Fashion for moms nursing tops and dresses Sew Paradise

DIY Strapless Bandeau wide leg jumpsuit – sew your own!


CJPatterns-Jumpsuit-225x300This DIY jumpsuit with wide legs is super simple to make. Drafted from the Christine Jonson Wide Leg Pants and sewn with an attached tube top is a very fast-to-make and easy, elegant weekend look.

Sewing this fun, comfortable and easy-to-wear garment is easy. You’ll need your choice of knit pants pattern. The one I’ve selected is Christine Jonson’s Wide Leg and Taper Pant. This pant has a choice between a wide leg (shown here) and a skinny pant. If you want a skinny pant under a bandeau top, go for the slim leg pant, if you want a wide one, like I have on, go for the wide.

Christine recommends that you chalk around your pattern pieces, remove them and then cut them out. I highly recommend it, as you’ll be able to adjust the width of the leg at the hem. This pant (even in a wide leg) has a slight taper, and I prefer it to go straight down from knee to hem.

This pant has no side seam, and neither does the bandeau top, so it’s a perfect match up.

To begin, you need to calculate the bandeau top dimensions. The reason for this is that the bandeau top is a rectangle and your pants are not. So mating up your pants top to the bandeau bottom is best if they are the same width (you’ll see photos in a moment.)

I’m marrying the wide leg pants to a bloused tube top. The tube top’s width is determined by your full bust size  – mine’s 36 inches and to create some ease, I’ve added 4inches to this width (2in. each side) for 40in., plus seam allowances, to 42in.  You might want MORE ease, so just add more to your full bust measurement. I’ll be using a center-back seam on the tube top. Measuring from my high bust to my waist is 15 inches, so I’ve added 6in. to this measurement to account for the waistband seam allowance, a casing for elastic at the top and blousing. My finished flat pattern measurements will be 42w” x 21h. If you want to be sure you have enough blousing, cut this longer and you can always hem the casing at the top shorter when you get there.

In measuring the flat pattern waistband top of the trousers, the size 12 is 38 inches across. I tapered out to a 14 for my slightly wider waist, but you can still see that 42 inches married to 40 inches means I ‘ll have to add 2in. to the waistband (you’ll be gathering this later with elastic casing.)



As you can see at left, pants, (back) and tube (back) are ready to be sewn together.  I have also provided a drawing of this part of the instructions as well.




To do this sewing together AND making a casing at the same time, you will mark the actual waist line of the pants on to the right side of your fabric (see the dashed line on the drawing).  Then, you’ll flip the tube so it’s right sides against the right side of the back of the pants. You’ll actually be laying the seamlines together but NOT the raw edges – you could just match up the raw edge waistbands here too and sew a 1.75″ seam allowance, trim away one layer and then fold that up as the casing, but I actually lowered the tube down so it’s seamline matched up with the drawn waistband line on the pants as shown in the drawing.



Once sewn, you’ll now have a big seam allowance with which to create a casing, so fold that up on the inside, enclosing the raw edge from the tube top part of the garment.

Pin the casing down from the right side of the fabric. Stitch along the pin line, leaving an opening to insert elastic on the back side of the jumpsuit.

In the photo at left, you can also see I’ve folded the top tube casing down for stitching as well as pinned the waistline casing from the outside. Turned under 1/4″ and then 1.25″ (I’m using 1″ wide elastic). You can topstitch that down too, leaving an opening in the back for inserting elastic.

Casings done, it’s time to insert some elastic! Cut elastic to your high bust measurement – this is above your full bust where the top of the tube will rest. Snug it up comfortably, you won’t want this to slip down, but you also won’t want it to be too tight.

Cut your elastic, thread it through the casing and stitch it together before stitching the opening closed.

For the waist, measure a piece of elastic around your waist plus 1″ overlap on each end. Again, snug, but not too snug. You’re not holding up the pants with this (that’s the high bust casing) but you are looking to add definition and sag at the waist = bad. Thread the elastic through, overlap the ends, sew the elastic then sew the casing shut.

You’re almost done!

Hemming tips: I measure a pair of well-fitting pants and do a press-and-pin to that inseam measurement to try them on with the shoes I think I’ll wear. I tend to wear flat shoes most often, especially in summer casual wear, so I hemmed mine with a deep 2.5″ hem straight stitch. Because these are wide legs, I do not need stretch at the hem. Skinny legs, though, you’ll want to use a stretch straight stitch or zigzag or twin needle hem for stretch over your ankle.

That’s it! Slip on the jumpsuit, add some fun jewelry, grab a bag and go!

I also frequently blog about fashion for breastfeeding mothers, and this one is a perfect match of style plus baby feeding friendly. If you feel more comfortable, drape a scarf across your chest (but not over baby’s head) as you nurse to cover your cleavage. I didn’t like to feed my babies under a cover, and they didn’t like to eat under one either.




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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.

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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.

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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
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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
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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 (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.

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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!)

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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.

nursing tops and dresses

Win a Megan 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!)

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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.