You might have noticed that for our recent Mini Acacia release we added an extra view for fabric bands! Fabric bands are such an easy alternative to elastic, are extra comfy for kiddos and they look great too. If you’ve got lots of different knit fabric scraps you can choose coordinating or contrasting fabrics to make your Mini an entire drawer of cute undies. In today’s tutorial, we will show you how to easy it is to sew underwear with fabric bands.
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Now, time to get started!
First things first, you need to pick your fabric. These bands are an alternative to elastic, which means that they’re doing most of the work keeping these little undies up on little butts, instead of wriggling down, around little ankles. So the need to have:
- Great stretch – The bands for Mini Acacia include quite a bit of negative ease, so for a comfortable fit your fabric needs to be able to accomodate that! Your fabric should have at least 20% stretch, but ideally more.
- Great Recovery – A fabric’s ability to stretch is one thing, but whether it can maintain it’s elasticity and spring back to it’s original size is a whole other ball game. Have you ever had a sweater’s cuffs get stretched out & all loosey-goosey after pushing up your sleeves a lot? That’s what happens when a fabric has lower recovery. You can understand then, why good recovery is important – these bands are holding the undies up and stretching out is not an option!
Your main fabric might already tick those boxes, so you can simply use your main fabric, or you might like a contrast colour band for more of a feature – it’s up to you!
When it comes to the length of the bands it’s worth noting that you will be cutting a shorter length of fabric than you would cut of elastic. This is because elastic has greater stretch and recovery than knit fabric, so when sewing fabric bands we need to make the bands smaller than the openings they are attached to.
If you are looking at this tutorial and thinking you’d like to add fabric bands to your adult Acacia underwear pattern, that’s great! Just remember to cut your bands smaller than the elastic you would usually use. We would recommend cutting your bands 10% smaller than the elastic required as a starting point – you can adjust this based on your personal preferences and stretch percentage of your fabric.
With your fabric decided on you can now to cut out your bands! They need to be 5cm (2″) wide and cut along the stretchiest direction of your fabric. The length of your bands – 1 for the waist & 2 for the legs – will depend on the size you’re making, so check the band allowances in the pattern instructions. Don’t forget – the length requirements for bands are different than the length requirements for elastic.
When you have your three bands cut, fold each of them in half so the short edges are aligned and the right sides of the fabric are facing each other. Sew along the ends with a zig-zag stitch or overlocker 6mm (1/4″) from the raw edge.
Press the seams either open or to one side before folding your bands in half so the two long raw edges are aligned and the wrong side of the fabric is enclosed on the inside.
You can now prep your bands to be inserted into your undies. Using the seam as the initial marker, divide the bands into quarters and mark the points with pins, chalk, pen or tiny snips. You will also need to divide and mark the waist and leg holes on the undies which you will have finished making earlier in the instructions. I like to use the side seam as my initial marker for the leg holes of the undies, finding the half way mark opposite it, before then splitting the halves into quarters.
You can then attach the bands to the undies so that the raw edges of the bands are aligned with the raw edges of the main fabric, matching and pinning the quarter marks of the bands with those of the undies. For the leg openings we recommend align the band seams with the side seams, and for the waist opening we recommend aligning the centre back with the band seam.
The bands will be smaller than the leg & waist holes and wont sit nicely along the edge of the main fabric between the quarter marks because they need to be stretched to fit. If your band isn’t smaller than your leg holes – double check you’re not pinning the waistband to the wrong opening!
It’s time to sew the bands to the undies. Starting at a quarter mark on one of the bands, sew with an overlocker or zig-zag stitch along the bands 6mm (1/4″) from the raw edge. You will need to stretch the bands as you sew, so that they fit the main fabric (which isn’t being stretched).
You can see in the images below – a quarter section of a leg band relaxed before sewing, then the same section being stretched as I sew. When the band is relaxed, the main fabric is bunched underneath, but when the band is stretch the fabric is sitting nice and flat.
You can also see in the photos that I like to sew the garment inside out, but with the right side of the fabric facing upwards. I find it easier to work with the bulk of the garment on top where I can keep track of it.
With all three bands sewn you can now give the undies a good press & steam. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step! After all of our stretching and stitching, things can get pretty wobbly, and the best way to settle everything into place is to iron them, pressing your bands away from the garment. The seam allowances on the other hand should be facing back towards the garment, not folded under the bands.
The last step is optional but recommended – top stitching your seam allowances in place to prevent the bands flipping in & out. Stitch just beside the band seam along the edge of the main fabric – capturing the seam allowances below. You can do this top stitching with a simple zig-zag stitch or with a twin needle – it just depends on the look you’re going for.
After stitching, things will have gotten pretty wobbly again which means, yes, it’s time for more pressing! Once everything has settled back into place – you’re all done. Now it’s time to chase down your mini and see how they fit, then to make a bunch more!
We hope you enjoy Mini Acacia and can’t wait to see what you do with this pattern. Don’t forget to tag your creations with #MNminiacacia and @megannielsenpatterns when sharing on social media, and check out what everyone else is up to!
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If you’re looking for the tutorial on the other elastic methods – you can find that here!