Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Project 34: Mens Underwear

Now, everyday I will be wearing something I made, even if I'm the only one who will see it.

It started as a simple idea. I was going to use up some of my big stash of cotton jersey by making myself underwear. As with all my projects, there was a learning curve that I didn't anticipate. I should start anticipating them, I think.

The first part of the quest was finding a pattern. Believe it or not, there are very few home sewers out there who are making mens underwear. Shocking! I wasted several hours trying to convince my pattern design software to do it for me, but to no avail. After many fruitless Google searches, I finally came across this pattern from a French Canadian company: Jalie 3242 - Underwear for Men, Women, and Children.  I also found this awesome YouTube video showing you each step in making the trunks: How to Make Men's Trunk Underwear

I ordered a copy of the pattern, but it wasn't just for the smoking hot French Canadian underwear model. After making my first attempt at the garment, I realized that had underestimated the importance of the difference between two-way stretch fabric and four-way stretch fabric.


Knit fabric that you use in an outer garment should only stretch in one direction - sideways. That's why your t-shirt sleeves can accommodate bulging biceps, but not droop down to your elbows, or in my case, accommodate bulging love handles, but not droop down to my knees. Undergarments, however, need to stretch in every which way to provide a comfy home for our bumpy lumpy sexy bits.

None of the jersey in my overflowing stash was four-way stretch. So much for decreasing the overall inventory. Reluctantly heading to the fabric store (ha ha ha) for four-way stretch fabric, I soldiered on. There, I discovered a textile previously unknown to me which has changed my understanding of life.

Bamboo Jersey

Bamboo fabrics have been the darling of the green textile movement for several years, and there are some good reasons for it. Growing bamboo is much less demanding on the soil and water supply than cotton, for example. The downside comes at the fabric production stage. The cellulose in bamboo has to be extracted and made into a fiber, and that process currently involves nasty petrochemicals. Balancing those pluses and minuses is a task for someone else. I will testify, however, that bamboo jersey is the perfect midpoint between silk and cotton jerseys. The drape and hand are extraordinary but the cost and ease of use are perfectly reasonable.

After I made the first pair and wore them for a day, I was hooked. The fabric was so pleasant against my skin that it gave me a happy feeling all day long. It wicks moisture away from the skin faster than cotton and is hypoallergenic, so ones nether regions are kept dry and comfortable in even the most trying of circumstances.

With some interruptions, I entered full production mode, and am pleased to report that both I and Lingoman are now well supplied with bamboo jersey trunks in a variety of colors.

No, I will not model them. Don't be a perv.

Coverstitch Appreciation 101

Three needle coverstitch joining waistband.
This project was the first real workout for my new Babylock Coverstitch machine. You may not know it, but you're wearing a ton of cover stitch seams right now. At the cuff of your t-shirt sleeve you'll see two rows of parallel stitches, and on the backside a knitted stitch binding the raw edge of the fabric. If you explore further into your underwear, you'll see that the fabric is attached to the waistband by a trio of top stitches that are woven in the background into a cover stitch.


Two needle coverstitch finishing hem.
Two needle coverstitch finishing hem
  • Use the double-stick dissolvable tape when you need to. No one will judge.
  • The thread that no one sees doesn't need to match perfectly.
  • There are many kinds of elastic and they are all somehow problematic.

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