An easy tube access alteration for “t-shirt” type of fabric clothing

For  a week or so, this latest adapting clothing page will be the homepage of Tube Chic, rather than my latest post.  After it disappears from the landing page, you will be able to find in the top of page menu bar, as a subheading  of  the “Adapting Existing Clothing” tab.

An easy tube access alteration for “t-shirt” type of fabric clothing

The thing about altering existing clothing, rather than making something from scratch with the tube access design already incorporated, is that on one hand, it has the potential to be so simple, because the shirt or dress, or what have you, is already constructed.  You already know how it fits, and most likely you like wearing it, or you wouldn’t be considering altering it in the first place.  But, on the other hand, if things don’t go as planned, a perfectly good piece of clothing  can potentially be ruined and made unwearable.

One of the biggest challenges is finding extra fabric from somewhere in that garment to use for a flap or to finish an edge.  Sometimes there’s material in the hem, and that will give you a good length to work with, although it will be narrow.  Some of the alterations I’ve already demonstrated on Tube Chic have used ‘found’ fabric from the actual piece of clothing I was using to alter.

I wanted to see if I could adapt something with no extra fabric taken from the piece that I was making tube accessible.  I knew that if I used a knit that would not fray and ravel, and, if I could find a way to make the edges of the opening abut exactly, so as to be pretty much invisible, that this would open up more options for easy to do accessibility alterations.

The key  fabric characteristic, is it must be non fraying.  Plus, I think that either a very busy pattern, or a dark solid color also makes for a more discreet opening.

I use the bolus method for my meals.  If you, or the person you are altering the clothing for, use a pump for feeds, and thus stay connected most of the day, the parameters change a bit as far as what type, and how large of an opening is needed.  For bolus feeds, especially when you’re doing your own feeding, being able to see what you’re doing, and have an adequate opening during mealtime, are important considerations.  And,  I personally find a vertical opening preferable to a horizontal one. But, that is because it is me, looking down, and needing to have room to manoeuvre, and, of course wanting to avoid getting my meal on my clothes.

If you are interested in smaller access because you, or the one you sew for are pump fed, immediately below this paragraph  is a link to a sewer’s blog on adapting children’s clothing for g-tube access, and these types of openings would work well for right angle extension sets, or low profile dangler tubes.  Although the blog is geared toward children’s wear, it is certainly relevant for adults too.  One thing to keep in mind, is if a pump is being utilized, the opening for the tubing in clothing does not necessarily need to be directly over where the tube enters the body.  Even if you bolus feed and have a dangler type g-tube, you can get away from having the opening in clothing line up with where your tube sits. But, if you have a button type like I do, you know you have to be able to easily access it to connect an extension feed set each time you use it,

The rest of this article will focus on making an opening suitable for bolus feeding yourself.

Now, I love using KAM snaps, and many of the other alterations and adaptive wear  examples here on Tube Chic make use of either snaps or invisible zippers.  Hook and loop tape (aka Velcro)  I’m not so fond of, but, in this case, I felt it was the best choice.

The photos shown with these instructions are of a dress I have, but, it is applicable to any garment that is  made from a fabric that won’t fray easily.  So, it will work for both mens and women’s clothing.

This is the dress:

I originally considered just lengthening the placket, as it is a henley style opening, but I’ve not had good luck attempting this kind of thing in the past.

The fabric is 100% pima cotton knit (t-shirt type material).

These are the basic supplies:

The beige fabric is a from my fabric remnant stash.  It is thin interlock cotton, and will be used to cover the back side of one of the two strips of velcro.  (the hook and loop Velcro tape is the hot pink rolls seen next to the rotary cutter.)

I turned the dress inside out, and measured how long of an opening I wanted to make.

As my g-tube button sits a bit off-center on my upper abdomen, I decided to make the opening slightly off-center too (a decision I kind of regretted later).  The reasoning being if I could make the opening invisible enough, it would not matter, and I guess it really doesn’t, but, but if I could do it over, I would make it directly under where the dress placket ends, dead center of the garment.

If your tube is to one side, and you want the opening in the center of the garment,  you would  need to make a longer opening than I created in this project .  Or—more ideally, in my opinion—just place the opening over where you need it to be.

Next, I cut a length of hook and loop tape.  The side I sewed to the inside of the dress is the soft fuzzy side, because I didn’t want to chance having any of the scratchy side of tape rub against my skin.

I added a couple of straight pins to hold in place, and stitched with the sewing machine.  I used a decorative stitch, hoping it might blend in to the already busy fabric pattern better than a straight stitch would.

I covered the back side of the other half  hook and loop tape. using the scrap of beige cotton (shown in the second photo from top of this article).  I overlapped the fabric on one edge, so when the two pieces of tape were placed together, there would be a bit of an edge for my fingers to grab onto. This turned out to be a miscalculation, because the edge I would be grasping when I open for access,  is the other tape sewn to the inside of my dress (shown in photo above) . After everything else is done, this is the tape that will be sliced down the center.  

I cut the corners of the tape, rounding them slightly. so they couldn’t work their way through fabric and poke me when wearing the dress.


I then placed this half of the tape onto the other half that I’d previously sewn onto the inside of the dress.

I stitched along the side to attach, then trimmed off the excess fabric.

I was still a little concerned about the possibility of the hook and loop tape irritating my skin when wearing the dress. (I’m really just not a huge fan of this product when used for clothing that touches the body.) So, I sewed a strip of soft lace over the top and bottom of  the tape strips as extra comfort insurance.  And yeah, the lace edges don’t line up perfectly from one side to the other.  It was too late to help that.  It won’t show when the dress is being worn though.

Now it was time to create the opening:

I slipped a cutting mat inside the dress, so the rotary cutter would only cut through the front side of the dress.

Open the hook and loop tape apart, cut through ONLY the layer of velcro that is sewn to the underside of the front of your garment (and, of course the clothing you’re making the opening in).  Double check to make sure you only cut through the one layer of fabric and the one layer of fastening tape.

Once the opening was cut, the edges at slit pulled back a wee bit.

I machine topstitched  along the opening edges to solve that problem.

how the finished opening looks

When laid out flat on the table, the opening is more apparent than when I put the dress on.

Am I pleased with the outcome?  I’m happy enough to wear the dress.  Do I like hook and loop tape any better than in the past?  No, not really.  It makes that loud sound when you open it. And, I don’t find it that easy to pry apart. My military veteran son informed me that the army developed a silent Velcro for their tactical wear and gear.  I searched a bit on the internet to learn more, and yep, it’s called  Velcro Quiet Closure Hook and Loop tape.  I did not find a website that sells it to the public at large though.  But, if you really like the idea of adapting with hook and loop tape, it’s something to check into.

I have plans to adapt another (actually my only other)  busy print type dress in the very near future.   The goal will once again be to create an opening without having to ‘steal’ fabric from somewhere else in the garment.  But, I won’t be using the hook and loop tape for this one.  It will most likely be snaps.  I will put the entire process and results up on Tube Chic after I do it.

I once read the history behind why Lilly Pulitzer  created her iconic shift dresses. (The dress used for this  project, as well as the upcoming one, are both this brand.)  She originally came up  with her colorful printed fabric pattern designs to hide the juice stains on her clothing from working at her orange juice stand.  I think the same camouflage principle holds true for disguising tube access openings.


I think, more than anything else, the reason I’m not loving this opening made with the hook and loop tape, is because I can’t get ahold of it well, in order to separate it easily (it bothers me more than that ripping sound it makes). I also feel like the much heavier velcro is not in balance with the lightweight fabric.  It does not look bad, the opening works, and it was easy enough to do.  So,  although technically a success, it is not a complete win for me.  Look for these instructions to be updated shortly with possible fixes to what I don’t like about the outcome..