1st Birthday Dress

birthday dress

Made 11 years ago,this first birthday dress was for now 12 yo granddaughter Laurel. Of course,  I still love sewing for her.

It’s birthday time for our older granddaughter, Laurel, so I’ve been spending some time reminiscing about her birth and infancy.  So here is a re-run of a post about her first birthday dress.


Laurel was our first grandchild, and a girl at that.  Our son had been married for 9 years and our daughter was still a single career gal. After nearly 15 years of Granny Lust, mitigated only by gathering fabric, patterns and trims for my Grandmother’s Really Hopeful Chest, I was ready to sew as a genuine Nana.

That first year went by so quickly! Smocked daygowns and bonnets, embroidered diaper shirts and onesies, monogrammed bibs and baby Gator duds flew out of my sewing room.  It seems that for almost 12 months, I did nothing but sew and snuggle that baby.


birthday dress cf

center front embroidery


As her first year drew to a close,  I did manage to pull myself away from the enchanting child long enough to make her first birthday dress. Of course, it was made with my finest Swiss batiste, carved pearl buttons, treasured Maline lace and other hoarded trims.

The dress was made from a simple A-line pattern– which one I cannot recall. Perhaps it was from one of Nancy Coburn’s books or patterns from Gingersnap Designs. She usually offers a sloper with suggestions for adding lace insertion, tucks, etc., turning the home sewer into a designer. I love her books, patterns and all of Nancy’s things.




Five 1/4″ tucks were added to the shoulders, to give the dress some added fullness.  The tucks were pin stitched in place, which was to be expected, given my penchant for hemstitching wherever and whenever possible. The lace insertions, too, were all secured with pinstitched.


hem center


The embroidery designs were taken from two of Martha Pullen’s collections, Little Pleasures and Bullion Roses, edited, recombined and rearranged.




The puff sleeves are inserted with entredeux.  Lace insertion is placed horizontally and pinstitched in place, just below the tiny embroidery design.   Fancy entredeux is used for beading for the 1/8″ pink satin ribbon.


back buttons



The arrangement of the 4-hole buttons and the embroidery between the buttonholes pleased me especially. I liked the way the carved pearl  buttons become a part of the overall design, rather than just a utility closure.


back hem


Hand stitched French knots were worked in the holes of the buttons, as well as nestled in the machine embroidered flowers. My wise friend Suzanne Sawko always says that a little handwork in the midst of machine embroidery elevates the entire project. I have to agree.




The little slip is simple, buttoning at the shoulder and echoing the scalloped hem and embroidery designs on the dress.

As I look at this tiny dress and compare it to Laurel’s strong, 6 year old body (12 years old now!!!!), I am reminded again at just how fast the time passes.


19 responses to “1st Birthday Dress

  1. Simply stunning! Laurel must have been absolutely beautiful in this creation! Thank you for sharing all the lovely details!

  2. i just died and went to heaven; this dress is divine!!

  3. Thanks, Suzi, but it was so much prettier with my granddaughter wearing it. Baby girls, lace, batiste, embroidery—that is a divine combination.

  4. Such an exquisite little birthday dress!!! Beautiful!!!!

  5. Hi Janice,
    I am anxiously awaiting the birth of my first grandbaby, a little girl and I have been given the privilege of making her Christening gown. I have been scouring the internet for ideas and LOVE the little first Birthday dress! The details are exquisite! I was wondering, the little “crosshatched” circle on the sleeve and what looks like a heart shaped one on the front of the dress, what are they called and where can I find them?? Thanks so much!!

  6. Sue, I am so happy and excited for you. Grandchildren are the most amazing gifts from God and the joy of the first one is immeasurable. Making this baby’s christening gown is indeed a privilege and a wonderful grandmother experience. Most of the designs were from Martha Pullen’s Little Pleasures collection. There was a lot of editing, adding here and subtracting there. The fil tire’ heart at the hemline is from Fil Tire’ and Fancywork Combinations. It was inserted into one of the Little Pleasures designs. That heart was offerred to readers as a free design here.I hope this is helpful.

  7. Thanks so much Janice, I will read all the links. I have discovered on my own the the Fil Tire’ that looks so beautiful is a machine design and as I do not have one of those fancy machines and cannot afford one, those are not possible. I have been looking with a bit of success, for something similar that I can add to the dress. They do sell motifs that you can sew on and this is what I will have to settle for. I dont think it will be such a tragedy as I have found some really cute ones. I do know how to hand embroider and plan on adding my own design to make this special. If I have more questions I hope that I can come back and pick your brain!! You really do lovely work!! Thanks again!

  8. I am in love. Any chance you’d want to make another in a 2t :).

  9. Ashley, thanks for the compliment. But I am swamped with requests for my grandchildren and limit my sewing to them.

  10. Just beautiful! I loved using the Nancy’s Gingersnap Designs.

  11. Thanks, Beckie. Gingersnap Designs is a great resource. I have every one of Nancy Coburn’s books and use them frequently.

  12. from Martha Pullen forum: This little dress is so appealing – Thank you for sharing it again. The embroidery designs you used are sew pretty1

  13. from Martha Pullen forum: Beautiful little dress!

  14. from Martha Pullen forum: Such a lovely little dress, perfectly stitched! My oldest grandson is 15!!! I don’t know where the time has gone!

  15. from Martha Pullen forum: I love that little dress! Yes, time passes a lot faster than we realize.

  16. Betty Ludwig

    Beautiful dress! I love the embroidery between the buttonholes and all the heirloom lace. I love the whole dress!!


  17. Thanks, Betty. I loved making this dress and love that you like it.

  18. I cannot imagine any dress more lovely and gossamer than this one is.

  19. Thank you, Nancy Lee. What sweet words. I loved making this dress.

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