17 February 2021

Seven Tips for Sewing Maternity Clothes

Seven Tips for Sewing Maternity Clothes - Tilly and the Buttons

If you're reading this and pregnant, first of all, congratulations! It's an exciting - if nerve-wracking and exhausting - time, and making some of your own maternity clothes is a lovely way to slow down and celebrate the wonder of your changing body.

At the time of writing, I'm in my fourth pregnancy, and hoping to meet our second little one in a few weeks' time. I thought it would be a good opportunity to share some tips I've learnt about sewing for this season of my life in case you're planning to make your own maternity clothes too.

First up - why make your own maternity clothes? Why not just buy them instead? Ready-to-wear maternity clothes are very limited, and personally I've found it difficult to buy maternity clothes that are a) in my size, b) not just black or khaki, and c) to my taste, so have enjoyed making a few colourful pieces that are unique to me. And, if you're a sewing addict like me, you're not going to want to stop making things just because you're pregnant!

Onto the tips...

Maternity Agnes top in lilac stripe - worn by Tilly
Maternity Agnes top sewing pattern

1) Comfort is key

From achey hip joints to swollen ankles, pregnancy takes its toll on your body. So it's more important than ever to focus on comfort. Think soft jersey fabrics that feel nice against your skin, stretchy of flowy garments, the kind of thing you could have a quick schluff in if you get the chance! 

2) Let it grow... let it grow!

This one may sound obvious, but make sure whatever you make leaves you plenty of space for your bump - and boobs, let's not forget boobs - to grow. You'll only be able to wear these me-mades for a few months, so make sure they at least last a couple of trimesters! Stretch knit fabrics are your friend - in particular cotton jersey (see tip 1 and 3). Our maternity Agnes pattern is the perfect versatile jersey top and dress that you can live in throughout your pregnancy.

Blue stripe Agnes maternity dress, worn by Tilly
Maternity Agnes dress sewing pattern

3) Keep it cool

Your body temperature can rise during pregnancy, so it's important to wear clothes that keep you cool. Even during the freezing winter we've been having, I've found myself stripping off layers and arguing with my partner about the thermostat setting! 

So pick breathable fabrics that will keep you cool, such as double gauze, cotton lawn and cotton jersey (yes, I'm obsessed!). Or if you're making something like a sweatshirt, consider using the lightest weight fabric that will work with the pattern - for example, a French terry or ponte for a Billie sweatshirt dress, as opposed to thick fleece-backed sweatshirting.

4) Easy - and speedy - does it

Those nine months whizz by so quickly, so now is not the time to be making complex projects that take you a month or more to stitch up. Add to this the tiredness, nausea, antenatal appointments and, you know, life in general, and you may well not have much time to sew. So my suggestion would be to focus on quick and simple sewing projects that will give you the satisfaction of time well spent at your sewing table without wearing yourself out in the process.

Indigo smock in bold blue vintage print - worn by Tilly
Indigo smock sewing pattern
Red Billie sweatshirt dress with bishop sleeves, worn by Tilly
Billie sweatshirt dress sewing pattern

5) Think long term

While it's still a niche part of the sewing market, there are some great maternity patterns out there to enjoy. But don't limit yourself to looking at sewing patterns that are specific to pregnancy - many non-maternity designs out there will work well for your changing body shape. And the best part? You can wear them for years to come too!

Our popular Indigo smock is a great example - the empire waistline will sit at the top of your bump, and the loose-fitting skirt provides great coverage. If you're making the top or knee-length version, rather than the midi-length add-on (which also makes a cute maternity outfit), you may just want to wear leggings or skinny jeans underneath in the later months once it starts riding higher up your thighs.

I've also been living in the Billie sweatshirt dress recently - there is plenty of room in there for a growing bump!

Maternity Bettine dress sewing pattern

6) Make it easy-access

If you're hoping to breastfeed (I say "hoping to" rather than "going to" because it's not always that easy!), your postpartum wardrobe is equally - if not more - important than your maternity clothing. So you may want to consider sewing up a me-made or two that's both maternity and nursing-friendly, while you have a bit more time on your hands (relatively speaking to life with a newborn, I mean!).

We have a whole separate post on nursing-friendly sewing patterns that you may want to check out - the crux of the matter is you're going to want easy access to get your boobs out, without necessarily flashing too much. The maternity Bettine dress is a great option as you have the choice to make it with a button-front opening. Another garment I wore a lot when I was breastfeeding my little boy was a loose-fitting Nora top over a nursing vest - I could just pull up the Nora top as needed. Nora is very forgiving, so perfect for pregnancy too over a maternity vest.

Side view of Agnes maternity top showing ruched front bodice
Maternity Agnes top sewing pattern

7) You can hack it 

If you have some basic understanding of how sewing patterns come together, it can be fun to get out your scissors and glue, and get stuck into a bit of pattern hacking to make something that's unique to you. So if a pattern isn't designed for a pregnant shape, and doesn't have an opening for breastfeeding, don't write it off immediately. Things can be done!

You could:

  • add a bit of ease at the bust and hips - and quite a bit more at the waist, of course!
  • lengthen the front bodice below the bust and ruche it up into the back bodice side seams
  • draft a front opening for breastfeeding
Close up on button-front opening of green Bettine maternity dress
Maternity Bettine dress sewing pattern

Hacking your sewing patterns opens up a whole world of possibilities!

So those are my tips for sewing your own maternity clothes - I hope you found them useful. Whatever you do, don't pressurise yourself to make all the things - after all, the time will fly by, and the most important thing at the moment is for you to look after your health and wellbeing (read: don't feel guilty for spending your free time lounging on the sofa!).

P.S. If you liked this, you may also like Five Nursing-Friendly Sewing Patterns.

Author: Tilly Walnes
Photos: Fanni Williams and Tilly's reluctant "photographer" partner!