Remember this nursing bustier I linked to in this post? Of course you do. How do you forget a picture like that? Answer: you don’t. Nor will you forget this picture:
This is all kinds of crazy and amazing. The product is a hands-free organic cotton pumping bra, as modeled by Mother Nature. In my experience, corsets are not essential to pumping. Photo via PumpEase.
Anyhoo, I’m finished with my hands-free pumping bra, and I’m delighted to report that it works like a charm. But it didn’t always work like a charm.
I used a old sports bra (I’m a fan of the C9 line at Target) to make my pumping accessory. MVH actually suggested this when I started talking about the project. The foundation garment needed to be snug, and a sports bra fit the bill.
In my first pass at making a pumping bra, I cut holes about the size of the openings in the Medela bra and tried it on. The bra stretched so much that the breast shields slid out of the holes when I pumped more than three ounces into a bottle. No dice.

Adding interfacing to the holes. 

For my next step, I added fusible interfacing to sturdy up the holes and zig-zag stitched around them. I did this after I washed the bra and let it relax so that the holes were smaller. I figured stitching around the holes when they were smaller would “lock” their size.

I cut away the excess interfacing before ironing.

Well, “locking” the holes didn’t work. I’m not good (yet) at working with knits, and it’s really easy to stretch them with a sewing machine. In a perfect world, I would have a serger for sewing knits. (A perfect world being one in which I could justify the cost of another sewing machine and have room for one.) At the very least, I should have used my walking foot to allow the fabric to move more freely. Learn from my mistake!

My fix: a do over!

Somehow I needed to make the holes smaller. I didn’t have a solution until I saw this polka-dot pumping bra. Forget holes — reinforced slits were my ticket to secure, hands-free pumping.
I retrieved a polka-dot knit (serendipity?) from my fabric stash and sewed it to the back of the breast shield openings.

The inside of the pumping bra with the polka-dot patches.

Sewing the patches put an exclamation point on my troubles with knits. You can see in the above photo my unintentional “pleats” (where the fabric overlapped). This is a not a big deal for three reasons: these mistakes only are visible from the inside of the bra, and I’m not wearing this in public. Most important, though, I wanted to finish the bra ASAP.

One of the openings.

The final step was creating the slits, which I carefully cut with scissors and reinforced with a lot of backstitching. I actually had to make the slits a touch longer after I tried on the bra and found they were too short. (I worried about making another set of holes too large.) After some trial and error (and cursing and frustration), I found the correct length.

My dress form models the finished pumping bra. I’m too modest to show it off myself.
What did I learn from this exercise? I need practice, practice, practice with knits! If I want to sew any knit garment, you can bet that I won’t start with the real-deal fabric on my first pass. I’ll make a few prototypes (and lots of mistakes!) before I touch the final material. I also learned that I should have done more “shopping” for pumping bras. The slit design, in my opinion, is superior to the hole model because it will stretch less and hold the breast shields more securely. Plus, the slit design was easier to replicate than the holes.
You can see the final product is not perfect, and that’s OK. Like I said, no one is going to see me wear this. It just needs to work. And it does.

Over to you: do I have any experienced sewers of knits in the audience? Please! Give me tips! Does it just take lots of practice? Any good books/sites/blogs/videos for a novice to consume?