Tutorial: Sewing Panties

This post is part of the Stretch Yourself series, hosted by Miriam of Mad Mim and Miranda of One Little Minute. It is a two week long series about sewing with knits that have started last week, covering various topics like fabric selection, pattern-making, construction, finishing techniques with various style and projects by 10 guest bloggers.

Today I am honored to be one of the guest blogger! Don’t forget to check out Jodi at Sew Fearless who will also posting about using stretch lace.

Sewing panties

Sewing Panties

My tutorial is for sewing your own panties, but most especially about using and attaching several types of elastics. Sewing your own panties is fast and easy, really it is much more faster than reading this whole tutorial. You don’t need too much fabric, and can even recycle fabric from old T-shirts. With imaginations, you can have a drawer full of pretty and colorful panties in no time!

You will need:

Elastics and fabric
  • Stretch fabric: lycra, jersey. The amount will depend on your size, but usually about 0.5 m is enough. Old T-shirts can also be used!
  • 4-7 mm width elastic, about 1.5-2 m for each panties. I usually use the plush picot edge elastic, it has one soft side that will make it comfortable against the skin. I will also show how to use foldover elastic and regular elastic.
  • No serger needed! An ordinary sewing machine that can sew straight stitch, zigzag stitch, and 3 step zigzag stitch (optional) is all you need. Use ballpoint sewing machine needle for sewing jersey/stretch as regular sewing needle can be too sharp and damage the fabric.
  • And of course, a pattern. There are many free panties pattern available on the net, here is some of them:

You can also trace them yourself from the ones you already have. Cut the panties on the seamline and trace them on paper. Then add 6 mm (1/4″) seam allowance to all pattern pieces.

Cutting the fabric

Placing pattern pieces
  • For most pattern, you will have three pieces, front, back, and crotch.
  • Fold your fabric and place your pattern pieces. Pay careful attention to the grainline marks. The finished panties will be twisted if the grainline is off.

  • You will usually have 1 front piece, 1 back piece and 2 crotch pieces (one is for crotch lining).
  • If your fabric is lycra, use cotton jersey for the crotch lining because it is more comfortable. I usually cut old T-shirts for this purpose.
  • Transfer the pattern markings to the fabric. You can use fabric marker, but some tiny snips are usually enough.

Points to remember:

  • You can use straight stitch to sew the panties, but I prefer to use zigzag stitch to maintain the stretchiness of the fabric. When using straight stitches, sometimes the stitches might ‘pop’ when the fabric is stretched.
  • I usually set my zigzag stitch on 2.5 in width and 1.5-2 in length.
  • Stretch the fabric slightly when sewing, matching the edges. You don’t need to use too many pins.

Sewing the panties

  • Sandwich the back piece between two crotch pieces, matching all the stitching marks. Pay attention to the fabric sides. Both right sides of the crotch piece should be against the back piece. Hold the layers with pins.
Stitch the sandwiched layers together
  • Stitch the sandwiched layers together using zigzag stitches. Hold the fabric and stretch them slightly with your fingers to nudge the edges together.

  • Roll the back piece between the two crotch pieces.

  • Sandwich the front piece between crotch piece and crotch lining, again while paying attention to the fabric sides. Stitch these layers together as before.

  • Turn the crotch inside out. Voila! All crotch seams are hidden inside!
  • Sew each side seams of the panties. It’s time to sew the elastics!

Sewing the elastics: picot edge

Picot edge elastic has one picoted edge and one straight side. The picot edge will look very pretty peeking a bit around the waist and leg openings. Some of them has plush side to make it comfortable against the skin.

Mark the center back and front
  • Measure the waistline of the panties and cut your elastic about 15-20% shorter than the measurement. Add 1 cm (5/8″) allowance before you cut.
  • You can also measure the elastic by placing it around your waist comfortably.
  • Mark the center point of the elastic with pin or fabric marker, also mark the center back and front of the waist.
Pin the elastic to the fabric
  • Starting on the center back, place the elastic on the right side of the fabric,  Line the straight edge (non picoted) of the elastic against the edge of fabric. Pin the center of elastic to the center front.
  • Sew the elastic using zigzag stitch, making it as close as possible to the picoted edge.
  • When sewing elastic to the fabric, you should stretch ONLY the elastic and not the fabric.
  • I don’t use other pins other than the two above and only do the stretch-hold-sew. Stretch the elastic slightly, put your thumb down to hold it in place, and sew. Repeat until you reach the center back again.

  • Overlap the end of elastic by 1 cm.
  • If necessary, trim the seam allowance to reduce bulk.
Topstitch using 3 step zigzag stitch or ordinary zigzag stitch
  • Turn the elastic to the wrong side and topstitch from the right side using 3 step zigzag stitch. I usually set the stitch on 4-5 in width and 1.5-2 in length.
  • Stretch slightly when sewing. You don’t have to use any pins at all in this step. Don’t forget to backstitch at the end of stitching.
  • If your sewing machine don’t have 3 step zigzag stitches, ordinary zigzag stitch or other decorative stitches can also be used.

  • Repeat the procedure for both leg openings.
  • When sewing the elastic to the leg openings, I usually start on the crotch.
  • Pin end of elastic to a random point on the crotch. Pin center of elastic to approximately halfway point of leg.
Picot edge elastic
  • Your panties is finished! Sometimes the elastic stretched up a little after sewing, but it will spring back after washing.


Sewing the elastics: foldover elastic

Foldover elastic has a slightly shiny side with a folding line along the middle.  The folding line will make it easier to keep the elastic in the same width on either side of fabric. They will create a clean, neat finish to the panties.
Sewing foldover elastic
  • Starting on the center back, place the elastic on the wrong side of the fabric,  Line the edge of the elastic
    against the edge of fabric.
  • Sew the elastic using zigzag stitch, keeping the stitches in one side of the folding line that is farther from the fabric edge. Stretch the elastic slightly when sewing.
  • Trim the seam allowance .
  • Fold the elastic on the folding line, and topstitch from the right side using 3 step zigzag stitch.
Foldover elastic


Sewing the elastics: regular elastic

Regular elastic may not look as nice as picot edge or foldover elastics, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t use them! You can also use this following method to sew clear elastics.

Sewing regular elastic
  • Starting on the center back, place the elastic on the wrong side of the fabric,  Line the edge of the elastic
    against the edge of fabric.
  • Sew the elastic using zigzag stitch. Stretch the elastic slightly when sewing.
  • Turn the elastic to the wrong side and topstitch from the right side using 3 step zigzag stitch.
Regular elastic


  • Sew tiny embellishment to the front of panties, tiny bows, crystals, buttons.
  • Slash the pattern in several pieces and use them to mix fabric in different colors or patterns.
  • Use picot edge elastic on the neckline and armholes of your nighties and camisoles!

Thank you and I hope the tutorial will be useful!

  • sareguest

    This is a great writeup. Thank you! Very helpful!

  • Jeree Petrie

    This has been so much help! My knicker-making attempts are getting better all the time, but one remaining problem is that my (picot) elastic waistband invariably ends up sort-of saggy and wavy. I do everything suggested above: sew and stretch; don’t stretch the fabric. I just can’t see where I’m going wrong. If I could just get over this one last hurdle I might actually end up with a pair I can wear!

    • http://verypurpleperson.com/ Novita

      Sometimes the elastic is stretched too much during stitching and losing its elasticity as a result. You can try pressing steam iron over it to shrink it back. Just press the iron lightly over each section.

      • Jeree Petrie

        I wondered if I was stretching it out too much. I did try pressing it
        afterwards but it doesn’t make much difference. Using a 4-way stretch
        fabric makes things trickier than I’d expected, too. I keep cutting the
        top off and trying again. I’ve gone from full briefs down to hipsters :) I’m sure things will go better if I use a cotton fabric next time. Wish me luck!

  • nancy

    Hi, thanks for the tutorial! Love the suggestion of using old tee shirts, perfect idea! I make my own panties with latex free elastic, since I have a latex allergy. I get the elastic from sewsassy. I have been using a Butterick swimsuit bottom pattern # 4526 and it covers my bottom well. I just raised the waist up a bit. This pattern has only one seam at the crotch to deal with. MG might like this pattern for her dancewear. Watch for sales at your local fabric store, I got the pattern for 99 cents a couple of years ago.

  • Lynn

    I want to replace the crotch in some panties. Do you need to use a special thread to sew the crotch.

  • Sarah

    Hi Novita,
    Lovely tutorial – thank you! Do you have a favourite source for picot-edge elastic?
    Cheers, Sarah

    • http://verypurpleperson.com Novita

      Hi Sarah, I usually buy elastics from Merckwaerdigh ebay store.
      Here‘s a more comprehensive list by Amy of Cloth Habit on lingerie supplies.

  • Deborah Wheatley

    Looks good; excited to try making them.
    Standard undies have become annoying to (try to) buy.
    Appreciate the time and effort you have made to create this pages.

  • Deborah Wheatley

    Looks good, excited to give it a go.
    Standard undies have become very annoying to (try to) buy.
    Thanks for the time you have taken to create this page.

  • http://cathywu.com/journal/kalali cathy

    So helpful! I’m currently making my first pair of panties, and the instructions I have are not sufficient enough. This post however is more than enough to help me finish my pair – thank you!

  • M G

    Hi! The tutorial is very clear, thank you for the photos that show what it should look like. I have a different problem, I am making dance briefs and I don’t want the high leg opening. I’ve adjusted many patterns, made many mock-ups and am close to what I want which an old leotard style from the 50’s, low in the front and in the back of the leg, covering the buttocks completely and not moving or riding up when exercising. Do you have the magic answer (to the correct or as close as possible) to how to cut the fabric to achieve this kind of fit? Thanks for any help you can give!

    • http://verypurpleperson.com Novita

      I think you need the right pattern, like this one by Ohhh Lulu: http://www.etsy.com/listing/97089672/ohhh-lulu-the-betty-high-waist-panties

    • Sarah

      I was just going to look for some panties I could use for making a pattern, and the ones I picked up to use were boxer briefs from LaSenza…I noticed that they didn’t have a crotch piece, but rather one front piece and two back pieces, side by side, covering the same area that a back piece and a crotch piece would cover (if that makes sense). Maybe that’s the type of pattern that works best to hold the material in place without riding up?

  • Dee

    I loved your tutorial. It was really amazing to see how the crotch seams worked so well. Duh! Made perfect sense once I actually did it and turned it all around.

    I tried the So Zo pattern tonight, and it didn’t scale up to the largest size very well. I’ll have to try the other patterns. I’m thinking So Zo’s just isn’t right for my body type.

  • Calditer

    Hi , thanks for the underwear tutorial. I made one but the waist line is not snug. I’ll have to try maybe 4 or 5 or even 8 more times. I’m loving it.

  • http://hverdagensbedrifter.dk Tamara – Hverdagensbedrifter.dk

    Awsome tutorial! Thanks a lot!

  • JoAnn

    Excellent tutorial! There are a lot of videos and such out there that try to show how to make panties but none (that I’ve seen) have shown how to do the double fabric crotch with both seams turned for the professional RTW look and feel. Thank you SO much for such clear and concise directions, and the step-by-step with terrific photos is wonderful. :o)

  • Yatin Dandekar

    Hi I liked your teachings on how to make panties, one request please can you mail me with measurements each piece in various sizes( M, L, XL, XXL) regular and bikinie panties

  • http://sweetbeariesart.com Julia

    What a great tutorial. I really do want to try it sometime as I am tired of buying underwear, and I think it would be clever and more cost effective to diy these.

  • http://pullyoursoxup.blogspot.com.au Desiree

    Hello Novita,
    I’m new to this blog and I decided to make my own knickers after watching an Australian ABC current affairs program about the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. I already buy 95% of my clothes second hand or locally made and my conscience does not rest easy when I think how cheaply we can buy underwear these days and how poorly paid and treated the workers who make these little what-nots get paid. I already have some really cute stretch fabrics I’ve bought from thrift shops and plenty of cute tshirts my kids have outgrown. I can’t wait to get stuck in and report back to you.
    Thank you so much for your tutorial.

  • letticia

    Hi, Will be pulling out some fabric to make a pair of these today with my picot elastic never realised how easy.. love the crotch technique. I would also love to have a go with the fold-over elastic as I have been given several reels of this but am technically challenged and can’t quite see where to stitch when on the wrong side -then how to turn to the right. Can you point me in the direction of any you tube or other articles that may help. i’ve tried a you tube search but get a horrid techique of sewing it like bias tape. Love this blog will be saving it for future browsing..

    • http://verypurpleperson.com Novita

      I’m not sure what you don’t understand though, where to stitch on the wrong side and how to turn to the right, they are explained in the tutorial above. I’m sorry that I don’t know any other tutorials.

    • Helen

      I’m a bit confused about that as well, but guessing it might sort itself out when I actually get the fabric and elastic together

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/chrissieberridgepix Chrissie Berridge

    I love this tutorial and have been telling all my friends about it. The instructions are so easy to follow and I’m in danger of becoming a new-knicker addict. I’ve made several pairs already, and now when I have a’clothes throw out’ I’m looking at the fabrics thinking ‘can I knicker these?’. My existing collection of plain black knickers is being replaced by a colourful collection that I know is unique. It makes me smile when I open the drawer to chose a pair for the day!
    Thank you so much for posting the tutorial!

  • Jen

    I have a question, when i go to sew the crotch on, is the crotch suppose to stretch front to back or side to side?.
    I am asking because i bought a pattern and it says the crotch stretches front to back & i had people tell me the crotch is supposed to stretch side to side.. Which way does it originally stretch pn professional made panties?

    • http://verypurpleperson.com Novita

      In the commercial pattern that I have, the crotch stretches front to back. I think it makes sense because it allows for more comfort in that area. Sometimes I don’t follow this if I want the pattern in certain direction, for instance stripes pattern. Just make sure that the lining still stretches front to back. Hope that helps!

  • http://www.apatinukai.lt/moteriski-apatiniai-drabuziai.html Apatiniai drabuziai

    It looks very easy to do :) maybe I will try some day

  • Dogpackmomma

    Gonna get to my sewing machine NOW! TY for the great tut! Happy Trails!

  • http://thehomeblues.blogspot.com Milena

    This is the best tutorial on sewing underwear out there! Thank you so much, I finally get it. It still needs practice, but at least the technique is clear. It’s funny, I can sew a fitted evening gown, but knits are killing me. I am going to real all your blog on lingerie now, spotted some beautiful bras there. Thank you Novita!!!

  • Kitty

    I’ve copied a previous pair, got all the pieces cut out and attached to each other, and am stalled at HOW MUCH ELASTIC to use around the legs. the measure of the leg or less, or how do I know what will work and be comfortable? Thanks, Kitty

    • http://verypurpleperson.com Novita

      Hi Kitty, you can take a piece of your elastic and put it around your leg tightly but still comfortable enough to find the length that you need. You can also measure around the leg of the panties and cut the elastic 15-20% shorter.

      • Kitty

        thanks, that worked great. I’m a larger woman dealing with a large stomach. I found for this problem that I need to have the elastic tighter around the front to hold the extra fabric in closer. I actually used less stretch in the crotch and more the rest of the way around.

        Just FYI for anybody dealing with proportions that are different than the ideal. it’s helpful to make our own to achieve comfort and good fit, but takes some thought work to decide what will work for you.

  • Bibhas Mondal

    Very Good n want to get the PDF pages of different types of sewing tutorial tips from you.
    Thanking you
    Bibhas Mondal

  • Kate

    This is a GREAT tutorial. The pictures/text describing options for elastics are particularly well done; the pencil sketches on my printed sewing pattern are hard to read and your explanations answer my questions perfectly! Thank you!