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
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.
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.
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 😉
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.
Three years ago or so my friend Sue gave me a box of Japanese quilting cottons. I think this box came from a fellow American Sewing Guild member (my recollection is that the previous owner had passed away, sadly.) But her cottons live on – and here’s where they’ve gone:
Kept two little girls stylishly attired in a Twirly Dress for my daughter and another one for a friend of hers for her birthday. Another outfit, the Sew Baby Twirl Top and Pants for my daughter.
Made an excellent organizer for my big bag.
Curtains for my office conference room.
And there are still more pieces to go – a couple of breastfeeding-friendly tops for myself yet to come. Maybe another sling. Hubby is probably right, I don’t need another sling. But I *want* one. And they take just an hour to sew and well, the rings are under $4 a pair online.
I hope the woman who had the fabric is looking down from above and seeing all the love – from all these babies cuddled in slings, mamas happy with their roomy diaper / day bags, girls twirling in their cute outfits, and realizes these fabrics had a life – and touched many people.
I loved making each of these things – even though most of them are not with me, I still loved making them.