Friday, September 9, 2011

Some Quick, Cheap Panniers that Don't Suck

So, it's the night before your big event, and you decide to prance around in your panniers, and celebrate life with wine and fireworks.  Then, before you know it, WOOSH!  Your panniers catch on fire.  Now you have nothing to support your skirts at the event tomorrow!

Fear not!  You can make a quick and dirty set of cheap panniers with this little tutorial and a few things from Wal-Mart.  What you'll need:

3 yards of fabric (You won't use all of it.)
3 packages of quilt binding
2 package of double fold bias tape (Yes, there's only one in the picture, but you'll need two.)
1 roll of soaker hose

I know what you're thinking.  Soaker hose?  Really?  Yes. It's been used beautifully for hoops for many years, and is waaaay cheaper than the hoop boning that you'll buy from costume suppliers.  Be sure to get the flat plastic hose and not the flat fabric covered one.  The fabric one is limp and floppy and won't do you any good. (That's what she said.)

First, open up your fabric so that it's a single width.  Then, refold the fabric so you have a fold along the width the the fabric, instead of along the length.  You don't have to fold the entire width of the fabric, just enough so that you have 25 inches of doubled fabric.

Once you have your fabric refolded, it's time to start measuring things out.  Measure 21 inches up from the bottom edge, along the fold, and mark this.  This is the length of your pannier from waist to hem.  From the fold, at the marked waistline, measure out 16 inches and mark it.  Along the bottom edge, measure out 25 inches, and mark.  Connect the waist mark to the bottom mark with a slanted line.  Curve the waistline up at the outer edge somewhat, and mark this on your fabric. Do the same to the bottom edge.
You can kind of see what I mean by all of that by clicking on the above pic to see it larger. I have everything marked out in pins.  Cut out two of these shapes.  (You can cut out this one and use it as a template to cut out the second one so you don't have to measure everything out again.)  These are the main body of your panniers.

This will give you a better idea of the final shape. The bottom edge looks a little wonky, but it's nothing a bit of a snip won't fix.  Don't worry about this being perfect, you don't have to be very fiddly with any of these bits.

Once you have your two main pieces, you'll need to cut out your side top pieces, which will be added to the waistline.  Along the fold, measure up 8 inches. Along the bottom edge, measure out 15 inches from the fold and mark.  At the mark, measure up 1 1/2 inches and mark.  Connect the top of the 1 1/2 inch mark to the top of the 8 inch measurement at the fold with a curving line.  (Click on the above pic to see it better.)  Cut out two of these.

Sew one side top piece to each body piece, the straight edge of the top connecting to the waistline of the pannier body.  Your top piece will not reach the edges of the pannier body, but don't worry about that. There's supposed to be a small gap so your drawstring will be able to come through at the centre front.

Sew your two body pieces together along one of the sides.  Now is a good time to hem.

On the outside of the pannier, begin adding your boning channels.  Measure down 7 inches from the waistline seam.  Use the quilt binding to make your boning channels, opened it up so it lays flat.  The 7 inch mark should fall at the middle crease of the binding.  Pin down your binding across the entire width of the pannier body to make one long boning channel.
Repeat this, measuring down 7 inches from the middle of the first boning channel to where your next channel should lay, and repeat all along the length for your second channel.
Your last boning channel will be right along the hemline, so no measuring is necessary.
At the waistline, create two curved boning channels on either side of the vertical seam, between the waistline seam and the first boning channel.  Consult the pictures below if this is a little confusing.

Stitch the boning channels down along each edge to form a casing. Stitch closed one end of the curved channels only.  Leave the long main channels open at both ends.

Now it's time to make your waistband. Open up your double fold bias tape, and pin it to the top edge of your pannier, wrong sides together. Stitch along the crease line.  Once your tape is stitched down, turn the tape to the inside and stitch it down along the bottom edge to create a casing.  This will be the channel for your drawstring.

Now it's time to cut your boning to length.  Again, it's not an exact science.  Snip off the metal end of the soaker hose and lay the hose down on top of the pannier.  Make sure your hose extends about 6-8 inches past the edges of the fabric so that you will have a bit of overlap once you put everything together.
Repeat for all of the main channels.
For the curved channels, measure your hose so that it's about the same length as the channel, minus a couple of inches.

Shove what are now your hoop bones through the channels to create a tentacle monster! The bits sticking out are the overlap that you included when you cut the boning.  Sew closed your open seam, and tuck the overlap into the channels. The rubber should grip to itself pretty well to keep the boning from moving, but if you're worried about it slipping out of place, you can secure it with a bit of duct tape.  (Yes, this is ghetto costuming. Didn't you know?)  Make sure that your boning is shoved really tightly into the channels; you want the fabric to be taught, without the gathers that you see on rounder hoop skirts. (Scroll down to the picture of the finished panniers to see what I mean.)
Stitch closed the open edges of the curved casings so that the hoop boning is secured in the channels and won't escape.
You can either use what was left of your bias tape after making your drawstring casing, or you can use your second package of bias tape, to make the drawstring.  Simply run the bias tape through the casing and pull it through.

Once your drawstring is in, put your panniers on a mannequin, or a willing victim.  They'll look like a weird bell at this point, but we're about to fix that.
With some of your remaining bias tape, cut four equal lengths of tape.  They don't have to be very long, maybe 6-8 inches.  Crawl up under the skirt and pin these tapes to the inside of the panniers at the middle boning channel, the idea being that when they are tied, they will pull the front and back toward each other.  Stitch them into place. (Go ahead and hand sew these, wrestling the panniers to the machine at this point would be pretty silly and probably drive you crazy.)

Once your tapes are stitched on, tie them together on the inside to draw the panniers into the narrow shape we're looking for.

And you're done!  Not bad for a couple of hours work and all of $25, huh?  If you're wondering whether or not they'll actually support a gown, here's the panniers under a (very crinkled) gown!

Eee...should have ironed that.  Oh, well.  But yes! They DO support a gown!  

If you want your panniers to be a bit wider, it just takes a bit of fiddling with the measurements.   Instead of 16 inches at the waist and 25 at the hem, you could do 20 at the waist and 29 at the hem. Just remember that your top piece will need to be 1 inch shorter along the waist measurement than the main pannier piece!
The panniers created from the measurements in the tutorial are what I would consider small to medium sized.

Have fun making these!  If you use this tutorial to make a set, I would LOVE to see them! (Show me your undies!)


  1. 'Ghetto costuming'...LOL I love it! I think I might have to make these for myself as soon as I get some soaker hose. :D Now the real question is, can you fit into the driver's seat wearing them, or will you have to wear just your shift and stays to the event and quickly finish dressing in the parking lot? (Not that I've ever had to do that...hehe)

  2. Hehe, don't know about the driver's seat! I'll have to do a test run...

  3. This is both hilarious and amazing...I can't wait to make it - because the patterns on the market for these things DO suck!!

  4. Wonderful tutorial! I've never heard of the soaker hose trick before - I definitely want to try that sometime! I'm all about the ghetto hoop boning. I don't think I've made a hoop yet that is boned with the "proper" stuff. :)

  5. I made one or two things with 'proper' hoop boning, and it's an absolute beast to work with. It does stand up well to the test of time, though, where the soaker hose has a bit of a limited lifespan. What other materials have you used before?

  6. Sweet! Thanks for sharing this. I've never needed panniers, but I'm definitely remembering this the next time I want a bustle hoop (I caved and used the real steel boning last time, but my wear/use doesn't really merit it...)

  7. This is awesome! I made a hoop skirt a la 1850s with some plumbing tubing I found at a hardware store. The dang things wouldn't let go of the curl they were packaged in. I ended up with a ball of tapes and tubes. I've posted a photo of it on my blog

    I'm so in favor of ghetto costuming. When I finally got those tubes to work I needed to keep them from sliding around in the tapes. I used hockey tape which is the Canadian ghetto go-to tool.

  8. Hmm, I am used to soaker hose that its round like garden hose, made out of black recycled tires and weeps water out of pinholes. I am pretty sure you are using some kind of soaker hose I never saw before. Still it looks very clever.

    1. The one I used was flat and green. It worked well for a while, but eventually curled up and died and didn't work in the skirt anymore. I've heard that people have had good luck with the 3ft long industrial zip ties that they've bound together and stacked in the boning channels. :)