Knickers to 2016!

Has 2016 been pants for you?

It has for me… starting in August, when I decided that I really needed to investigate making my own underwear. I experimented with using fabric from old t-shirts and relied on the limited functionality of my trusty old sewing machine… and I had some success. However, subsequent testing revealed that the zig-zag stich (the only stretchy one I could do on my machine) was not robust enough and that we wear our t-shirts until they are in such a state that they are not up to the job!

So, if I wanted to make my own pants (that’s UK pants, not US ones) I was going to have to have a rethink.  And then Mr Snail offered to buy me an overlocker for my birthday (which actually isn’t until Monday). To avoid the madness of Christmas deliveries, this amazing machine was ordered and delivered ages ago and I was allowed to have it straight away. I have to confess that it was all rather intimidating…

I decided that I needed plenty of time to get to grips with it and so it was only today that I finally got round to having a go.

My initial trials produced nice neat sample seams:

imgp1419

testing-testing

And so I bit the bullet and cut out a pair of Scrundlewear briefs from some of the organic cotton jersey fabric I bought for the purpose and had a go. I’m still getting used to the overlocker, but now at the end of the afternoon, I have a pair completed and ready to wear and I’m very pleased with myself…

It was all my own work too, since my assistant this afternoon did not contribute much:

imgp1421

Max doing what he does best

So, assuming they are more robust than my last attempt, there’s going to be lots more sewing so that 2017 will be another pants year!

I want to show you my knickers

Let’s face it, sooner or later it becomes necessary to buy new underwear. After all, there are only so many years that a pair of knickers will last. And thus, it came the time for me to seek out new undies. My initial thought was that I would shop with Pants to Poverty . Sadly, when I tried to go to their website I found it was no more, and a quick internet search revealed that they have gone to the wall – very sad news, both for ethical shoppers and for the people they were supporting. So what to do? I know of several other companies that sell ‘ethical underwear’, but I had also read quite a lot about making your own… in particular I have read good things about the Scrundlewear pattern from Stitch Upon A Time. Yo may recall that many years ago I wrote a post about the political symbolism of making your own knickers, entitled Civil disobedience is homemade pants! and finally I felt it might be time to take action.

IMGP0231

One very elderly t-shirt

I thought about it some more and then decided to buy the Scrundlewear pattern and have a go. One of the clinchers was that there’s a version that requires no elastic and that can be made (at least in part) from old t-shirts. Since I have a big pile of such t-shirts that I plan to use only the fronts of (to make a memory quilt), it seemed like a good opportunity to use up some of the ‘waste’ fabric. As well as cotton jersey, some more stretchy fabric is required, and so I used a black viscose/lycra jersey top that I have expanded out of. I really didn’t want to invest in any new fabric or notions at this stage, this being very much a test run.

IMGP0230

the pattern is downloaded as a pdf

So, I set-to with my scissors – I cut out the pattern and the fabric pieces and tried to get my head round the sewing. I’m not a very enthusiastic sewer, but I will do it if I need to. I had a few trial tuns with the fabric and my sewing machine and decided to start by using the stretchy stitch that my machine does… It’s a bit easier to control than a zig-zag stitch and it’s easier to see what you are doing. Although the pattern says you can make a pair of knickers in an hour, I took me considerably longer than this… I suspect that next time will be much quicker.

The Verdict: I chose to start with a pair of what are described as ‘boy shorts’ because these are what I had enough of the stretchy fabric for. I can confirm that they were relatively easy to make. The sewing machine stitch I chose was a mistake – it’s a bit too firm for this use and in future I will use a zig-zag stitch even though that’s not quite so easy to control and I’ll probably need more practice. In addition, I need some ballpoint needles for my sewing machine, as I broke four sharp needles in the process of making one pair of pants. I’ve tried them on and the seem quite comfy, apart from the lack of give in the stitching, but I haven’t worn them for any length of time, so I can’t comment more than superficially. Perhaps the fact that I’ve just ordered some stretchy fabric for the bands is a good indication that I happy with this pattern.

So, probably for the only time ever on this blog, let me show you my knickers…

IMGP0240

these are my pants!

They may not be the colours I would have chosen in a shop, but I’m quite pleased with them, especially since the only new component was the sewing thread.

Knitted knickers

I am still occupied by the idea of homemade underwear. You may remember me mentioning my friend Seema, who makes her own knickers. She recycles old t-shirts and the suchlike as a way to avoid buying new items in order to reduce her environmental impact.

It turns out that Seema and I are not the only people interested in this subject. A number of courses have been brought to my attention at which I could learn to make my own (in some cases very fancy) knickers. But places like The Make Lounge and Emiliana Underwear are a long way from west Wales (although the latter does sell kits) and I simply can’t afford the time and travelling expense.

So, I turn to the internet for further inspiration and discover an abundance of patterns for knitting your own knickers… many from the 1940s. Fabulous forties fashions, for example, sell patterns for knitted knickers, vests and the marvelously named ‘pantie-vest’… a garment that seems to be designed to be impossible to extricate oneself from without disrobing completely! They even sell a pattern for crocheted bras!

I confess, however, that discussions with ladies who experienced such garments in their past reveals (not literally) their propensity (the underwear not the ladies) for bagginess and I suspect that, even using modern yarns containing lycra (or similar), they would still be saggy and almost certainly rather bulky… not to mention the likelihood of chafing! Several ladies have also described having knitted swim-wear when they were girls, including the horrors of emerging from the water in a progressively enlarging costume! Fortunately I am young enough never to have been exposed to such traumas and I’m not about to start now.

So, I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll give underwear making a miss for the time being and stick to knitting socks, cardigans and snails!

Civil disobedience is homemade pants!

A few months ago I read a post by my friend Seema about making her own pants (or underpants as you would say in the US I think) that prompted me to start writing this entry on my blog. Somehow I didn’t finish it and has taken me until now to get back to it, but finally here I am…

Now, you might be wondering how making your own underwear resulted in thoughts of civil disobedience…

Apparently my homemade socks could bring down the government!

Apparently my homemade socks could bring down the government!

Well, Seema mentioned something called ‘The Compact‘, which started out as an agreement between a group of friends in San Francisco not to buy anything new for a year, with the exception of a few things, including underwear. Seema felt that it should be possible to make your own pants and thus further reduce the purchase of new items. I have previously written about buying secondhand socks, but perhaps secondhand pants are a step too far! The answer, therefore, is to make your own, and Seema tells you how.

This still doesn’t really explain the link to civil disobedience, does it? But, stick with me, I’m getting there.

In researching The Compact I discovered that this attempt to reduce consumerism and do something to live more sustainably has been widely criticised, because it does nothing to support ‘the economy’. If you watch the news or read newspapers in the UK, US and probably any industrialised country, you will know that governments want ‘growth’. And by that they mean more manufacturing, more purchasing, more exports. For example an article in the Star Tribune states:

The American economy depends on consumers willing to buy the latest in fashions, furnishings and flat-screen TVs. Indeed, in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, shopping was cast as a patriotic duty, a way to help prevent the economy from tipping into a recession.

And that sums it up – if you don’t shop and buy more stuff, you are going to bring down your country… the whole of the economic system that many of our countries rely on will no longer function. What can be more civilly disobedient than that?

But, I hear you ask, do I really want to bring down the economy of my country, even if it is by making my own knickers and not buying that new mobile phone that will make my life worth living once more? Well, for many people, the current economy is not working well – there is a huge gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ and this is becoming increasingly difficult to govern. In addition, common sense tells us that all economies cannot continue to grow indefinitely – surely we should be looking at stable, sustainable economies, where the needs of all can be met without constantly trying to exploit either groups of people or the planet? Buying new things is driven, to a great extent by large corporations wanting to make money (I direct you once again to The Story of Stuff – do watch it if you haven’t already) rather than their desire to make you happy!

I have to confess that, as an inveterate bibliophile, I can’t bring myself to promise not to buy anything new, but I think that we could all reduce, reuse and repair in order to make the world a better place… and if that means I’m bringing down our whole economic system, then I’m fine with that

-oOo-

If you are interested in The Compact, there is an online community

And if you want to find out more about economics and alternatives to constant consumption, you can do no better than to visit the website of the New Economics Foundation… sounds dull, but it really isn’t!

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: