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A Nursing/Breast feeding Top Sewing Tutorial

Friday, February 21, 2020

It's hard to believe that this was me a year ago!! A whole year has slipped on by and Rowan is now one and her own little person. Did you know these were actually taken the day before she was born? Seems like a lifetime ago.

But, let's talk about nursing clothing (and maternity clothes in general actually), they can be expensive! It seems to have the same effect as adding the word 'wedding' onto an item, as soon as it becomes a 'wedding' cake/outfit/hairstyle, it becomes ten times the price.

Well, I'm here to tell you that if you can sew and have a basic knit top pattern in your stash, you can easily and successfully sew your own nursing clothes and it won't cost you very much at all.

I've used the Ostara Top here (a fitted knit top made with stretch knits) but you can use any fitted knit top pattern you like - may I suggest Gable? (You could even make a Gable nursing dress!) Bronte or Vielle?

After making several of these tops just before Rowan was born last year, and seeing the wear and tear on them (the constant pulling up and down to feed and the little hands always tugging at the neckline) my best advice here is to choose a good quality knit that has really good recovery. Drapey knits in a fitted top won't ever work well, but they will especially bad in a nursing top.

However, if you have a drapey/loose knit top pattern, the principles of this tutorial are essentially the same, you'll just want to adjust the amount of elastic you put into your 'opening' hems (this will make more sense once you see the process below).

You'll need:

  • A fitted knit t-shirt pattern (I've used Ostara for this tutorial)
  • 2 traced out front bodice patterns
  • A length of 1cm width elastic (I like lingerie elastic) - more on the specifics of this below
  • Pen/paper/ruler/tape measure/pins

A bit about elastic length:

Measure your under bust and over bust at the front from one side to the other. Add on another 5cm or so and you should have a good amount of elastic (without too much wastage) to make one top.

You can also use any width elastic you like - you'll just need to adjust your seam allowance widths to accomodate this.

A bit about elastic type:

I like to use flat lingerie elastic for this tutorial, because you're sewing directly into the length of the elastic for this top. Lingerie elastic is flat and the 'elastic' within it is thinner and more spread out VS standard elastic where the 'lines' of elastic are encased in thread. 

Sewing over standard elastic leaves more room for your needle to pierce the encased elastic, therefore weakening it and causing it to break and fray over time - which is not ideal when a top for this purpose will be constantly being tugged on!

Seam allowances should be removed before making paper pattern adjustments

1. If you've made a top with the pattern you've chosen, put it on and mark where your under bust is. If you've never made your pattern before, put on a top that is similar in fit and mark that instead.

Measure the length from the underarm down to your marking and transfer the mark to your first traced pattern piece. Mine was 14cm.

2. Draw a line straight across from your under bust marking.

3. Add on a seam allowance the width of your elastic (mine was 1cm) and cut along this line (the dotted line below). Discard the bottom pattern piece keeping the top half only. 

You now have the upper bodice for your nursing top.

4. Take your second front bodice tracing and draw a straight line from the under arm to the centre (blue line below).  To get a nice curve that sits across your over bust, draw a marking 4.5cm (or more or less depending on your cup size) higher at the centre, then curve it back down to nothing at the under arm (red line below).

5. Add all seam allowances that were removed back on and add on an additional 1cm seam allowance (or the width of your elastic) above the curved line you drew in step 4 (dotted line below). 

6. Cut along the dotted line and discard the top portion of the traced pattern. You now have the lower bodice for your nursing top.

7. Place the upper bodice on top of the lower bodice and mark a notch on the side of the lower bodice, where the finished upper bodice will end (circled below in blue).

8. Now is the time to lengthen the front and back bodice pieces in the bodice if you wish to do this.

Now for the sewing part!!

Note: you'll see that I didn't finish the raw edges (I've called them 'Hems' below) of my upper and lower bodice openings. Because they are knits, you don't have too - and to be honest, I wasn't sure how well breastfeeding Rowan was going to go after my previous experience. So I didn't want to put too much extra effort into making tops that may not get worn. As it turns out, we're still breastfeeding, and while I wish I had made more of these tops (I made one short sleeve and two long sleeves) the 'raw' edges still look like they did the first time I cut them after a year of being in very high rotation. So, it's not a 'must do' if you don't want too.

1. Finish off raw edges of bodice opening hems if you'd like, removing as little fabric as possible. 

2. Cut a length of elastic approximately 2.5cm to 5cm (1-2") shorter than the raw edge of the upper bodice hem. You can do more or less depending on your elastic and fabric stretch percentage.

3. With the wrong side facing, place the elastic along the hem edge of your top. Pin it in place at the sides and the centre.

4. Using a large zigzag stitch, gently ease your elastic into place, stretching the bodice hem rather than the elastic.

5. Press your hem up by your elastic width (1cm for me), press gently, then zigzag in place again.

6. Repeat the above steps for the lower bodice opening hem.

7. Right sides facing up, place the upper bodice on top of the lower bodice, matching up the finished hem of the upper bodice to the side notches you marked in step 8 above.

8. Pin in place along the side seam then baste in place within the seam allowance. Finish your top as per the instructions included with your pattern.

And that's it! Once you've done the paper pattern adjustments, you can bulk cut these and have as many nursing tops (or dresses) as your heart desires.

As I mentioned above, my 3 have been in very heavy rotation for a year now and are still going strong (although they are looking a little tired), so if you give this a go, I'd love to see them and hear how they're working out for you.

And if you're interested in making a maternity knit top, I have a tutorial for that here.

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Calling Curvy Seamstresses - JLH is Hiring!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Applications are closed... JLH Curve is on its way.

Hello Sewing Ladies!

I have a bit of an announcement to make...

I have been working towards adding a new range of sizes to my patterns - it's something I've been wanting to do for a while, and now that Rowy is a little older (she turned one yesterday!), I feel like I have the space, and tiny bit of extra time, to get this next stage in motion.

So, I'm looking for a Curvy Fit model.

I live in a small-ish city down here in NZ, and am finding it extremely difficult to find a proper curvy fit model - one that is actually curvy and not what agencies are telling me a curvy model is. This is where you come in...

This will be a paid contractual position that will be ongoing. Using a curvy seamstress just seems to make the best sense for me at this stage, since you're the ones who will be using and making my patterns.

I want these to be the best curvy patterns I can make, I want them to fit well and flatter as well as be user-friendly to sewists. I don't want to just add token sizes, I really really want these to be good.

What is a Fit Model? It's basically someone who takes an initial pattern for a style, fits it to their body and provides the details of any adjustments that need implementing back to the designer, so that a consistent fit can be gained across the brand and all styles within that brand.

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You will need to be a relatively advanced seamstress for this position, as you will be providing specific fit alteration feedback. You will need to be able to be objective and not necessarily let personal taste get in the way of making sure the fit of a garment is as intended.

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As much as I'd love someone in my time-zone (I'm in New Zealand, and Skype or FaceTime chats will be part of the job description) getting the right model is more important, so, you can be anywhere in the world! Oh the joys of the internet.

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I've included a table below for my JLH Curve sizes - there is a slight overlap from my current size range, but I'm not including A or B cups in the Curve range, instead I'm adding on an E cup. Depending on demand, adding an F cup could also be a possibility.

I'm after a mid-range fit model, someone who hopefully fits into the 22-24-26-28 D (or E) cup range, BUT, if you fall outside of this and still really want to apply, please do. Your experience and expertise as a curvy sewist is just as important here as fitting into that mid-range.

What I do need though is someone who doesn't tend to need to make too many extra adjustments to their patterns AND fits across one of my sizes in a relatively standard manner - which I know is a very hard thing to speciy, since there are such limited options for you at the moment. So, I'll let you make a judgement call on that for yourself.

Sizing up or down one step in either the waist or hips can be worked around if you're successful.

To work out your cup size: find the difference bewteen your High Bust and Full Bust measurements. A difference of 5cm (2") is a C Cup, 7.5cm (3") a D cup and 10cm (4") an E cup.

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I'd love it if you could let any and all of your curvy sewing friends know about this. It's the next major step in getting a great curvy pattern line up and running.

I will have a separate Curvy Tester database too, and will let you know when I'm ready for sign ups to that.

If you'd like to find out more, want to see the Job Description or want details on how to apply, just send me an email: 

jen at jenniferlaurenhandmade dot com

Thank you for your help, I'm really excited to get going on this!


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