Monday, February 18, 2013

Silver Linings and Nursing Tank Tops

I previously wrote about the car accident I was in recently and how my clothes were cut off in the ER. This experience shook me up and I needed to find a way to cope with the anxiety and memory of what happened. I needed to find my silver lining.

First, you'll need to understand exactly how much damage was done to these clothes. They weren't simply sliced in straight lines or in just one or two places. They were mangled. Very, very mangled. The photo to the left is what was left of my fairly expensive maternity jeans - one of the only two pairs I have owned for this pregnancy. With so little time left in the pregnancy, I couldn't justify spending the money to replace them.

 In addition to the loss of the jeans, there was the loss of my only maternity/nursing bra. I've saved myself a tiny bit of dignity in choosing to include only this photo of the wreckage of the bra. While I would have loved to have figured out a way to save it or repurpose the materials left over, it just wasn't possible.

 The next two photographs show exactly what was left of my camisole. It was rather lucky that I had insisted on removing my 2012 Sundance Volunteers Jacket in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. This jacket would have been impossible to replace 
and was spared (along 
with the sweater top I had been 
wearing over the camisole 
- also removed in the ambulance).

The underwear I wore was cut up into such small pieces that the pieces never even made it home. Thus ends my explanation of why I found the destruction of these clothing items so mentally scarring. This leads us to the big question:

What could I possibly do to carve out my own silver lining here and cope with the stress and anxiety caused by having my clothing cut off? 

It's simple: Salvage what you can, re-purpose what you can't salvage, and learn to accept what you can't re-purpose. I started by acknowledging that the bra was done. It would need to be replaced. I squished myself into a pre-preg bra and (with my loving mother's help) waddled into the nearest maternity shop to buy another maternity & nursing bra.

 I accepted that I couldn't salvage my maternity jeans - but I could re-purpose that denim. 

I cut out the back pockets and set them aside for future use in some kind of quiet time or busy book. 


After that, I made 5" x 5" and 4" x 4" Quilt Block templates. I also built templates for "pee pee tee pees" and nursing pads. 

I cut out pieces of denim for the tipis and the quilt blocks. 

 Turning my attention to my camisole, I realized that there was a slim chance that I could salvage it. I laid it out and cut off the back portion of the straps. 

 I intentionally left the stubs of the straps intact in the front of the camisole. 


  If the cami had fit this far into my pregnancy, I had to assume that it would have been stretched to much too large a size for it to have been worn after pregnancy. This meant I could remove some of the fabric without making the top too small.
I trimmed off the rough edges where the top had been cut in the emergency room. 

 I discarded the scraps and laid out the top so that I could see exactly how much had been removed from the side that was cut all the way through.

I did this by setting the cami out on the intact side and folding it inward, using the back tag and the front strap-stubs as guidelines.

After identifying how much fabric had been removed from the opposite side, I used my rotary cutter to remove the same amount of fabric from the remaining side. 

I then set about using my serger to reassemble the sides of the top. 

In order to do this, I placed the two pieces together with the outsides facing one another and stitched down the sides that had been cut. 

The straps would have to be sewn by hand. 

I folded the front stubs leftover from the straps into a loop and handstitched them together. Below is a photo of how the inside of the tank should look after the loop is sewn shut.

The loop should look like THIS: 
 ...from the front when it's finished.

All that was left was to put it on like a tube top and pop those little loops over each side of any nursing bra. 

I wasn't sure it would work, but it did! 


And just like that, I salvaged my horribly "destroyed" camisole into a flexible nursing tank top that will fit much better than the camisole would have after my delivery

 I had been concerned that the back would hang poorly, 
but because I had taken the whole thing in on the sides, 
it doesn't have enough slack to, well, slack.

I washed it thoroughly to make sure that all of the stitching was strong enough to last. Everything held together fine. 

Considering that I originally paid about $18 for this top 
(that was years ago)  
and a good nursing tank top can cost around $30,
I feel really good about this project.   

All in all, I do feel that taking a negative experience and working to come up with a positive solution has helped me to move forward from the car accident. I'm still shaky in cars and it's probably a good thing that I've been instructed not to drive until after I deliver because I'm just too shaky to do it right now, but I'm okay. I don't harbor any ill-will against the driver that hit me. I'm still having some difficulty with trying to think positively about the trauma team that ignored my pleas, but I think that will improve with time. The nursing tank project turned out well enough that I think I may actually adapt more of my camisoles the same way. It's certainly cheaper than running out to buy all new nursing tank tops. It also gives me a good post-nursing excuse to go shop for new camis that will fit my post-baby body shape better. 

If any part of the nursing tank tutorial didn't make sense to you, or if you simply have questions, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments section below! I do check and reply as often as possible to comments left on my blog.   


  1. I wish I were that crafty, this is a great idea!1

  2. Thanks, Amanda! I wish I were as crafty as my ambition seems to think I am. There's a very good reason I didn't post the results of my pee-pee tipi, nursing pad, & quilt block attempts! lol - they turned out okay, but most definitely not a source of great pride. I'd say for every 5 projects I try, I finish 4 and really like the results of 2.

  3. This is wonderful! I'm all about taking the negative and turning it into a positive. I'm a little awe-inspired here. :-D Way to go!

  4. I am so sorry to hear about the accident. You are so strong to turn a negative experience into something positive. Your new nursing cami is so clever!

  5. You are so resourceful! Great DIY!

    Sorry you had that experience. Sounds terrifying.

  6. Thanks, ladies! It was a scary experience and definitely not my favorite day of 2013, but the advantage of having a history littered with bad days is that you learn to take charge of the ones you can overcome.

  7. this is such a fantastic idea!! But I would love to see the back of the does it stay up?

    1. I will see if I can get some photos up of the back of the camisole soon. For me, it stays up okay, but it does slip a bit. I've found that as I've lost some of the baby weight, the back has started slipping more. I'm sure if I was a bit less busy/lazy I could tighten it back up by serging the sides again, but I don't think it'll realistically happen. I did make additional nursing camisoles as I went along and I stuck with this same design. Each time, I've found myself using different fabrics and ending up with different results. My absolute best results have been from fabrics with a bit of stretch. I sew them a little tighter up at the top than I ordinarily would with 100% cotton. This allows them to hug a little tighter and avoid slipping.