Disclaimer: Like most of my projects, this one was winged. I adapted it as I went, and did my best to document the process. Sometimes things change, and I don't have photos for every step. I'll do my best to describe in detail my process. I'm not positive on the actual size of the dress, but you can easily adapt it to make it a better fit. I'm guessing that compared to store bought dresses it would be somewhere around a size six. My bust (fullest part) measurement is about a 36, and my chest measurement a 32. We're working with knit here, so it stretches, and is quite forgiving. I'd venture to say that this is an intermediate level sewing project.
Like all of my free tutorials and patterns, this is for personal, non-commercial, use only. Buckle up, here we go.
This dress does not provide full nursing coverage, but does provide access to nurse. The jacket can be pulled up on one side, and dress section down, allowing mom and baby to nurse. A nursing cover or blanket can be used to provide more privacy.
First things first, you can find a printable pdf pattern here. Pattern pieces are for the bodice/jacket pieces. Measurements are included in the file for the skirt.
To make the dress you will need less than 3 yards of knit material. I started out with 3 yards (2.5 would probably do), and have a healthy amount left over, but my fabric was nearly 60" wide. If your yardage isn't as wide, I'd recommend purchasing 3 yards for sure.
My knit is a medium weight interlock knit with a good horizontal stretch. You will also need a small piece of fusible featherweight interfacing.
Begin by printing off and cutting out your pattern pieces. Once your pattern is assembled (sorry, no photos), you will want to cut out one back bodice piece of the fold, one fabric facing, one facing out of featherweight fusible interfacing, and four front bodice pieces. You will also want two sleeves cut on the fold. Instructions are included in the pattern for cutting out skirt pieces. If I were to make this dress again in my size, I'd reduce the width of the skirt band by about an inch, just so that it was a bit tighter. I'd also reduce the width of my skirt, by about three to four inches. I would have liked a bit less gather.
If you are adapting the pattern to a different size, I would recommend extending the tail end (narrow end) of the front bodice pieces a few inches. If you wanted you could even extend them out by a foot and a half or so to make ties on the back of the jacket, rather than fitting the band.
When adapting the skirt/dress portion I would recommend taking your chest (bra band), and bust (fullest area) measurements. I made my tube/band of the dress 4" smaller than my chest measurement, but as I would recommend at least 5" to keep the dress in place.
Transfer dart marking from the pattern to the jacket pieces. Dressmakers carbon transfer paper is my favorite way to do this,
Two of the front bodice pattern pieces will serving as lining pieces for your top. You will want to match up your front bodice and lining pieces. Two should face to the left, and the other to the right. Pin your front bodice pieces with right sides together along the bottom edge, and the upper curved edge. Use a 3/8" seam allowance, and stitch along the pinned edges (no image). The shoulder side, tail end, and just under the arm should be left open. Once the upper and lower seams are sewn, you can turn the bodice pieces right sides out, so that the sewn seams are encased in the dress pieces.
With front bodice pieces turned right side out, pin the exterior and lining layers together along the shoulder and side edges. Stay stitch using 1/4" seam allowances.
Begin by adhering your fusible interfacing to the wrong side of your facing. Follow manufacturers directions for this step. Next, if you have a serger, you can serge the outside edge of the facing, just to keep things tidy. Next, pin the right side of your facing to the right side of your back bodice piece. Pin along the upper curve (neckline). Using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Clip along the curved edge of the facing/interfacing seam. Turn the facing so that the interfacing is now facing the wrong side of the back bodice piece. Press the seam flat. Secure pieces together with pins, and stitch 1/8" away from raw edge of facing, and the top edge of the neckline. If you look closely at the bottom left photo, you can see the stitching lines along the lower edge of the facing, visible on the right side of the back bodice piece.
Using a long gathering stitch, stitch along the top edge of the front bodice pieces 1/4" away from the raw edge. Do NOT backstitch to begin/end stitching. Leave thread ends long for gathering. Pull on the bobbin (underside) thread, to gather the shoulder seam of the bodice. Using the back bodice piece as a guide, gather the front bodice piece enough that the front and back bodice pieces are equal width. I like to secure my gathers by tying simple knots on both ends of my stitching.
Pin the front bodice pieces to the back bodice piece, matching up shoulder seam edges, with right sides together. Use a 3/8" seam allowance to stitch the shoulder seams together, this should encase all gathering stitching. Press the seam allowance toward the back, and topstitch 1/8" away from shoulder seam, back bodice side of seam (see lower right image).
With shoulder seams secured, we are now going to hem the back bodice piece. This is a very small hem. If you have an overcast serger you will want to serge the raw edge of the back bodice piece. Turn the raw edge of the back bodice piece up 1/4" toward the wrong side of the fabric (at this point you will want to compare your front bodice pieces with your back bodice piece. Make sure that you press up your back bodice piece hem, so that your bodice pieces match up at the bottom, adjust the 1/4" hem allowance as necessary. Press hem. Pin hem allowance, with pins on right side of fabric. Stitch hem down, catching in both layers of fabric.
Now it's time to try on your bodice piece. Stand in front of a mirror, and have pins handy. Slip your arms through the arm holes, and wrap the two front bodice pieces around your body. We want a snug fit here, meet the two tail ends of the front bodice pieces at the center of your back. Pin the tails together, indicating where you want your tails to meet. Carefully slip the bodice off over your head, watching for those sneaky pins.
Stitch the tail ends together on the underside of the bodice. When the jacket is wrapped around the body, the tails become a bit twisted, this is how it's supposed to be. Trim any excess material from your tails. Serge raw edges. or press them outwards and stitch down.
Now it's time to make some darts. You should have transferred the dart markings to the wrong side of your fabric. If you did, you can match up the two dart markings at the bottom of the hem, fold the fabric so that the wrong side of the bodice fabric is facing out, and you the right side of the fabric is folded onto itself. Pin the dart in place. If you've sewn a dart before then this should make sense. If you are new to darts then I apologize, but here is a really helpful video tutorial. This was one step that was unexpected, and under documented. The upper right photo shows what the finished dart looks like.
Carefully slip the bodice back on, and see if you need to adjust the darts (careful not to prick yourself). You will want to jacket to lie flat on your back, rather than stick out away from your body. Use the dart markings as a guide, and adjust as necessary. If the jacket is too loose, you will want to increase the amount of fabric included in your dart. If the jacket is too tight, take a bit out. When you are confident in the fit of the jacket with the darts, you will want to stitch them, once again, this video is an excellent resource. Start at the bottom hem of the jacket, and stitch from the hem to the point at the end of the dart. Leave threads long, and do not backstitch. Tie a knot at the end of the dart with the long threads (lower left image). Press the darts toward the center of the bodice. Tack the darts down by stitching along the hem line, where the dart fabric lies.
Here's a look at the darts on the outside of my jacket piece.
Time to sew the sleeves. Begin by turning up the hem of both sleeves. A 3/4" hem allowance is included. Press the hem. Pin the hem in place (on the outside of the sleeve). Stitch the hem, by sewing 5/8" from the bottom of the hem on the outside of the sleeve.
We are now going to create the sleeve by meeting up the sides of the sleeve with right sides together (lower left). Stitch with a 3/8" seam allowance. Serge the seam or press it open. Turn sleeves right sides out.
Now we're going to set in the sleeves. Turn the bodice piece inside out. With the sleeves right side out, insert the sleeves into the arm opening.
Meet up the seam of the sleeve with the side seam of the bodice pieces. Pin in place. Pin the rest of the sleeve in place, distributing material evenly. Stitch around the sleeve using a 3/8" seam allowance (not shown). Repeat with remaining sleeve.
Here's a look at what the bodice piece looks like when laid out and finished. When you go to put it on, simply adjust the pieces in the front so that they are lapped, and so that the strap is centered in the back. Slip on over head.
The skirt is fairly simple. Start with the two smaller rectangles. Place them right sides together, and pin along the edges. Sew the side seams, and press the seam open. Next fold the band in half, encasing the side seams. Try on the tube around your chest, make sure that it will stay in place on its own. Adjust if necessary. Stay stitch the two layers of the band together 1/4" from the raw edges.
For the skirt, place the two large rectangles with right sides together. Pin along sides. Stitch side seams with 3/8" seam allowance. Finish seam by serging or pressing seam open.
Use a long gathering stitch, and sew along both panels of the skirt, 1/4" from the raw edges. Pull the bobbin thread and gather the skirt. With the skirt right side out, pin the skirt to the band, matching up raw edges (bottom left). The band should be on the outside of the skirt, with the fold facing down toward the hem of the skirt. Use a 3/8" seam allowance to stitch the band and the skirt together. Finish raw edges, and press seam down. You can now hem the skirt to your liking (not pictured).
That's it. All done. Let me know if you have questions. I know that there are a few gaps in the photos. This is probably an intermediate level project, but if you need to practice your gathering stitches or darts, this is a good time to do it.