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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. 

In fact, there is a free PDF pattern for a tent dress from Me Sew Crazy which you can download here. It's designed for knits, and so it won't perhaps look quite as stylish as the Cynthia Rowley pattern, but, as I said, it's free! 

Alternatively, if you are confident enough, you could probably design a tent shape pattern yourself quite easily. You could make this a short top, or a full length dress, whatever you prefer. Here's how.

1) Take any sleeveless pattern with a neckline and armholes you like the shaping of. (You could make one with sleeves as well if you wished.) It's easiest with a pattern with a wide neck, and no vertical fitting darts. Here's an example. This one has just bust darts. You can ignore them, or include, as you wish.

2) First take the front pattern piece - I'm assuming it says 'cut on the fold'. Lay it on a large sheet of paper with the fold line on the edge of the paper, and tack it lightly in a few places with sticky tape. Draw round the neckline, the shoulder, and the armhole. Measure how long you want the dress or top to be at the front, and mark this point on the centre front. These are the solid blue lines below. If your pattern has bust darts which you want to keep, see no. 6. 

3)  You now need to decide how long the side seam needs to be, as you'll want the bottom hem to be curved. So, first draw a line perpendicular to your centre front, and another one straight down from the armhole. These should cross at right angles. These are the dashed blue lines above. Measure how long this side seam needs to be.

4)Then draw a line of exactly the same length from the bottom of the armhole to whatever amount of flare you want. (The orange line.) I'd suggest you want to go out at least 20-25 degrees, and you could go more for an even more tent-y look! 

5)Then you need to draw a nice curve from the bottom of this line to the bottom of the centre front line. I'm sorry my on-screen drawing talents are not so hot, I can do a much better job with a flat piece of paper. Of course, the growing bump will make the centre front rise, so you could drop the point for the centre front 4"-6" before drawing the curve.
(My drawing is getting worse, not better!)

6) One other way to do this (and essential if you want to keep the bust dart) is to put a split pin through just inside the bottom corner of the armhole after drawing the armhole and neck curves. Next, carefully un-stick the pattern piece from your larger piece of paper so you can swivel it round the pin, until the side seam is in a similar position to the orange line. Then, redraw the side seam including the bust dart and the dart lines. Finally, make the nice curve from the centre front to the side seam as in no. 5, above.

7) Repeat for the back - but check you will have the same length for your side seams (after allowing for the bust dart in the front pattern piece, if any).

Just bear in mind that swing tops, like circular skirts, work best with a plain fabric, or one with a non-directional and non-geometric pattern. 

Then you can cut out and make up your top as the pattern tells you.

I had a tent-style dress myself many years ago - below knee length. I wasn't pregnant, it was just the fashion. It looks a bit pinched on the waistline in this photo - my new husband's hand is round my waist! But this might have worked as a maternity dress, had it been needed at the time of the wedding! But this is some time before I became a New Mama, let alone a New Grandma.

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