Style Arc Mandy Maternity Top

When I found out that I was pregnant, I had no interest in sewing maternity clothes. Then I remembered that making my own t-shirts has ruined RTW tees for me. And then I bought my first terrible pair of maternity jeans (which required 20 minutes worth of alterations to simply stay on my body while I walked), and I figured the time spent sewing a few maternity items might be well worth it.

The sewing world is not overflowing with maternity patterns, which makes sense given that you are sewing to suit a relatively short period of time and given the lack of energy a lot of pregnant people experience. A lot of the available options seem to be skirts or dresses, which I don’t wear. The most widely reviewed patterns seem to be those from Megan Nielsen’s maternity pattern collection. But her patterns are a bit too feminine for my tastes and, more importantly, the size range is pretty limited and I’d be busting out of the top end of it.

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In the end, I decided to try the Style Arc Maternity Bundle, which comes with the Mandy Maternity Top, the Andy Maternity Pants, and the Maternity Bandeau pattern. These patterns are very much basic wardrobe staples and are available in sizes 4-30. I’m in the process of trying out the Andy Pants pattern, but I’ve made several of the Mandy Tees and I’m really happy that I gave the Style Arc bundle a try. As far as I can tell, the only way that you can get these patterns is to order printed copies through the Style Arc site—they don’t appear to be available via Etsy or Amazon, unlike other Style Arc options. Despite paying for international shipping from Australia, I found that buying printed copies of the patterns was really affordable (especially since they throw in the free pattern of the month when you order directly from them). With the bundle price and the free pattern, I ended up getting four patterns for just over $30 USD and received the patterns in less than three weeks time.

 

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

The Mandy Tee comes with options for long or short sleeves. I need these for warm weather, so I only made the short-sleeved version. The length on the sleeves is perfect for me, and I’m pleased with the shape and depth of the scoop neckline. I made all of my shirts out of Telio bamboo/Spandex jersey I ordered from Fabric.com.

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Honestly, the fabric alone makes sewing my own maternity tees totally worth it. The bamboo jersey is thicker and more opaque than every rayon jersey I’ve encountered while still feeling light and cool to wear—much cooler than a cotton-Spandex blend. Plus, it’s super soft but isn’t prone to pilling in the wash, which is perfect for shirts that I’m going to wear all the time given my limited wardrobe options.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

These tees are really easy to sew, even with Style Arc’s sparse instructions. You are basically just making a really long t-shirt and then gathering a portion of the side seams by sewing in a short length of elastic. To do this last step, I sewed the side seam on my regular machine rather than the serger and pressed the seam open. Then, starting toward the bottom of the shirt, I anchored the end of the elastic in place, stretched a small bit of the elastic out along the seam and sewed it in place with a zigzag stitch, and then repeated the process until I got to the end of the elastic.

I used ¼” elastic rather than the 1/8” elastic called for in the pattern simply because it was what I had on hand, but I think the slightly wider elastic was easier to control. The gathered part of the shirt looks pretty lumpy and gnarly when you first pull it off the machine, but it relaxes nicely with a healthy shot of steam.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

I was worried that the exposed elastic on the inside of the shirt would be irritating and that the visible zigzag stitching at the side seams would be ugly, but neither is the case. I don’t feel the elastic at all and the zigzag stitching is hardly visible since it gets lost in the gathering of the fabric. I actually have a few maternity tanks from Old Navy that have a serged side seam and then have been gathered at the sides with clear elastic sewn to the serged seam allowance. There’s no visible stitching on the outside of those tops like there is on these, but the side seam is much bulkier and the elastic can feel a bit irritating. So that’s all to say that I much prefer the finish of these tees.

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The downside of the printed Style Arc patterns is that they only come in one size, so you don’t have the option of grading between sizes. I just went ahead and ordered the size 16 for the t-shirt pattern based on my measurements at the time (I was nearing the end of my first trimester). I am usually pretty diligent about doing flat pattern measurements to figure out if I need extra width at the hips or at the bicep, and I usually consider doing at least a small FBA. But I completely forgot about all that business when I went to make this pattern up and just cut out a straight 16. Luckily, I’m pleased with the fit. The shirts are comfortable, they look good, and I feel like I have enough room to continue wearing these throughout the more ungainly stages of late pregnancy.

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Here’s hoping I have a similarly positive experience with the Andy Pants!

Blackwood Cardigan

I ended my post about my failed Jalie Dolman and failed Ottobre tee by making it sound as if my sewing life got infinitely more successful after those projects. But really, the next thing I sewed—a Blackwood cardigan—is likely destined for the thrift store. The difference between this project and the ones that feel like failures is that I embarked on this cardigan knowing there was a very good chance I would dislike the final product but I still enjoyed the process of making it.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

The thing is that while I wear my cardigans open the majority of the time, I really just don’t like the way that open-front cardigans look on me. My friend, Abby, and I have had many conversations about the problematic nature of the open-front cardigan. But while she has given them up entirely, I still keep stubbornly trying them out. The open-front cardigan is really just one of several things like ballet flats, pumpkin ales and crochet that I know are not for me, but that I still keep testing on the off chance that maybe I will finally like them.

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So when the Blackwood cardigan pattern was released, I immediately thought “open front cardigan—danger” and, at the same time, “that looks really lovely and I want to sew it up.” I happened to have 2 yards of this gray cotton/poly sweater knit that I had no plans for and decided to use it to try this pattern. I cut out View A, which is the long version with pockets. My bust measurement falls between the L and XL, but my waist and hip measurements are squarely in the XL range, so I just cut a straight XL.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

This was a lovely and satisfying pattern to sew. Everything goes together really easily and results in a really cozy, clean-looking finish. I particularly like the look of the fitted, but long and slouchy sleeves, and I love the detail of the pockets on the long version. To sew the pockets, I used stay-tape on the pocket edges and then used a fabric glue stick fix the pockets in place before top-stitching them. These steps made it very easy to sew the pockets and get a nice finish.

Blackwood Cardigan in Sweater Knit

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I have seen many, many versions of this cardigan on blogs and Instagram that look really effortless and comfortable on the people wearing them. My finished cardigan looks nicely sewn and very wearable. And yet, I will probably never wear this. It is still hanging in my closet but it’s very likely to end up in the next round of donated goods. I don’t really mind the way that it looks in these photos, but I don’t particularly like the feeling of wearing a long, open-front cardigan. (Oh yeah—in addition to disliking open-front cardigans, I also hate wearing any top layer that extends longer than my low hip, so this poor cardigan was doubly doomed.) Also, I finished this cardigan 6 or 7 weeks before I took these photos. At the time, I was still firmly in the “baby or burrito?” stage of pregnancy, and I had a really negative reaction to seeing this cardigan on my body–it just seemed to frame and highlight a part of my body I was feeling fairly self-conscious of. That doesn’t seem to bode well for this cardigan getting any more wear in the fall when I’m dealing with postpartum body fluctuations.

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However, I’m not disappointed by this project because I genuinely enjoyed the process of making it. After two frustrating projects, it was just nice to sew something that came together easily and looked nice at the end, even if I didn’t think that it actually looked nice on me. It reminded me that I am not terrible at sewing. Also, this fabric is not great, so I’m not broken up about having used it up. It has already started pilling and is one of those poly-blend sweater knits that wants to constantly stick to itself—very annoying.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

Lest you think this has finally put me off of the open-front cardigan, just know that I purchased the Jalie Helene pattern around the same time I bought the Blackwood pattern and am still planning to sew it up. I am a bit more optimistic about the Helene working out for me—it’s a little shorter in the body and has more fabric at the fronts, which I’m hoping will mean that I’ll feel more comfortable wearing it. I like at least having the option of pulling an open cardigan closed around me. We’ll see what happens…