One of my dearest friends had her first baby this spring. I was so excited and happy for her, and so sad to be thousands of miles away, that (in what I hoped I wouldn’t have to describe as a fit of crafting over-confidence) I offered to make her baby a christening gown.
When we were having Pippo baptized, we had not one, but two beautiful heirloom gowns to choose from. One from each side of our family. (We couldn’t actually choose, and ended up using pieces from both, which worked out perfectly.)
As a convert to Catholicism, Claire was baptized as an adult, just a week or two before we met (at daily Mass!) during our first week of college. She didn’t have an heirloom christening gown; she had a baptism dress, which was pretty, and served her well on many other occasions. But it isn’t exactly something she could hand down to her babies.
So, after looking at Etsy listings of expensive baptismal gowns with her and oohing and ahhing together over the phone at the tucks and lace, I decided that I could make one. Not that I had any experience that would suggest I could. But I figured: a baptismal gown is (relatively) simple in design and small in size. What makes it special are the materials used and the care that goes into making it. I can do that, right?
The pattern I used was Simplicity 5813, which was the one I found that had the traditional styling we were looking for and also had the three pieces I wanted to make: slip, gown, and bonnet. Most importantly, it was actually, physically in stock at my local JoAnn’s. Can we just all agree that it makes projects a million times easier if you don’t need to track each element down from the far reaches of the Internets?
Of course, I can’t leave well enough alone, and did change it in a few places to make the gown longer, add inset lace, and a few other little things.
|The back of the slip.|
The fabric I used was an organic white cotton batiste, and it was really lovely. The lace is also cotton, which I ordered from Etsy, and let me tell you: searching for trim in the supplies section is a enchanting and dangerous business. I wouldn’t suggest doing it unless you have quite a bit of time and/or self-control.
But goodness, is it fun.
I did it all by hand, mostly in the evenings after Pippo was in bed. I hadn’t made anything entirely by hand in some time, and it was so satisfying! I love the contemplative aspect of sewing; I sent many prayers little Julia’s way while I worked on this.
My poor mother must have fielded a million questions from me as I tried to interpret the pattern (I think I’ve only sewn from a pattern like this one other time) and figure out how to do it all. She informed me that I needed to use silk thread (in fact, she sent a spool along with my visiting mother-in-law) and French seams (I had to google that, and then had to figure out how to adapt the pattern to account for them).
I made my first buttonholes! I found a great tutorial online (sorry, I have no memory of where!) that warned in the directions to practice first. “Don’t make your first buttonhole the top button of your wedding gown!” I thought that was very smart, because of course I was (basically) planning on doing just that.
So I did one practice one and then worked from the bottom up. That top one was my fourth buttonhole, and my best one.
The outside of the bonnet was a sweet dotted Swiss cotton, and the inside was the same batiste.
I packed it all up and sent it off just in time for Julia’s baptism on the other side of the country.
She looked beautiful, though I can’t take any credit for that. She’s a pretty darling little girl!
|Julia with her parents and grandparents.|
Isn’t she? She also looks like she entered into the Church very peacefully, which was well-behaved of her. (Pippo came in kicking and screaming.)
I was so happy to be able to make something special for this special little girl and her family. Hopefully they are able to use it for many baptisms to come!