Everything-Wrong Birthday Suit

Alastair, hanging out with the girls

Alastair, hanging out with the girls


Everything Right Birthday Party

Family and friends just celebrated Alastair’s first birthday at a party in his back yard. His parents did a fabulous job of making everyone welcome with good food, good company and thoughtful accommodations for all. From the 86 year old great grandmother to Alastair’s friends and cousins, ages 9 months to 5 years,  there were fun treats and comfortable seating. Yet Alastair’s parents made the event look effortless.





The menu consisted of really excellent pizzas, a flat of fresh strawberries, coolers of cold drinks and a cupcake tree laden with darling bug and caterpillar cupcakes made by his mama my Rebecca.




The children’s goody bags kept them busy and happy. The only flaw in this everything- right event was Alastair’s everything-wrong birthday suit. Fortunately, he is a comely child and his guests were able to look beyond his clothes to his precious, sweet face.


1sr bd A


Everything Wrong Birthday Suit

Occasionally, upon completion of a garment, I sit back and sigh with satisfaction. A few times I have actually thought that if I were to make it over, I would make no changes whatsoever.  More frequently, but not too often, I sit back and sigh with total dissatisfaction.

And that’s how I feel about Alastair’s first birthday suit. I had to weigh the consequences of having him wear this comedy of errors outfit with running to the department store to buy him an acceptable ensemble. But I imagined that if I did so, years from now he would wonder why I didn’t make something special for the occasion. I decided I’d rather be his loving Nana who made an ugly outfit than his sewmaniac  grandmother who didn’t make him any outfit.

I began with a ready-to-smock button-on suit. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit cranky about my part of the suit that I have some criticism for the garment with which I began. Generally speaking, they are well made.  But my issues revolve around the collar and the buttons.

On these smockable garments, every collar kicks up. They will not lie down. And yet, when I made an outfit for him from scratch, I drafted a collar pattern using Elizabeth Travis Johnson’s directions and that collar lay perfectly flat. So I know it is not just his absent neck causing the flip up.  On this shirt, I  tacked down the front of each collar, but the back still kicked up.





The buttons are another problem. I always replace what I generously call “utility” plastic with mother of pearl. But because the buttons, and thus, the buttonholes, are a nonstandard size, you have to go to a lot of trouble to replace them. With my huge stash of antique pearl buttons, I have always been able to find three matching buttons of the right size after lengthy sorting. This suit has 9 buttons and I could not find that many, and I thought the smocking design made the suit a little too casual for pearl buttons.

My next thought was to buy primary colored plastic buttons to match the balloons. Surely I could purchase some in this odd size.  NOT!  I could not buy any buttons of a size to fit the buttonholes. Smaller standard size buttons would have looked disproportional, slipped through the buttonhole and likely let his pants fall down. So it was necessary to restitch the buttonholes to accommodate the slightly larger standard size buttons.  All nine of them, on the pants and shirt.


Alastair with his beloved Auntie Jeannette, AKA "NanNan"

Alastair with his beloved Auntie Jeannette, aka “NanNan”

Analyzing what went wrong somehow makes me feel a little better. Ignorance may be bliss, but I prefer to think I can learn from my mistakes.  First, the design is just as cluttered as our garage. My daughter suggested a cupcake with one candle and I began with that. I used seed beads thinking they would look like sprinkles.  Instead, they look like seed beads.  I should have used French knots.

Second, the addition of a whole flock of balloons was too much. That many helium balloons would have lifted a lowland gorilla off the ground, let alone a scrawny monkey or two. The ostensible purpose of the balloons was to give me a place to write out Alastair’s name—-his very long name. But they were so small that an observer needed reading glasses to read the letters.

Third, the mix of pastels on the cupcake paper and frosting and primary colors in the remaining portions of the design is all wrong. Fourth, the border on the smocking and the whipped stitch on the collar and sleeves should have been the same color, primary blue, to match the pants.

With much thought, I can see how it might, I repeat might, have worked.

  • 1. By using just 8 larger balloons on one side of the cupcake, his name would have been readable. A few gifts on the other side with one balloon for balance might not have been so offensive. And leaving the monkeys at the zoo would have been a better idea.
  • 2. By using primary colors throughout, the design would not tug the eye in so many color directions.
  • 3. By using a primary blue for the sleeve and collar trim as well as the smocking border, the pants would not have looked so mismatched with the shirt.

The good news is that Alastair is a year older and I am a little wiser. I hope I can redeem myself with a good looking Easter suit and hope for a better 2nd birthday outfit next year.

2 responses to “Everything-Wrong Birthday Suit

  1. I know what you mean about the collar. I found by using a third layer of whatever fabric it is, batiste or broadcloth, helps. I think the outfit looks great. Remember one of Elizabeth’s sayings? “On a galloping horse (Child), who is going to notice!” We are too critical sometimes. I am sure the love that you put into the outfit outweighs any not-so-perfect issues.
    The first thing my sister smocked for her son was a similar shirt with is monogram. (I did all the construction). His initials are RSS. When she finished the monogram, I told her to do it again because the R looked like an A! Just not right on a 2 yr old.

  2. Oh, Beckie, I loved your comment and needed the laugh that it gave me. I bet I know what alphabet your sister used for her son’s monogram. I used the same one for a bubble for my grandson (RFC) and the R looked like an A to everyone who didn’t know his name. Even read wrong, AFC is less inappropriate than your nephew’s misread monogram would have been.
    Thanks for the tip on the collar. Did you do that on a ready to smock garment? If so, did you just cut the piece and then hand stitch it in place or did you remove the collar and add the other layer? No matter how much trouble you went to, it would be worth it. My next collar will be three layers for sure!

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