Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Nursing Poncho -- Or, "Aprons Belong in the Kitchen"

A nursing cover is definitely one my list of "must-have" baby items. The first apron-style cover I made was fine.  Sure, it stayed on my neck. But as Little Man got bigger and bigger, it seemed to cover less and less. Even though Little Man wasn't extremely squirmy, I was always tugging at it and readjusting it. Granted, I never did much nursing "in public," even with the cover. But I needed something for family gatherings and occasional visits with girlfriends.

Then came our trip to Puerto Rico. Several hours on a plane would entail at least one feeding, and there was no way I was going to nurse on an airplane with my back -- and maybe more! -- exposed to public view. After some web surfing, I came across the nursing poncho concept (they've shot up in popularity in just the past year, and are quite plentiful now). With limited time and no desire to spend extra money, I used some polyester burgundy Alova suede I had on hand. What I ended up with was a square with a hole in the middle (bound with self-bias, though Alova doesn't fray), and rounded corners. No need (or desire) to hem, and I was ready to go. 

It worked like a dream! For once I actually felt covered, and by making my own I was able to make a cover large enough for my preference. I decided at once that I would leave aprons in the kitchen, and stick to ponchos from now on.

Pros to a poncho? Coverage, pure and simple. It covers front and back, and allows a large range of movement while still being discreet. Cons? Well, it's admittedly harder to see your baby unless you pull the neckline away from your body. This doesn't bother me, personally, and Little Man never really made eye contact while nursing (even without a cover). 

With this new little on on the way, my mind has turned to nursing covers once more. My last attempt was rather make-shift, and hardly my ideal choice of fabric, either fiber or color. Plus, I'll be using a cover a lot more for this baby, since I don't plan to nurse without a cover when my toddler is around (personal preference). This time I wanted something a bit more like the DRIA cover, which is made from super-stretchy jersey. The bonus to this type of cover is that it also serves as a car seat cover, stroller cover, impromptu blanket, and "fashion accessory" (if you go in for ponchos). At any rate, it doesn't scream "HEY! I'M NURSING A BABY!" when it's worn. *wink*

A coupon for 60% off any fabric at JoAnn's was perfectly timed, and fortunately their luscious rayon jersey was not on sale (by the by, isn't it frustrating when you get a great JoAnn's coupon, only to realize that the fabric you want is already on sale for a measly 30% off? Just saying). 1 1/2 yards in a yummy chocolate color cost me less than $8. Considerably less than $80 for the DRIA.

My plan was to "construct" this poncho in the same way as my first -- a neck hole cut in the center, and no sewing (since I'm terrified of sewing knits, especially on my vintage machine). Well, I didn't account for that beautiful 4-way stretch when I cut my neck hole, and the thing was practically falling off my shoulders. Okay, it was falling off my shoulders.

After considerable finagling, I ended up with a french seam along the shoulder to reduce my too-large neck hole (bonus: having shoulder seams makes it easier to figure out how to put it on). I found the DRIA cover measurements, and that helped me figure out a good size. The DRIA is a bit too off-the-shoulder for my taste, so I made my neck hole a bit smaller. I did end up with a bit of zig-zag along the inside shoulder seams at the neckline, so my inner perfectionist is not entirely satisfied. However, you can't see it from the outside, and I was considerably consoled when the binding I added around the neck worked perfectly! No hem around the bottom, since jersey doesn't ravel (and I think it drapes better without a hem).


A Few Construction Details:

As I mentioned, I used the DRIA's measurements as a guide, and mine ended up being the same basic length and width, with a 10" neckline (instead of 12"). The size seems good, but I guess I'll find out for sure in a few months! If it's too big (which I doubt), I can easily cut it down. If it's too small, I can buy some coordinating jersey at JoAnn's and turn it into a color block poncho! Which might be cute, anyway...

Focus, Shannon.

I was worried about sewing 4-way jersey without a stretch stitch (they didn't come standard on '57 Singers, apparently...), but using a very narrow zig-zag seemed to do the trick! This has upped my confidence in sewing knits considerably.

The front neckline is a little lower than the back, since I don't like the feeling of being strangled! But both front and back have a very mild curve, giving the poncho a boatneck look.

If I ever make another one, I'll probably do the two-pieces-sewn-at-the-shoulders to start with, rather than trying to cut a perfect hole in the middle. I like having french seams at the shoulders, since they look so tidy. But with knit, it's not really necessary.

The neckline is bound with a 2" strip of jersey that I'd cut off the side. I sewed it right-sides-together to the poncho, then folded it over to the inside and pinned. I then sewed it down (from the right side) with a narrow zig-zag. The stitching caught the edge of the binding, giving an unanticipated but very welcome decorative finish to the binding edge. After that, I trimmed the knit about 1/4" from the stitching on the inside. It curls a bit, but you don't see it when the poncho is being worn. Oh, and the binding seam is at the center back of the poncho, making it easier to tell front from back. The neckline is still stretchy, and it looks a bit more professional than leaving a raw edge at the neck.

So there it is! One more project checked off my sewing-for-baby list (which is finally dwindling). Unfortunately, this has done nothing to lessen my impatience for this little one to come. But maybe in the meantime I can tackle one of those other still-unfinished projects...


12 comments:

  1. Even your nursing cover is lovely!!!!!! My you sew so well- I am just beginning to sew as an 18 year old homeschooler. I "met" you through your blog a few months ago- my mother and sister love to look at all your sewing projects and I am so happy to hear that your second little blessing will be born soon!!!! God Bless you and your family and thank you for your archived blog posts!!!! Your Sister in Christ- Faith.

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  2. Hi Shannon,

    http://refashionmama.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/refashion-tank-top-to-nursing-tank/

    I saw this tutorial that shows how to make a nursing cami that attches to your bra and thought you might like it too. If you don't find camis/tanks at a thrift store, another blogger said the store Forever 21 sells lots of colors for $3. Best wishes for a wonderful pregnancy and birth!

    Jenny Stallings

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  3. Faith, thank you for your kind words! I am so glad to hear that you've started sewing -- it's such a rewarding and (usually) delightful hobby!

    Jenny, thanks so much for the link to the nursing cami tutorial; what a fantastic idea! I've been mulling over ideas for some (the store-bought ones are just way too expensive!), and I think I'll have to give that a try.

    Blessings,
    Shannon

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  4. I love your nursing poncho!! I have one of those aprons...it worked okay when Juanito was little, but now he's so squirmy that I prefer to go into a separate room, even around my siblings and mom... I have a poncho that I think I'll try for a temporary fix, but I think I'll try my hand at your style come Christmas break! Thanks for posting! ~ Hannah H.

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  5. Hannah,

    I did the same thing with Little Man once we passed the "every nursing session lasts 40 minutes" point. :-) It was easier to find another room for 5-10 minutes than to struggle with that cover! Hope the poncho works for you!

    Blessings,
    Shannon

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  6. Great job taking the sizing guide from the DRIA, nursing cover. I used the DRIA cover when I was nursing and loved its versatility. Does yours also work as a car seat and stroller cover?

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  7. Anne Marie -- yes, mine works quite well as a car seat and stroller cover! In fact, that's probably how I use it most. Next go around I think I'll try a more stylish knit.

    Blessings,
    Shannon

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  8. Do you have the exact measurements on your cover? I would like to make one

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    1. Yes, I do have the measurements ! I'm just about to retire it, as my baby is almost weaned, so your timing is perfect. :-) It measures 45 inches across from side to side; 28 inches from "hem" to shoulder seam (so 56" total from front to back); and the neckline is 9 1/2" wide and 3 1/2" deep.

      Keep in mind that my fabric is super stretchy, so that affects my measurements (especially for the neckline -- plus, since this was my second baby and I felt comfortable with nursing, I was not super concerned with having a good "view" during feedings).

      I may redesign it a bit if we're blessed with another baby -- for instance, I'd choose a lighter knit! But we'll see...

      Blessings,
      Shannon

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  9. Hello, I am looking to purchase a nursing poncho for my wife. Yours seem to fall different then the one I am closing to buying on etsy.

    http://etsy.com/shop/covermeponchos

    Yours come up in the front and are the only ones I have seen do so... is there an advantage to that?

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  10. Jered,

    Thanks for your comment!

    The only reason my poncho appears to come up in the front is because of the way it is cut -- my poncho is basically a square/rectangle with a neck hole in the center. When the corners of the square drape over the body, they form points which are "longer" than the front/back/sides of the poncho. Does that make sense? It's not really a functional difference, just a difference in design.

    Good luck with your shopping!

    Blessings,
    Shannon

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  11. Makes sense. Thanks Shannon!

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