If you have a t-shirt pattern that fits you in the chest and arms you can hack it into a variety of different maternity shirts pretty easily. In this blog post we’ll walk you through how to hack a pattern into a belly skimming swing maternity tee shirt.
Start by selecting a size on your shirt. As a rule of thumb, you’ll probably want to go up a size or two from your pre-pregnancy size, and/or if your shirt pattern has separate cup size options you may want to choose a larger cup size. Over the course of pregnancy you gain weight all over your body, not just your belly. The amount each woman gains, when during her pregnancy she gains it, and how that affects her size (especially cup size) is different for each woman and if this is your first pregnancy it can be hard to predict. Better to have your shirt be a little loose than uncomfortably tight during a time when all of you is uncomfortable to begin with! (You can see that this shirt is actually a bit snug by the way it pulls across Gillian’s upper chest. Oops!)
Next select your fabric. You’ll want to follow the fabric suggestions (most especially the stretch percentage) of your original shirt. Another way to ensure that it will be comfortable as you gain weight (other than going up in size) is to use a higher stretch percentage fabric so consider using fabric that’s even stretchier than that suggested by the pattern.
It’s up to you whether you want to add the extra volume to both front and back or just to the front. In this example we just added swing to the front. It makes for a maternity shirt that skims over the belly without a ton of volume all over because the back is still slim fitting. However, adding it just to the front does mean that it doesn’t work very well as a postpartum shirt because the extra volume only in front emphasizes the belly.
To make your shirt into a swing shirt, rotate the side seam so that it pivots from the underarm and adds width at the hem. You can do this by tracing your pattern except for the side seam, putting a pin at the underarm, and pivoting the whole pattern at the pin before drawing the side seam. Or you can trim the pattern just inside the side seam without cutting it off at the underarm and pivot. Connect the new side seam to the existing hem with a gentle curve. It’s up to you how much width you want to add – too little won’t accommodate a third trimester belly while too much distorts the shirt. In this example we swung the side seam out 7″.
A large belly takes up both length and width. You can see in the photos that Gillian’s shirt rides up a bit in the front. If you don’t want this you can add a few inches (3″ is a good place to start) to hem at the center front of your shirt and draw a new gently curved hem (keeping the side seam length the same). This makes the shirt unsuitable for postpartum but you can always re-hem it.
Of course if you don’t want to draft your own pattern, you can always buy the perfect pattern already ready for you in our shop! Browse all of our knit shirts or, if you’re specifically looking for a swing style we recommend:
Erin is one of the co-founders of Maternity Sewing. She also publishes patterns as Tuesday Stitches where she publishes patterns to help you play Every Day Dress Up, whoever you are. She believes in empowerment through sewing and encourages inclusivity, representation, self-love, and self-expression.