Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Make a Cross-over Nursing T out of a Standard T

After my son was born, I quickly learned a couple of things. (1) I wasn't going to be wearing my "normal" clothes for a while yet, and (2) Nursing shirts are worth their weight in gold - which is unfortunate, since manufacturers seem to understand this and charge accordingly. Even at the resale shop I was paying $10+ for a workable garment. So, I started thinking about how I could make my own.
Here's what I came up with. There are no funny flaps or potentially embarrassing slits or anything, so this could easily work as a general purpose garment: just sew both layers together clear to the top as mentioned in step 4.

* 1 XL T-shirt, or a T at least 1 and preferably 2 sizes larger than your ordinary size. I got mine for about $3 at the craft store.
* Embroidery or standard thread in matching or contrasting color
* Sew-on Snap (if making nursing T)

* Scissors
* Needle

* Basic hand sewing

A few disclaimers and tips first...
I "hacked" this. I didn't measure anything, or draw diagrams or even mark my cutting line. I'm willing to wear the finished product, but you could do better!
You're going to want to try on the shirt a few times during sewing so you can be sure it's fitting, and that it's modest!

1. Cut off the neck ribbing. I cut below the stitching line on the front, and above it on the back. (See photos below, especially in steps 6 and 7)

2. Following the diagram, cut up the front of the T. Adjust the width on the bottom left according to your size. It should be wider if you are smaller, and narrower if you are larger. You should try the shirt on before cutting and see how much excess width you have.

3. Fold the left side of the cut to the right side of the shirt and pin. Try on the T to make sure it fits, and adjust as necessary.

4. Using three strands of embroidery floss (or 2 of standard thread) and a simple running stitch, sew both layers of the T together up to point A (if making a nursing T) or point B (if making a general purpose T) If you are making a nursing shirt, make sure that point A is low enough to allow shirt to be pulled over to allow baby access.

A running stitch works, but it wasn't very attractive and eventually frayed. A year later I redid this step with a zig-zag, which stretches better and looks nicer. There's a tutorial for a similar stitch here, but note I didn't complete the "x's" the way it shows: I just did the zig-zag.
Of course, you Could use a sewing machine here if you wished.

5. If making nursing T, install snap at point B. Try it on first and make sure it hangs properly. Mark snap location on both layers with a pin or disappearing fabric marker. You may need two snaps set a couple inches apart if you're a larger woman.

6. So far we've taken a lot of width out of the front of the shirt but none in the back. This will stop it from hanging properly off your shoulders: we need to modify the back to so that the seams will be near the top of your shoulders.
To do so, fold "darts" in the back of the T along the neckline to gather up excess fabric. The folds should meet in the center.
I found it easiest to do this while wearing the T so I could be sure it was fitting. I held the layers together temporarily with a clip.

7. Sew through all 3-4 layers of fabric with a whip stitch.

8. Now put it on, gather hungry baby, and take it for a test drive.

9. Whoops, he spit up on it. Throw it in the washing machine... and calculate how many of these you need before you can cut back to laundry every 3 days or less!

UPDATE: Admittedly what I've shown in steps 6 and 7 is not the most elegant solution, because you end up with a fairly thick "knot" at the back of your neck.
Instead of making a gather as shown, you could remove the excess width by cutting a strip out of the center of the back the T and then sewing it back together with a decorative zig-zag or X stitch.
Just be careful not to take too much out: Calculate a minimum of 1/2 an inch of seam allowance for instance. Also, the entire shirt will be narrower around the hips, unless instead of a strip you cut a "V."
I made a second shirt this way, but was not convinced the result was superior. Experiment with caution!

No comments: