Learning Lingerie

My first attempt at lingerie
My first attempt at lingerie

After a few trials, and many errors, I have finally finished my first attempt at making lingerie.

I’ve been inspired by a wonderful book I bought on Amazon – The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Stanford. It covers knickers, bras and camisoles, amongst other things, and contains lots of helpful information on choosing fabrics, tips and techniques for sewing lingerie and applying lace, and a really helpful list of suppliers. It also has paper paper patterns in the back of the book for each of the projects.

The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie
The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers & Laura Stanford, published by Kyle Books

As I’d never made lingerie before, I thought I’d start with something simple – a camisole made in a silk crepe remnant, and matching mini briefs.

Silk Camisole
Silk Camisole

The camisole was quite straightforward. It was cut on the bias and required French seams and the application of lace at the front of the bodice and round the hem.  The book gave instructions for a reverse hem which allows you to quickly add a trim whilst preventing any fraying. You have to press a 5mm hem to the right side of the garment then lay the lace trim along this edge, aligning the decorative top of the lace trim with the raw edge, and then top stitch 2-3mm from this edge. It sounds simple now, but took me ages to figure out – I think I was having a blond moment!

The camisole also required a hand-finished shell edge. I hadn’t done this before but it turned out really nicely. I used silk embroidery thread to sew this stitch, which gives a lovely finish.

Shell edging and fine gold  rings and sliders from MacCulloch & Wallis
Shell edging and fine gold rings and sliders from MacCulloch & Wallis

One of the biggest problems I came across was sourcing supplies. The camisole required 12mm rings and slides for the straps and I really wanted to use brass findings for a more luxurious finish. These were difficult to source in the UK, and quite expensive. In the end I bought them online from London-based  MacCulloch & Wallis, who can always be relied upon for any manner of sewing-related items. They arrived in a couple of days and are excellent quality – far, far superior to the clear plastic ones that were available in my local haberdashers.

I made more stupid errors with the shoulder straps, cutting them shorter than the book instructed. I also had problems with turning the straps – can anyone tell me whether there’s a secret knack to using a rouleau loop turner? It never seems to work for me, so any advice would be very gratefully received.

The camisole turned out beautifully and was an excellent project for using up a remnant of gorgeous fabric.

My first attempt at making the mini briefs can only be described as disastrous! The pattern pieces had to be cut on the crosswise grain and I got my wires crossed and cut them on the bias. I thought this would be ok as the elastic would pull them in, but this was not the case. As I worked with the briefs they got larger, and larger and LARGER!!!  Briefs they certainly weren’t! By this time I was in a bit of a fix as I didn’t have a lot of fabric left – not enough to make another pair of mini briefs, but I really wanted a matching set. I went back to the book and found I could just about squeeze out a pair of tie-sided minis, which turned out really nicely – in the end!

Tie-sided minis
Tie-sided minis

I learnt loads from this project – working with difficult fabrics (cutting out with a rotary cutter definitely helps, and machine sewing on top of a sheet of tissue paper), shell edging, applying a gusset and attaching elastic are all valuable new skills. It’s definitely inspired me to sew more lingerie, in fact I’m hoping to work my way through the book. But firstly I think I will definitely have to spend a few hours sourcing fabrics, trims, decent lingerie elastic and fastenings. That involves shopping – what a pity!  🙂

Has anyone else had a go at making lingerie? If you can recommend any suppliers for lingerie notions please let me know.


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