I have been harbouring a tiny secret for a few months now, and I feel like I should share it with you at long last…

I am very excited to say that I am currently expecting my 2nd child, due in October this year. There are lots of exciting things about being pregnant, but making maternity-wear for myself is most definitely one of them. There are not however a huge number of maternity-wear patterns around (more now than there were a few years ago mind you) but I knew that Tilly and the Buttons had created a few recently, and included in that was the maternity hack for the Joni Dress (from the book “Stretch!”). With a friend’s wedding on the horizon, this was my first choice as my dress for the occasion.

As with all of the patterns included in the Tilly and the Buttons book “Stretch!” the patterns require drafting off before you can use them. As you can see they are all overlapping so if you were to just cut one out you’d find you no longer had some of the other patterns from the book.

Tracing off a pattern is super simple; you need a large piece of paper, a pencil and ideally some weights and a ruler. I also use a tracing wheel but this is optional. So the 2 ways of doing this are to either place the pattern under the paper and trace through the size you require for each of the pieces (this does require paper that enables you to see through it somewhat) or (my preferred method) place the pattern on top of the paper and use the tracing wheel to run around the size I want. The tracing wheel leaves lots of tiny holes/marks on the paper where it has been enabling you to then run a pencil around these marks to get the pattern. (Some people use carbon paper between the layers but I find this to be very messy). The weights are simply there to hold your paper still regardless of which method you use.

The maternity hack for this pattern is explained at the back of the book and involves simply lengthening the front skirt piece to give room for the bump. This is really simple to do and well explained. The other great thing about this is it means when I am no-longer pregnant I can simply straighten the hem off and the dress is still wearable… which is brilliant!

The Fabric I chose for this dress is absolutely stunning, and hard to really capture the essence of. It is a stretch lace (this dress requires a stretch fabric) and has a shimmer fibre used in the background sections of the pattern that create this really luminescent appearance. It is quite a heavy lace, but this actually gives it a beautiful drape to it.

Due to it being lace (and me not wanting to show the world my bra and knickers) I cut a 2nd layer of the bodice and skirt sections (the sleeves didn’t need it so are just the lace layer) using a lightweight Viscose Jersey Fabric.

Using 2 layers of fabric for this dress had a definite construction advantage when it came to finishing the bodice. The original instructions for this dress call for turning a hem on a small section at the front of the bodice (where the twist occurs) and then finishing the remaining neckline with either a narrow hem or binding. Having 2 layers of fabric meant that I was able to sew the front neckline and lower curve right sides together to neaten the whole section before making the twist. This has created a really neat finish, and would make me tempted to use a 2nd layer on the bodice in any stretch fabric I made this in, in the future.

Once the twist has been made in the bodice, the lower centre seam can then be sewn in a similar fashion of placing the pieces right sides together. This encases all the raw edges between the 2 layers and therefore looks really neat. (Make sure that you trim all these seam allowances down as you go – with a more open lace these may partially show so keeping them small will keep it looking smart from the front side)

Once the front bodice had been done, I then neatened the back neckline in the same way ready to sew the shoulders together.

As with all stretch garments the shoulders should always be stabilised with either a cotton tape or clear elastic when being sewn. This is because these seams hold the weight of the entire garment under them so you don’t want them stretching out of place. I will often use a strip of the selvedge of the fabric to do this job but with something as heavy as this, the clear elastic was going to be necessary to help stabilise them.

Once the shoulders are sewn together, the sleeves are inserted before the side and underarm seams are sewn up in one line. As you can see, I have sewn these seams on the overlocker, but if you don’t have one available using a straight stitch and then neatening with a zig-zag will work just as well.

With the bodice all together, I then made the 2 skirts separately before basting them together at the waist edge before attaching to the bodice. The reason I made 2 skirts rather than layering the fabrics and then sewing the side seams was as I like the underskirt to be slightly shorter than the overlay and this is far easier to do if they are completely separate hems. (I also think the skirt always moves more freely when made this way too)

As the skirts are attached to the bodice (making sure the longer piece for the maternity hack is definitely at the front) the clear elastic is used again to stabilise this seam as it takes the whole weight of the skirt. I stretched the elastic ever so slightly as I sewed as I wanted the waist to pull in nicely and this would ensure that it wasn’t baggy here at all.

At this stage I then tried it on and considered whether the lengthened piece needed to be shortened slightly based on how small/large the bump was at that stage. I then adjusted the length so it was how I wanted it before turning a hem on the skirts and the sleeves.

This dress looks complex (because of the twist) but is actually really simple to sew together and yet looks absolutely stunning.

I do however have to make one tiny confession… I made a rather catastrophic error whilst making this (which I am totally going to blame on baby brain) as I managed to cut all the pieces with the stretch on the lace going vertically instead of horizontally. I fortunately noticed this before attaching the bodice to the skirts and even more fortunately had enough fabric to re-cut the whole bodice out and re-make it with the stretch going in the right direction. I should have checked the direction the stretch was going in and I have no idea why on this occasion I didn’t… but it’s a lesson well learnt and has just goes to prove that you really should check twice and cut once.

I am truly thrilled with this dress, and think it’s going to look fabulous when I’m not pregnant too, as the way it hangs is just really flattering. The slightly empire-line seam means it will skim over all my wobbly bits… fabulous for a post-baby body of the future.