Converting Washi to a nursing top

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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.

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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.

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

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

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And on this voile version there is an invisible zipper.

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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!

ADDING A ZIPPER TO WASHI

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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″).

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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:

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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!

ADDING AN INVISIBLE ZIPPER TO WASHI

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!!!

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Knit Maternity Cowl Top

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Another knit maternity top today! See how big the belly is getting? Fun fun!! I made this swingy raglan style tee with 3/4 sleeves and a drapey cowl neck last year but it wasn’t very flattering on my non-pregnant self. Definitely works as a maternity top though! The fabric is a peach bamboo jersey (purchased at Field’s Fabrics) that is so stretchy and comfortable.

Though…I should mention that I don’t buy many bamboo fabrics anymore since it’s really hard to tell whether they’ve been manufactured with a closed-loop chemical process. Bamboo is easy to grow organically due to the fact that it’s basically an invasive weed, but the chemical process that turns bamboo into a woven fiber can be an environmental nightmare depending on how it’s manufactured. Anyway I basically know nothing about it so it’s like the blind leading the blind here. TANGENT!

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I supposedly have exactly one month to go until my due date today, which I must admit is a bit anxiety-inducing. I had a major manic nesting binge this weekend where I washed all of the baby clothes and got out the cloth diapers and performed inventory on the baby checklist. Still can’t find the baby monitor. Need to open the new infant carseat box yet. Probably should pack the hospital bag and all that. Pictures need to be hung in the nursery. MUST PICK A NAME. You get the idea.

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this is the look I give people who get in the way of the belly

And then…I have a few things I want to do with this blog before I take some time off for my maternity break, but I’m not sure how much I’ll actually get finished. I’d love to post some more baby sewing projects, I have a couple more knit tutorials I want to finish, and Jess and I have been talking a little about the Spring Top Sewalong!!! Jess can definitely run the sewalong here on the blog while I’m off (with small bits of input from me), so we’re thinking month of April if anyone is interested in a personal sewing challenge!! We’re also working on a new women’s sewing pattern that’s almost ready for testers, so that’s going to be fun too! Hmmm…a little ambitious do you think??

Two Knit Maternity Tops

A few weeks ago, inspired by the KNITerviews, I hauled out my serger and a pile of knits and started cutting some maternity tops. I managed to get two finished (and a third mostly finished), and here they are (I took these pics at about 30 weeks a couple weeks ago):

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I used another knit top from my closet to make a pattern for these. My goal was to make a few tees that would work post-partum too, so I’m hoping these won’t get too stretched out by the Amazing Belly here so that I will still be able to wear them after Baby Boy comes. My belly is even bigger now than it was in these pics and my belly button is even more of an outie, if that’s even possible.

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When you’re using woven fabrics, you definitely need to make some modifications to turn a standard women’s pattern into a maternity top. Some examples would be raising the waist, adding width on the sides, adding length to the bottom, or bowing the front bottom hem downward so that it’s curved (my friend Kelly of Cut Cut Sew actually did a guest post for me on this topic a couple of years ago that you might be interested in).

The great thing about using knits is that for the most part, if you just make a standard tee pattern LONGER (so that it will completely cover the belly) and use a SUPER STRETCHY knit fabric (so that it won’t get permanently stretched out by your big belly), those are really the only maternity modifications you need to make.

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You could also add some shirring or gathering to the front sides before sewing the front to the back, to create more “belly room,” but I skipped that because I don’t want to have to unpick and redo the side seams before I can wear them this spring. Let’s be realistic, retrofitting older sewing projects is not going to be a huge priority once I have this baby.

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I found this tealy-green knit at Haberman and the stripe came from this knit fabric shop based in Korea (so be aware that you need to watch your shipping costs). I like the coral knit a ton better than the green knit; it’s really thick and stretchy and seems to be standing up to wear much better than the green one, which is already starting to pill. I do have a post half-composed in my head about the knits I REALLY love and where to buy them though, so I’ll try and work on that next week.

My (handmade) maternity style

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Happy Monday everyone! Today I thought I’d show you how the ol’ handmade wardrobe is translating into maternity clothing. I’m now about 5 months along, so the baby bump is definitely starting to cramp my style, wardrobe-wise. Some of my tops and pants are starting to go into storage because they’re too short or too tight. But I’ve found a few things that are working!!

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I was a bit surprised to find that the two shorter skirts I made with elastic waists this year (this one and this one) still fit pretty nicely, mostly because they have elastic in the back half of the waistband so I can push them down to my hips. Normally I wear them at the waist, but I think they look cute this way too! The green maxi skirt, not so much. Oh well.

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Ruby is working so far; I like to belt it up high and wear it with leggings and a sweater.

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My aqua double-gauze Washi is comfortable and cute yet too!

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The striped maxi dress I made this summer is great with a sweater and boots too. Hope I don’t stretch it out too much. Yikes!

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And I think Josephine is actually really cute. I love this one so much! The rayon fabric is so comfortable. The belt clearly has to go way up above my waist, but that’s OK.

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I haven’t added the usual bit of length to the front of anything yet; I think that I may eventually have to add the extra 1″-1.5″ length in front if I make any dedicated maternity clothing (I haven’t really yet). But if I do, I’ll be sure to let you know how it works out. I also want to try some of the maternity patterns that are out there — I know Megan Nielson has a bunch and Sew Liberated has a nice looking pair of skinny jeans that you can add a maternity panel to. Do you guys have any maternity pattern favorites to recommend?

Guest Blogger: KellyLeaSews’ Maternity Top Tutorials

I know many of you couldn’t help but notice the amazing maternity tops made by Kelly in this years’s Spring Top Week competition. Her green maternity top was one of the Top 60 finalists and earned a ton of votes! Since I’ve been doing alot of baby posts around here lately I decided to invite her over to show us how she modified the Spring Ruffle Top (and the Mendocino Sundress) for maternity wear.  Welcome Kelly!



I made these first two tops using Rae’s awesome Spring Ruffle Top tutorial. I didn’t modify the width at all, I think you will find that there is plenty of room without making any changes. When I hemmed it I left the front at the original length (20″) and cut the back about an inch and a half shorter. That way, when I put it on and my belly pushes it out, it all still falls at about the same length. To cut the length, I folded the shirt in half with the side seams together and made a mark 1 1/2″ up from the bottom in the center of the back panel, then I sketched a line with my chalk from that mark, down to 5″ past the side seam on the front panel. I cut it along that line and used a rolled hem on my serger to finish it off. Post-baby I plan to take it in on the sides as shown in Rae’s tutorial, and even out the length.

This one has some more modifications, but is still based on the same pattern. I thought gathers would make a better “belly bubble” and I think it worked well. There are instructions at the end of Rae’s tutorial for making gathers instead of pleats. The first thing I did was take out 3″ from the width of the back piece so that it would lay better. From there I sewed the shirt just as instructed in Rae’s tutorial, and then went to work on the bottom. (Make sure if you are finishing off the seam allowance on the sides that you don’t cut any of it off yet, you will make a side vent where the bottom band ties later, and you will need the full 1/2″ of fabric in the seam allowance on that side.)

I left the front at the original length (20″), which seemed a little to long at the time but as my belly has gotten bigger it fits really well.

I took a lot off the back, about 6 1/2″. Try it on before you cut it, and mark where you want the back to end, keeping in mind that the band will add another 2″ to the length.

To cut the length, fold the shirt in half with the side seams together, then measure 6 1/2″ (or your measurement) up from the bottom in the center of the back panel. Then sketch a line from that mark, down to a couple of inches from the center of the front panel. Make sure your line starts out sort of flat for the first couple of inches so that when you open the shirt back up you have a curved line in the back and not an inverted V.

Next I made the little side vent where the bottom band ties. Open the side seam up 4″ from the bottom, and fold the seam allowance in 1/4″, then again 1/4″ and press. Then top stitch about 1/8″ away from the edge, and finish the top of the vent with a zigzag stitch set at 0 for the stitch length.

To make the bottom band: measure around your hips where you want it to lay, and cut two lengths of fabric, each piece equal to 1/2 of your hip measurement plus an extra 24″ to allow for bow tying cuteness. To make it the same width as the top band, cut it 5″ wide. Sew the two pieces together at the ends using a 1/2″ seam, and press the seam allowance open. Fold the band in half lengthwise (wrong sides together) and cut the ends at an angle, then sew them together for the first 24″ only on each end, using a 3/8″ seam allowance. Next turn it right side out and press, folding one side of the unsewn part of the band 1/4″ toward the inside. Then gather the front and back panels of the shirt so that they are each equal to 1/2 of your hip measurement, starting the gathers 2″ from the side seam and ending 2″ from the opposite side seam. Attach the band the same way as the top chest band (step 7 in Rae’s tutorial), matching the side seam of the band with the side seam of the shirt (the shirt should fit in the “pocket” that was made by sewing the first 24″ of the band together- if not, adjust the gathering that you did on the shirt). As I attached the band, I continued sewing to top stitch all the way around the band; I did the same with the top chest band.

I am still deciding how I will modify this one after the baby comes, when I cut it off to even out the length it will be pretty short. I think I will add either just a plain white band or ruffle to make it longer, and not fitted at the bottom.

This one is my favorite, it is super comfortable and I find myself wearing it a lot. I used the Heather Ross Mendocino Sundress pattern, available for free on her website. The only thing I modified was the length; I have made three of these- one the original pattern length, one knee length and this top and I like them all. There is enough room for a rather large belly, I am 30 weeks as of this writing and still have room to grow. I will continue to wear this one long after the baby comes!

So that’s it! I hope this is helpful to the expecting moms out there. If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them, just leave them in the comments for this post.

Kelly was 30 weeks pregnant when she wrote this; however, it’s been about a month since I asked her to guestie and she’s getting closer to the end of her pregnancy.  You can leave comments or questions for Kelly and she will answer as time allows.

Thanks so much Kelly!  I hope you moms who are expecting will be able to make some cute summer tops of your own!