nursing tops and dresses

Trio of nursing tops

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.

nursing tops and dresses Sew Paradise

Vogue Cardiwrap and Megan Nielsen nursing top

Vogue Cardiwrap

I finally got to this Vogue Pattern #V8463, which I believe is now out of print. The pattern comes with this wrap top, a tulip-shaped skirt with pleating at the waist, and straight leg pants with elastic waist facing. I plan to make the other two parts of this too. The fabric is a knit, very strong recovery that is sheer with raised stripes, almost like pleating. I bought it in Toronto at Designer Discount Fabrics on Queen St. West about three years ago on a trip to the Toronto Grand Prix (it was my very favorite auto race ever. An entire day shopping for fabric and notions while hubby watched qualifying, and then we went to the race together the next day).

I digress. The fabric was so bumpy with the stitched pleats that I had to consider carefully the type of pattern to sew. I opted to sew this cardiwrap, and use a serger rolled hem for all the hem finishes.  When I first tried this on, I realized this Vogue pattern like most of them, is designed for a 5’8″ woman, not a 5’3″ woman (I think it’s actually 5’6″), because the tails of the cardiwrap dragged on the floor several inches. I ended up cutting off about 9″ from the bottoms before serging the edges.

I can’t quite tie the top like the example photo for the skirt ensemble, which is to cross one side, then the other, wrap around the back and tie at the side like a wrap top. I end up with one that’s really long and one that’s really short, but it’s doable if you do a slip knot. The twist cardigan shape is something I found at Victoria’s Secret, in a how-to-tie example of their soft and sexy wrap.

The second pattern I cut a while back is a Megan nursing and maternity top. I sewed this one in a long sleeve, in a stretch velvet. This is another one of those that uses elastic neckline and underbust seam, so you get really good at stretching and serging elastic on in one step. It’s actually the same construction as a swimsuit, so if you sew this yourself, pick up some swimwear, because that’s just as easy as this is.

Megan nursing top and SewBaby Twirly Dress