Baby Shrek’s Christening Gown~A Work in Progress

Now this is FUN!  And even more than that, it’s a meaningful challenge.   For a family friend of more than 40 years, I am lovingly adapingt a 100+ years old family christening gown.  Requiring many special considerations,  this baptismal robe is for an especially precious baby boy.


UFO bodice

UFO bodice + one sleeve


His mother, whom I have known and loved since she was 4 years old, grew up a mile from our home.  Her parents are two of our dearest friends.  But now this young mother  lives in New Zealand with her French husband.  They were blessed with this beautiful son after many disappointments.

beautiful Baby Shrek

beautiful Baby Shrek


His parents want him to be surrounded by family and close friends at this milestone in his life.  So in a few weeks they will be making the long trip from Down Under all the way to Florida, then on to France.  Their son will be christened at one of these locations.

Here is the complication.  The heirloom family gown, like most, was made for a 0-3 month old baby.  But this baby will be 9 months old when he is baptized.

So….what to do about the family gown?  There is no way to make it fit. Fortunately, a lovely fancyband runs along the hemline of the half slip that is part of the set.  The slip skirt is gathered onto a simple waistband.  My plan is to make a new bodice that will, in fact, be a shirt which hangs over the waist of the slip.  It’s not quite the same as wearing the family gown, but the slip gives the ensemble some ancestral connection.


6 tucks and beautiful Swiss embroidered edging on 35" slip

6 tucks and beautiful Swiss embroidered edging on the 35″ from the waist slip


That sounds easy enough except that this one ginormous big boy has grown to   24 lbs at 7 months.  Mother’s milk has made him strong! As his grandmother lovingly said, “He is like a beautiful Baby Shrek!”

The waist on the slip is 20″.  Baby Shrek’s waist is 23″.  Even if the waistband were extended,  a gap in the skirt will be exposed where the placket opens.  I have a few ideas about solving this challenge but haven’t quite worked them out yet.  Do you have any suggestions?

PATTERN:  Now, where to begin?  First, I needed a full bodice, no-yoke pattern for an 18 month old, which size is closest to his measurements.  Wendy Schoen’s gown in her Creating Heirlooms for Babies  book fits the bill, except that the sleeve a very full puff.  I wanted a straight boy-style sleeve for this big fella. Finally, after plundering through my gazillion patterns, I found a sleeve on a very old 18 month size commercial pattern.  When compared to the armscye, the fit was close enough.

Creating heirlooms for baby


FABRIC:  Just where could I find fabric to come close to the look of that in the 100 year old gown?  AHA! I found a near perfect match in a set of 6 pillowcases, circa 1920, which I purchased at The Estate Sale of a Lifetime!  The weave, texture and color is almost exactly like the slip.  Fortunately, one had a small hole and another had a small stain.  So those two were easily sacrificed.


vintage 1920 pillowcase, hand embroidery and cutwork edge

vintage 1920 pillowcase with hand embroidery and cutwork edge


TRIMS:  With pattern and fabric in hand, I assembled all my Swiss trims, giving preference to antiques.  At this stage of the design process, I always pull out anything that could be a possibility, no matter how remote.  Then I bag them up and keep them together until I’ve finished the project.  Too often I’ve changed my plan and remember a piece rejected earlier which is exactly what happened this time.  Keeping them together saves time.


my choices

my choices


After taking this photo, I found in my stash a new piece which is used extensively down the bodice front and edging the sleeves.  It is shown parallel to the cross below.

EMBROIDERY: Baby Shrek’s  grandmother suggested that perhaps a small cross could be included.  She also thought a touch of pale blue would be fine.  I’ve used this tiny cross many times, from the old Brother miniatures card #20 and now available at  Just .90 x 1.28″, the size is perfect and the design has enough detail to be charming.  It was stitched at the center front of the bodice and anchored with a design from Nivia’s The Littles. Much of the appeal of Nivia’s design is the three circles, symbolic of the trinity.


Brother cross from and white floral from Nivia's The Littles.

Brother cross from and white floral from Nivia’s The Littles.  Basting stitches mark the center front.


I haven’t yet decided whether or not to cut away behind the Swiss embroideries on the bodice.  There’s no time to make a slip so I’m considering just a knit undershirt for him.  Or maybe I’ll just leave the foundation fabric in tact. Andthat’s another TBD-to be decided.

HAND EMBROIDERY–Finally, I was pleased with my feather stitching.  Using advice from Jeannie B., I machine feather stitched the heavily starched fabric with a 100# needle and no thread.  With #256 tapestry needle and DMC’s cotton a Broder, I was able to fill the holes as I followed the pattern.   Great tip!


feather stitch by hand with machine help! Yeah!

feather stitch by hand with machine help! Yeah!  The floss woven through the entredeux holes on the Swiss embroidery is a very pale blue.


More details will be posted as progress is made.  I expect this post is too tedious with too many details for most readers.  However, for anyone facing a similar challenge (and this situation cannot be that unique),  I hope my learning experience will be helpful.

12 responses to “Baby Shrek’s Christening Gown~A Work in Progress

  1. I have an idea. What if you turned the slip backwards, so that there was a 3-4″ gap at center front, then continue the panel of the shirt down the front of the skirt? You could stitch it on with large stitches or use a decorative button treatment or hide the basting stitches behind pleats? You could even make a little waistband at the bottom of the shirt and make a separate panel to add into the skirt, then button the skirt onto the waistband like Wendy Schoen does on her Christening gown (I can’t remember the name- LOL).

  2. Oooh, Lisa, what great ideas! You have me thinking in an entirely different direction. The placket is about 10″ long, so extending the “shirt” that far would be too much. I’ve thought of an overskirt made from the second pillowcase which is 32″ including the embroidery. I could add that overskirt to the new slipwaistband and button it to the shirt. YEAH! The other complication is that at this age he is crawling full speed, so the skirt needs to come off immediately after the ceremony. I plan to make a pair of shorts for him to wear under the slip and YES! button the slip to the shorts! By George, I think I’ve got it! Thanks a million!Jame’s Taylor’s “You’ve got a friend” song comes to mind. So glad you are my friend.

  3. I’m not quite sure what your plan is, but I know it will be beautiful!! Please share your results when you are done!!

  4. One thought on the slip … something I did a while back for a dress slip … using a sleeveless onesie and stitching a slip skirt to it. That allows for the personalization embroidery on the slip skirt, and becomes a keepsake that is faster to sew. You could also use a sleeveless tee, but the onesie worked great as it didn’t ride up under the overdress.

  5. I love your project!!! I used a pattern (NB -24mos) in one of Martha Pullen’s Sew Beautiful magazines (Issue 71 Blessing Romper for Wesley) for our grandson. It has a full bodice you might be able to use. (Photo on your MP forum post) You might want to make a romper to wear after the skirt comes off.

  6. Karen, thanks so much for this info! Not only does it have the full bodice I needed but it also includes the “boy” sleeve I searched and searched for. I have already cut out the bodice and embellished it so it’s too late to help with this one. But after spending sooooo much time searching for just such a pattern, I am pulling this one from the magazine and putting it in the pattern box. Thanks for the specifics of where to find it. Thanks for being so helpful!

  7. Lynn, that is a great idea! I’d like to keep things in place, and the scrunched up look ruins the formality of the occasion. Now I’m rethinking this…….Thanks!

  8. Janice I know this gown will be beautiful. You are so creative and all your projects are beautiful. I love the beautiful swiss trims you have chosen and I look forward to seeing a picture of the finished gown.

  9. Thanks, Betty. I’ve had to put that project aside for a while, as another deadline (Aug. 15) looms. This baby and his family will not arrive in Florida until Aug.30. Once I wrap up this almost-due project, I’ll get back to the gown. I can’t wait to finish it up.

  10. Dear Janice
    I am just touched by what you are doing for our grandson, little Shrek.
    He is now 25-26 lbs and 30 inches long. He is all wrinkle upon wrinkle and dimple upon dimple. Is there a way I can be of help to you, dearest friend?
    I can do pinning? pressing? lunch making? cold water fetching?

  11. My dear Susanna, I am loving the creative process of putting the pieces together for little Shrek’s christening gown. Your sweet offer of help is certainly appreciated, but truly it’s like someone offering to eat my dessert for me. I’m grateful that you have trusted me with your family heirloom gown and this loving task. We can’t wait to see that big baby boy!

  12. I will send you a picture we received from Shrek’s other grandparent whom he is visiting now before coming to us. Don’t be concerned about his size. I do believe it is camera angle……………………..
    So eager to see what you are creating

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