Oh Baby! Sewing Maternity Clothes: My Favorite Easy Hack

I'm twenty-six weeks pregnant this week, and I've been in full-on maternity-mode sewing lately!  There's no denying this bump any more!  Even when I'm not pregnant, I sway more towards the fitted side of clothing styles . . . but when I am pregnant, I love fitted clothes even more.  Relaxed fit is nice in early pregnancy, but once the second and third trimesters are here, I'm all about showing off that bump! 

Luckily, it's super easy to take your favorite fitted top or dress pattern and turn it maternity-friendly.  These are both the Super Sleeve pattern from George and Ginger (definitely a favorite of mine).  You can see the extra side ruching that makes it maternity-friendly.  

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This light purple top (fabric from Sincerely Rylee) was photographed a few weeks ago, so you can see the extra fabric I have in my midsection that I still have to grow into.  I think I was 20 weeks here, so there's definitely still a lot more bump coming ;)  

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Both of these fabrics are brushed poly spandex.  Brushed poly has been my absolute favorite for maternity sewing.  It's so soft, comfy, and most of all, stretchy.  You won't regret using it for your maternity wear!  This blue fabric is from Vintage Lace

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Now!  Let's get on the the nitty-gritty!  Grab your favorite fitted top/dress pattern and 1/4 inch elastic.  The only piece you'll be cutting any differently is the front piece-- you can cut all your other pieces the same way as the pattern calls for.   I'll give you the numbers I use, but remember that you may need to adapt them to your size/height/baby bump size. 

First, we determine the length you want your ruching to extend.  Hold the pattern piece up to your body, and determine an underbust point, right before your bump really starts.  For me, I go with 5 inches. I then also mark 1 inch above that (my 4 inch dot on the pattern piece below).   Next, I make a mark under my belly bump (that's the dot by my 3 inch point, as in 3 inches from the hemline [this is a shorter shirt, but I probably still should have done it just a little bit higher]), and then make a second dot 1 inch below that (so, my 2 inch dot).  When it comes time to ruche, I'll be stretching the elastic from that 5 inch dot down to that 3 inch dot.  The extra inch above and inch below is just extra to get my elastic started, but I don't stretch the elastic at those points.  

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Now, measure the distance between the two furthest dots (for me, between my 4 inch dot and my 2 inch dot).  For this top, the measurement was 13.5 inches (so, again, 11.5 inches to stretch, plus the extra inch for the top/bottom to get started/finish off).  Pre-stretch your elastic, and then cut two pieces of elastic to this measurement.  

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Now!  Time to add the extra length to your front piece.  I cut my pattern at that underbust/above-the-belly point (here, 5 inches).  I then separate the pattern, and slide the bottom piece down seven inches.  The amount you spread is up to you!   This is the extra fabric that you'll be ruching, so it's up to you, your body, and where you are in pregnancy.  I've done other shirts at five or six inches.  I know a friend who usually uses 8 inches at this point.  

I only add length to my maternity shirts.  If you feel like you need more room, you can also consider adding width at this point, and grading the bottom half of the pattern to the next size up.  Personally, I feel good about my use of brushed poly, and know this shirt will stretch plenty for me.  

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Cut out your new extra-long front, and transfer the markings on to the pattern.  

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Now head over to your sewing machine, and set it to a zigzag stitch.  You're going to be attaching the elastic to the front piece, which will ruche it.  At the end, you'll want the elastic to be in your seam allowance when you sew the front to the back.  So, for this pattern, I put the elastic close to the raw edge.  Put the raw edge of the elastic on that first dot and sew it for that first inch (to the next dot), without stretching it.  Once you reach your second dot, you'll begin stretching the elastic.  

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Stretch the length of the elastic down to the third dot (leaving an extra inch of elastic at the end to not have to stretch).  

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You can see here, the last inch was not stretched (the zigzag is bigger, compared to the tighter zigzag when I was stretching).  

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If your measurements were correct, and you stretched the elastic accurately, the side seams of the front and back pieces should match up perfectly!  Proceed sewing the pattern as per the directions! I will note that my serger prefers the front piece (the one with the elastic on the bottom). If I sew one side with the elastic up, and one side with the elastic down, the sides won't line up correctly on the one side.  Just saying.  Every little thing makes a difference!

I hope this helps you make your own maternity shirts.  Obviously, this isn't a magic set of numbers, but it's an easy way to base it off of your own size and body.  

After pregnancy, my plan is to cut the side seams apart from the arm pit to the hem, take out the extra length, re-sew the side seams and re-hem.  I really can't stand wearing maternity shirts after the baby is born-- it just makes me feel/look still pregnant!  But I've been loving what I've been sewing, so they'll definitely be altered into "normal" shirts once the baby is here!

Happy sewing! Go show off that bump ;) 

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