Sunday 18 November 2018

Papercut Undercover sweatshirt - nursing hack

Let's talk about breastfeeding today. Unusual for a sewing blog, I know.

Motherhood has been very kind to me - I had a very positive, intervention-free water birth, and baby Freya has been one healthy and smiley baby.

The only big challenge that I've faced so far was the breastfeeding. Before Freya was born, I was told how breastfeeding is "the most natural thing",  how "babies will crawl up to your breast and if left on your tummy skin to skin after birth", and how "it shouldn't hurt", and at worst "it will be a learning curve for both of you". 

And what a learning curve it was! My initial experience did not feel natural, baby had no idea where to go and preferred her own shoulders to my boobs, and it was bloody painful. 

Despite attending 3 antenatal breastfeeding classes, no one had warned me about the stress about being solely responsible for baby's growth/weight gain in the early days, the pain from poor latch/engorgement/blocked ducts, and how much of my day would be taken up with a newborn baby attached (did you know that when they say, "feed every 2-3 hours", you are supposed to count that from the start of each feed, and each feed could take well over an hour especially in the early days?). 

Don't get me wrong, I get all the benefits of breastfeeding. I just would've preferred to be forewarned about the difficulty of it so that I could be better prepared mentally. The key, as I've learned, was patience, perseverance, and getting help whenever you can. I know that what I'm saying above will not be relevant for most of you right now (well done and thank you if you managed to read on and got to this point regardless)- but if you found this post via Google because you wanted to make some nursing tops in advance of the arrival of your baby, you've heard it from me - breastfeeding can feel quite unnatural and difficult to begin with, and that is perfectly normal. 

Papercut Undercover Sweatshirt raglan zip Nursing Hack

Right, back to the sewing! After persevering, and finally succeeding with breastfeeding, I wanted to give myself a pat on the back, and reward myself with a few homemade nursing tops. 

After seeing one of my friends in a nursing jumper with zips down the raglan sleeves, I was inspired to make one for myself, to see us through the colder months. The pattern that I chose was the Papercut Undercover hoodie, and I teamed it up with a very cosy multi-fleck sweatshirt fabric from Guthrie & Ghani, together with 8' exposed metal zips (although with hindsight, 9' zips would've worked even better).  

Papercut Undercover Sweatshirt raglan zip Nursing Hack
This is my first time using a Papercut pattern (although the Anima pants pattern has been in my stash for a while), and the first impression was great. I loved the packaging, and how robust the pattern and instructions felt (both pattern pieces are instructions are printed on a huge piece of brown recycled paper). Since I tend to trace out the pattern pieces for my sewing projects, I was very happy with this feature. 

One thing to note is that this pattern (and I understand, other Papercut patterns) come with a 1cm seam allowance. This was perfectly fine, though I had to keep reminding myself not to sew 1.5cm seams on autopilot. 

Papercut Undercover Sweatshirt raglan zip Nursing Hack
Here's how I've turned this pattern into a nursing top. It's not difficult, though as it turned out, this pattern was not ideal for this project, as the front Raglan seams are slightly curved. There are plenty of similar styled patterns out there, and the hack below should work for them, too. 
  1. Add 1cm seam allowance to the front sleeve seams, all 4 of them (2 on the front piece, and 2 on the sleeve pieces). This is to allow for an easy insertion of the zips later on. 
  2. Split the neck banding pattern piece into two, based on the ratio of the length of the front and back neckline. Add an inch or so to the length of both pieces. The banding should be shorter than the actual neckline length, so that it would lie flat when finished. 
  3. Interface these seams with strips of medium weight interfacing which extended slightly beyond the seamline. 
  4. Stablised the front neckline (the bit between the zips) with clear elastic. Colette has a very helpful tutorial here. 
  5.  Sew the sleeve back seams. 
  6. Attach the banding pieces to both front and back necklines. 
  7. Insert the zips to the front sleeve seams. The easiest way to do this would be to sew a centred zip, but I wanted to push myself and learn a new technique, so I added exposed zips here by following this tutorial
  8. Sew up the inside sleeves and side seams in one go. 
  9. Add cuffs and hem/band. 
  10. Tidy up the loose overlocker chains, and where the zip ends with the neckline bands with a bit of hand sewing. 

Papercut Undercover Sweatshirt raglan zip Nursing Hack
 And that's it! So simple, isn't it? 
Papercut Undercover Sweatshirt raglan zip Nursing Hack
I'm so pleased to have pulled off this project, (thank you Freya, for napping well, and thank you hubby for freeing me up in the weekends to sew!) and just love how cosy it is. It's had so much wear that I'm struggling to remember how I managed to feed Freya without it! I'm also confident that it will last me long past the breastfeeding days. A real winner, don't you think?  


  1. It’s good to hear more women openly discussing their experiences with childbirth and motherhood that’s outside of the “everything is perfect” norm.

    When my oldest was born I was certain I was going to nurse her. Except none of my classes helped. And not a single nurse could get her latched on. The lactation specialist couldn’t get her latched on. She was said and I was sad and my nipples were bleeding and I’m like, GIVE ME A BOTTLE!!! :) I got a home visit from a lactation specialist and she still could not get my daughter to latch on. So she was formula fed. 17 months later, my son was born, nursed him with zero issues.

    On the sewing front :) absolutely love your top. It looks so cuddly!!

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience! The thing is, all babies are different, so there really is no "one size fits all" for these little individuals!

  2. I agree with KS_Sews about your sharing your experience; I am sure it can be helpful to others. Though I am well past the age of bearing children, the zipper design is a great idea just fashion wise. I enjoyed reading your post after reading your review on PR.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Linda. I've been interested in trying out exposed zippers for quite some time, and am pleased that they've turned out quite nice looking and functional.


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