Monday, 17 April 2017

More on making maternity clothes - using maternity patterns

I've recently written a number of posts about adapting non-maternity patterns to work for maternity clothing. These were all for tops. You can find the main link to them here.

I was more nervous about adapting trousers, so I did buy a couple of the very few patterns around. In fact, two of the patterns I bought are vintage ones.

So this post is more of a review of 'proper' maternity patterns, and what I've learned while making them up.

I really did find it very disappointing that the pattern manufacturers seem to have lost interest in making maternity patterns. In fact, they have far more patterns for fancy dress! And overall, they seem keener on making vast shapeless sacks than anything stylish. But if you really hunt around, you can find patterns that work. Below, I'll give you some ideas, and I'll also show you the results.

Adjustable elastic for maternity trousers (or growing children!)

I recently made a couple of pairs of trousers for my pregnant daughter. For one pair, the pattern I was using required you to thread elastic in through the waist band. This was to be via the usual method of sewing up the waistband apart from leaving a couple of inches not sewn, through which you can thread the elastic with a safety pin, sewing the two endsa of the elastic together, and finally sewing up the last bit of the band.

However, I was concerned that if the elastic was tight enough to hold the trousers up early in the pregnancy, it would be too tight later on.

So I invented a method to get round this. (When I say invented, I mean I had to think this out for myself, I hadn't read the idea anywhere else. It's not to say someone else didn't invent it as well!) It has resulted in a band which was snug enough to hold up only a few months in, but will hopefully continue to expand as she does, without becoming constricting or uncomfortable.

I used a piece of 'normal' elastic (about 3/4" width) round the back, measured as a comfortable length to go round the back of her waist. Having measured her back waist, deducted a couple of inches or so, to allow for the fact that you need a bit of stretch. I then joined it to a piece of buttonhole elastic for the front, the same width  (about 3/4"), this I left fairly loose (i.e. longer than the back. I threaded it through the waistband, having left a slit in both side seams of the waistband, and joined the other ends of the two elastics together. I finished the edges of these slits but left them open. I then sewed a button on each side underneath the elastic, so that the button hole elastic could be pulled up tighter to start with, and fastened onto the buttons, and then gradually released as the tummy expands. The idea is to button the elastic twice, once, near the end to stop it slipping back through the waistband, and the second time, to hold it at the length you want for a comfortable fit. It can be adjusted at both the left and right hand side.

Here you can see the effect on another pair of trousers. The button hole elastic is joined at both ends to the other elastic, which is slightly shorter than the back waistband. It has here been pulled through, so the button is first put through the hole nearest where this elastic joins the other elastic. This fixes the stretch on the back elastic. It could be changed of course by first putting the button through a different hole, but I'm assuming there is not too much increase in the girth of the back in pregnancy. Then the button hole elastic is pulled through the slit a bit more, forming a flat loop, and the button is put through a button hole further along to tighten the front elastic.  This happens on both sides of the trousers. Here, it is quite a short loop, implying that the elastic is almost at its greatest extent now. But early in pregancy, you could have it tightened more to hold them up! Eventually you could unbutton all of it if you wanted. 

This seem to have worked well, so I also did the same on other pairs of trousers I made from a modern maternity pattern that made no mention of elastic, but which were very loose at the waist and which tended to slip down rather embarrassingly.

Of course, you can use this method on any pair of trousers for which you want to allow waist expansion, for example for a child. You wouldn't then need to fix the back waist stretch, as you'd want to waist to stretch evenly all round. You would just pull up the elsatic as much as required.

Incidentally, it would be possible to use button hole elastic all the way round, so you only had one join in the elastic. I didn't do that for two reasons. One, it tends to be more expensive than ordinary elastic, so I chose to use it sparingly as needed. The other more important reason, though, is that I have generally found it to be more stretchy (looser) than normal elasatic and I thought it might stretch too much on the back. As it happened, this wider button hole elastic was pretty similar stretchiness-wise to the normal elastic, so I don't think I gained much, as it happened.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

How to make your own maternity patterns

Well, the New Grandma who wants to sew is taking a temporary break from making things for the grand-children. And guess why? Well, one of their Mummies is set on expanding the brood! So it's time to think about clothes for the Mama-to-be.

In this post, I'll tell you how I've adapted non-maternity patterns into patterns for maternity clothes. But I will also tell you more about making maternity clothes with free or paid for maternity patterns in a later post. See here.

Having done a serious hunt for new patterns, it seems that most of the manufacturers are no longer interested in maternity clothes. In fact, one of the books had a huge section on dressing up clothes, and only one page of maternity patterns! Pah! I've had to get a couple of vintage patterns from our local fabric store that re-cycles patterns. However, all is not lost. There is a lot you can do to adapt non-maternity patterns, especially tops.

How to choose a suitable pattern?

What you need for a maternity top is a garment that will expand to allow for a waistline much bigger than normal, but which will also hang nicely before the bump is huge. So you are looking for something that is, or COULD BE, a more-or-less trapezoidal shape.
There are various non-maternity patterns that will lend themselves. I've given some examples below  of adaptations, and you can see the results on some of the other posts, for a tent-style top, an empire style top, a top with a yoke, and tops made from other non-maternity patterns

Converting a non-maternity dress or top pattern to use as a maternity pattern

In this series of posts, I've been writing about maternity patterns, and especially, how to make any pattern for a top work as a maternity top. I showed how to convert a yoke-style pattern, an empire-line pattern, and how to make a tent-style top or dress. You can find more thoughts and ideas on this topic here. In this post, here's how to adapt a loose-fitting top pattern - and some ideas for using any just old top pattern as a base.

Firstly, almost any loose fitting top pattern can be used, and, depending on the style, it may need a little adaptation. 

This, below, is example of a non-maternity pattern which can  work as a maternity top with just a small adjustment. 

I used this pattern to make this nice animal print top for my pregnant daughter. It's loose right now but I'm hoping this will take her through the next three or four months.

This is already a nice loose fitting top. There are several ways this can be adapted to make a maternity top. 

1) Obviously, you can just add more width by flaring out the sides on the front. 

2) With a fairly straight top, you can also lengthen as well as widen the front, and elasticate the front sides into the side seam. I've seen examples of this done but when I tried, I found it sagged down too much at the front (certainly while she is only half-way through) so I took this elastication / gathering of the side seams out. 

3) For this animal print one, I adapted the pattern by adding a centre pleat. The way I did this was to add a few inches more to the width of the  centre front pattern. (About 4", as I was using a soft jersey knit)
 Then, I folded the material of the centre front right sides together, made a short seam down from the neckline where the centre front of the original pattern was, down to just where the bust started. 

I then opened out the two sides, and pressed the 'revised fold line with the centre of it against the seam I had just made, so that there was equal material either side of the seam. This made two side folds to the pleat.

Then I sewed the neckline of the pleat to the original neckline, The effect of this was to form an inverted pleat down the centre.  You can perhaps see how that is working as the waistline is expanding.

This top I made with the sleeves as in 'D' in the pattern - that's the blue patterned one with the solid blue hem.

Finally, I had a long enough strip of the material left to make an optional belt tie, which can be tied under the bust as an alternative look. I made little belt loops just underneath the armscyes.

But if you don't have a loose-fitting top pattern, you could adapt almost any pattern for a top you have kicking around - even one you may have drawn round a T shirt that fits!

The pattern below is a very basic top with several necklines, with or without sleeves. If I want to vary the style for tops, I just take the necklines and armhole arrangements of these, and make my own pattern - perhaps using the bottom of another pattern. So you can easily redesign a pattern like this for maternity use using the techniques I've described earlier - for example: - flaring the side seams, adding in a front pleat as above, lengthening the front to allow for expansion, extending the side seams so you can elasticate them - these are all techniques that can change a non-maternity top into one for those precious few months when the waistline is expanding. I've shown how to convert this type of pattern into a tent-style top of dress in this post.

However, since I first wrote this post, I've now found an interesting article on the same subject from Melissa at Melly Sews, whose patterns and tutorials I very much admire. She has an alternative approach (or approaches) to pattern adaptation which would work especially well for patterns without an obvious easy way to make them fit the maternity bump. You can find her excellent article here.

I hope this post has given you some ideas to help you avoid needing to buy a lot of special maternity patterns that will be used only once. But if not - you can read more thoughts on maternity patterns here.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Making a tent-style maternity top

I've been making more maternity clothes than baby clothes lately - though hopefully that will change in a few weeks' time! Most of the clothes I've made haven't required the purchase of a specific maternity pattern - read about some of my ideas here.

 Here's another non-maternity pattern, which would probably not need any adapting to make it fit a growing midriff! You could probably make a top like this from an unwanted circular skirt. Hang it round your neck and have someone cut armholes!

But if you don't have a pattern like this but would like to make a maternity top in this sort of style, read on. 

Matching watermelon maternity top and toddler top

No, this doesn't refer the the girth! I had had this nice two way stretchy material printed with watermelon slices for a year or two, waiting for the right project, and then it came into its own as a sleeveless maternity top.

Front view:

Back view:

This top was made from a maternity pattern. I've commented elsewhere on how difficult it is to find good maternity patterns, and how easy to adapt non-maternity tops. However, trousers is a different matter, and having finally found a maternity pattern which included trousers, I thought I'd give the top a go as well. (However, if you don't want to spend money on a specific maternity top, I've given lots of ideas for how to adapt other patterns, here.

Adapting an empire line pattern to make a maternity top

Continuing my search through my existing patterns to find ones I could adapt for a maternity top, I found this one, which, indeed, I had used before to  fashion a maternity top for my older daughter. 

It isn't a true empire line dress, which is what I had been looking for, but my efforts to convert it would work for almost any pattern with a below the bust seam / empire line style.

Here, bellow, is what I mean by a true empire line. Some empire line tops or dresses already have the skirt part gathered into the below the bust line, others may be more fitted. As you can see, this is an example of a fitted style from a vintage pattern.

 And here's how you can adapt it to work for a maternity dress of top. 

Adaptation of a yoke top pattern to make a maternity top

When my daughter first announced her second pregnancy, I didn't have any patterns specifically designed as maternity wear, so I thought I would adapt patterns I already had.  (If you want to know more about different ways of adapting patterns, see here.)

This sleeveless top (sorry, not a great photo) was converted from a pattern with a yoke, which does make the conversion very easy. As you can see below, this was a New Look pattern 6871, but you could do it with any top pattern with a yoke. You can also make a dress by just making it longer.

Read on to find out how easy it is.

Monday, 9 January 2017

A larger toddler sleeping bag

This is just a brief post to update another earlier post - well, two posts, actually. I wrote a good eighteen months ago ago about a diamond pattern quilted sleeping bag that I'd made for Jane. You can find the details about how to make it here.

I also wrote more recently about my quilts for the girls, which were actually made a while ago as well. And one of the things I said in that post was that there were quilting squares left over for another project.

And here's the result!

Jane needed another much larger sleeping bag (as she rolls around in bed a lot, and the previous year's was way outgrown). So I enlarged the original pattern. This is from Small Dream Factory. The pattern is for 6-14 months old, but I used the basic shape to create a much bigger pattern. I extended the shoulders straps a little, just an inch or two, and increased the width at the top a bit, but mostly I just continued the side lines down until I had a suitable length.

I had also changed the front opening to a side opening with a much longer zip, going down one side and round the bottom - I think this was a 30" zip. The only problem was that the longer zips (or anyway the one I could get) have a much lumpier top bit, where it would be under her arm pit. I added some padding and a padded flap to go over it. You can see the flap here, and the Velcro to hold it down.
Initially I also made the shoulder straps fasten with Velcro - see below.

But by this time, Jane was wise to how to open Velcro, so she could tear it off too easily. I corrected this with snap fasteners which were harder for her to undo. Thwarted - for a while!

I also added a little initial appliqué on the shoulder. (Jane is not her first name!)

I think another time, I might go back to the upside down front zip approach used in the Small Dream Factory tutorial, at least for sizes where the child is likely to try removal - it's too easy with the zip closure at the top. But for Jane, at least, sleeping bags are probably a thing of the past, at least until she goes camping.

Quilts for growing children

I've called this 'Quilts for growing children'. When the babies were all in cribs and small cots, I made each of them a quilt. You can see them here and here. Now, as two out of three had graduated to toddler beds, they needed bigger sizes, and the next one will soon graduate as well.  Fleur loved her first quilt, which helped her transition from cot to bed. It was made with 10 by 7  quilting squares of 4", with a wide border, so allowing for seams, its total measurements were probably c 42"  by 31 1/2". For Christmas, the plan was for her to have a new quilt. An obvious way to increase the size of the quilts is to use 6" (15cm) squares rather than the 4" (10cm) ones I used before.  I didn't find ready-cut quilting packs that I liked though, so it was down to buying fabric and cutting my own. Here's the end result.

Although all our grandchildren to date are girls, both they and their parents are less than keen on the girly pink floral style, especially now they are now longer babies. Most of the ready cut quilt pieces I found come in pink florals or possibly blue - but often the blues are floral as well. So I started searching for more 'unisex' fabrics - which I realised I would have to cut.

Read more about making quilts for children after the jump.