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A new "From the Archives" series will be published every Wednesday and Saturday from 25 February 2023, until 26 March 2023, and these posts will contain 'old' information on corset making which will be updated for the revamped Learn Corset Making information portal whereever that may be.

From the Archives : Article by Rosie Dennington on how to use knicker elastic c. 2013

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The Wonders of Knicker Elastic!


Rosie Dennington of Rosie Red Corsetry and Couture

 In all honesty, elastic used to frighten me. I had previously played about before with making smocked dresses and elasticated summer tops, but it was always very trial and error. I really wanted to master knickers and swimwear, but just wasn’t very sure of where to start…

I have now come out the other end! I feel I have managed to master the use of knicker elastic, and I want to share with you three different things knicker elastic can be used for.

1.  Knicker elastic can be made to make knickers or panties! 

Knicker elastic is most commonly used around the waist and legs of a pair of knickers. I found it most useful to study pairs of pants that I owned and to look at where the elastic had been used. This is because styles will vary. For this explanation though, presume I am talking about your bog-standard panties. So, how much elastic is needed? This baffled me until a lecturer I had at university explained to me that the simplest way to work this out was to literally get a length of elastic and hold it around that body part (waist or leg) until it felt at a ‘comfortable tightness’. This can then obviously be used as a rough guide for future sizing; if you wear a size 12 you are likely to be able to make all your size 12 knickers with these measurements. I have included photos to demonstrate this

 rosieknickers3 rosieknickers2   rosieknickers1
Too tight - this is going to hurt! Too loose - not tension at all! Just right, comfy and stays in place
rosie knicker elastic

The next obstacle is now that you have your lengths of elastic cut, how much ‘pull’ is needed when you sew?  The first time I made a pair of knickers, they would have only fitted a doll, as I had pulled far too much. Take the waist for example, fold the elastic in quarters, this will give you markers for the side seams and CF and CB. These can either be pinned in place, or markers can be drawn onto the fabric. Again, I have included photos to demonstrate this.

Finally, it is important to mention the stitch to use. A three step zig-zag stitch works best but if you do not have a three step zig zag on your machine, a plain zigzag is the next best thing.  The zigzag stitch allows the fabric to stretch with the elastic; it just isn’t possible with a straight stitch. The width and length of the stitch I have found, is purely a matter of choice. I often like to use a chunky zig-zag stitch in a contrast colour, as it works as a bit of a decorative feature.

Tip:  Fold both knickers and elastic in half or quarters to make your own markers. This can then be pinned in place so you know how much ‘pull’ is needed   photo
  Most domestic machines have a three step zigzag

  2. Knicker elastic can be used to shape garments

Knicker elastic can be used to shape soft cups in nightdresses and sundresses.  A big positive to this is that it really works for any size chest.  You may find it easiest to either flat pattern a cup, or to cut on the stand. When I say ‘cup’ it can be as simplistic as a triangle shape, commonly associated with bikinis. Work out the length of elastic you will require, and in a similar way to making the knickers, use a zig-zag stitch to attach. If you use this same principle and use swimwear fabric, you can even make your own soft cup bikinis.  This is particularly good when making bikinis and first bras for girls starting out with lingerie.

rosiered bikini rosiered nightie
soft cup bikini shaped with elastic trim sexy negligee with bust area shaped with elastic

3. Embellishment and decoration

This is a bit more of an ‘out-of-the-box’ idea, but I have found that knicker elastic can be used as really lovely decoration. The real advantage of using knicker elastic is that it moves and stretches at your will so easily. I have used it many times to decorate nipple tassels and pasties. Knicker elastic is much easier to manipulate then a standard lace trim, so can be particularly effective for unusual shapes such as hearts. It can be sewn, hot glued or super glued in place.  I find it particularly effective for unusual shapes such as hearts. It can be sewn, hot glued or super glued in place.

pastie making2 rosie making nipple pasties rosiepasties

I really hope that this has been of help in showing just some of the ways knicker elastic can be used. Not only is it useful and often pretty, but it doesn’t break the bank either!

Make your own knickers - free tutorial from the Very Purple Person blog

Three free printable lingerie patterns from Craftsy


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