Grainline Willow Tank

feeding/nursing top hack

As comfy as jersey is to wear – especially during pregnancy and afterwards – I’ve got to admit I am getting a little bit fed up with wearing it all the time. Wearing (and sewing!) with woven fabric is defiantly more my kinda thing and I’ve really been missing it.

The spanner in the works is that what I wear needs to be compatible with feeding the baby. I’ve found there is two main categories clothes can fall into in this circumstance. First one is buttons or poppers, the latter being soooo much easier – especially when the baby is freaking out hungry. The second is something that is baggy or stretchy enough to be pulled up.

Both represent a bit of an issue for me. With buttons/poppers, it means that I end up feeling quite exposed over the chest area when out and about so I usually have to wear a loose scarf or try and keep a few of the top buttons closed.

For the pull up situation, I need to wear one of those nursing vest tops underneath otherwise the post partum belly is on show - gah!

So to avoid having to layer up and just worry about wearing one piece of clothing, I’ve come up my own hack for the Grainline Willow Tank that means I can pull up but still have the belly covered.

Hi bra! Awkward photo alert!

The Willow is a really lovely simple a-line sleeveless top with a deep hem. The only shaping is two bust darts and it’s designed to be loose enough to just pull over your head with no zips or fastenings.

The hack is actually pretty simple. It’s just a lined version but the lining has spaces cut out for boobs and the outer layer has a centre pleat. So, when you lift the top layer up, its easy access to unclip your bra, and the lining keeps your tummy covered up.

I made two versions, both with woven fabric but very different kinds. My blue version is a really lightweight floaty viscose and lined in the same fabric. I used 1.4m of fabric for this one. As the fabric is wide I was able to fold the selvages in towards each other and get a front bodice side by side.

The pale pink version is a double gauze on the front with crochet style lace on the back lined with dobby spot cotton lawn. I would recommend 70cm of the double gauze and crochet style lace and 70cm of the dobby spot. Again, as the dobby spot is wide I could get the lining front and back bodice side by side on the fabric.

Here are the simple steps I took to adapt the pattern.

Step 1 Trace the front bodice onto pattern paper

Step 2 Fold out the dart

There won’t be a dart in the lining as that whole area will be cut away so there is no need for any shaping. Fold the paper so that the edges of dart line up and tape in place.

Step 3 Mark the curve on the front bodice lining

Now we are going to mark out the shape for the lining section. I did this by marking 3 points and free handing a curve between them. One 2.5 inches from the fold line, one 1 inch below the point of the dart and one 3 inches around the arm hole curve. Then freehand draw a curve between them or use a dressmakers curve.

Step 4 Cut out the fabric

Using the original pattern cut out the front and back bodice. For my crochet style lace version, I cut the back bodice from that fabric, making sure there was a line of flowers down the centre fold.

When you cut out the outer front bodice, place the pattern 1 inch from the fold in the fabric and mark the fabric with a snip where the edge of the paper pattern is and where the centre point of the fabric is. This will help you fold the pleat into place later. The reason for the pleat is to make the outer layer a little wider and therefore easier to pull up to feed.

From the lining fabric cut another back bodice and your adapted lining front bodice but this time place the pattern paper right onto the fold of the fabric as there is no pleat in the lining. You may want to use the same fabric for both lining and outer front bodice sections so that when you lift the top up to feed you still see the same fabric.

Step 5 Hem the curve of the lining front bodice

This is the shape your front bodice lining will be.

I overlocked then pressed over the curved edge and top stitched for the lace top. If you don’t have an overlocker then make small snips into the curve and fold and press twice over to hide the raw edges, then top stitch. That was what I did for the blue viscose version but I found the fabric fine and pliable enough not to snip into it. As long as your turnings are very narrow you should be ok but if the fabric is puckering or not lying flat then you'll need to snip.

Step 6 Sew the pleat into place on the main front bodice

With right sides of the fabric facing, sew a line of basting stitches 1 inch away from the fold in the fabric about 2 inches down.

Then open out the fold that’s been created so that the centre snip lies over the stitching you have just done and press in place.

Then sew another line of basting stitches close to the edge of the fabric to hold the pleat in place.

Step 7 Sew the side seams

For the outer section, sew in the dart and sew the side seams only.

For the lining, sew the side seams - remember there isn't a shoulder section of the lining front bodice.

Step 8 Sew the shoulder seams

When you sew the shoulder seams of the outer top, you need to catch the back bodice lining in the seam too.

Layer the pieces up in this order; the right side of the lining back bodice facing the wrong side of the outer back bodice, then the right side of outer front bodice facing the right side of the outer back bodice. (Remember there is no shoulder seam section on the front bodice lining).

Step 9 Attach the bias binding to the neckline and armholes

When you sew the binding on, treat the lining and outer layers as one. At the centre front neckline, line up the centre point notches of the outer and lining to make sure the lining is centred correctly and baste together really close to the edge of the fabric (once the binding has been sewn on it should hide the basting stitches and save you having to remove them).

Do the same at the arm holes, basting the lining and outer fabrics together so you can treat it as one layer when applying the binding.

For my blue top I used a nice satin finish bias binding and left it on show at the neck line. For the crochet lace version I folded it to the inside at the neckline and armholes.

Step 10 Hemming

Following the instructions on the pattern, hem the lining and outer top separately. You may want to make the lining a fraction shorter so that it doesn’t risk hanging below the outer top.

The hem line on the lace version is much shorter as I didn't have enough of the gauze fabric (I only had 60cm). For the blue version I used to full hem allowance that is built into the pattern. It's quite a deep hem - which I love - and it works really well for viscose fabric especially as the extra weight will help the garment to hang nicely.

I'm so pleased with both versions and have worn them loads over the summer and know I will continue to as the weather gets cooler as I can just pop a cardy on over them. I love the contrast of the lace but the only down side is that the layers of fabric do stick to each other which can make lifting the outer layer up to feed requires a bit of giggling to get the lining to stay down. Whereas, the blue viscose fabric just slips up really easily and doesn't get stuck at all.

I hope you've found that useful? Even if you don't need the feeding adaption the Willow is still a great basic pattern to have and the little pleat at the front is a nice addition and the double layer with the lace or a nice embroidered cotton works well too.

Image credit to Victoria Beddoes Photography

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