Revisiting the zero waste underpants

New zero waste undies cut out

I’ve been thinking about the zero waste underpants I made last week from Zero Waste Wardrobe’s free pattern.

Since then, some others have tried the pattern. Donna-in-the-comments made some in swimwear fabric. She left the legs unhemmed and cut a conventional gusset from a different fabric. @duckgoesoink made a beautiful red pair with lace trim. @thegirlwiththesewingmachine made a pair in a cute print fabric. All of them changed the centre seam from the front to the back.

I wondered if the pattern could be tweaked to give more bottom coverage?

Yesterday I had another go. I taped the pattern back together and re-drew the leg cut, aiming for a full brief with bottom coverage. I lowered the side seam at the back and added onto the front waist.

Pattern for new zero waste undies now full briefs

I sacrificed the gusset in the name of bottom coverage, so now the gusset needs to be cut separately and the gusset isn’t zero waste. Not sure what to do about that but I’ll think it over. UPDATE: problem solved here.

Zero Waste Wardrobe’s patterns are produced under a creative commons license (translation here) which allows derivatives provided the original author is mentioned, it’s not for commercial purposes and derivatives also have the same license. With that, here’s a PDF of mine:

Here they are run up in a long straight stitch (sans gusset, at the moment):

New zero waste undies tacked together for a fitting

As is seen in swimwear, the gusset is only joined in at the back and sides, forming a pocket. Some people prefer this for their undies, so they don’t see a front seam. (I don’t because it’s a lint trap and my fabric curls, but I can live with it.)

I was going to cut strips of fabric to use as leg bands, but because the crotch turned out wide and the leg cut is low, it really needed elastic with a 1cm turn under. I found some ancient plastic elastic to use.

Here’s a pro-tip from the machinists at Jem Leotards: the elastic shouldn’t be stitched on evenly around the leg, because it needs to sit flatter at the front (where less gathering is needed) and be pulled tighter around the back (to sit around one’s bottom). Here’s how to do it:

Cut the elastic 5cm/2″ smaller than the leg hole, or the required length. Overlap the ends 1cm to make a ring (stitch or hold in place with a pin). Mark the halfway points of both elastic and leg hole, and pin in position. Put the join in the elastic at the side seam, making the halfway point land somewhere along the side of the crotch.

New zero waste undies with leg elastic pinned on

Now move the halfway point of the elastic 1.2cm/half inch towards the front. When you sew, you’ll be pulling the elastic tighter at the back and less tight at the front.

Stitch the elastic on with a long straight stitch on the wrong side of the edge. Try the undies on to check, then fold under and stitch it down with a stretch stitch.

Exactly the same method can be used for leg bands.

The Jem machinists didn’t actually use pins or do it this way – instead, they tensioned the back and front elastic just by feel as they fed it through the elastic-putting-on machine, such was their experience. Then each leg was measured for quality control but they were never wrong. I tried it but it was really hard! I remember them saying: just let it flow through your fingers !

I made a bad job of stitching the elastic on and I’m too embarrassed to show you on this blog. They’re okay to wear but not my best work.

I cut a band of self-fabric for the top edge (cut 9cm/3.5″ wide and 5cm/2″ smaller than the waist, but it could have been 7.5cm/3″ smaller).

The undies Mark II have good bottom coverage and they’re fabulously comfortable – everything this full-brief wearer could want in a pair of undies.

I’m still adverse to posting pictures of myself in underwear on the Internet, however here’s a charcoal rendering of the back and front:

New zero waste undies back and front charcoal

Thank you Saara Jolkkonen of Zero Waste Wardrobe for a fun and ground-breaking pattern.



  1. Wendy on March 29, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    I do enjoy reading your thought/design adjustment process – with tips and a pattern thrown in; this is a valuable blog!
    The gusset problem I could see expanding into the design for a matching… cami, vest, bra…!!!

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 9:38 am

      That could be a good zero waste solution – to cut it with another style. Thanks Wendy 🙂

  2. Joana Marini on March 29, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    I’ve made some panties inspired on yours, since last week… and made a few modifications also. (here is the link for the IG post )
    I like less coverage on the botou and a higher waistline, so I made those modifications.
    Actually I just draw some other (making the crotch a little narrow cause I’m pettit and the regular one was “curling” on the side) and can’t wait to sew it (I’m looking for scraps of my old projects, so far I didn’t use any “new fabric, just scraps).
    Tks so much for you post (I’d never figure out the pieces without your translation )

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 9:40 am

      Hi Joana, that’s excellent!
      Alas the link doesn’t show them as your Insta account is private, but I’m so glad the translation was helpful.

  3. Fadanista on March 29, 2021 at 8:32 pm

    I have fabric ready to try this! I always use a soft cotton for my gusset so don’t mind it’s not in the pattern. Thank you Liz!

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 9:43 am

      Yes, give it a whirl Sue!

      • Fadanista on March 31, 2021 at 7:26 pm

        Made three pairs and they are perfect! thank you.

      • lizhaywood on April 1, 2021 at 8:55 am

        That’s great Sue!

  4. Michelle Cahill on March 30, 2021 at 12:06 am

    That’s it. I’m making a pair of these this week! I’ll try fold over elastic on the legs and a two inch lace waistband. We’ll see how that goes. My gusset cotton comes from a barely worn Tshirt from my college days. The jersey is a nice, thick quality cotton and it won’t run out anytime soon.

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 9:52 am

      Hope they go well for you 🙂
      Mine were so comfortable I tried them on and wore them for the rest of the day.

  5. Victoria on March 30, 2021 at 3:10 am

    Yessss I love when you do things I’d been toying with anyhow (as I’m not sure when I’ll actually put my thoughts into a real thing). I was thinking there might be a way to get a gusset if you do bands for the top and the legs, somewwhere in the leftover length? But again… not sure when I’ll actually try it…

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 10:32 am

      Something to file away 🙂
      It’s a pity the gusset doesn’t tessellate with itself to make its own zero waste layout, but Wendy’s suggestion of cutting a gusset with something else is going to be the way to go, I think.

  6. Donna on March 30, 2021 at 5:14 am

    Hi Liz! Thanks for testing this out again, I’m going to have another go and cutting a bit like you have done (although I found the leg and rise fit was fine – just a bit more bum coverage needed). The other sewists’ knickers look amazing! Much better than my effort – BUT I can report they were completely VPL free under my workout leggings, so that’s a win for me!

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 10:28 am

      Thanks for reporting back Donna 🙂 – I wondered how they went. Good to know about the VPL.

  7. Bricolente on March 30, 2021 at 10:27 am

    Thank you so much for sharing

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 10:54 am

      You’re welcome 🙂
      Thanks for commenting.

  8. Lyndall on March 30, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Could you cut a gusset with a reusable pad pattern?

    • lizhaywood on March 30, 2021 at 12:15 pm

      Yes! I just tried it on @duckgoesoink’s suggestion and it works quite well. She thought either a pad or something to convert the undies into period pants.
      Good ideas all on the same wavelength!

  9. Kim on April 3, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    I was considering culling my undies drawer but putting off as I really don’t want to go shopping. Sadly my sewing mojo has been missing for ages – maybe this is the project to get me going again. Thanks for sharing Liz

    • lizhaywood on April 4, 2021 at 5:25 pm

      Hi Kim, I hope it comes back soon – it sure has been missing for ages.
      Mine returned one time after having to make concert costumes….maybe undies will do the trick for you?

  10. Tory on February 10, 2022 at 12:08 am

    I am in awe of the zero waste pantie pattern – both the original and your modification. Thank you for explaining it in such detail.

    • lizhaywood on February 10, 2022 at 7:52 am

      Thanks Tory 🙂

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