I’m not a mother, nor do I ever intend to become one, but the recent burst of newborns in my unit had me thinking about infant clothes. Well, not so much thinking about them as making them. Guess what: very FUN to make!! Anyway, I took some pictures along the way, so maybe you young mothers out there who need to cloth infants for events can follow along and make up a few things for your little one.
I’ll also say, I’m no expert in children’s clothing! Please visit the Sewing Academy. Elizabeth Stuart Clark has a just wonderful line of infant and children’s patterns and all the tech support to go with it. This is very basic, not thorough, but just enough to get you started!
First off, what to wear underneath. It’s recommended that your little one wear something to protect hs/her clothing from his or herself, so white undies in many sets are made.
Above we have the chemise or shift. I’ve opted to do the sleeves as one, but you could also do them set-in like and adult chemise. All that is left is to sew the side seams, finish the neckline and sleeve openings with a small rolled hem, and put a finished slit down the back for getting into. Fasten with hook and eye, or button securely sewn on. Make sure it’s a glass button that can be washed many times. You’ll need many of these as they get wet often… For added comfort, you can flat-fell the seams to make it comfy for baby.
Beside it is one half of the drawers for a little one.This makes one leg when the curved seam is sewn together. Now, split drawers were more common during the day for ease of getting to the nappy, but closed are best to hide the modern diaper. I didn’t think to worry about a difference between front or back as children are pretty round at this point. Do be sure to make the crotch depth deep and the leg length shallow. Once you have the two legs sewn into tubes, simply sew around the crotch seam to attach them. You can make a casing by folding down the top edge a couple times and then run elastic at a comfortable length. Not PC, but easier than a fitted waistband.
Something also worn underneath when your baby starts to crawl and toddle, is a nice full petticoat or two! Made just like the adult petticoat. Make it long and tuck it up for walking in so it will grow with her. The only problem is how to keep it on that egg-shaped body. The trick is to use buttons either on the chemise or on an undershirt that correspond to buttonholes in the waistband of the petticoat. This also works well with a set of tiny corded stays. It’s, in the words of ESC a “stable button platform” to attach the petticoat onto.Now, lest you be making every chemise with 6 buttons on it (glass buttons, of course, secured well for washing!) the great thing about the stays is that, since they are worn over the chemise, they don’t have to be washed as often and so can be worn everyday. One set of buttons that way. And only double that amount of button holes (assuming you have two petticoats!) so it’s not that bad! You can also make the petticoat and undershirt permanently attached and make a few of those if you hate buttonholes.
Now, onto the dress. And yes, boys wore dresses. At least, until they were toilet-trained. At that point, they started to wear little breeches under the shortened dresses which then became tunics. Their trimmings also varied, but both sexs started out wearing the same long gown.
We start with our adult chemise pattern shapes (FREE pattern on the Sewing Academy website!) and just scale them down for baby. You can see the body of the dress is a rectangle with a curved neckline cut out of the top. Slight slope, nothing too deep. The sleeves folded in half as they will be worn attach to the diagonal seam on the body. The two rectangles are the neckband on the top and the belt on the bottom. The belt is optional. You could also opt to set the belt into the dress for a cuter and more finished look.
You’ll notice we’re using a red/pink fabric. Back then, colors indicating sex hadn’t been established yet, so don’t be afraid to dress a girl in blue or red or a boy in pinks!
The length I’ve chosen is about 30 inches. The infant gown is long, and when they begin crawling, it gets shortened with tucks to allow freer movement.
Start by attaching the sleeves to the diagonal seams on the body and then do the side seams and close the sleeves with the same long seam under the arm. Next is gathering the neckline into the band. You can measure your baby’s neckline with a piece of string draped around the shoulders. Find the length there and cut your fabric accordingly. Be sure to leave enough for a back seam or opening.
To gather the neckline into the neckband, mark the center front, center back, and top of each shoulder of the dress with pins. Match those up to quarter points on the neckband. You can either hand-gather the body to fit, or pleat as i prefer to. It’s a nice touch to have the gathers fullest in the center back and front and less full right between the sleeve and body pieces. The sleeves can be moderately full.
Stitch and then tun down the neckband twice and whip stitch shut, encasing the raw edges of the body.
In this case, the neckband is a complete circle and is large enough to slip over the baby’s head, but if you want a more closed neckline, you’ll need to make a center back opening that closes with hooks and eyes, ties, or buttons and holes. In the day, mothers also used straight pins to secure things, but that’s not safe!
To complete the belt, simply fold in half, stitch down one side. Turn the tube right-side out, finish the ends, add a button and button hole or hooks and eyes.
You’ll want to secure the belt to the dress with a few light tacks at the waist.
Now, you’ll want to protect that dress as much as possible, so cut a pinafore!
It’s like a sleeveless version of the chemise above and opens all the way down the back. You simply fasten it at the top. It’s like a bib, so make many of these as well. You can also use a sleeveless version of the dress pattern that is gathered and full and The Sewing Academy has a free pinafore article for even more versions available.
Happy sewing, new mothers!