Thursday, April 4, 2013

French Knickers Sew-Along - Choosing your fabric.

One of my favorite things about sewing my own underwear is the range of wonderful fabrics you get to use. I'm a very tactile sort of person. If I don't enjoy touching it, I won't wear it. Period. Growing up we didn't have the money for new clothes very often, so we did most of our shopping at the local thrift shop. I would close my eyes and run my fingers over the racks of blouses and stop when I touched something I liked. Granted, this led to a phase where I wore nothing but over-sized chenille sweaters for far too long, but the method remains the same!

If I don't LOVE the feel of a fabric, there's no chance I'm letting it anywhere near my bits. (Hee hee, I just wrote 'bits' on the internet :) )

Which leads us to the topic of fabric choice for sewing the French Knickers.

The fabric suggestions given in the pattern are just a starting point.

A few of you have asked me if these can be sewn using stretch fabrics. The answer is a resounding YES! The pattern has quite a bit of drape, being a sort of 1940's tap pants meets 2013 low-waisted styles. The elastic waist band gives plenty of consistency to whichever fabric you choose. To illustrate, I whipped up this pair of knickers using tencil knit jersey I purchased at
They are ridiculously comfortable!

The great thing about many stretch fabrics is that you don't necessarily have to finish the leg openings, - if they've been cut smoothly and won't be fraying on you-. For this pair, I wanted a bit of color contrast so I finished the legs with a basic overcast stitch.

Leg openings finished with a contrasting overcast stitch.

The front is finished with a simple rayon ribbon bow.

Here is an example of a lovely ornamental shell elastic for the waist. I sewed it to the outside rather than the inside so that the lovely shell pattern would be showcased.

So more about fabrics. What will you need?
  • 1 yard 39" or wider fabric.
  • 1 yard of practice fabric that is of a similar weight to your other fabric choice. (You know me, I'm all about sewing a practice muslin first!)
  • 1 yard of elastic.
  • matching thread
  • optional trim of your choice for the leg opening... i.e. lace, ribbon, embroidery thread etc.
Some great fabrics I have used so far: silk twill, silk charmeuse, (or polyester charmeuse), cotton voile, silk crepe de chine, rayon blends, chiffon, light wight bamboo or rayon jersey...
I do recommend light-weight fabric for this pattern. You can choose to use a basic cotton with more weight and they'll come out a bit more like pajama or lounge shorts!

Another recommendation for your choice of elastic: The pattern calls for picot elastic in particular. Any underwear elastic will work o.k., just make sure you like the feel of it, and that it won't rub your skin raw. I have experimented a bit with using a casing for the elastic but for underwear at least, it really does get too bulky to look very nice.

For your choice of trimming: if you choose to trim your leg openings with lace or ribbon, keep in mind that a trim that is heavier or more stiff than your fabric can make the leg openings look awkward. Try to keep your trims of similar content or weight to your fabric. For example, I trimmed my silk twill knickers with silk ribbon.

One of the best places to find trims, ribbons and lace is on In particular, if you're ever looking for vintage lace and trims like the ones in the photo below, check out Dishy Vintage:

No, they're not a sponsor, but I just love their shop so much I have to share!

And for some great, new old stock ribbons, check out Phoebe Delia's:

1/2" Silk ribbon braid.
 Whew! That was a lot of information. Any questions?


  1. Hi, this will be my first time for a sew-a-long! Where would you recommend buying silk fabric?



    1. Hi Sue, Thanks for joining us! Finding good silk online is hit or miss. If you want a good deal, try looking on Ebay, there's quite a bit. Otherwise, you can find a great selection at