Friday, March 11, 2011

Let’s celebrate with underwear!

I’m super excited to be participating in Made-by-Rae and Made’s awesome month-long Boy Party today.  I loved this series last year, and it’s been even more amazing this year.  So many fun ideas bookmarked!  For my part, I’m going to share how to take t-shirts and make them into tiny little boxer briefs for tiny little bums.

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I first shared this idea last year when I made a couple pair for my older two boys.  But my youngest recently decided to potty train (insert happy dance here) and is now in underwear full time.  So it was time to make a few for him. 

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As much as I love a cloth diapered bum, tiny fannies in tiny underwear trump diapers every time.  I mean really!
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After making quite a few of these, I’ve come up with some better ways of doing things than when I originally shared a year ago.  I decided to do an updated tutorial, showing those changes.  I’ve also updated the pattern with a longer rise.  My shared pattern fits a size 3/4 .   To fit my skinny 2 year old, I just took my own pattern in a little. When I make them for my older son, I just increased the size to fit him.  Or, if you’d prefer, you can always use the upcycling idea of t-shirt to briefs with your favorite multi-size commercial pattern, like Fishsticks Designs’ Undercover Bottoms (and matching tank!). 
I explain how to make the briefs with or without a fly.  And without a fly, how to still get the look of one, if you’re into that kind of thing.   The pattern pieces for both with or without a fly are included in the PDF.  
I’ve also compiled an index of other boy-related and -friendly projects I’ve done over the years.  Click the image below to see the full list and links to each. 
project boy
But for now, let’s make some briefs…
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(click “read more”)
First, some things about sewing with knits.  I go over sewing with knits in more detail here.  But just real quickly…
-You want a stretch, knit, or ball point needle.  A regular needle is too sharp and will tear your fabric. 
-If you have a walking foot, I highly recommend using it.  It makes a huge difference.  If you don’t have a walking foot, you can still get the job done, the walking foot just makes it so much nicer.IMG_1731
-If you have it, use a stretch stitch.  Mine looks like thisIMG_1732
Kind of an angled zig-zag.  If you don’t have a specific stretch stitch, use a zig-zag stitch.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get started!

You’ll need a t-shirt with a fun graphic or print, some 1-inch braided elastic, and your pattern.  You can download my pattern here.  (update 11/2013:  after having too many problems with Google Docs and then Drop Box, I’ve moved the pattern to  You will have to sign up for an account, but it’s free and then you can access the pattern any time you want-again, for free.  The link is my affiliate link and will take you directly to the Boxer Brief pattern.)

A good rule, I’ve found, for how big of a shirt you’ll need is at least a size larger than the size brief you’re making; i.e.: for child size 3/4 briefs, use at least a  child size 5 shirt.
Begin by cutting your shirt up one side, like so
When you lay out your pieces on the shirts, line things up so that you cut out the graphics you want to keep, and leave out, or keep to the seam allowance, those you don’t
You also want to salvage the hems of the shirt.
Cut just below the outer-most stitch lines, keeping it in long strips.  This will later become your binding. 
If the shirt has a ribbed knit somewhere, I prefer to use that as it adds a nice contrast. 
IMG_1705Set the cut hems aside, you’ll need them in a few steps.

The first thing I do is mark each of the leg pieces so that I know which side is the back.  I just put a little “B” in pencil on the wrong side of the fabric at the back edge
Now grab the edge pieces you cut off.  See how they form little premade bias tape?  Handy, no?
Open the binding

And sandwich the raw edges of the bottom of both legs and the curved cutout of both center front pieces, if making a fly.
I suppose I should call the front center pieces the cod piece?  But honestly, I’m just not mature enough to pull that one off without giggling, so let’s stick with front center for now. 
Pin the binding in place, and cut off any excess


So you should have both legs bound along their bottom edges and both front center pieces bound at the fly
Stitch the binding in place
And then I like to do a second row of stitches for fun
If you want, you can still make the look of a fly even if you opted for the no-fly version, really easily.  Just take some of the binding you cut.  Keep it folded in half.  With the folded edge towards the inside of the curve, pin the binding down from about 1/2 inch of the top of the front center, forming a cute little fake fly
And double stitch in place.  See, faux fly.  Not functional, but personally, I would rather my children not know the real purpose of the weird little pocket in their underpants until they’ve perfected their technique and aim a little more.  My two year old has not yet reached this milestone.  Fake fly for him.

If you’re doing a fly, lay your fly pieces on top of each other, both with right sides facing up.  If you’re not doing a fly, you just have the one piece.  From here on out, you’ll be treating the stacked fly pieces as one piece.  If you want, you can do a basting stitch at the bottom and top of the staked fly pieces, to keep them in place while sewing.  I don’t find this necessary, but then I’m pretty good.  And lazy.  Okay, just lazy.
With your front center laying right side up, lay the back center piece, right side down, on top of it.  Match the lower, short side of the back center with the lower, short side of the front center
Stitch in place
Open and press seam
When making these, I like to do a double top stitch down either side of all the seams.  It adds durability, keeps the seam allowance in place, and looks nice
Take your leg pieces
And fold them right sides together, matching raw edges of the short sides
Sew the length of the short side
Open and press the seam
Top stitch on either side
With the center piece laid flat, right side up, lay one leg, turned right side out, so that the top of the back center is flush with the top of the back leg.  Refer to the markings you made when cutting the leg pieces to make sure you have the back part of the leg lined up with the back of the center piece.
Start pinning
And work your way around, bringing the rest of the leg up to be flush with the crotch area, then the center front, until the entire leg is pinned to one side of the center piece, right sides together
Sew, press open seam, double top stitch

Turn the leg right side out
Attach second leg exactly the same way on the other side of the center piece.
Adding Elastic:
Measure the waist of the briefs and cut a piece of elastic of the same measurement. 
Overlap the elastic at the ends about one inch
Using a zig-zag stitch, secure the raw edges of the elastic, forming a circle


Place the elastic around the outside of the right side of the briefs at the waist, about 1/2 inch down.  Both the elastic and the briefs should be right side out.  Pinning would probably be a good idea.
Now you’re going to stitch the elastic in place.  Using the same stretch stitch as before, pull the elastic and the briefs taught with one hand, while feeding through the machine with the other
Double stitch to secure
And you’re done!
Hurray for boys!

And hurray for all three of mine wearing underwear!

mmm buttonSumo's Sweet StuffTute yourself tuesday red and whitePhotobucketgiveawaysmake it wear itFantabulous Friday!crystals craft spotJoin us Saturdays at for
 the weekend wrap up party!


Christie @ A Lemon Squeezy Home said...

They turned out so cute! Thanks for sharing!!! And yea for no more diapers!!!

Emily said...

These are KILLING me. I love little man underwear!

The Gunny Sack said...

Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! My son has been asking me to make him some boxer briefs but I was being lazy about figuring out the pattern! He will be so excited.

Amber said...

LOVE these! I have 3 little men too and have been gearing up to do boxer briefs--this post is perfect! Now if only my little one would feel like potty training...

Kaylene said...

These are awesome! Thank you so much. I have been wanting to make some for my, now completely potty trained, 2 year old! Have been on too tight a budget to buy a pattern, much less the knit, so thanks for the upcycle idea. :)

Melanie@Crafty Cupboard said...

These are so spunky! I was going to have a witty comment about nuts and bolts because of that print, but... :) It's late, ok??

saskia said...

underwear celebrations are the best

Kimberly said...

Love them. I want to make some for my son and you tutorial is great, thanks! Did you dye your elastic?

Sharde said...

hi! i love your page. i did a refashion today that you might like, its a no-sew lace cut out t-shirt. :)

come and visit me at

thanks! sharde

Misty said...

I have GOT to try this! Just great!

casserole said...

These are sooo awesome! If I had a little boy I'd be sewing these up all day long!

I linked to your pattern and tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:


Rachel said...

These are TOO cute! I love the striped pair--adorable! And my goodness, you have SUCH handsome boys!

Rachel @ Maybe Matilda

Amanda said...

Feature Alert! Feature Alert!

That's right! You were featured today over at Today's Top 20!

Congrats! :)

Hope to talk soon!


Rebecca @ My Girlish Whims said...

These are the cutest little bums ever. What a great sewing redo lol :)

vjbakke said...

I cannot get the pattern? Is there another way to get the pattern? Have you thought of using fold over elastic?

Sabra said...

I'm not sure why the pattern isn't uploading for you. Here is the direct link:

I've had others ask about fold over elastic. I think it would be fine. I would just increase the rise of the briefs since FOE is much more narrow than braided elastic.

Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing! This was a super cute pattern. I made a pair for my 2 year old and linked to you at

Have a great day!

glamazongazette said...

This is a really interesting idea, my question is how would I change the pattern from a child to an adult pattern? Do you know how I would go about making that alteration in reference to the difference in size?

Sabra said...

glamazongazette: I've never done it so I can't give you exact measurements, etc. But you could always use an older pair to make a pattern. That's how I originally started with this pattern. Good luck.

April said...

Maybe I am just missing it but what seam allowance did you use? I have three pair cut out ready to go!

Would you mind emailing me? I don't ever seam to get notifications when there is another

Thanks much!

Karen@SimpleBlue said...

I am so thankful you have done this work and shared it! I've got a pair in the works using a shirt and bottom pajama set that we've outgrown and worn out. You can see it here if you would like:

Marchant Family Blog said...

I'm not too experienced in this stuff, but I have a ton of old t shirts laying around. How do you increase the size to a 5?

Lisa said...

I just found these in your archives and they are so cute! I really need to try this just because I want to take cute photos of my son in them!

Kristi said...

Whew!! Well I just attempted this and it was harder than I expected it to be. Although super cute and fun, I don't think I will tackle this again!!! I'm just glad I didn't do one with a crotch!!
Thanks for the cute idea though!!

Faith said...

These make amazing swim briefs:;postID=1873628693905080521 Thanks for the pattern!

Sabra said...

Faith, I can't get the picture to work. But that's a great idea! I just may have to make some out of swim material.

JB said...

Just wanted to add, I've made two pairs out of wool sweaters (with a few modifications) to use as big boy (overnight pull-up) covers. Thanks so much for sharing the pattern! My guy loves them!

mum and dadio boggs said...

You saved the day. I have a grandson who was a premie so he is smaller than usual and potty training. Size 2 are way to big so will customize your pattern to fit. Thank goodness for old t-shirts

Karen W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sabra said...

Karen, I'm not sure what the problem is. When I go to Google Docs, it says the pattern is still being shared with everyone. But you're not the first to alert me that it is NOT being shared. If you want to email me, I'll try to get you the pattern. I'm so sorry about the issue!

Gloria said...

What a great tutorial. Hope I can get the pattern. I haven't tried to get it yet but I see another comment, from last month,stating they couldn't get access to it. Your tut is still great and I think I can use it to help me with other 'briefs' patterns as well. I do love all of your photos and Iknow they will help me understand the sewing process with other patterns too. I often have trouble understanding the written pattern directions. Please keep this tutorial posted, even if you can't reload your pattern pdf. I'm savng it to my 'favs' to use later. Thank you for taking the time to put together this tut and sharing it here.

Gloria said...

I was able to get the pattern with no problem. Whatever the issue was, it seems to be fixed. Thanks again.

Sabra said...

I'm so glad, Gloria!

For anyone having issues getting the pattern, email me and I'll send you the PDF directly.


misinformedmama said...

I love this pattern! I've been looking for undies for my skinny 20 month old, he's not *quite* to the potty training point yet (besides announcing he has to pee right before peeing in front of the bathroom door!) I love this pattern though, I'll probably add some extra soaking power for a training pants type thing. Its so great to find a blog with DIY stuff for BOYS! Love it! Thank you! -Manda

Emilia said...

What Seam Allowance Did You Use? Yay!

Mason's Mama said...

Well, I've managed to make four of these tonight out of 25 cent shirts I got at a thrift shop. They all turned out really cute, even if my stitching was a little off. I did cheat on my binding and used fold over elastic on the fly, legs and around the waist. It finished it off and saved time for me.

Julie said...

Hi! How do I increase the size? My little guy is a size 6/7. This project will be my 4th sewing attempt, EVER. So, any advice or tips are greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!! =0)

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...

Julie, there isn't really a quick, easy way to increase the size if you've never really done it before. You have to grade the pattern, and it gets bigger in some areas more than it does in others. What you can try to do, is if you have a pair of boxer briefs in the size you want (like store bought), you can use those as a guide to increase the pattern size. Trace the seam lines of the store-bought pair, then overlay the pattern onto that and work from there. Again, not really quick or easy if this is all new to you. I'm sorry! I have been meaning to put up a graded pattern with multiple sizes for these, but just haven't found the time.

CJ Rohme said...

Have you removed your pattern?

Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...

CJ Rohme: I was having issues with the site hosting the pattern previously. I guess sometimes it would work, and other times nothing. So. I *just* changed everything over to You will have to sign up for a Craftsy account, but that is free and then you can archive all your patterns there forever. I've updated all the pattern links, so they should take you there. Thanks!

reham magdy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
reham magdy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Trish Keene said...

I can't seem to get your pattern from craftsy. Are you aware of this problem? Am I too late to get it from there? Was super excited to try and use your excellent tutorial! Sniffle.

Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...

Trish, I'm not sure why it isn't pulling up for you. Here is a direct link:

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