Thursday, March 12, 2009

How to Sew Your Own Maternity Shirt by Altering a Non-Maternity Pattern


I am newly entering the realm of sewing clothes for myself and just as I started attempting this new hobby I got pregnant. At first I wasn't going to sew anything maternity, but I had one shirt I really liked and when I tried to find similar style shirts at the stores I couldn't. So then I decided that maybe it wouldn't be so hard to alter a pattern that I had already made and that had turned out well to make the style I liked. Also I figured that since I could only wear the shirt for a few months, if it didn't turn out that great I wouldn't be stuck with it for that long. Well I ended up doing the same alteration to three different patterns and have been pretty happy with the result. The one challenge in sewing maternity clothes is that you are constantly changing sizes and you don't know where it is going to happen. You know your belly is going to grow, but is your chest, your hips, your butt? In my case I have pretty much only changed size in my belly and chest, but my bust size increased 2 inches 2 weeks after I made the first top. Unfortunately I kind of had a sizing problem around my bust anyways and then when I grew it just became more pronounced. But since I can only wear the shirt for a couple months, oh well.

The Style

Most maternity tops feature an empire waist with a lot of fabric in front and a tie in the back. Personally I am not a fan of this style. You feel like your wearing a tent and all the material hangs straight down over your belly and if the top starts getting too short you start feeling a breeze on your underbelly and the tie in back makes me feel kind of school girlish. The other option is usually just a knit shirt that is a little bit wider on bottom and longer. For me that style of top is okay, but if you are just starting to show then that style just kind of just makes you look misshapen or fat. The style I like has a wider and longer front panel that is gathered at the sides, so that from the back you still look like you have a waist. From the front your belly is accentuated so that it is obvious you are pregnant, and the shirt comes in a bit underneath the belly so you don't get the tent look as much. The good thing about sewing your own shirt is that you can make it long enough. I am 7 months pregnant at the moment and over half my shirts are already too short.

Choosing a pattern
The best patterns are ones that are pretty fitted around the waist and are designed for four way stretch knits. Four way stretch knits give you the most leeway in the sizing so that if your bust increases you have a greater chance of the top still fitting. So far I have done this alteration on Jalie 2682, Burda World of Fashion 11-2008 Style 103,2682 and Burda World of Fashion 2-2009 Style 103.

Altering the Pattern

- First you will have to choose a size. Which is kind of hard to decide. Basically your choices are to go with your pre-pregnancy size and possibly/probably do a full bust alteration, or do you go with your pregnancy bust measurement. The first shirt I made I went with my pre-pregnancy size and as I mentioned before my bust grew and then it didn't fit very well. The second top I made I still went with my pre-pregnancy size but added extra length to the piece that went over the bust to make sure the below-the-bust seam didn't ride up. That worked well, but because I didn't do a muslin it has some other fit problems. The third shirt I did I cut the pattern based on my bust size, but then did a muslin and radically altered the pattern around the armscye and neckline so much I'm not exactly sure what size it ended up being.

- If the shirt isn't that long you will want to lengthen the back pattern piece so that the hem will be around your hip. This will help ensure that the shirt won't become too short the last month or so.

- Here is the real alteration. Basically all you need to do is grade the pattern wider starting just under the bust and getting to the widest point at the waist. You will add approximately 1 1/2" - 2" of width at the side seam. The curve will be pretty sharp because there are only about 3-5" from below the bust to the waist.

- Then you will want to add enough length so that the front piece is 4" longer than the back piece. So if you added 2" to the back piece, you will need to add 6" to the front piece. If you didn't add any length to the back piece then you will just need to add 4" to the front piece. This is so you can have 4 half inch gathers on the side.


- Sew the shirt following the normal instructions or however you wish to sew it. When you go to sew the side seams you will need to place the gathers. I mark the fabric 3" from the below the bust mark and fold the fabric up at that point 1/2" then fold the fabric back down and pin it. Then I mark 2" below the top of the first gather and fold the fabric up 1/2" and then back down. I do this for four1 gathers. I do both sides and then baste the gather's with my sewing machine, before I serge the side seams. This should leave you with 1 1/2" between the tops of the gathers.


If you use this technique please leave a comment and hopefully a link to a picture. :)  Thanks!


Dawn said...

That side gathering/pleating is such a good idea!

Taly said...

I am just curious whether the folds are done just on the front or both front and back.

Laura said...

I did the folds just on the front. The only change I made to the back piece is to possibly make it longer.

Galadriel said...

I just wanted to say I found this very helpful. Thanks very much.

Grince's Kreations said...

I made one and ran elastic on the sides about a five inch piece of 3/4 inch pulled while I sewed and it has the ruching effect super easy.Looks super cute and you can wear the shirt after you have your baby!!

Rose Clearfield said...

Great tutorial! Thanks for the detailed information and photos.

Janelle said...

Fantastic, thank you. Being plus sized, it is really hard to find good-fitting maternity wear that works clear to the end. I do, however, have several regular patterns that I can now use to make this mama feel like she can decently go into the public arena.

Anonymous said...

Yay! I can't wait to try this! I am just starting to show at 15 weeks and I want lots of cute clothes to wear as I get larger. All the patterns I've found that were maternity looked frumpy, but now I can make whatever top I like! Thanks! :)

AL said...

I did this and it was PERFECT on a raglan T shirt. The material was not perferct, so I did it again twice more and loved it both times, and my stomach got really huge. What do you recommend for dresses?