Tag Archives: Baby sewing

A shirt to match a shirt

Shirt on left is mine, shirt on right is from Baby Gap.

I can’t remember who gave us the hand-me-down little white shirt (on the right). It’s Baby Gap, and fairly exquisite, with lots of cute details—back buttons, smocking, little puffed sleeves.

But there was, of course, only one, and while I don’t NEED to dress my twins alike, it’s fun to at least have them coordinating. So for a long time I’ve wanted to make a second similar shirt.

Things crystallized when I came across two little scraps of pintucked batiste, I think made as demonstration or practice pieces, too tiny for most anything but with too much labour put into them to send them to the bin. Just right, as it turns out, for making a wee little 6-month sized shirt.

Not much went into the making of this shirt. I sewed the side seams (actually I think I forgot to press them!). I rolled tiny hems with the rolled hem foot on my Featherweight, which for once behaved almost flawlessly, top and bottom. I hand-wound a bobbin of elastic thread for my modern Janome machine (I’m sure it would’ve worked for the Featherweight too but I didn’t have any empty bobbins for that one), and made a few rows of elasticated shirring stitches around the top of the shirt.

What took the longest was actually finding a similar off white fabric for the little sleeve/shoulder straps (and if the light is good you can see I didn’t quite succeed). The batiste I had made the pintucks in is just faintly ivory in colour. I’m sure I have more of it in stash somewhere, but I didn’t manage to find it, so I wound up going with a slightly heavier cotton for the sleeves. And the colour that seemed to match in my basement sewing room is, of course, way off in daylight. Ah well. Again they’re just rectangles, the edges narrow-hemmed, and a couple of rows of shirring added.

I basically guesstimated where to stitch the sleeves down front and back, but they seem to work all right. As a bonus, the very stretchy shirring makes it quite easy to take on and off.

So I’m pretty charmed by it, and I think it’s a good mate to the storebought one. We also have one matching (though from a completely different brand again) white ruffly diaper cover… now if I can just manage to make another of those!

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Variations on a theme

A few weeks back I presented my husband with several pieces of fabric for potential baby dresses, and he selected this blue/white shot cotton. And then we both got ridiculously distracted by dressing the babies in matching white things. You’d think we were noob parents, not veterans of 20 years. But the other day I finally tackled it.

These came together during a single day’s naps. (Which totals about four hours although less than half of that is reliable “usable” time.) this is possible only because I didn’t use a pattern or need to rethread any of the machines, and I had the fabric pre-washed and ready to go.

These look slightly different from the white and red-striped versions, but the basic idea is the same. I used the full width of the 45” fabric to make the dresses. I made the armscye curves a little bit smaller this time around, which means they’re less oversized than the other dresses… I may regret this later but I like how they fit now and our sundress season is short. They’re also a little shorter, although still long enough to catch on R’s knees now she’s crawling.

The biggest change I wanted this time around was to incorporate a bodice panel type thing front and back. Inspired by the free Oliver & S Popover Sundress, which I made aeons ago when my niece was three, but only goes down to a size 2. So the panels would serve as binding for the front and back, and then I would add bias tape to the armscyes that turned into the shoulder ties. (Opposite of the other two dresses, where the ties came from the binding that encased the front and back gathering.)

I also chose a wider binding this time, so I made sure to pre-press the armscye curve into it. I used pleats instead of gathering, just for a change, as I was bored of gathering, though I don’t know that the pleats where any less time consuming. And finally, I added a bit of pompom lace to the fronts.

As with the white dresses, I used the full width of the fabric, with a single seam in the back. I cut the front and back panels to the width I knew I wanted the chest to be, 12 cm, and then pleated to match that. I forced myself not to fuss too much over the pleats.

A bit shorter than some of the other dresses, but they still get caught on her knees when crawling.

My bias strips came out a bit shorter this time (or the method of binding the armscye requires a longer strip) so they tie in knots, not bows, but that’s all right for the thicker binding as bows might be quite bulky. I could’ve pieced for longer strips, but I didn’t.

I should maybe pause to mention that having a rotary cutter and mat has changed how I tend to make bias tape. I still start with a rectangle, cut off one end at a bias corner, and sew that to the other end, but instead of sewing the resulting parallelogram into an offset tube and cutting miles of continuous bias, I tend to cut individual strips, sewing them together only as necessary. It’s more annoying sewing the strips individually but the cutting is so much faster and more precise.

The worst part of nap time sewing is that I can’t really take process pictures, as I use my phone to play soothing white noise for the babies. I always prefer blog posts with process pictures. Oh well.

I gotta say, I think these are my favourite yet. I love the lace and the panel and the pleats. Part of me is wondering how many more little sundresses they could possibly need, but another part of me is eyeing up every light-weight cotton in the stash…

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Romping around

I don’t have a huge collection of baby patterns, which is to say that I still have more baby patterns than anyone who wasn’t planning on having any more babies in her life has any business having.

The problem with baby patterns, and kid patterns in general, is you have a pretty limited window of time in which to make use of them, before they’re outgrown.

Tris looks like she’s taking a bow.

So I find myself, since I DO have babies to sew for, making a mental list of the patterns I don’t want to miss out on. Fortunately it’s not a long list.

This six-month sized Simplicity pattern is indisputably at the top of that list.

At a guess, it’s 1950s? The pattern pieces are unprinted, and several of the dress pieces are represented only by newsprint tracings of the original pieces (at least they’re there, though).

I don’t have a HUGE amount of experience with unprinted patterns. Actually I’m pretty sure the only other one I’ve ever actually finished was this shirt back in 2012. There are resources out there that will tell you what the mysterious punched holes mean, but I mainly relied on a general familiarity with how patterns work and referring to the instructions. Because I like to make things hard on myself.

I’ve never made rompers before, so I did find myself referring to the instructions quite a bit. They’re sparse, but I found them basically perfect, and I even largely followed them. Up to and including hand-stitching the inside of the front bibs. I considered using snaps instead of the suggested buttons on the straps (they’re out of sight inside the back portion of the pants), but I all the sew-on snaps I could find were either teeny tiny or way too big.

They are, um, a little roomy. The elastic along the back of the pants are too loose (and I made it a couple of inches shorter than directed), and unfortunately given the construction it’s pretty hard to adjust this. I did add extra buttonholes in the straps, so they’re at a shortened length now but I can switch to the full length if they get too short before the end of the summer.

I wish I could shorten this elastic more easily.

I’ve got some vintage appliqués I’d like to stitch to the front of the bibs, if I get a chance. And I’ve got the dress view cut out…

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Butt ruffles galore!

Once I had the little dresses made, it become imperative that I make up some little ruffly diaper covers. While the dress was easy enough to draft without a pattern, I figured the diaper covers would benefit from starting with one, for speed if nothing else.

I don’t have a huge selection of baby sewing patterns—they really weren’t on my radar during my “collecting” phase since I was fully expecting the next babies in my life to be grandchildren. But Simplicity 8761, from 1970, had an excellent, ruffly candidate, and happens to be in the six month size range I’m looking for at the moment. And it was a diaper-style cut rather than a bloomer-style cut, which is what I wanted.

While I used the pattern piece for view 3, I went off road for pretty much everything else. The pattern called for gathered lace (to be hand-stitched down???)… I opted for bias tape, gathered with the ruffler foot on my Featherweight. The pattern called for a double layer of fabric to make finishing the curved leg edges; I trimmed away excess seam allowance and used more bias tape to make the elastic casings around the legs. Most of all, the pattern called for a diaper style opening, with snaps along the front hip seams. I liked the position of the seams but didn’t see the point in snaps, so I trimmed that section down and just made French seams.

Predictably, they’re cut for covering cloth diapers, so they’re pretty roomy on my disposable-clad girls; the next pair (because how could there not be more?) I will maybe lower the rise by about an inch.

I love the curved triple line of trim, though of course I couldn’t find my transfer paper to make it easier to mark the lines. I wound up using two strips of raw-edged bias cut 2.5cm wide, and the bottom strip cut 3cm wide. I like the subtle difference, though it was mostly because I was testing which width I wanted to use.

Also I did NOT hand-stitch the trim down as per the original pattern instruction.

The pattern called for only 12” of elastic at the waist, which works fine for River but confused me because it seemed really little (especially considering they suggest 10” at each leg). Then I realized the elastic in the original pattern only goes across the back portion of the diaper, not all the way around the waist. Oops. Fortunately scrawny little River fits it fine, and I made the elastic in the second one a little looser for Tris.

The diaper covers definitely took longer to sew than the little dresses, but I kinda think they’re even cuter. Though matching headbands may be required?

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Tiny twin dresses

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.

I’m not the biggest fan of dresses on babies who can’t walk yet (they tend to bunch annoyingly and are hard to crawl in), but I’m also susceptible to the extreme cuteness of them. Anyway, after attempting and failing to find a pair of sundresses in the same size at our freshly-reopened local shops, I was seized by a wild impulse to put together some really quick, pillow-case-style sundresses for the twins.

Google quickly provided me with a tutorial, although I kinda had my own plans for how I wanted to construct them, with gathers fixed in a binding rather than a casing, so I was mostly just looking for measurements to start from.

The fabric is a red and white striped cotton border embroidery I had pulled out last summer (which tells you how much of a disaster my sewing room is these days) with a vague notion of making matching dresses for all my girls… (I had originally bought it on clearance with plans for an 1880s cotton summer dress, so I have a bazillion mètres of it)

The original pillowcase style would’ve been faster, but for whatever reason I wanted to use delicate bias bindings for the dresses. I also trimmed down and curved the front neckline a bit.

The tutorial I linked called for using the full width of a quilting cotton fabric, but since I was using the border embroidery I had no such constraints, so I cut each of the dresses with a hem of 30”. I opted for a single French seam at the CB instead of side seams, cut the armscyes from the folded edges according to the tutorial (minus the amount for the casing that I didn’t add)

Possibly I should’ve lined the dresses, as the holes in the border embroidery go pretty high on an eensy baby, but I didn’t. I’m hoping to make up matching diaper covers instead… we’ll see how that goes.

On the second dress I did the gathering a bit narrower and I like it better (especially on River, who is skinnier) but not enough to unpick the binding on the first one.

They’re a little large, but then babies tend to get bigger over time, even these shrimpy ones, so I don’t think that’ll be a problem. Maybe I should’ve used more than 30” of hem per dress, for a fuller shape, but on the other hand I didn’t want a whole lot more gathering on the tops. I think really the shape in my head would require an angled, A-line pattern piece, but that doesn’t work so well with the border embroidery. Anyway, I’m pretty satisfied. Now if I can just make those diaper covers happen…

See what I mean about bunching?

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A wee little thing

In a rare (these days) burst of energy a few weeks ago, i made a baby onesie.

I used the free onesie pattern from Small Dream Factory. (Apparently somehow I don’t have any baby onesie patterns?) I didn’t go back to the page to check the instructions after I managed to get it printed, but it’s pretty simple. The one thing I’ll recommend is make sure you mark the shoulder on both front and back pieces so you can line them up properly. The drafting is maybe a touch odd at the bottom of the armscye, but the finished garment seems to work well enough. And the pattern could’ve been tiled to use less paper, but it’s hard to get too fussy about something free. 🙂

I cut it out entirely using my rotary cutter, which is nice for small pieces and wiggly knits, especially since I took over some of the countertop in the basement kitchenette to have my cutting mat at a comfortable no-bending-required level. It’s especially nice for cutting perfectly even binding pieces, which helped a lot with the bound edges in this thing, and I do think they turned out pretty nicely, if I do say so myself.

I did my usual triple-fold binding, which has a tiny raw edge on the inside, but is much easier than trying to make a knit stay in a double-fold configuration, and I am NOT up for hard right now. Sherry of Pattern, Scissors, Cloth covers the method, except that she overlocks the unfinished edge to look nice inside, whereas I just trim mine close as needed once it’s stitched down.

The smallest hammer-in snaps I had for the bottom of the onesie were these pearl snaps, and they’re a bit heavy duty. I should probably have added some interfacing or something to support the fabric, too. So not really ideal, although I like the colour.

Obviously I can’t try the onesie on a baby yet. From comparison with some storebought ones we’ve received it’s a little on the wider, shorter side, which is certainly how my previous babies ended up, but I’m not at all sure how the twins will start out, at least.

I don’t have any more of this fabric, having turned the last few scraps into Watson Bikini underwear, but I wouldn’t mind making a second onesie for a wear-home-from-hospital set, if I can figure out something vaguely coordinating.

I realized (with some dismay) this past weekend that I’m no longer comfortable lifting and moving the various stacked plastic bins that hold my stash, which means that I either need to make do with the fabrics I already have out or ask for help to reach stuff in the bins, which isn’t impossible but will definitely make me think twice about things. So there may or may not be a second baby onesie… we will have to see. At the moment even getting off the couch feels fairly strenuous. On the other hand I will be reducing my work hours and even going on leave in a few weeks, so it’s possible I’ll have energy for something else, but I’m reluctant to set any lofty goals, even if I am fantasizing ceaselessly about things.

The 30-week belly

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Palate Cleanser

After the protracted trauma of the suit jacket (post still to come), I needed something fast and satisfying. And fortunately (?) I had another deadline just around the corner—a baby shower for one of my old Fabricland colleagues.

Now, I didn’t sew when my children were little (and even if I had, that was before the plethora of insanely adorable modern kids’ indie patterns mushroomed into being) so while I do have a few baby patterns, most of them aren’t, ah, overly compelling. There are a couple of nice vintage dresses, but nothing I felt really moved to work on. The one exception was this tiny overalls pattern. It’s been a long time since I indulged my love of sewing with hammers, but there are few things more satisfying.

And when I figured out the scrap of fabric left over from my Arum dress would be just big enough—well, sold.

I traced off the 3-month size, but using the 6 month leg and strap length. The legs still seem insanely short, but I imagine that has everything to do with how long it’s been since I had a baby to dress. Oddly, the pattern doesn’t suggest you make the straps adjustable. That seems like an obvious omission.

A hunt through the thread stash didn’t turn up any topstitching thread a good colour, but apparently I do have a 500-m spool of dusty pink regular thread. Don’t ask me why. (It’s not even one of the many spools of dodgy ancient inherited thread!) So I fiddled with my Elna and managed to slightly lengthen the triple-stitch setting, and voila! This is when the Elna’s ridiculous speed really comes in handy—even doing triple-stitch, it moves along at a great clip and doesn’t make me want to stab something. The only downside is the limited needle position control, which makes fine-tuning your topstitching distances tricky. I did all the topstitching with a 1/4″ foot, which was not bad but my edgestitching is a little more wobbly than I’d like. All in all, though, everything went well, except that every once in a while the Elna bobbin seems to start catching on something and then everything snarls up and you have to rethread the whole damn thing.

I haven’t made a lot of overalls. Actually, this might be the first time I’ve ever made overalls. Anyway, I found myself a lot more reliant on the sketchy Burda instructions than I like to be. There’s some weird stuff around the hip closures. In particular, some of the pattern pieces didn’t have their names marked on them, just numbers, and the instructions didn’t always reference the number. And there are quite a few little rectangles and almost-rectangles that were tricky to differentiate. And I would’ve liked some indication of when to finish seams, from time to time. But on the whole it all went together fairly well.

Things got a bit more off-road when it came to the hardware. My hardware stash is not nearly as vast as my fabric stash, and it’s actually getting a bit depleted at this point. I wanted heavy-duty snaps for the waistband and lighter ones for the rest of the closure. The pattern called for some cute little alligator-type clips for the straps, which I did not have, nor was I willing to venture out into our current blizzard to see what I could obtain locally. So I opted for D-rings and more snaps. Sturdy, but maybe a bit bulky, especially since I wanted the straps to be adjustable so I included extra back-snaps.

My stash of heavy-duty snaps came mostly from a thrift store acquisition of vintage snaps that have some cool colours—including three with a dusty pink finish that was perfect with my topstitching! Except that I only had three. And this vintage set was missing the back most pieces, which means I have to use extra snap fronts on the backs, too. Probably nice against baby skin, but it means I’m going to have a lot of extra snap middles when I’m done. I used lighter-weight snaps for the rest of the side closures, and added rivets at the pocket corners. That was probably the most annoying part, as there was something like 12 layers of fabric at the pocket corners. My silver rivet posts actually weren’t long enough, and I had to swap them out for longer black ones on the inside. Not visible, happily, unlike the mishmash of snap colours. I’m mostly just happy I managed to use those pink snaps, though.

There are a couple of other little details I meant to add but didn’t. I had some pink grosgrain to make a little tab sticking out of a pocket, and a teeny D-ring hanging from below one of the useless belt-loops would’ve been adorable… but I didn’t remember, and the cute factor is pretty high, anyway. So we’ll call it good, and hopefully baby Tessa (or at least, her mother) will find them as adorable as I do. I’m really excited about this baby shower, as I’m pretty sure most every gift will be hand-made. It should be great!

My god, did I mention these are cute?

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