Friday, July 1, 2011

spreading my wings

Lots of moms complain about maternity clothes, but I think that really the most challenge time of life for fashion is the whole first year post-partum. Most of us have plenty we want to cover up, but also need easy and quick access to the girls. Plus, as you start to loose some of that belly, the maternity/nursing tops don’t fit anymore either. Grr. So when I saw Anna MariaHorner’s new book last year, I was so excited she included nursing tops. And when my mother in law brought me three whole yards of Liberty Tana lawn when she came from England for Christmas, I knew I owed myself something really lovely to wear in these style-challenged months. 

The Mariposa project in Handmade Beginnings can be made up as maternity or not, sleeved or sleeveless, as a dress or tunic, so lots and lots of options. I first made it without any alterations in a quilting cotton, but honestly, it didn’t work out well. The quilting fabric required way too much ironing and simply didn’t look nice. Also, the pattern needed quite a few alterations to be more flattering. The first try became a muslin and last summer, I made it as a maternity dress in some of that delicious Little Folks voile to wear for C's 3rd birthday.

As a maternity dress, it works very well. I anticipated adjusting the skirt to wear as a nursing dress – and the adjustment would be easy to make – but the dress has kind of a dumpy sack-like look on me without the huge belly to distract the eye.
For my Liberty blouse, I chose a sleeveless version so I could easily layer it for year round wear. The empire tunic version is flattering for a post-partum figure as it draws attention to a well-endowed bust but skims over the baby belly. I recommend tying the bow in front for easier access. That cute bow really helps pull the eye away from the jelly belly underneath and draw the eye to the bustline.

Mariposa is very cute and I have received heaps of compliments on both versions, but I found the pattern needed quite a lot of alteration. The main issue is that there’s an awful lot of fabric over the shoulders and across the bust. All that fabric just looks matronly and frumpy on a large bust, which is probably what you’ve got if you’re making a nursing top in the first place. So, I drafted the V neckline a good bit deeper. Then, I used a semi-sheer voile for the “modesty panel” in the middle to break up the impression of a vast wall of bosom. The neckline was much improved, though if I made this again, I would deepen it even more, all the way up and around the back, which was also a little uncomfortably high. I would probably also skip the back facing and finish the back neck with bias binding, which I think would be neater in this case. I might even play with gathers to create the bust shaping instead of pleats. I think that might make it easier to customize the fit and make it most flattering.

 It was uncomfortably sung under the arms and I trimmed the entire armsyce a bit. A bit too much, actually, as it didn’t cover my bra straps perfectly. Also, after I made the dress version, I noticed that the skirt part had a weird sort of curved shape at the empire waist that simply didn’t lay nicely, so this time I redrafted it myself to more of a pencil shape.

The Mariposa instructions are, like other patterns I’ve tried by Anna Maria Horner, very thorough with plenty of diagrams to help you along. It is a complicated pattern with quite a few steps and I would definitely recommend some sewing experience before tackling this. The only trouble I had was attaching the ties to the body. Each time, it took me a few tries to get it right, but I think this was just me.  All in all, I think this is a great pattern with enough options to suit a variety of people. I recommend a fabric with drape that doesn’t need too much ironing. Voile and lawn have been perfect for my versions, though I would like to see it in seersucker or double gauze, maybe even shot cotton. 

(Thanks to Amanda for the great pictures! Please forgive my poor modelling skills.)

Tomorrow, we’re off on a road trip to Georgia. (Anyone know of good fabric stores in the north Atlanta exurbs?)  When I think about 12 hours of road time with nothing to do but sit there, sneaky thoughts of knitting creep into my head. I’m trying to finish the complicated part of the yoke on a little sweater so that I can spend the drive doing the mindless ribbed body and sleeves. I figure I ought to be able to finish it in 12 hours, right? I mean, 12 hours. Not like I'll have three kids in the back seat driving me nuts or anything. Gosh, I hope the Duke doesn’t plan on me driving. And maybe on the way back I can do the mindless stockinet part of the other little sweater. Two sweaters, one trip, not so unreasonable. Uh huh, right. Good grief! Why is knitting so prone to overestimating? It’s a freakin sickness.


  1. Wish I knew of a good store to send you to. My go-to is here in Atlanta. Hope you enjoy your visit!

  2. There seem to be some quliting shops out in Marietta, etc. I'm trying to convince my mom to travel down to Whipstitch...