The Gingham Knicker Experience
I decided a little while ago that I really wanted to try to make my own knickers. I first had the idea many moons ago when I was short of both money and underwear and Mr Awesome had a drawer full of t-shirts, many that he neither wore nor even wanted any more. That was a long while ago, before I really sat down and got to know my sewing machine, and I never had any knicker elastic, and a hundred and one other excuses.
Anyway, because underwear is relatively inexpensive it is one of those instant pick-me-up treats that you can enjoy for the price of a fancy coffee I have recently enjoyed reviving my underwear drawer little by little, and this has in turn made me want to be able to make my own fancy pants once more.
I had a good scour of the internet for a knicker pattern, and most basic knicker patterns seemed to be pretty much the same basic shape, but it was quite difficult to find a decent quality paper pattern to purchase (as I didn’t much fancy downloading, printing and piecing together one from PDF in this instance). Instead, I found a knicker kit, including a paper pattern in three sizes, from a site called Trixie Lixie and bookmarked it for a possible future purchase and treat.
However, one day Mr Awesome came home from work laden with surprise gifts ‘just because’ and among them was the knicker kit that I had bookmarked. He said he’d had to guess at which design to buy, but the orange gingham one was the exact one that I wanted because of the super-cute knicker elastic with orange hearts and country girl appeal of the gingham.
The kit contains a fat quarter of the main fabric, 2 metres of coordinating knicker elastic, a small piece of cotton jersey to line the knicker gusset, two pages of instructions and the printed pattern, as well as a little label to sew in that says ‘Trixie Knickers’. The knicker pattern is given in three sizes (UK 8-10, 12-14 and 16-18) and is printed on nice sturdy paper, like a very thick tissue paper, and a lot heavier than most tissue patterns I have used, so feels like it will last a long time and be used for many further pairs of knickers.
I had in fact planned on making a few pairs at once, as I didn’t think that it would take very long to complete a pair, so as the pattern called for a fat quarter of fabric and I had some very lightweight cottons in pretty patterns from one of those commercially available ‘fat quarter bundles’ in my craft cupboard, I decided on some pretty fabrics for a couple of friends that I will be seeing in the next few weeks. However, though a fat quarter of fabric is supplied with the pattern, and the pattern fits perfectly on the bias of the supplied fabric, this must be cut from a wider starter fabric than the commercial bundle fabrics, which were about 10cm shorter than the supplied fat quarter, and as such too small for any of the knicker sizes as given. If you are buying fabric by the FQ to make further pairs of these knickers, it would be very much worth checking the exact measurements of the FQ before buying, to make sure that your pattern pieces will fit.
As you have probably guessed, the knicker pattern is made from just two pattern pieces in the main fabric, plus a small extra piece of cotton jersey of the gusset lining. The fabric is cut on the bias to provide just a little extra comfort and ease to the lightweight woven fabric when worn, which looks great in the gingham, so I think I’ll be picking up a few more cute ginghams when I do make a few pairs for friends.
The pattern itself is very simple and would be perfect for beginners. It’s the least demanding pattern I’ve ever sewn, and there are no tricky manoeuvres, and as such it took about 20 minutes to sew the entire project. The only new technique that I attempted with this project was the attaching of the knicker elastic, which was just about as simple as anything else in sewing. The pattern says to stretch the elastic whilst sewing, but it’s pretty much guesswork (or trial and error if you don’t get it right first time) as to how much you should be stretching, but I seem to have managed just about the right amount of stretch first time, by either pure luck or just a good sense of what felt about right.
When I next make this pattern there would probably be a couple of modifications that I would like to make. Firstly, I think I’d zig-zag stitch the raw edges of the gingham fabric around the waist and leg openings before applying the elastic to reinforce the edges. Applying the elastic and zig-zag stitching it to the raw fabric in a single step was very quick and simple, but I think for longevity the knickers could benefit from that extra step to stop the elastic pulling away from an edge in danger of fraying.
The finished knickers are cute and functional. I was a bit concerned that the shape where the back section of the knickers met the front at the back of the gusset join, but once the knicker elastic is applied it pulls the whole project together and solves that slightly strange shape that existed before, and the finished shape looks perfect.
I’m really looking forward to sewing many more pairs of these cute and functional knickers for a fantastic quick and satisfying project any time I have an hour or two to spare and fancy getting the sewing machine out and not thinking too much.