Converting Washi to a nursing top


Over here at MBR Labs, I’ve been working on hacking the Washi Dress pattern so that it works as a nursing top! I’ve had plenty of requests for this since the original pattern was released, but I really wanted to wait until the Washi Expansion Pack came because I knew the front center seam on the bow versions would be PERFECT for adding a zipper or buttons or something to the bodice. What can I say, I lurrrrve the bow. I think it looks really great.




I was also surprised to discover that these tops actually fit over my belly, even at 36 weeks of pregnancy, though if you want Washi to fit throughout the entire pregnancy, I’d definitely recommend cutting the skirt pieces a few inches wider along the “dress” line instead of the “top” line as I could have used just a few more inches in that region. Of course the intention was not really to make a maternity top, so it’s not a big deal…just thought I’d mention it.


I’m so pregnant I don’t even edit out my weird expressions anymore. Vanity has gone OUT THE WINDOW. You’re welcome.


For these two versions, I tried two different kinds of zippers. On this reversible double gauze version I put in a regular old zipper:


And on this voile version there is an invisible zipper.


Pretty nice eh? I definitely like the invisible zip better as far as overall look, but I’ll give you a quick step-by-step for both.

Just a few things before we start:

  • I used 9″ and 14″ zippers and just trimmed the bottom of the zipper to be even with the bodice, but I think a 7″ zipper might work too.
  • The “Bow Bodice” pattern pieces I used in this tutorial can be found in the Washi Expansion pack, but you could also just add 1/2″ to the center fold line on the original Washi bodice piece, and cut two instead of one on the fold to create a front center seam. The “dot” on the pattern piece is 1.5″ below the top.
  • You may also want to go up a size on the bodice piece from your normal size, as you may need more room in front when you are nursing!
  • When I make the bow tops, I also like to scoop out the bottom of the front neckline 1″ and lower the dot accordingly, so I did that before I started. Personally I think it looks nicer when the neckline is a bit lower with the bow, but it hits everyone in a different place depending on how you’re built, so…maybe hold it up to your body before you start trimming away.
  • One last thing I did differently for both of these bodices was leave the fabric inside the darts (instead of cutting out the “V” shape from the middle of the darts) because with double gauze and voile, the fabric tends to fray and I didn’t want to leave those dart seam allowances as short as the pattern calls for. You can see this in the first photo below.

Let’s start with the regular zipper!



Step 1: Baste the two front bow bodice pieces* together along the front center seam as directed in the pattern from bottom to the dot and trim the seam allowance to the width of your zipper (most standard zips are 1/2″ wide on each side, so I trimmed the seam allowance to 1/2″).


Step 2: Place the closed zipper face down towards the basted center front seam, so that the teeth are directly over the seam, and pin in place (or use Wonder Tape to hold your zipper in place). The head of the zipper should be right where the top of the center seam ends. Sew each side of the zipper tape right down the center using a zipper foot (put the needle down and slide the head of the zipper around when you start to get close to it, to keep it out of the way of the presser foot). When you get to the bottom of the bodice, sew across the teeth back and forth a few times so that the zipper head won’t fall off the zipper when you trim the bottom of the zipper away. From the front it should now look like this:



Step 3: Remove the basting stitches with a seam ripper from the outside of the bodice. Then finish the seam by either serging the edge of the zipper tape to the edge of the seam allowance on both sides (shown), or zig zag stitching or overlocking the edges together on a regular sewing machine. This is especially important if you have a fabric that frays easily!

Next step is to trim the bottom of the zipper off so that it’s even with the bottom of the bodice, and then continue to construct the top as instructed in the pattern. Sew the darts, pleat the front skirt, etc, just as you would if you were using the normal bodice. You’ll notice that the front center seam will need to be pressed down instead of up, but that’s really the only difference!


For this version, you may want to refer to Colette’s Invisible Zipper tutorial or Invisible Zip Video; I found it helpful. And honestly I didn’t include a ton of detail here, so you probably will too!


Step 1: With the tip of your iron, press the zipper teeth away from the zipper tape. This will make it easier to sew because the teeth usually curl around the tape a bit.


Step 2: Open the zipper. With the bodice piece face up and the zipper face down, pin one side of the zipper to its corresponding bodice front, with the zipper teeth where the seam will be. I started with the right side of the zipper and the right bodice piece. See how it looks kind of backwards in the photo? Just trust me on this one. I pressed a crease where the front center seam would be before I started to help me visualize where the zipper teeth should go, but you could also draw it in with a marking pen.

Again, align the top of the zipper so that when it’s closed, the head of the zipper will be where the dot is on the pattern piece.

Step 3: Now sew the zipper and bodice together (still with the zipper open), stitching right next to the zipper teeth. I use a regular presser foot for this, but if you have an invisible zipper foot for your machine, that will work too. Then pin the other side of the zipper to the other bodice piece, and repeat what you just did. Sew across the bottom of the bodice a few times to create a stop for the zipper head.


In the two photos here (above and below) you can see what it should look like after you’ve sewn both sides (the zipper is closed now). See the little white threads sticking out at the top and bottom in the photo above? You can’t see the stitches because they’re RIGHT next to the teeth, but they’re there!


Step 4: Now construct the rest of the top as instructed. As you can see I waited to trim the zipper off until after I attached the bodice to the front skirt.


So there you go! Let me know how it turns out for you if you try it.

One last thing: if you fear sewing the zipper you could also try adding a couple extra inches to the front center seam allowances and folding them over to make an overlapping button placket type thingy; I’ve seen this done a few times successfully, so that may also be worth a try. Have fun!!!


26 thoughts on “Converting Washi to a nursing top

  1. OMG those tops are so cute. Love the reversed colors on the double gauze! I don’t often resort to using OMG, but in this case it’s a must.

  2. if finally got green light from the hubby for plan ‘baby nΒ°3 (well as from my birthday in Sep, but that’s just a detail πŸ™‚ ) so I’ll definitely will be needing some of these tops πŸ™‚

  3. You and your pregnant belly are so cute! I think the double gauze looks especially flattering on you! I’m still nursing my two year old (her birthday is today, sob!), and love that you have this tutorial for other nursing mamas! Thank you!

  4. Man, even with weird expressions you look super cute. What’s the white and pink polka dot fabric, btw? I love the fact that the main body is pink dots on white, whereas the bow and trim are white dots on pink. What fabric is that? I must buy it! (I think I recognize the voile print as AMH. Lovely.)

    • Hi Susan,

      The reversible double gauze is by Kokochi and comes in a bunch of awesome colors; the voile is Amy Butler’s Hapi collection; both are being sold in shops right now.


  5. Rae! These are so stinkin’ cute! Thanks a bajillion, as I had been putting off a washi dress/top for myself in anticipation of the next, say, 2 years of needing nursing access. Hip hip hooray! Now to find the time for the physical act of sewing rather than my typical mental sewing. I can’t wait to “meet” your little one! Hugs to you as you waddle toward the finish line!

  6. Yay! I’m expecting baby #7 (yes 7) this summer. I adore wearing dresses but most are not nursing friendly. I’ve been wanting to make a Washi for a while but was a bit reluctant to make anything that I wont be able to wear post-partum. Now I can make my cake and eat it too! Thank You!

  7. Awesome! I recently made a bow-neck washi, and I just left a bit more of an opening beneath the bow and I’m actually able to wrangle a boob out to nurse if need be! Probably not an approach that would’ve been comfortable when nursing a newborn every few hours, but it works totally fine for infrequent nursing of my 20 month old. The elastic back makes the washi surprisingly accessible! Did you see Old House Mama’s modification of the Ruby for nursing? Pretty cute!!!

    • Yeah I agree that the shirring in the back offers more nursing flexibility, and personally I don’t mind lifting to nurse, but that’s a personal preference i guess! And yes, great Ruby mod too!! Will have to give that a try too!! πŸ™‚

  8. This is brilliant! πŸ™‚ I was so curious to know where the zipper was and when you revealed it well my mouth dropped open. πŸ™‚ If only I were still nursing.

  9. BRILLIANT!! I bought fabric to make a dress with bow, but other projects have got in the way. I’m 25 weeks pregnant and your zipper adaption is just a brilliant answer to get me onto making my dress sooner. And the dress will last longer. You’re amazing! And looking great for 36 weeks! Well done!

  10. this is soo awesome because I have been racking my brains for months thinking how much I wanted a washi dress but not being able to wear anything that isn’t nursing friendly. You have no idea how excited I am right now!

  11. Oh yes! I hoped so much that you would write a tutorial how to alter your birlliant Washi as a nursing top (that’s why I bought the extansion pack :-).
    Thanks so much!!!!

  12. I discovered your patterns today and was thinking, “I wonder if I could make nursing versions of these.” Then I clicked over to your blog and ta-dah! Wonderful!

  13. I needed this pattern 9 months ago!!! It’s so hard to find a good nursing top that’s cute and not knit! I suppose I still have a few months before I start to wean my little one. πŸ™‚ Thank you for making this pattern so versatile!

    • I know that you will not be able to answer this soon but I have time. Do you think this would work for tandem nursing twins? Just curious, I need some brilliant options and this looks like one!!

  14. I love the concealed zipper! I’m always looking for “momma friendly” dresses and tops… have to try this!

  15. Hi Rae! Here’s your German fan;) I just finished my first regular Washi dress but since I*m still nursing my baby it’s not easy to find a time to wear it recently. I just bought new fabric and thought about a modification to a nursing top . My son was born April 19th, so we we’re close I guess.
    I’ll spread the washy-love around here!

  16. Hi Rae! I am sewing a Washi dress using this modification, and there is something I am having trouble understanding. The dot in the pattern is about 1.5″ down from the edge of the fabric, but the bow only encases .25″. What happens with the other 1.25″ of fabric? In your photos, it looks like the bow goes all the way down to the top of the zipper, but I don’t see any directions in the expansion pack to explain how this happens. Thanks!

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