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Maternity sewing #2 - 70s style empire line ruffle sleeve easy top hack

Zeena Dress maternity top sewing pattern hack

Front view 1

And the search for vaguely flattering, comfortable and simple-to-sew maternity clothes continues on! True to disorganised form I've left it nice and late into my pregnancy to get started on this (37 weeks and counting yo)... But, I suspect I shall be bigger of belly, bum, hips, waist and thigh for some time to come, so I'm sure these outfits will carry on being worn in the first 6ish months after the little monster is born. 

For this top we simply used the scoop neck variation of our Zeena Dress PDF Sewing Pattern, cut it at empire line, added a gathered skirt from the bust and a circle skirt for the sleeve flounces. Easy peasy! 

Zeena Dress sewing pattern maternity top hack

Front view 2

Zeena Dress sewing pattern maternity top hack side view

Side view

Oooooh yes, and best of all, there are no fastenings...


Righty-ho! Let's get started. 

1.  Pick your size

Because we're really just using the bodice of this dress to just below your breasts, in order to pick your size just concentrate on your bust measurement as a guidance.
In order to make sure you can fit your head through your top - therefore avoiding the need for inserting a zip - and add flounces to the sleeves, I went for the short sleeved, scooped neck variation 2 bodice. 

Zeena Dress PDF Sewing Pattern - Variation 2

2. Adapting your pattern

The only thing to hack with this bodice is to simply chop off a bit of length, so we get that empire line effect. I did this by going up 4.5 in / 11.5cm from the waistline. FYI this left me with about 1.5 in / 3.8cm of bodice below my nipple, when the top was all finished. 

Zeena Dress Sewing Pattern maternity top DIY

3. Sewing up your empire line bodice 

Sew your Zeena Dress up as usual! The only difference being that of course we are not adding a zip, so just sew those back pieces together instead. You can of course subtract the seam allowance from your back piece and simply cut on the fold instead - just make sure you remember to do that with your back facing piece too then! 

We highly recommend understitching the facing too, to avoid it peeping out. 

Zeena Dress maternity top neckline close up

4. Gather!

For some good gathers we recommend taking a piece of fabric that is at least 2 / 2.5 times as long as your finished bodice waistline measurement. 

I took two pieces to join at side seams so that there wasn't one gigantor piece of gathering to do and, so that the joins matched the bodice side seams. I first sewed the pieces together at the side seams and then gathered each section individually. 

There are a few ways to gather, here are links to three more traditional ways or this slightly zanier, quick technique using floss (yup, you read that right!). 

Once you have done all of your gathering, you simply need to pin and stitch it into place onto your bodice with the usual 5/8 in or 1.5cm seam allowance.

Zeena Dress Sewing Pattern - PDF Download from By Hand London

5. Giving those sleeves some 70s flounce 

Zeena Dress sewing pattern maternity top

Measure the circumference of your sewn up sleeve and use that as your 'waist' measurement on our Circle Skirt Calculator. I went for a half circle skirt FYI and just chose the 'mini' option, although of course my actual cut out sleeve flounce circle skirt length was only 7 in / 17.75cm. 

Circle Skirt Calculator - By Hand London

And then out should pop your cutting diagram complete with your all-important radius: 

Circle Skirt Calculator from By Hand London showing waist radius measurement

Now seam your sleeves together with the usual 5/8in or 1.5cm seam allowance.

And then, matching seams and with right sides together, pin into place at your raw sleeve edge and sew on with the usual 5/8in or 1.5cm seam allowance.

6. Finishing touches: Hemming 

Straight hem

Now that your gathers are attached to your empire line bodice, your top is almost complete! Just hem the bottom of your gathered section to hide that raw edge. If you need a little help, just scroll down to the bottom of our Anna Dress Sewalong post for three ways to hem a straight hem

Zeena Dress maternity Top straight hem

Curved hem 

As your sleeves are effectively teeny tiny little circle skirts, these babies require the slightly different curved hem techniques

Zeena Dress maternity top curved sleeve hem

And now you're all DONE! Hopefully it should look a little something like this: 

Zeena Dress finished maternity top pattern hack

As ever, if you end up making this hack do please share with us on instagram! Just tag us with @byhandlondon or #byhandlondon so we can find ya. 

If you've tackled this Zeena hack and are on the lookout for another easy peasy maternity top, why not check out our Anna Dress maternity top hack as well :)





Comments on this post (1)

  • Apr 15, 2017

    You are looking so fabulous for being this far along and the top and fabric choice are perfection.

    All the best for the birth of your little baby! :)

    — Julia

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