The Basics

I had an epiphany the other day. Nothing deep or anything, just a realisation that bums come in every shape and size imaginable. Having decided to engineer myself the perfect pair of knickers, I spent some quality time figuring out what I wanted, and what my rear end required, in the ultimate undies.

Now, some advice. If you google “butt shapes”, I take zero responsibility for the shattering of your illusions, or the potential burning of your retinas #justsayin. Instead, I felt it was my civil duty to create a very simple guide to the derriere (French = classy, right?).

It’s simple, because it focuses on just three dimensions: width, projection and elevation. Now, I’m no expert (I did one anatomy class at uni, and I do know my ass from my elbow), but hopefully this guide will give you some understanding of how you may need to adjust a pattern to suit your shape (and then your style).

Let me explain. Some people have narrow hips, and therefore, a narrow bum. Some people have wider hips, therefore a wider bum. Not rocket science. Some people have bubble butts (think Beyonce, the Kardashians, and almost every female sprinter on the planet), while others are a little more pancake-like. Finally, some people have high bums, others low.  Think of a heart shape, which is a high bum. Turn it upside down, and you have a low bum. Chances are, if you are a pear with proportionally larger thighs, you probably have a low bum. Of course, these are all ends of a spectrum, and are about shape and proportion, not size.

So, what does this mean for making your own knickers? Well, you don’t need to be a genius to realise that wider and more projected behinds need additional coverage, while narrow and flat bums might not need as much. Where you need the additional coverage, though, depends on how high your butt sits. Low bums need coverage lower, so adjustments to the curve will be closer to the crotch, whereas high buns need a wider curve at the top of the leg, and a possible increase in the rise at the back, to avoid a coin slot situation.

So why am I telling you this? Well, not all patterns are going to suit all bottoms, so it’s nice to know how to easily adjust a pattern to suit. Now, for me and my flat, low behind, it generally means a slightly lower curve, and usually, a lower back rise to stop pooling. I also need enough elastic around the legs to stop the wedgie creep.

Now, that’s just the back. When I’m making knickers or bikini bottoms, I also have a stomach to consider. I think everyone has their preferred height, and mine is about an inch below my belly button. It’s enough coverage to hold my post-baby belly stable, but not so high that I look like Harry High Pants (remembering I’m very short waisted, so don’t have a lot of room to play with).

So, let’s finally get to today’s make. As I said yesterday, I’m using Madalynne’s free Noelle panty pattern, which is a high waisted brief that also comes with a bralette – score!


Today being all about the basic pattern, I knocked up a straight Large, which is unfortunately the largest size in the free pattern. I used a cotton lycra from my stash, and some 8mm picot elastic. It was a simple and straightforward sew, and I was pretty happy with my first attempt.

Now, I’d love to show you a photo of me wearing them, but if my employer found photos of me wearing my undies on the internet, well, I’d be looking for a new job. Instead, I’ve done some creative photoshopping with my stunt double to give you an idea of how they fit.

Just like any pattern, I didn’t expect the fit to be perfect the first time. I made my first pair of Noelles as per the pattern, and lopped 2cm off the top before I’d even put the elastic on.Unlike the pattern illustration, these certainly didn’t sit well below my belly button.


The other thing I wasn’t a fan of was where the crotch seam sat, too far back for my liking. In all my favourite undies, that seam is in line with, or under, my butt crease.


To adjust this, I did some slashing and folding, lengthening the back pattern piece by 2 cm, and the shortening the front piece by the same.

Shortening the front piece was simple – mark 2cm apart on the centre line, within the crotch, fold, and stitch (or tape if you’re using paper). You’ll need to reshape the curve slightly, and redraft the gusset off the new piece. Theoretically, you should probably adjust the front leg curve as well, and possibly shorten the side seam, but it’s up to you.


The back is slightly fussier if you use Trace and Toile for your patterns, because instead of just slashing your pattern and taping in new paper, you need to stitch in some T&T, ensuring you keep the centre back line straight, which required some accurate pinning and stitching. Again, you will need to redraft the curve, but that’s not too tricky. I also took another 1.5cm off the top.

Extra length inserted into pattern piece, and curve redrafted. Trim excess t&t and you’re done!
You can see from the creasing on the left leg that I need to raise the leg curve.
I name thee ‘Pumpkin Butt’, but how much better do they sit since moving the crotch seam!

The fit was even better on these ones, so I pulled out the good stuff.


This is a cotton lycra knit from Orinoco Designs, an Australian designer and supplier of quality knits. I could (and will) wax lyrical about the quality of this fabric. The printing is sharp, the colours vibrant, and it is sooooo easy to sew with. It has a beautiful hand, and is perfect for a pair of super-comfortable-wear-all-day-and-not-notice-them knickers. I know you could also make shirts, dresses, kids clothing, active wear etc out of it, but really, I’m all about spoiling myself these days. It’s also nice to know that by buying straight from the designer, I’m not only helping a small business, I’m supporting an artist to earn an income from their passion.

Now, they look a bit hungry here, but that’s because I didn’t cut them on the DOGS #rookiemistake.

Speaking of helping out, want to win yourself a metre of an Orinoco Designs fabric of your choice? Click on the Rafflecopter link below to be in the running.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Orinoco Designs Summer Selection

Don’t forget to check out what Katie and Brooke have done with their Orinoco fabric!


5 thoughts on “The Basics

  1. I love this post. I am considering making myself underwear for a while and I can use all the help I can get. So thank you for your experiments and most of all, thanks for the lovely idea for pictures! I think they are super well done!

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