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).
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...
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...