Hi, my name’s Andrew, you can find more from me on Instagram @SewAndrew or my blog SewAndrew.com however, today I’m here to tell you a bit about men’s underwear and this lovely jersey from Britex. I got a yard each of black/white cotton jersey, navy/white striped cotton jersey, and another yard of white cotton jersey with a cute cherry print on it. Also a yard each of star motif elastic in red, blue and black (this fabulous waistband elastic available in our notions department - A). The elastic is soft and strong, perfect for underwear and the jersey felt so nice that I changed my plan a little (but more on that later!).
I’ve been trying out some different patterns and thought I’d share with you a few things I’ve learnt along the way. There aren’t that many modern men’s briefs patterns available, but this is by no means an exhaustive list - these are just the three that I could get my hands on easily! First up,
Ottobre Magazine Family Edition - Men’s Briefs
These boxers have a side seam, front pouch with no opening and a longer leg length.
I made these up completely on my regular sewing machine. I used a zigzag stitch 1.5mm x 1.5mm to join all the seams. After stitching I trimmed the seams allowances back and pressed them open before topstitching with a decorative overcast stitch to hold the seams down. For the hems and elastic, I used the three step zigzag stitch.
They’re an easy sew, without any tricky curves, which also means there’s not a great deal of shaping either. These are probably more suited to a slim build, not too much hip, not too much booty. But what I really liked about this pattern was the instructions, well, the instructions are pretty sparse to be honest, but the methods. Especially sewing the front dart; this was done by folding the two front pieces right sides in. Then laying them on top of one another and sewing the dart through all the layers at once. When you’ve trimmed the seam, you open out the front and back layers and everything’s perfectly in place. It felt pretty weird doing it, but the results are great!
It was also nice to be encouraged to use some more of the decorative stitches on my machine. It took a bit of extra time, trimming, pressing and topstitching but I like the faux-coverstitch effect it creates.
Freesewing.org - Bruce Boxer Briefs
You can get hold of your own made to measure pattern for these boxers (and many other patterns) at freesewing.org - create a profile, enter your measurements and print at home!
These have a side panel which attaches the front and backs, the front pouch and front leg inserts provide shaping. There is no opening at the front and the legs are a medium length.
There’s a great video sewalong on the website for these. Without a coverstitch machine, I took the ‘no-topstitching’ option and put these together on my serger/overlocker. I keep it threaded with rainbow variegated thread, it makes me happy and it beats changing the reels all the time! Here I’m using a wool needle to tuck the thread tails back through. Fraycheck is great, but you don’t want any scratchy bits inside your undies.
I took Joost’s advice from the video and sewed these together using hardly any pins. I’m pretty surprised with how the stripes matched up as I was only really half-concentrating on that! So if you have a pattern you want to match (like this stripe) then this is probably the pattern for you!
Sewing in the opposing curved front insets was fiddly, but achievable if you take it slowly.
These seemed to be the most economical with fabric too; I squeezed the pieces up a bit more after taking this photo...
They’re a pretty good fit, as the pattern is drafted from my measurements they should be! As this jersey has a soft stretch to it, I would tinker with the ‘negative ease’ settings on the pattern next time though, just to make them a little more snug on the thighs.
Last in my underwear research is the...
Thread Theory - Comox Trunks
This pattern is widely available online and in many stores. There is no side seam, a separate gusset, options for front opening (which I didn’t do!) and a shorter leg length. (I’ve actually made these a few times before, with and without the front opening - I’ll be honest with you, the opening is a bit of a chore to put in and I never ended up using it, worried it would stretch out. If you’re going to try the opening, get some fold over elastic to bind the edges and use the three step zigzag stitch - I found I could get a much cleaner and more secure finish this way.) But with these ones… no opening!
The lack of side seam means that not only are they more comfortable but they also have a pretty big, weird shaped side piece! So make sure you’ve got plenty of room to lay your fabric out when you’re cutting these out. Admittedly I live in a tiny apartment but these were the only pair I had to cut out on the floor! The instructions in the pack and on the website are well put together and easy to follow. Sewing the big curve around the seat is particularly satisfying (especially if you’ve got the walking foot on!). I sewed the seams with a short zigzag and finished them on the overlocker/serger.
The gusset is the other big difference to this pattern. It’s a double piece of fabric which joins the front to the back, creating the inner leg. It gets joined from the front hem, through the crotch to the other front hem (and the same at the back)
This extra fabric is great for strength, personally, I think it feels a bit thick under there - like a diaper/ nappy! - and you may want to try a single layer of fabric instead.
Overall, while all the patterns are great, I think these are my favourite fit. I prefer the shorter leg and there seems to be more shaping through all those curved seams.
So… what have I learnt…
Sewing the front dart through all layers is my favourite new technique!
I prefer to sew the seams with a zigzag and then finish on the overlocker/serger- maybe it’s just my machine, but the zigzag seems to be a stronger stitch.
Without a coverstitch machine, I prefer without topstitching (leaving out the topstitching also makes it a much quicker sew!)
The easiest and neatest waistband (for me) seems to be with the three-step-zigzag stitch. With the elastic right side up and the waist right side up beneath it, and then trim away any excess fabric.
I prefer not to use a twin needle as no matter how much I tweak the settings, I always end up popping stitches sooner or later. One of the decorative stretch stitches or just a good old fashioned zigzag does the job for me!
When I started this I hadn’t realized just how varied the instructions and techniques could be across three similar patterns. I’m grateful for the opportunity to try them all out and fine tune my favourite processes. But hey, what about that last yard of fabric, I hear you say! … yes, indeed, when I felt how nice and soft this jersey was, I knew I’d like a top out of it too - it will be a great layering garment this winter! So I made two navy and white boxers and saved the black and white for a ¾ length sleeve hack of the La Maison Victor ‘Issac’ T-shirt.
I was literally cutting it fine to get a long sleeve knit of just a yard, but this fabric is wide, which helped! In the end, I didn’t have quite enough width to fit the sleeves in and ended up piecing them with a seam just above the elbow. I know, I know, I could have just made a T-shirt, but I’ve got a few stripy T-shirts and wanted this one to be different.
Now that I’d found my favourite jersey settings, I sewed everything together with a 1.5mm x 1.5mm zigzag stitch then finished the seams on the overlocker/serger. Once it was all together, I folded the cuffs and hem so that the black 3-step-zigzag stitching was hidden along a black stripe.
Apologies to those of you who thought you might see some photos of me modelling my new underwear! I can assure you that despite their differences they all look and feel great on. But here’s a photo of me in my new top instead!
Thanks for having me Britex, and thank you for reading! Until next time… Happy Sewing!