In the first trimester, it can be tricky finding clothes that make you look pregnant rather than chubby. This in-between stage usually only lasts for a few months at most, so it seems a shame to spend a lot of money on shirts and tops. Here are some free patterns that will take you partway through pregnancy, and earn their keep again in the postpartum period.
Spring Ruffle Top
I’m currently sewing up a floral version of Rae’s Spring Ruffle Top. I love the pattern – it’s a cute, girly babydoll top that wasn’t originally designed for pregnancy, but the pleated front allows for some generous tummy expansion. Rae’s tutorial shows you how the cut the pattern pieces according to your own measurements. This top is definitely for warm weather, but I can see a winter version made without the shoulder ruffles and worn tunic-length over a black knit top.
Vani’s Peasant Blouse
This tutorial is not for the faint of heart. Seamstresses must construct their own custom-fit pattern using some maths, a ruler, and instructions like “From the point E draw a perpendicular E-N to the line G-F produced. Produce E-N to M such that N-M =E-N”. If you like pattern drafting, the resulting top is casual and flattering for early pregnancy.
Flowy Babydoll Top With Asymmetrical Hem
This top was designed by one of the talented members of the Craftster community. Again, the top was not specifically made for pregnancy, but the flowy fabric and asymmetrical hem make it perfect for the summer months. The tutorial describes how you can use a silk shawl to form the “skirt” portion of the top. This top is ideal for women who don’t like the cutesy pregnancy styles – it’s an unusual design that works well with bright, ethnic-style fabrics, or even chiffons for eveningwear.
Pregnancy Tube Tops
These tops are easy to sew, and work just as well with straps if you prefer. For a shirred top, the basic idea is to shirr the top 5 inches of a hemmed tube of fabric twice as wide as your chest measurement (all the way around). Altered Cloth has a tutorial for this kind of top, as well as an empire-waist tube top. If you prefer your necklines a little higher, cut shallow U-shaped arm divots at each underarm area and shorten the straps.
Making a Pregnancy Belly Band
The simplest way to make a belly band – a tube of fabric that covers your tummy, layers under too-short tops and disguises jeans held together with rubber bands – is to use a T-shirt that’s too small. Find one in a size that hugs your tummy and hips comfortably, and simply cut it off under the arms. The knit fabric won’t fray, so you don’t even have to hem the top unless you want to! This method won’t produce a belly band that lasts you the whole nine months, but it’ll be handy for the first few.
Finding Regular Sewing Patterns That Work For Maternity
Plenty of non-maternity styles work well for early maternity. If you have a pattern stash (or a similar-sized friend or relative who does!), search through it for trapeze tops (and dresses!), peasant tops, babydoll styles and anything with a blousey front. Avoid patterns that are tightly tailored around the bust – it’s not only the tummy that expands during pregnancy! Some wrap tops can be altered with a little pattern-adaptation knowhow; and a large variety of plain knit pullover tops can be pregnancy-fied simply by adding more width to the front panel under the bust and pleating or gathering it.