I’m a huge fan of babywearing in general, but in the winter, it’s going to be the main way we get around. We don’t have a car and so right now, we bus and walk every where. If you know anything about Ottawa winters, you know that they can be brutally cold for extended periods and can yield massive dumps of snow all at once. This poses particular problems for stroller-pushing families – no amount of bundling is going to be enough for an infant when we need to get across town in -35C for a mandatory doctor’s appointment, nor will I be able to push a stroller (even our huge-wheeled Bob) down un-ploughed sidewalks after we’ve gotten 40 cm of snow over night. A baby-wearing jacket insert is a necessity. I also realized that I may be pregnant again in the winter and the thought of wearing the awful, terrible, stupid maternity coat I wore last time makes me shudder, so I made the insert reversible so I can accommodate my baby bump warmly and in style next time.
I blogged last week about my new favourite jacket, the Kelly Anorak, and this week I’m going to walk you through making a babywearing insert so you and your wee one can stay super cozy in gross weather. This tutorial absolutely works for any RTW or me-made jacket.
For this maternity/babywearing insert, you will need:
- a metre each of fabric and lining (more if your coat is longer). If you are making an insert for a RTW coat, I recommend getting an outer shell that is wind and waterproof (like cordura or core-tex) and then something thick and soft for the lining (fleece, flannel) and maybe even interlining it with some kind of thinsulate coat lining.
- 1.25m elastic cord
- Two cord stops and ends
- Pliers and wire cutters
- Grommets (optional, but totally recommended!)
- Two zippers as long as, or longer than, your coat zipper. Make sure they zip together.
Start by cutting out your fabric and lining for the insert. In these pictures, the curve is fairly steep and I trimmed it down later. You can also forego a curve all together (better for wovens or stiffer fabrics), especially if you are adding drawstrings. The insert should be as long as your coat opening, plus seam allowance (I used 5/8 of an inch). Put your baby on to measure (or estimate) where her bum will sit. This is where your insert will curve from the widest part to the narrowest. If you are wearing a little baby (three months or littler), take into consideration that your babe will sit lower once she is longer. For a size 16 Kelly Anorak, mine was 29 inches long. The widest part measured 17 1/2 inches and the narrowest was 6 1/2 inches.
You will also need two long strips of fabric to act as little mini plackets to separate the two zippers. They will be as long as your insert (mine were 29 inches) and 2 inches wide.
You will notice that the widest part is curved. This is important to accommodate the extra bulk of a baby or belly. Without this curve, your maternity insert will appear to rise up at the middle of the hem. I also marked where the second drawstring will be at the middle of the curve.
Next, zip your zipper to your coat one at a time and mark where it should end. If your zipper is the same length, skip the next steps. If not, I’ll show you how to cut your zipper to the right length.
Using the wire cutters, snip the teeth on either side of the zipper where you marked in the previous step. Once you have cut through it somewhat, you should be able to pull off the teeth. Repeat until you have at least a half inch of naked zipper tape. If you have the time and patience, I suggest giving yourself an inch of toothless zipper to make your life easier later.
Cut the zipper tape so that you have a good half to full inch of nude zipper tape. I sealed mine with Fray Check to make sure that any bit I nipped with the wire cutters stays put. Do this for both zippers.
Next, fold up the seam allowance on the tops and bottoms of the insert fabric and lining. Then, measure the seam allowance from the side and mark where your buttonhole or grommet will go. If you want a good tutorial on installing a grommet, check out the Closet Case Patterns Kelly Anorak sew-along. You will have one opening at the top corner of the widest end (left or right is up to you, it will be the opposite when you flip it anyway) and another on the same side a the mid-point of the curve.
The next part is the most confusing. I pinned things wrong a couple times and ended up doing some parts wrong and needed to unpick more than once. I suggest checking, then double and triple checking at several points to avoid headaches. Since your zipper doesn’t have a stop at the top, avoid zipping the pull close to the end you cut. If you zip the pull right off, it’s not impossible to get back on, but you want to avoid it if you can.
Fold your strips in half lengthwise and press, then open it back up and lay flat. Pin one zipper to the edge of one strip with two or three pins. Take the other half of that zipper and pin it in the same fashion to the other strip then pin in the same fashion. Zip them to your coat to figure out which side goes where. Take them off and lay them side by side as if they were still on the coat. This is where things get a little hairy.
Note on which side the pull lives. Grab both strips as if they are one unit and rotate 180 degrees (so that they are upside down. If it helps, pin them to he fabric to visualize how they will look on the insert. Open your second zipper, taking the side with the pull and pin it to the free edge of the strip on that side (ie. if the pull was on the right side before you rotated the strips, this pull will also be on the right side.) Pin the other side to the other strip. You should have a pull on each strip and each strip should have two zippers running in opposite directions.
Mark the 5/8 seam allowance from each end. Repeat for all ends.
This time you are pinning your zipper for real. On each end, move the cut end of the zipper past the mark for your seam allowance. This means that when we sew the ends at 5/8, this raw edge will get caught in the seam. Move then un-cut end down so that it is 1/4 inch or more below the seam allowance. You don’t want this end caught in the seam and you need to give yourself enough clearance to the your presser food past it without running into metal. You may want to re-check that all of your zipper directions make sense by zipping to your coat.
Sew all of those zippers to those strips with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.. Fold the strips in half lengthwise along the line previously folded and pressed with right sides together. Pin together and sew the end along the line we marked. Trim excess fabric, turn it right side out, using a corner turner to get a nice crisp point and press nice and flat.
Fold the strips lengthwise along the lines we previously pressed. You should have two zippers on each strip separated by a half-inch fold of fabric. Zip both strips to the coat using the outside zippers (this means that when you zip them on, you won’t see a second zipper. The second zipper is hidden by our mini placket.) Unzip and transfer to your insert fabric, being careful to not mix them up or switch the direction. Pin the strips to each side, making sure that they start and end before the seam allowance we pressed earlier. You want to make sure that the zippers will not get caught in this seam later.
Sew at 1/4 inch. Check that all of the zippers are going in the directions you want. Zip it up as if for babywearing. Unzip it, rotate (don’t flip) 180 degrees and zip it up as if for maternity, using the other pair of zippers. After this point, if you’ve got your zippers in wrong, it will be a royal pain to fix, so be very sure everything it is in the right spot.
Pin the lining on top with right sides together, sandwiching the zipper in between. This time, you want to sew closer to the zipper teeth than your previous 1/4 inch. This ensures that we can’t see all of the other seams we’ve already sewn.
Next, pin and sew the lining to the fabric along the 5/8 inch seam allowance we pressed earlier.
Now we will attach the elastic cord. Cut the cord so that your two pieces are as long as the width of the babywearing insert plus an extra 6 inches. Starting with the long, top edge, stitch the edge of one length elastic cord to the seam allowance on the side opposite the grommet or button hole opening. Make sure you run over that sucker multiple times because if it lets go inside it’s going to be tough to fix. Push the free end through the opening so that it is between the fabric and lining and will be on the outside when we turn the insert right side out. Repeat for the other opening.
Turn the insert right side out. Slipping your hand inside the insert, push the elastic cord as close to the end as possible. Starting with the top drawstring, top stitch the fabric and lining together at 5/8 of an inch to create a casing for the elastic cord. Go slow and make sure that you aren’t catching the elastic in the seam. Once done, check that the elastic didn’t get sewn when you top stitched.
For the second drawstring, you will need to topstitch two lines to create a casing. Using a quilting square or ruler, mark the top line of stitching. It should go just above the button hole or grommet. I used masking tape to mark this as I find my chalk pen doesn’t rub off this canvas as easily as I’d like. Sew along this line, making sure that the elastic cord is below it and not getting caught in the stitching. Next, mark a parallel line just below the grommet or button hole and sew, making sure the elastic cord is above this line of stitching and does not get caught. This should create a casing with the elastic cord laying between the two seams.
Pin together the fabric and lining at the bottom along the lines we pressed what seems like ages ago. Sew as close as possible to the edge.
To make everything look nice and match-y. top stitch at 5/8 of an inch. I also recommend topstitching the zippers, starting and stopping around the button holes or grommets to make sure you don’t accidentally sew over the elastic cord.
To finish everything off, string your cord stops and ends onto the elastic.
Zip into your coat, strap on a baby, and enjoy! Stay tuned for a quick how-to on making a neck warmer to keep your clavicle toasty while wearing baby.