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Sewing Lingerie – drafting a pattern

Make your own lingerie

This article is the first of three guides on how to draft patterns for and sew lingerie by Nicola Chadwick – a former senior fashion lecturer, now retired, Her business is aimed at providing designers, adventurous dressmakers and pattern cutters with the tools they need to create their own patterns from their own designs. You can find out lots more at www.modelistecreative.com

Nicola also has a website Wabi-Sabi Studio – where you can create 7 dolls with their own wardrobes.

Welcome to part one of this three-part series dedicated to making your own lingerie. I will show you how to draft your own panties master pattern. Once you have drafted your made to measure panties block (or sloper as they are known in the USA) you will have a basic panties style that fits you perfectly. In parts two and three we will look at how you can fit and adapt this basic block into a range of different styles.

What is a basic block? A basic block is something a pattern maker uses as a starting point to create a whole range of styles. In its unchanged state the basic block fits the body but has no style details added.

Why sew your own panties? Making your own panties means they will fit you perfectly. You can perfect your basic pattern template (block or sloper) to suit your individual needs. This is a real bonus if you are not a standard size. The instructions provided can be used for any set of measurements.

Once you have your basic block you can develop a range of different styles and they will all fit you as perfectly as your basic block.

Panties are also quick to make and take very little fabric. Making your own lingerie is becoming very popular, and once you have mastered the skill of making panties you may want to venture into making your own bra!

Once you have made your first pair, they are super quick to make.

Pattern drafting tools

You will need the following equipment: 

Some paper to draft your panties template

A ruler – a set square is also handy

A French curve if you don’t like drawing curves by hand

A pencil and an eraser

Your measurements and your drafting instructions printed out

Things you need to know before drafting your Basic Block

Negative Ease

Before we begin to create our pattern, we need to understand what is meant by the term – negative ease.

Most garments have ease added. Ease is extra that has been incorporated into the pattern to allow some extra room in your garments. You need to be able to breathe, bend, sit down and be active in your clothing. Panties often have what is referred to as negative ease. This means that the panties pattern may be smaller than your body measurements. Panties are often made of knit and stretch fabrics. We don’t want to lose our knickers when we run for the bus, so they need to hug the body and have some tension. This means that you need to know how much your fabric stretches. This is referred to as the stretch percentage of the fabric.

How does using a stretch fabric effect our basic block pattern?

You already know that a pair of knickers in a stretch fabric will measure less than your actual body measurements. How do we allow for this when making the basic block pattern? We take our body measurements and we reduce them by the stretch percentage of the fabric we are using. But there is a limit to this reduction. Some fabrics stretch twice their original width, but you would realistically never use more than a 30% reduction for a comfortable pair of regular knickers. If you stretch the fabric too much you are putting it under stress. Having said that, fit is a very personal thing and there are certain circumstances, such as with body shaping panties, where the pattern is cut much smaller than the body it is designed to fit. I call this reduction – the Negative Ease Reduction Factor or N.E.R.F

Here is a handy chart to show you how much you need to reduce your measurements by when using different fabrics. Simply multiply your body measurements by the NERF to achieve the smaller measurement. You can then draft to this smaller measurement. This results in a smaller pair of panties that will stretch to the shape of your body.


Type of fabric

Actual stretch percentage of the fabric

The suggested % your measurements need to be reduced

Multiply the body measurement by this number to achieve the percentage reduction



Jersey knit with limited stretch

Under 20%

Treat as a woven fabric and make little or no adjustments.

For a 2% minor adjustment multiply by 0.98

Regular Jersey fabric – single knit jersey

20 to 30%

Up to 10%

0.9 for a 10 % reduction

Jersey with stretch

(contains some spandex or Lycra)

Between 30 and 40%

10 to 20%

0.8 for a 20% reduction

Knits that stretch moderately

(contains spandex or Lycra)

Between 40 and 60%

Up to 30% depending on your fit preference and the behaviour of the fabric when stretched

0.7 for a 30% reduction

Stretchy Knits

(contains spandex or Lycra)

60 to 75%

Up to 30% as above

0.7 for a 30% reduction

Super Stretch Knits – i.e. technical fabrics for dance etc

(4 way stretch fabrics)

75% and over

Up to 50% depending on your fit preference and the behaviour of the fabric when stretched

0.5 for a 50% reduction – use for a specialist garment.

Please note that you can use your own NERF – the above figures are for guidance.

What type of fabrics are suitable for panties?

My favourite pantie fabric is a regular cotton jersey that has about 20% stretch. If you need help working out the stretch percentage of any fabric, then look at this detailed blog post.

If you would like a more luxurious fabric, then bamboo is beautiful. There are also some synthetic fabrics with nylon and spandex that are also suitable. For this project I am going to show you how to construct a basic block pattern for a cotton jersey fabric.

The gusset can be cut from a plain cotton jersey. Old t-shirts are great for gussets so never throw them away!

Lingerie trims – I love this part of making your own lingerie. I think this is why making your own lingerie has become so popular, there are some fantastic trims available now. Elastic binding, often referred to as FOE (Fold Over Elastic) comes in a huge range of colours and designs. I have a video dedicated to the measurement and application of FOE so take a look. There are also some beautiful traditional knicker elastics plus all the pretty bows and ribbons!

Measuring your body 

The best way to measure your waist is to tie a cord around your middle and see where it settles. If you bend at your side, a crease will appear at your natural waist level. Don’t worry if you don’t usually wear your pants as high up as your natural waist, we are making a basic block which is designed to be adapted into a range of styles, so we need the pants to have a good coverage!


Hips – this is the largest measurement you can obtain going around your bottom but keeping the tape measure level. Your hips lie approximately 21 cm below the waist if you are a size 12 and they tend to get lower as size increases.

Taking measurements for crotch on lingerie

You also need your total rise measurement – this is the measurement from your waist level at the centre back, down and through your legs and up to the centre front.

Fill in the chart below so you have your measurements close to hand.

My Measurements





Measure around your waist. Use a soft tape and it will settle at your natural waist – larger sized ladies may need to measure the waist slightly sloped.




This is the largest measurement you can get around your buttocks – keep the tape measure level.


Total rise

Measure from the tape at the centre back, through your legs and to the tape at the centre front.






Drafting the pattern

If you are new to drafting patterns, then here are some handy tips to help you.

Print out the drafting instructions and have a pencil and eraser to hand.

Read through the drafting instructions and do all your calculations before you begin to draft. I have designed the instructions so that you can fill in the measurements on the sheets as you go along.

Follow the instructions and create right angles when extending lines, unless otherwise stated.

No seam allowance is included in the draft.

Never cut up a draft pattern, you will need it to make any adjustments.

Trace the pattern shapes from the original draft and add seam allowance and markings.

Drafting Instructions

For our example we are working with a size 10 UK and using a NERF of 0.85 – the measurements on this example are for demonstration purposes, you will substitute the waist, hip and total rise for your own measurements. All other measurements are standard. You can download a blank copy of the chart you need to record your measurements here

Tracing your pattern pieces 

Patterns for lingerie - sew your own pants or knickers
How to draft sewing patterns
Drafting a pattern for making your own panties

Your pattern pieces can now be traced and labelled as above. You will add the seam allowance in part two.

I generally mirror all my pattern pieces to create a whole piece. Lingerie pieces often need to be cut on patterned fabric. Pattern pieces should be placed strategically to make best use of any pattern. I have seen some rather amusing misplacement of patterns on ladies’ knickers, for example, large cherries placed directly on strategic areas! Of course, you may want to do this on purpose, but at least then you have chosen to do so. 

Making a toile
 – if you have read my previous articles for The Sewing Directory you will know by now that I am a great believer in making a toile. It’s an essential step in the quest for the perfect fit. In article two we will look at sewing up your toile and how to make the required fit adjustments. We can then confidently move forwards and create a range of pantie styles that we know will fit!


How to sew lingerie to fit you perfectly

If you have any questions at all then head over to my blog page at www.modeliste-creative.com and just ask!

Now move on to making a pair of basic panties here.