Thursday, January 12, 2012

Maternity Conversions

I do alterations and dressmaking on the side as I feel like doing it. I like to do really simple things like hems or something that is very challenging. The in between stuff doesn't interest me much. I don't post these alterations as they are just that, alterations, but this latest job was quite interesting and I thought worth sharing.

I was approached by her superior to convert some police uniforms for a female officer to maternity uniforms. There are several pants and shirts. This was one of those challenges I jumped right on, the type that look complicated but really aren't for those of us who do these things. I was given extra uniforms to use as needed  for piecing. First I did the maternity conversion on the pants. That was really quite easy and I won't go into detail on that. However, you can find all the directions for this refashion here on Grosgrain. After maternifying the pants they needed to be hemmed and have a gusset installed at the ankles for additional width. My client is a very small woman which made these adjustments necessary. She is thrilled to have pants that will fit better.

Now on to the shirts. These are the typical very tailored shirts you see on most police officers. I don't want to post the whole uniform with all its badges and such for obvious reasons but I think you will get a good idea  what was done. First, I found out my client gained 80 punds with her last pregnancy so would need ample room for expansion. We looked at the shirts and discussed various ways of adding in more material. The shirts had machine pintucks, sort of pseudo pleats that would make things easy to do. I had plenty of additional fabric to install where needed. In the end I decided on adding a 6 inch wide panel of fabric under each arm and another 6 inch panel on the back. This will give here 18 more inches all around. There is always the option for installing more if needed but I think we will be fine with this and she thought so as well.

First I needed to deconstruct.
Don't flinch. This has been my preferred method since I have been fifteen. I find it far less injurious to the fabric than the traditional ripper and I have never hurt myself on it, ( fingers crossed! There is a method here though. This is a flat razor, the kind you put into a box cutter. I always use a pretty new one. Accidents and holes come from dull blades. First your seam allowances must be ironed all to one side. I lay the  garment down, right side up with the side with the pressed seam allowance to my left. I don't pull the seam apart to  better expose the stitches. Then I use my fingers  to pull the seam taut along the length, not open.  I lay the razor flat with the fabric on the right, the side without the seam allowances. I then take just the tiny tip, keeping the blade flat with the fabric and just run it down the seam.  This will let the point of the razor just glide right down the seam and open all the stitches. They make a popping noise when I am  doing it right. BE CAREFUL! This is my personal method and I take no responsibility  here. It's is just something I discovered many years ago that  works for me. You should stick with whatever you are comfortable with for safety's sake. You also don't want to ruin a garment.  Now that I've shown you how I do that, on to the alteration.

The side seams are ripped open. Next rip open the amscye seam two inches to the left and right of the sleeve underarm s/a. You should have something like the above. Undo the hem.  I don't fret too much about all the threads as they will all be serged off but on the pieces where I want them out I use an art eraser.

Press all the seams open and flat. Cut a piece of fabric 6 1/2 inches wide by the length of the side seam plus and inch and a half. Place the corner along the top of the side seam extending 3/4s of an inch. Pin along the seam, stitch, then serge clean. Do the other side of the side seam/ panel. You will have some extending at the bottom.

Using a drafting curve, cut off the extra fabric at the bottom even with the undone hem. Mimic the curve of the hem.  Cut the excess at the armscye leaving a little for insurance. The curvier the armscye, the more excess you will need.

All this handling will undoubtedly make the under sleeve seam open a bit. Sew this shut. Here come the interesting part. I have tried this numerous ways, including hand basting first. The method I prefer is straightforward and no fuss. For now, leave the sleeve seam pinned out of the way. We will just be working with the armscye seam on the bodice.
Take the bodice/panel seam allowance and match raw edges together just up to the seam line of the undersleeve. Stitch the armscye up to theis point.
Push all the excess fabric out of the way and do the same thing, meeting raw edges, pinning and sewing the armscye s/a  this time on the other side, right up to where you stopped the first stitching line. You will have stitched the underarm closed with a big fold of fabric unsecured and left over in the middle. On the inside fold this to make a pleat.
It will have equal amounts of fabric on either side of center. Pin and stitch this. Once stitched trim to the shape of the underarm. Sew the armscye sleeve seam shut. Serge to finish.

Finish the hem edges mimicking the original hem construction.

The completed underarm which now has six additional inches of fabric inside. You can leave this loose or press nice and sharp. These uniforms are made of poly for washing ease and are very springy. They don't hold a crease so I let this just flow. I also put in a six inch panel in the bodice back but that process was very specific to this particular shirt so I am not going to show it here. However I thought this idea for the underarm area of the bodice could be used to refashion just about any top into a maternity top. Not matching the fabric could make for a cute upscycle.  This garment received a total of 18 more inches of fabric around the waist.

I hope you got something out of this. I thought it was a fun job and wanted to share as I know there are many young moms out there who read the blog and maybe wondered how to pull this off. There is no maternity sewing in my personal future. That shop is closed in this family. But anytime  I can help a young mom with my skills, it is my pleasure.....Bunny


  1. What an elegant, unobtrusive solution. Great job!

  2. Wow, the razor idea looks wonderful but I know Idon't trust myselfwith th blade. Thanks for sharing your procedure and for this clever maternity alteration. Love how you did the panel work.

  3. Looks fantastic! And I love the razor blade but I don't think I quite have the nerve for it.

  4. Great method. I am sure that the ladies appreciated your talent. I learned to use a razor blade to un-stitch, too. There is less stress or pull on the fabric needed to glide down the seam stitches. I remember doing some similar changes to some tops back in the 70's for myself. Of course, flowy tops were still very much in style then.
    Beckie in Brentwood, TN

  5. some great tips Bunny with the razor and the eraser, the razor I would have thought of but not the eraser.

    I bet the lady was thrilled to bits, the results are very good.

  6. Very nicely done, Bunny & SEW professional looking! I bet you're going to get more requests for similar work once some of the other gals see this project. I think it would work for just general weight gain too...not just baby weight!

    Thanks for documenting the process so well.

  7. That looks terrific.
    That tip about using the eraser to remove the threads is a new one to me. I'll be using that idea myself.
    I do have one question about the shirts though. What did you do about the extra length needed for the front bodice? I know that the girls aren't so concerned about a little belly showing as they were 'in my day' but I would think a police officer would need to keep things covered.

  8. My client is very short, five feet tall, and these shirts are mens shirts that are already very very long. There should be no problem. That was a great question. She is at five months with a good bump so it was easy to see how they hung on her.


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