the panty back
- Since we are making a pattern from a garment that is symmetrical, we can ignore one side of our rubbing. Just like a commercial pattern, our pattern will be cut on the fold.
- Mark the middle of your panty rubbing. You can find the middle by folding your rubbing in half.
- Place a piece of tracing paper over one half of the rubbing.
- We’ll trace the back of the panty first. Find the outline of the panty and trace it in pen or pencil on the piece of paper you placed over your rubbing.
Note that the crotch seam for this pair of panties is located towards the back of the panty. The front of the panty wraps under the body to create the crotch. To recreate this, shorten the back pattern piece at the bottom. This accounts for the folded under crotch construction.
5. Add a 3/8 inch seam allowance to the bottom and side of your panty. You do not need to add seam allowances to the waist and leg because we are using FOE to finish these areas.
If your panties have a crotch piece consisting of two seams, rather than one seam like this pair, ignore the front seam and follow the directions as given here. Your crotch construction may be a little different than your RTW panties, but the fit will be the same!
Step 3: Trace the panty front
- Place a new piece of tracing paper over one half of the rubbing.
- Now, we’re going to trace the front of the panty. Find the outline of the front of your panty and trace it in pen or pencil on the piece of paper you placed over your rubbing.
3. Notice that the front of the panty extends past the bottom of your rubbing. This is to account for the crotch seam. To figure out how much you need to extend past your panty, measure the distance between the bottom of your panty and your back crotch seam. Add this amount of length to the bottom of your front pattern piece. Here, I added about an inch.
4. Add a 3/8 seam allowance to the bottom and side.
Step 4: Check for the “elastic effect”
- Return to your RTW panties. We are going to determine if your panties have the “elastic effect.”
- The “elastic effect” is what happens when the elastic at the waist of your panties gathers up the fabric. Most panties are sewn with a piece of elastic at the waist that is shorter than the width of the fabric opening at the waist. This makes the hole for the waist appear smaller than the fabric was really cut. If we make our panties using pattern pieces that do not account for this phenomenon, our panties will sew up too small. After much unscientific research in my lingerie drawer, I found there is typically a difference of about an inch between the width of the elastic at the top of the panty and the fabric sewn into that elastic.
- Check for the elastic effect. Gently pull your panties at the waist. Does the fabric relax when you pull? If it does, measure the width of the top of the panties when they are pulled to the point at which the fabric relaxes. Compare this with the width when the panties are not being pulled at the waist. It’s about an inch total, right?
- If your panties do not exhibit the “elastic effect” (sometimes panties trimmed with stretch lace don’t) skip to the next part of construction below the image, Step 5.
- Let’s fix our panty pattern pieces so they will fit well. Assuming the difference between the fabric and elastic is about an inch, measure 1/2 inch out from your panty waist and mark that spot on your tracing paper. Because we are creating a pattern that we will cut on the fold, doing this will add a total of an 1 inch to the waist of your panty fabric.
- Add this extra width to the back pattern piece.
- Repeat for the front pattern piece.
Step 5: Create the crotch pattern piece
- Next, we will create the crotch pattern by tracing the bottom of our front pattern piece. To start, place a piece of tracing paper over the already traced front pattern.
- Starting from the bottom of the front pattern piece, trace the crotch. It should measure about 4 1/2 inches up the front pattern piece.
Step 6: Cut out the pattern
- Cut out each of your pattern pieces. You should have three pieces (front, back, and crotch).
- Make sure they will match up correctly by laying the front and back on top of one another. Do the sides match up? If not, cut them to match. Do the crotch seams match up? If not, cut them to match. If you make an adjustment to the crotch seams, don’t forget to make that same adjustment to the crotch pattern piece.
- Add labels (Front, Back, Crotch) to the respective pieces.
- Add markings to remind you to cut each piece on the fold.
Yay!! You’ve made a pattern!
Step 7: Cut your fabric
- Identify your fabric’s direction of greatest stretch.
- Fold your fabric along the grainline (direction of greatest stretch will be perpendicular to the pattern piece).
- Cut out your fabric.
Step 8: Sew side seams
- With right sides together, pin the panty front and back together at the side seams.
- Sew with a zig zag stitch and stretch needle.
Step 9: Sew the crotch seam
- Lay the crotch right side facing up on top of the front panty piece. The wrong sides of the crotch and front panty piece will be facing one another.
3. Pin these two pieces at the crotch seam to the back panty piece.
4. Do a quick check. The front and back panty pieces should be right sides facing. The crotch and front panty should be wrong sides facing.
6. Sew together using a zigzag stitch.
7. Press the seam to the back.
Step 10: Secure the crotch
- Baste the crotch to the front panty along the sides.
Note: I did not finish the front edge of the crotch. Because we are sewing with a knit, this edge does not have to be finished. It won’t unravel! If you would like to run this edge through your serger for a more professional finish, do this before basting your crotch to the front panty.
Step 11: Measure the FOE
- Measure out how much FOE you will need for both the waist and leg seams. Do this by laying out the FOE next to your panty in-progress.
- Add 3/4 inch to the FOE you measure out for the legs. This allows for a seam allowance of 3/8 inch.
- Subtract 1/4 inch from the FOE you measured for the waist. This allows for a 3/8 seam allowance and accounts for the extra inch we added to the fabric at the waist. (You can double check this measurement against your RTW panties.)
Step 12: Apply the FOE
- Sew the FOE to the legs and waist.
Note: There are several ways to apply FOE. My preferred method is to first sew it in a loop. Then, I quarter the loop and panty with pins. I sew the FOE below the midpoint while it’s open. Finally, I fold it down and sew it closed. Use whatever method you prefer.
Step 13: Steam your new panties!
- Give your new panties a hit of steam from the iron to relax the fabric and elastic.
You’re done! Congratulations on recreating your perfect RTW panties!
I’d love to see the panties you create with this tutorial! Let your sewing table model them and tag me on social media or send me a pic via email at firstname.lastname@example.org