How to Sew: A Nursing Cover

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My friend Cara is the one who first started making these, but I thought this project would make a great gift for a friend who had just had a baby. I made my own pattern and instructions after watching Cara sew up a few of these for herself one night (about 2 years ago), but thought that maybe I should change the name. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with what she was calling them, but “Hooter Hider” might attract some unwanted attention to a sewing blog. Then again, forget it. It’s there now. Might as well go ahead and type out “boobs” too. I bet that 13-year-old Justin Beiber look-alike will never Google that again, out of pure disappointment. NO BOOBS FOR YOU!

I should probably stop eating all of this leftover holiday candy that gets me on sugar-filled nonsense stories about BOOBS and get to the part about sewing. Here’s what the nursing cover/Hooter Hider looks like:

Now it’s on a dress form because there was NO WAY I was going to model it. I’m not going to say that I didn’t put it on to make Rob really nervous about the thought of having babies, but I also feel Duncan wouldn’t have appreciated  being the baby model in this one. This works well for nursing because it has Velcro at the neck to make it adjustable, and a piece of boning in the front to make it curve away from the mother’s body so she can see what’s going on down there while nursing. It’s also long and wide so the construction workers across the street can’t stare at her business, and little kids don’t loudly ask, “WHAT ARE THOSE?” in front of everyone.

The supplies that you’ll need are simple:

  • 3/4 yard of 45″ wide quilting weight cotton
  • 1/2 yard of 1/4″ wide covered boning
  • Thread to match
  • 5 inches of 1/2″ or 3/4″ wide Velcro (either width is fine)

First, cut the selvedges off of your fabric, particularly if you haven’t pre-washed it. The selvedge shrinks differently than the rest of the fabric because of the weave that’s used for them, so the general rule is that you don’t use them in any part of any project.

Cut a 4″ wide section of fabric off of ONE end of the fabric that is 27″ wide (so an end that previously had the selvedge attached), and set it aside for later.

The next step of finishing the edges of your rectangle of fabric is optional, but it may help you to serge or otherwise finish your edges if you might leave this uncompleted for a while or have an issue with frequently reaching for your seam ripper. I do, however, want to go over how you can shave a few minutes off the time it takes you to serge a garment/fabric edge/what have you by chain serging.

Chain serging is kind of like chain piecing when you quilt. Buy constantly running another project side or piece of fabric thru the machine without stopping to clip the threads between them, you’re saving time. If you’re simply finishing your edges, run one side of your fabric thru the serger, staying on the left side of the blade so you don’t actually cut any fabric off. Leaving a long thread chain, push the thread under the foot with the next fabric edge. When you’re done serging, you will see small thread chain loops on each corner of your rectangle, which can simply be snipped off.

Now that your edges, are finished, you can turn them under and make them tidy. I sew my corners almost the same way that Purl Soho sews their napkin corners. It’s the easiest way to get sharp professional looking corners that aren’t bulky.

First, note that you’re only going to be finishing the two corners on your bottom edge, so pick one of the 45″ long (it’s probably more like 43 1/2″ without the selvedges) edges of your rectangle and mentally label it as the bottom. On one bottom corner, fold both the bottom and side in 3/8″, overlapping them, and iron it on a cotton setting. Unfold this and make a dot where the four folded lines intersect. Cut off the corner of your fabric at 45º, and re-fold the side and bottom together. The edges should touch, but not overlap. You can do this on both bottom corners, and continue folding and pressing your fabric 3/8″ from the edge up and down the sides and the bottom.

Now, fold the new corner in at 45º for 1/2″, and press. Fold each side in again, covering up the 1/2″ triangle and only folding it under enough so that it meets the tip of the triangle. Pin this in place, and continue to fold and press the three sides again. You should now have three sides ready to be sewn, with the top left free to make a casing for the boning. If you have an edgestitch foot with a guide, use this to sew the topstitching and secure the corners. Otherwise, I would recommend you use a straight stitch foot for better tension and control while sewing so close to the edge. These corners are very satisfying to sew, because they look so great when you’re done!

For the remaining long end, press it under by 3/8″, and then again 3/4″. Topstitch it the same distance from the edge as you did the bottom and sides, but don’t close the ends of your casing!  Fold the cover in half, marking the middle of the casing with a pin.

Measure out 8 7/8″ from this pin and make a mark. On that mark, sew your casing closed, simply by sewing and backstitching over it. The casing is sewn shut here so your boning has something to stop it from going in and out the other side. Also, the area the boning is will be squeezed into is just a tiny bit shorter than the length of the boning to encourage it to curve out. So, measure out 17 3/4″ from the mark you just sewed on, and that’s where the end of the boning will need to be once you insert it into the casing. Make sure you insert the boning so the curve will arch out, not in, and sew the other end of the casing by the boning closed.

Now find that 4″ strip of fabric that the cat has probably stolen, and cut it into two 2″ wide strips lengthwise. With right sides together, sew each individual strip closed lengthwise with 1/8″ seam allowance (do your best- 1/4″ SA will also work, but you’ll need to use the narrower Velcro later). Turn the two fabric tubes right side out using a Fast Turn set or a safety pin, and press them. Keep the seam towards one edge of the strap, rather than down the middle, and topstitch them on both sides.

Attach the straps on either side of the boning, being sure to fold under the raw edge on the end.

Now is when you make a design decision of either leaving the straps long so the recipient can tie them in a bow, or cut them off so they’re 12″ long and sew on the Velcro. If you opt for the latter, cut the straps off and then finish the ends by folding them under twice. Sew on the 5″ pieces of Velcro on 1/2″ from the strap end, while thinking about how the straps need to overlap to lay against the mother’s neck. I made sure to put the rough piece of Velcro on the bottom, with the softer loops on top, so if the pieces didn’t overlap exactly no one would be left with an itchy neck.

Make a couple of these in different unisex prints, and you’re set for the next neighborhood baby boom!

  • Beverly

    Amy, Thanks for taking the time to post this ——I have
    seen these and figured they would be simple to put together, but
    having all the measurements and info done for me means I might (
    just maybe!) whip a few of these up for the MULTITUDE of friends
    getting ready to have more babies!! Looks like a project I would
    actually finish at a Sew-cial night!! P.S. Loved the post on the
    new machine….sigh…my future dream…

    • I’m glad you’ll use the post! They are really easy to make- and so satisfying when you need a project you can start and finish in under an hour!

  • Kimberly

    I need help with the boning part despite your detailed instructions. Is it possible to describe or show with pictures how you insert the boning? I can never get mine to arch out as much as the BeBe AuLait. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

    • Hi Kim!

      After you make the casing on the top of the nursing cover, you will sew it shut 8 7/8 of an inch in from one end of said casing by topstitching it. This way your boning will have something to push against when you insert it, so that it doesn’t come out of the other side of the casing. Measuring from that now-sewn mark, measure over 17 3/4″ towards the other end of the casing and make a second mark, but don’t topstitch this closed yet. You will insert to boning from the end nearest to the 17 3/4″ mark, pushing it into the casing, until it rests against the area you just sewed closed at 8 7/8″. Push in the boning as much as you can so that you can topstitch the casing closed at the 17 3/4″ mark, without sewing into the actual boning. It may take a bit of pushing and pulling.

      Pushing the boning into an area that is shorter than the length of the boning will cause it to bend, which is what you want in this case. If you’ve inserted your boning and it’s not bending as much as you would like it to- bend it! Because to boning is plastic it is easily bent, and shouldn’t break. Sometimes it may help to bend your boning over a towel or tailor’s ham and apply lightpressure to it with an iron on a very low setting.

      If you need more help, I’ll sew another cover and take a picture for you. Let me know!

      • kimberly

        Thanks Amy!
        I think I got it! I was able to do as you suggested and also found that I wasn’t placing the neck straps at the right place either. I found when I made sure the neck strap is sewn at the edge of that casing, tying the neck straps helps to push it out also.

        Thanks! Fun!

        • Good! I’m glad to hear you figured it out! 🙂