The Knicker Report

I know I said I wouldn’t show you my knickers again, but I have been testing out the Scrundlewear pattern and I can now give you a preliminary report…

There are two styles available – shorts and briefs and I have made both. The waist and leg bands must be made from fabric with some stretch, so I bought some organic cotton-lycra jersey in amusing patterns to play around with:

Then I made versions of both styles entirely out of the new fabric and also with fabric from old t-shirts for the bits that don’t need so much elasticity, resulting in four fabric/style combinations in total:

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Piles of pants

And then I wore each pair for a full day to road-test them!

So, here are my thoughts:

  • The pattern just gives dimensions for the waist and leg bands, but it’s easier if you make an actual paper pattern piece to work with – it just makes life easier and you don’t have to keep using a tape measure.
  • The original pattern is designed to print out on A4 paper which then has to be stuck together. I used these print-outs to create a template and transferred the pieces onto a single large piece of paper so there were no joins to act as points of weakness.
  • When it came to sewing, my machine struggled with the 100% cotton t-shirt fabric. I tried a variety of needles (normal and ballpoint), but still suffered from problems with tension and missed stitches. In contrast, once I’d got the tension/needle combination right, the new cotton-lycra jersey was easy to sew.

Missed stitches reduce stretchiness and mean weak joins, so minimising them is important. I need to do more trials with my machine to sort this out.

  • Once it came to wearing them, I found the most comfortable version, generally, to be the shorts with the reused t-shirt fabric (those are the ones with the black and white bands in the picture). However, it was a close-run thing and I have to confess that although they were good, none of them were perfect. It will be interesting to see how washing affects the fit and comfort.
  • In all cases, I thought that the leg bands were a little too wide, so I’m going to make these a bit narrower next time and see how that works out. The waists were fine.
  • They are quite substantial, so I imagine that if you lived somewhere warm you might like to seek out a finer jersey than I used, and perhaps use lingerie elastic rather than the fabric for the waist/leg bands (there is an option for this in the pattern).
  • I quite enjoyed making them and it does get easier with practice.
  • Out of interest, I’m going to dismantle some comfortable knickers that I have been wearing for years and see how the shape compares to this pattern… I will then make some modifications and have another go.

So, there you are. My conclusions? Give it a go – if you’ve got a sewing machine that can cope, I’m sure you can be successful if you are prepared to experiment. This way you can have ethical, organic pants and save a lot of money.

History Lessons

Some months ago I came across a rather interesting knitting blog: Orkney to Omaha. This is how they describe themselves:

A random tweet for volunteer knitters, to help create the costumes for a community-created film about the First World War, resulted in the formation of a community of knitters from Orkney to Omaha. These brilliant and generous people have come together creating an instant and thriving group of researchers, organisers and above all, super-talented knitters – over one hundred of them – all in the memory of the men and their families of the First World War who sacrificed their futures for ours.

One for the wish list

One for the wish list

This small blog is fascinating, documenting the process of converting patterns from 100 years ago into something that modern knitters would be able to follow. I was delighted when they announced in September that a book of some of the patterns, entitled Centenary Stitches, would be released and I ordered it straight away. It arrived yesterday and it has kept me absorbed for several hours already. It contains all sorts of things that I would like to knit – including a “turban”, which will mean (according to the book) I won’t have to “dress” my long hair before I go out, I can simply tuck it into the turban and go! I also want to make a sort of wrap-around shawl, that will stay in place, and a tam and various fabulous scarves and shawls… you never know I might even use up some of my stash on some of them! But it isn’t simply a pattern book, it contains all sorts of information about the history of knitting, as well as examples of original patterns.

My sort of history

My sort of history

When I was at school, I hated history. It seemed to me that it was all about stuff that powerful men did and nothing about real people. I can remember a class involving the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle but I have no idea why it was relevant or what it was about (well, I didn’t until I just looked it up and discovered that there were two: one in 1668 that ended the War of Devolution and one in 1748 that ended the War of Austrian Succession… I still have no idea which one I learned about at school, though). It came as quite a revelation to me, therefore, that I am fascinated by history… in particular the history of women. The thing that kindled my interest was reading Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s books about life in the American west (forget the cloying stories on the TV show and read the books, which tell you how to make maple sugar and build a smoker, amongst other things), but it didn’t stop there. I love to read about all sorts of ‘domestic history’. So the arrival of a copy of Piecework a couple of days ago made my weekend complete. This particular issue is about underwear and includes all sorts of interesting articles, including one on mediaeval bras and one on Queen Victoria’s undies!

So I’ve had a happy evening since Mr Snail left for the week – drinking tea and reading about the sort of history that is interesting to me… and not a politician in sight!

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!

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