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Sewing Lingerie – Basic Panties

How to sew lingerie to fit you perfectly

This article is the second 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

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

Welcome to part two of how to sew lingerie. In part one we covered how to draft a basic knicker block using your own body measurements. In this part, you will sew up your basic panties and look at how to adjust them to fit perfectly. In the next part we will look at the range of styles you can develop from your basic panties block.

Don’t worry if you didn’t get around to drafting your own pattern, I have put a free knicker block drafted in a range of sizes on my blog page, so head over there and pick up the size you need.


For this project you will need

Supplies for sewing knickers

Your panties pattern (the one you drafted or the one you have downloaded from the blog page)

Plain paper or pattern cutting paper

A ruler, pencil & eraser

A tape measure

A sewing machine with a zig zag stitch.

1/3 of a metre of knitted jersey fabric

Matching thread

2.5 metres of knicker elastic or fold over elastic


Design Choices

If you followed my previous drafting instructions to the letter then you will need a basic jersey fabric, there are so many beautiful prints to choose from!

I made my sample in a size 22 and it took just over 30 cm of 125 cm wide fabric so 1/3 of a metre of fabric will be plenty. Take your pattern pieces to the fabric shop if you want to save on waste.

The trim you choose to finish the edge of your panties waist and leg opening affects the pattern’s seam allowance. If you use fold over elastic (FOE) to finish the waist and hem no seam allowance is required on these edges. Bound edges don’t need seam allowance. FOE is a type of elastic binding, perfect for lingerie, it comes in a wide range of colours and widths. The wider the elastic the easier it is to sew.

If you are using traditional knicker elastic use the width of the solid part of the elastic as seam allowance on your pattern.


Preparing the pattern for cutting out

When you draft your own patterns, there is no seam allowance added. You can use a basic ruler, a see through one is best. Add seam allowance to the edges of the pattern that will be sewn.

In my example I am going to apply FOE to the legs and knicker elastic to the waist. Therefore, I need seam allowance on the side seams, I suggest 1cm, anything less will be difficult to sew and pass under your machine foot. The seam allowance on the waist should equal the width of the knicker elastic solid part (0.5cm). To make sewing easier you can also add 1cm and trim down the excess after application.


Cutting out in fabric

Laying out a pattern for cutting

Place your pattern pieces on the fabric and cut out. You will need one whole front, one whole back, one main fabric gusset and one gusset lining (I use the jersey as a gusset lining). Mark notches at the centre back and centre front at the gusset seam. Notch the middle of the gusset section front and back – this will help greatly when sewing.


 Ready to sew

Before you begin look at my handy video on measuring and applying FOE! It’s also useful if you are applying knicker elastic as it covers the basic principles of applying elastic.

Sewing the gusset pieces with the enclosed method

I realise that it is a difficult thing to explain in just words and pictures. If you prefer to watch a video on this technique head over to my blog page or take a look on my YouTube channel.

Place the back panties with the right side of the fabric facing upwards. Sandwich the back pants between the two gusset pieces that have been placed with right sides together, with the gusset you want to the outside of the pants (the one that will show) at the top.

Pins get in the way when you sew this tiny seam, so it’s easier to place a pin in the centre, matching the centre notches we marked earlier. This seam can be sewn with a regular straight stitch.

Sewing underwear

This seam can be pressed flat, the gusset is the only area of this garment that needs to be pressed. It is not good practice to press jersey as you sew it, it makes the fabric roll and makes it harder to sew.

Now take the front panties and place them RSD – to the back panties. Pin the centre of the front pants to the centre of the top gusset piece only – leave the gusset lining loose for now.

How to sew lingerie

Now flip the gusset lining up to the top matching the notches and sew all three layers of the gusset lining, main panties and main gusset piece.

How to sew gussets on lingerie

Now pull the panties out and the gusset piece is completely enclosed.


Finishing the leg openings

Watch my Fold Over Elastic video above and follow the steps to applying and sewing the FOE to the legs if you have chosen to use the elastic binding. If you choose to use knicker elastic, then we will look at that technique when we apply it to the waist.

 Side seams and waist

Sew one side seam – use the elastic extensions to help you line up the seams perfectly, so you have a continuous run at the side seam. Use a stretch stitch or slight zig zag stitch at the side seam. Of course, if you have an overlocker (serger) that would be perfect!

Lingerie making course

Now with the other side seam open, prepare to sew the knicker elastic to the waist.

If you have an overlocker (serger) you can neaten the waist first – if not don’t worry, it’s perfectly fine to leave raw edges on jersey fabric because it doesn’t fray.

Place the knicker elastic to the waist with the right side of the elastic to the right side of the fabric.

Pulling the elastic gently, zig zag in position with your first pass of stitching. The edge of the stitch should be as close to the edge of the main body of the elastic as you can make it.

Turn the elastic to the wrong side and make your second pass of stitching, from the right side, to hold the trim in position.

Sewing knicker elastic

Closing the remaining side seam

Now you can close the final side seam and neaten/secure all threads.

Sewing side seams on knickers

Fitting your panties

Sew well fitting lingerie

Here we are just perfecting the fit of the basic shape – we are not developing any styles. Your aim is to have a pair of knickers that fits well.

Contrary to popular belief, a pattern you draft to your individual body measurements cannot be expected to fit you perfectly the first time. In an industry setting I have known designers make several toiles and adjustments before they are satisfied with the fit. It’s important to note that fit is also very subjective.

Now you need to try the panties on, maybe wear them for the day and see how they feel. I always draft my patterns in my own size and wear them, that way I know how they feel and fit.

Common fit issues include waist level. You may find that the waist is a little tight or loose, or the height of the waist is too low or too high. Other common fit issues include fit over the bottom and tightness over the top of the legs. Let’s look at the adaptations you can make:

Raising the waist on a pants pattern
Adapting lingerie patterns
Adapting a flat or curvy bottom
Adjusting the waist on a pants pattern
Making pattern alterations

Remember that you are working to perfect the fit. We will look at adapting this shape into a range of different styles in our next instalment. If you have fit issues that you would like some help with then head over to my blog page and post a comment.

Now move on to developing different styles of panties here.