Pita project o the week


So, I am working on this vintage dress I picked up at the PatternReview PRWeekend a year ago. It is very on trend again and fun. But of course I had this brilliant idea that I would alter it for nursing and proceeded to make it way complicated. But I have only the waistline casing and then I can toss it in a dyebath and rock a chic maxidress a la 70s.

Preppy nursing fashionista

I had a friend describe my style as ‘preppy’ a few months back. I always termed this ‘modern classics’ myself, but OK, preppy. It fits. I’m a sailing mom in a midwest college town, and I love beaches up north Michigan. Yeah, that’d be preppy.

So what’s the preppy nursing fashionista wearing these spring days? I love a striped top with wide leg pants. It just feels so summery. But of course my boat neck striped top is not nursing compatible. I define this as it covers my belly AND breasts. I get by this by wearing a nursing camisole, but I am also going to sew a nursing top (Jalie 3132, with some mods for a different neckline, a lapped bateau neck).

This mama pairs this outfit with a big sailing canvas tote. I have bunches – made from actual sails which are not as nice as the one I saw at Land’s End Canvas tonight, of course, since they’re cut from 30 year old sails left in someone’s attic (or the sailing club, for years!) But I think if I found one of the white-ish ones, added some blue canvas trim, and leather handles, it would be a chic version of my grocery shopping and boat sail totes.

Wedges. Boot cut jeans, a pretty top with a seersucker jacket belted over it (this is why you need a nursing top, otherwise, every time babe/toddler asks to nurse, you’re unbuckling belt, opening jacket… yada, yada.Of course you could buy a cheap or thrifted striped tee and follow these instructions for making a nursing one to wear under a jacket, too.

Yeah, I could rock that as a casual friday or weekend look. Preppy, indeed. This summer, hoping to finally get out sailing again, now that our toddler is a bit older (2 in June) and our preschooler will big enough and experienced enough around the boat to be reasonably helpful.

I also have docksiders, the actual Sperry ones, that I bought years ago at a marine flea market (about 15 years ago). They’re in good shape, but my foot got bigger after babies and they’re tiiiight, so I don’t like wearing them a lot. I need to stretch them out somehow. Of course I don’t wear any of this on the actual boat 😉 It’s more like shorts, a tee shirt (nursing is fine) and Keen sandals.

Jalie nursing tunic

As soon as I saw this pattern previewed on the Jalie site, I knew I had to have it. I had my MIL preorder it for my birthday, and it arrived the day after! Of course, it took me 3 months to sew it (kidding, two) with my schedule. I made this tunic version and boy is it long – I mean, with leggings or tights, this is totally doable as a dress. I plan to wear it tomorrow with slim black wool pants, and a cashmere poncho to a client meeting. I have also cut up an old Michigan State tee shirt and some white organic cotton/lycra to make a Spartan spirit hoodie version with kangaroo pocket. Fun! I expect I’ll get a lot of requests to make those (not gonna happen!) for other Spartan nursing mamas!

Jalie 3132 nursing tunic

Jalie 3132 nursing tunic

DIY No-sew nursing tops


Reach in, pull over the lowered armseye to access breast

This is a super easy tute, and cheap to do. You can purchase inexpensive knit shirts, or get some from thrift or second-hand stores. Don’t be afraid to cut up a trendy tee with some detail at the neckline or down the front, to make stylish versions of this. I’ve used a basic tee from my Goodwill bag.

Lay your tee shirts on a flat surface. Measure down from the neck/shoulder edge


Measure down 12.5" from neck/shoulder edge and pin at the sideseam

to 12.5″ and put a pin at the sideseam. This is about the right measurement for almost any nursing mom (assuming the tee fits you in the bust). Then, using a curved ruler (this is a french curve) or even just hand-drawing a curve, cut a shallow curved shape in from the sideseam, curving up to the shoulder. You’ll be cutting the sleeve off close to where it’s sewn on, making a low-armhole tank top.

Using a french curve or freehand, draw a nice curved shape

Then, you wear this tank under a jacket or cardigan as I’ve shown here, and when you want to nurse, just reach inside and pull the lowered armhole across to access your breast.

You can even sew these too – any basic shell (woven fabric) or tank top pattern will do just fine. You do not need to finish the armseye edges if it’s a knit fabric. This can go dressy in silk under a work blazer or leather jacket. It can go casual in knit cotton under a denim jacket.

Two low armseyes, ready for nursing!

The peach knit top example was too large for me, so I added pintucks across the midriff to cinch it up a little. This involved actual sewing 😉

Worn under a jacket or cardigan, this nursing tee looks like a regular tee

Babywearing gear~Nursing on the go

We are headed to a mountain bike race for my husband and 4 1/2 year old daughter this upcoming weekend. The venue is deep in the woods, so our 16-month old son will be carried in the Ergo the entire weekend (that, and with two bikes and a dog, we can’t afford room for a stroller, or even the fold-flat bike trailer/jogger).  But the forecast is for low 40s and rain, so I need something more than my fleece babywearing coat. Last year I brought a stroller for the express purpose of gear-hauling and diaper-changing. This year, they can tote their own gear, and I’ll change him in the car.

I am going to sew a zip-in panel for my North Face GoreTex parka. I have both goretex (ultrex, actually) and polarfleece, but I am going to make the babywearing panel out of poly-cotton print and fleece, for a more stylish option. Most likely I’ll be using an umbrella over us if it’s really coming down rain.

I’ll be developing a longer cowl neck warmer, and a couple of cute baby hats (a knotted fleece cap and a two-peaked fleece cap) to match the baby panels.  I wear a lot of vee neck tops, so I find most neck gaitors don’t do the trick, especially when babywearing, when your neck and chest are exposed (for obvious reasons – you can’t cover your baby’s head for too long!)

Of course, if you’re going to nurse in a carrier, you’ll need some tops to make it easier to nurse in. Hands down, the best openings that work in tops are the empire opening and the V/cross over or cowl. I post a tutorial about how to create, from any basic tee shirt or top pattern, the empire nursing top version, but you can find ready-made ones at ElizabethLee.com (ignoring the dated photos, NC 307 has a good twin-set looking top. I make these with a contrast or print fabric nursing underlay so it looks like I’m wearing a cardi and tee). You can find a nursing hoodie or vee neck top or tunic at Jalie 3132 or their cross-wrap nursing top 2787. You can find two nursing tops at Megan Nielsen, the Perfect Nursing and Maternity top and the Pina Nursing and Maternity top and dress.

You can have a wardrobe of nursing tops and dresses with just these four patterns (and my instructions to modify any other patterns you like from your stash). Any pattern will do on the empire nursing tee tutorial – as long as there are no design details right below the bust (such as ruching), any neckline will work, any sleeve length or style, any hem length or style.

Along with this, I’ll be wearing knit pants – most likely a version of Christine Jonson Patterns 1010 boot cut pant – it’s a skinny boot, and in a knit, needs no zipper. I also like Christine Jonson’s front seam knit pant from her Travel Trio One (which, incidentally, has  a tee that is perfect for the nursing alterations). These patterns fit perfectly, every single time, they fit close to the body and I can feel free to do fabric and design alterations without fear.

The pants are stylish enough for an up-north city weekend, but also casual enough to not look weird if I’m standing around at a mountain bike race ringing a cowbell for my loved-cyclists.

Time to get sewing! Incidentally, the baby in question fell asleep on the couch in my arms. I wrapped a ring sling around him, still sleeping (and nursing) and continued on to laundry and my computer, now off to pull out all my fleece for the babywearing sets. I hope to use my prototypes this weekend, maybe show them off at La Leche League (and eventually the babywearers group) this week, too.

Nursing funnel / turtleneck tutorial

I’m using this pattern: Christine Jonson Patterns Travel Trio Three funnelneck pattern. It is a two piece pattern – the front and back are the same, plus a 3/4 sleeve. This is a great pattern for a tutorial because of it’s simplicity and fast sewing time.

I’ve traced off my size, and I’ve made two changes to the pattern. First, I measured from my shoulder/neckline point (on my body) over my bust, and under it, about where a nursing overlay would end. This, on me is 14″,  so I added 1″ for the hem. On the pattern, I measured from the same neck/shoulder point down 15″ (which on this pattern happens to be the side <> marks). I drew a solid line at 15 and a dashed on at 14. Solid = overlay that I’ll cut off and the hem, fold on the dotted line.

The underlay on top of the overlay shows the entire full pattern piece as it will be sewn to the back and sleeves

Trace the pattern pieces, make an overlay and cut out the underlay

Christine jonson funnel neck nursing breastfeeding top

The nursing top, closed

I’ll cut a second one, only this time, I marked from the 14″ finished line up 1.5″ on each side. This is the underlay’s side bust opening. I drew a curved line from this point upward to meet the armseye, so it makes a very low armhole. This is what you’ll pull aside to nurse. You can make it as deep as you need (deep meaning into the center of the top). Some nursing tops look like they are racerback tees on the inside. I don’t need that much, but if you are nursing twins, you might.

Then, I will cut this out. So, I’m cutting three – a back, a front overlay (cut off at the 15″ mark from shoulder down, no other changes) and a front underlay, which has deep scooped armholes but otherwise is the full length.

Once you've sewn the overlay's bottom hem, baste the shoulders together and treat this as one layer

The next step, to sew, is to first hem the nursing overlay. Fold under, press and stitch this hem. I like a stitch with some give, a zigzag works fine, or a twin needle if your machine does that well (mine does not). Then, you will be treating the two layers as one from now on.

On this funnel neck, you’ll baste the shoulder/neck and the sides where they meet, to keep the layers together. Construct the top as usual, which takes about ten minutes! Voila! In about 40 minutes you can have a nursing funnel neck top, suitable for winter almost everywhere except the subtropics (but I lived in southern Florida, I remember wearing turtlenecks in December!!)

Nursing opening in action

Here is a link to my nursing tee shirt tutorial, which has the very same type of alteration.

I’ll also be making the reversible hoodie in this pattern, and lengthening it to sweatercoat length (fingertip in my case). Eventually I’ll make the wrap skirt, and probably reversible. Anyone with kids will attest, you’ll put this outfit on, and two hours later, someone will spit up/spill on it and you’ll have somewhere else you need to be (like work!) and you can just duck in to the rest room (or your car!), reverse the skirt and voila! clean outfit.

All of these are made in a knit fabric, and they are so comfortable. Truly, there’s no reason to wear pajama pants to the preschool drop off. These are far more stylish and just as comfortable. If you’re really lazy, just pull on knee high boots over your slipper socks to wear with the skirt for a terrific, chic look. No one ever has to know it’s been two days since your last shower! On the pattern envelope, Christine shows this shorter length skirt with leggings, and that’s what I wear when it’s cold out.

And this is how you nurse in a sling. This is a baby doll.

Once you make this funnelneck top, it will become your winter go-to top. It’s 3/4 sleeves are perfect under a cardi or jacket, but of course you can lengthen those, too, for a long-sleeve turtleneck. The empire nursing opening is perfect for nursing in a sling or baby carrier (no yanking the tail of your top up through a tightly tied wrap or sling, and no exposing your postpartum belly to do so!)

The PatternReview Weekend dress

Charcoal gray knit with silver and black.

I’ve been saving this fabric, too, from the same trip as the Vogue cardiwrap I made this winter. It’s a charcoal gray knit, not too heavy, with silver and black wavy lines in it. This is my version of the Elizabeth Lee Nursing Classics #210 sheath dress. I made it in a M, but after making it, realize like almost all Elizabeth Lee patterns, I really need to make a S or XS. This is a stable knit, so I used my measurements, however, I think this is a great size for a woven fabric for me and I can go smaller in a knit by 1 or 2 sizes next time.

It’s slightly swingy on the dress form (and on me, for that matter), but it’s quite cute, knee length, 3/4 sleeves. A great city dress with a great bag, a pair of high wedge sandals and a baby in a sling.

Win a Megan Nielsen.com sewing pattern!

Pattern Giveaway! yes, that’s right, if you loved my renditions of the Pina Nursing and Maternity Dress and Top (Top here and dress here), you can get your own, or another one of your choice!

Sewing independent pattern designers’ patterns is one of my acts of craft tithing (you can google that if you want). I look to my favorite designers Christine Jonson, Trudy Hansen,  and Megan Nielsen among others as sources not only for well-made and well-tested patterns, but as fellow entrepreneurs. And besides, they all make me look great (in my opinion, that’s transcending business relationship and into friendship!)

You do the math..

Breastfeeding + running + bicycling (april 1) + swimming – dairy products = they don’t make jeans this small for under $150. I’m down to 112lbs – that’s less than my prepregnancy weight. Sadly, I wish my skin had gone back down to 112lbs too but it appears stuck at some other higher number and isn’t going to snap back. Yeah, welcome to the 40s.

So! I must begin to learn to sew jeans. Size 0 jeans or some crazy number (I think I’m a 2 in RTW, a 10 in big 4, a 34 in Burda and varies in the independents.

I have a desire to buy a nice sweater I saw at a boutique, but I need (want) lawn furniture. I spent my fun money on photos of me and the kids (totally worth it) so I’m making do.

Trio of nursing tops

nursing tops and dresses | February 16, 2011 | By

I’ve just sewn a lovely trio of nursing / breastfeeding tops using Christine Jonson’s Base Wear Two tee as a base. I’ll share here the instructions for doing this yourself.

A trio of Christine Jonson BaseWear Two tees

You can start with any basic tee shirt pattern. Though when you see the photos of the finished tee, I think you’ll understand why I love this one. It’s very shapely and fits like a dream. It’s hands down the very best fitting tee shirt pattern I’ve ever used.I go back to it again and again.

I made no alterations to this tee (other than the breastfeeding over lay and openings.) My nursing bustline is about a 34 C.

Trace the pattern pieces, make an overlay and cut out the underlay

First, I traced a copy of the front of the tee. Measuring down from my shoulder, over my bust points (yes those!) and under my bra band I took a measurement and added about 1- 1/2″ (this was 14″ on me). I drew a line across the tee at this same measurement on the pattern. This is the empire overlay before hem allowances. Hold it up to yourself to see if you like the positioning of this nursing overlay before you do the next step.

The underlay on top of the overlay shows the entire full pattern piece as it will be sewn to the back and sleeves

Next, I traced THAT pattern piece adding 1″ for hem allowances (1/2″ folded). Then, I laid the full piece over the short piece and drew curved low armholes on that top full piece, stopping 1″ from the armseye opening at the shoulder seam and 1″ from the empire finished hem line (you’ll be using the line you first drew as this finished hemline.) This long low armhole is the nursing opening on the underlay. If you have any RTW nursing tops with empire seams this is mainly how it’s done.You can use a french curve to draw this opening smoothly, or draw it freehand if you wish.

The nursing overlay hem

Then, onto construction. I finished the bottom of the nursing empire opening by folding, pressing and stitching with a stretch straight stitch (a twin needle would also work here). I finished the open edge of the nursing opening with a serger edge. It’s not necessary to finish this if you’re using a knit, I just like the stability of this if I have a slightly less snappy recovery knit, a softer knit.

I then laid the empire overlay right side to wrong side of the tee. Yes, this sounds wrong. But go ahead, pin the front neckline and flip the overlay over the top of the tee and see what I mean. You should have both right sides facing out when you flip. This completely seals in the neckline seam so it’s finished.

The overlay overlaps the underlay by about an inch at the sideseam

Then I basted the empire edges down over the tee at the sideseams (it overlaps about an inch). Now, I’m basically starting at this point to construct the tee exactly as it’s supposed to in whatever pattern you’ve selected. With one small variation. When you sew the shoulder seams line up the shoulder / armseye opening edges. You will have the inner neckline edge sticking out about 5/8″. This is CORRECT! You will fold this edge, press and topstitch later in construction.

Construct the tee as shown in your instructions for the tee pattern. When you get to that back neckline, carefully fold over the neckline (I use a seam a steam strip to hold my pressed back neckline in place before sewing the hem) enclosing the raw edge of the top shoulder seam left over from sewing the front. Voila! You can topstitch the front if you desire, but it’s not necessary.

Hem the edges of the sleeves and bottom hem. Done! A simple nursing / breastfeeding friendly tee shirt. And even more important for you mamas that babywear – this one’s sling and carrier compatible. No yanking up the tail of your tee through the sling to nurse. The dress form photo shows the nursing opening in action.

I made these all in black and white knits so I could keep the same thread in my machine and serger and production-line sewed them with my son on my back in my Ergo carrier. He’s 8 months old.

I also whipped up a straight skirt from the same pattern in a black and red print (it does not match the tees, but I have other tops that are solid colors). And I whipped up a nursing friendly strapless top/skirt that I’ll post about after this one that is loosely based on this skirt – it’s a big rectangle that wraps that has curved hems.

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